World Heart Day 2014

World Heart Day is an annual event with a different theme each year relating to heart heart1health.  You hear the media talk about “heart healthy choices” but have you ever considered how your environment may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease?  This year’s theme of World Heart Day is creating heart-healthy environments because “the places in which we live, work and play should not increase our risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

Most people associate smoking with increased breathing problems, such as emphysema. They never take into account that tobacco use is also damaging to the heart, as well as the lungs, and causing damage to blood vessels that could lead to stroke.  Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home, at work or in places they frequent, can also develop cardiovascular disease in addition to breathing problems by being exposed to smoke.

At this current time, there is no national federal smoking ban in the U.S., and as of January 2, 2014, only “28 states have enacted statewide bans on smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants.”  Those states with smoking bans have made it healthier for both patrons who frequent the businesses and the employees who work there. Smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing have also become important because it reduces the amount of secondhand smoke to which nonsmokers are exposed, reducing heart attacks in adults and respiratory illnesses in both children and adults.

Creating smokefree policies create healthy environments for everyone involved.

Click HERE to learn how you “can make more heart healthy choices.”



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The Dream of Tomorrow or a New Nightmare?

Lights, camera, action, cue the music for the commercial, and throw in as much symbolism as possible.  Bring in the sun, rising over the rotating earth, to symbolize the dawning of a new day.  Show some beautiful star shots, the Milky Way and the Northern lights.  Have a sunrise and a sunset.  A night shot of a cityscape is great, especially a time lapse at dusk so all the lights gradually brighten the night.  Video some traffic moving in and out of the city. Although it is already dark in the scene before, show some twilight off in the distance in this traffic shot; no one will notice.  All the while the smooth voice of the announcer gears you up for the product:

“Tomorrow……it’s where great things happen.  Dreams… opportunities…the promise of new things to come.”

After several more words and 21 seconds into the commercial, the announcer states: “it’s time smoking changed forever.”

WHAT??  After years of not seeing any type of tobacco marketing on television, this is a shock. The announcer is promising new things and telling us how to get there, and it certainly isn’t behind the wheel of a new car as one might expect, it’s by “smoking.”  The viewer has been introduced to Vuse, the “first and only digital vapor cigarette.”  The screen shot zooms into the inner workings of this device to show it has a microprocessor, and not just any processor, but a “VaporDelivery Processor v1.0.”  Think there will be a v1.1 or v2.0 in the near future? This “microprocessor controlled” device “ensures a perfect puff, first time, every time.”

If buying USA-made nicotine products is important to you, this device was “designed and assembled” right here by “tobacco experts,” although no information is given as to whether the experts are the robots assembling the devices or the lab-coated “scientist.”  No matter, they “know what smokers want.” Perhaps the “tobacco expert” looking through her microscope found the “truly satisfying taste” that smokers want.  According to the commercial, “only Vuse delivers on the promise.”  Does that mean all the others are lying to consumers?  As the commercial comes to the end, their products are shown and the announcer says, “Vuse, welcome to tomorrow.”


This highly stylized commercial was brought to you by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company. In their credit, the final screen shot of the product does say “not for sale to minors.” in all caps.  The small print also tells the viewer than the product contains nicotine “extracted from the tobacco plant,” and goes on to state that “nicotine is addictive and no tobacco product has been shown to be safe.”  This statement might be confusing to some since this product technically does not contain actual ground leaf tobacco.  But they don’t inform the viewers and potential users that nicotine on its own can also have negative health effects.

When gathering information on Vuse, one of their sites stated “minors should never use tobacco products,” and “marketing of tobacco products should not be targeted to minors,” and for that reason they restrict their website to those age 21+.

Another site states several ways they are transforming the tobacco industry, one of which is “accelerating the decline in youth tobacco use.”  Feel-good words, but does that mean fewer youth using tobacco and more youth moving over to e-cigarettes, or fewer youths using any type of nicotine products?  It’s an interesting statement, but they are vague on how they will keep that promise.

Click HERE to see the entire commercial on the Ad Age site.



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Smoking in the Home is Out, Smoke-free is In

Smoking bans in workplaces and indoor public places protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke, but the bans have no affect on the amount of smoking people do in their own homes.  According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released September 5, that is changing.  Smoking in the home is out, living in a smoke-free home is in.

The Centers for Disease Control analyzed data from the Tobacco Use Supplement to theSHS Current Population Survey and found more households had established rules not allowing smoking inside.  Households that went smoke-free with at least one adult smoker living there increased from 9.6% in 1992-1993 to 46.1% during 2010-2011.  Those households with no adult smokers that established smokefree house rules increased from 56.7% in 1992-1993 to 91.4% in 2010-2011.  The report states “increases in smoke-free homes were seen in every state and the District of Columbia.”

seconhand smokeAccording to the 2013 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey “38.4% of middle school students and 43.9% of high school students were exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS) in a room or car in the past week.”  Other locations the teens reported being exposed to SHS include school, work, public places, and someone’s house.  Reports of exposure to SHS in a parent’s car are about even between middle and high school students (6.7% and 6.9% respectively), while high school students report more exposure in someone’s car, 8.0% versus 4.4% for middle school students.  When it came to smoking in the home, 8.9% of middle school students and 8.5% of high school students reported that smoking was allowed inside their homes.

“There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke”as thousands of harmful chemicals can “stay in the air for several hours,” according to  The best way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to limit their exposure by making your home smoke-free, asking others not to smoke in your car, and avoiding public places where smoking is allowed.

Click here for the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report


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Coaches and Tobacco Prevention

There is nothing better than Friday nights under the lights, cheering on your favorite high school football team. The crowd is eagerly footballanticipating their team’s kickoff. The players are pumped up, lined up and waiting for the signal from the refs for the opening kickoff. The cheerleaders are getting the crowd on its feet to make some noise. There’s the signal, and the game has begun.  The visiting team runs the ball back and gets stopped.  Several plays later, another call and Coach is not happy and speaks to the ref.  The ref notices the pouch in Coach’s mouth.  Not good.  Using smokeless tobacco on the sidelines could earn Coach a unsportsmanlike conduct call.

According to the 2011 NFHS Football Rules, using tobacco can get you penalized, whether you are a player or a nonplayer.

ART. 1.. No player shall act in an unsportsmanlike manner once the game officials assume authority for the contest.  Examples are, but not limited to:
h.  Using tobacco or smokeless tobacco.

ART. 1… No coach, substitute, athletic trainer or other team attendant shall act in an unsportsmanlike manner once the game officials assume authority for the contest,  Examples are, but not limited to:
j.  Using tobacco or smokeless tobacco.

PENALTY:  Unsportsmanlike – (S27) – 15 yards.  The second unsportsmanlike foul results in disqualification.

Under the NFHS Coaches Code of Ethics, Appendix F, page 100, the Coach shall:

  • take an active role in the prevention of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.
  • avoid the use of alcohol and tobacco products when in contact with players.

Coaches need to stress to players that tobacco and nicotine can’t be part of their lives, on or off the field if they want to be at the top of their game.  That includes electronic cigarettes which contain nicotine in liquid form.   Nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure within seconds of use, putting extra stress on the heart which may reduce athletic performance.

It’s not about winning or losing on the field, but it is about teaching players about life.  In order to do that coaches have to be good role models by setting good examples, following the rules and expecting the same of their students.

Thank you, Robert K., high school teacher and football official, who took our Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention online course last year, for providing us with this valuable information.

Click HERE for the 2011 NFHS Football Rules Book
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Time to Spit it Out

Major League Baseball Players have a Basic Agreement that spells out what is expected of them and management during the course of the contractual period.  The current basic agreement, which expires in 2016, has 28 articles with 46 attachments on over 300 pages.   In the final third of the contract, nestled between the ‘alcohol-related conduct’ and the ‘weapon-free workplace policy’ is Attachment 28, two pages dealing with the smokeless tobacco policy.

The policy doesn’t prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco by players.  They just aren’t supposed to use it during interviews, must conceal it, and “may not carry it in their uniform or on their body.”  Does a lip of chew in the mouth count for “on the body?”  According to the Player’s contract, joint education materials will be created for the Players and distributed during Spring Training.  Educational materials will also be created as a public service announcement for radio outlets, websites, and during broadcasts.  Exactly how strong of a deterrent will a PSA be for young kids when this seems to be a case of “do as we say, not as we do?”  Perhaps the two biggest deterrents for using Gwynn1smokeless tobacco happened this year, first with Tony Gwynn and now with Curt Schilling.

Tony Gwynn admits using a can and a half of chew a day from the time he was first in the majors.  Strike one happened in 1991 when he first noticed a growth in his right cheek.  He even figured it was from using smokeless tobacco.  Biopsy results came back negative, but the experience didn’t stop him for reaching for a dip on his way home from surgery, a testament to how strong his addiction to nicotine was.  In 2001 he retired from baseball, but didn’t retire his chew habit.  He continued it at San Diego State when he become head coach in 2002, even when the NCAA adopted a zero-tolerance tobacco policy.  Strike two happened in 2007 when another growth was found and another biopsy was performed.  His luck held as the biopsy was negative.

In 2010 that luck ran out when a third growth, in the same spot as the others, was discovered.  This time it was bad.  It required not only surgery, but radiation and chemotherapy.  The surgery affected a nerve in his face, causing partial paralysis, and making it difficult to eat and smile.  But it ended his smokeless tobacco habit. He completed the treatments, went into remission and gained his smile back.  Unfortunately, the cancer also came back and more surgery and radiation was required.  He passed away in June 2014; he was only 54.  Although his doctor claims there is no known link between smokeless tobacco and Tony’s cancer, the ballplayer was adamant it was the cause as he always dipped on the right side, the same side as the cancer. Schilling

Now Curt Schilling has come forward with his story of mouth cancer caused by what he believes is his 30 years of using chewing tobacco.  Curt said not only did he have bleeding gum issues when using smokeless tobacco, he lost his sense of smell and taste, but it wasn’t enough to make him quit.  He had surgery this past year and went into remission in June.  Schilling admits he didn’t say something sooner because he didn’t want pity. He also said he didn’t speak up because he didn’t want to get into the chewing tobacco debate, but says it was an addictive habit.  He admits it took the pain of his treatment to make him wish he could go back and never have dipped, “not once.”

In light of Tony Gwynn’s death and Curt Schilling’s cancer diagnosis due to years of smokeless tobacco use, the time has come for the MLB to quit discussing the subject and make ballparks smoke-free and tobacco-free workplaces.  What are the players going to do, quit? strike?  How would that look to the fans, especially the kids when the headlines scream “Players Won’t Play Without Tobacco?”  This is not about the rights of grown men to use a legal substance, but about grown men becoming addicts to a substance that takes prisoners and kills some of its users.  It’s also about the message sent to the kids who watch and imitate what they see and hear on the field.  Right now that message isn’t very good.


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2014 Children’s Health Concerns

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health is out for 2014 listing the top 10 health concerns adults have for their children and communities.  This is the eighth year for the report, and the first time adults have also been asked about their concerns nationwide as well as in their own communities.

In 2007, out of a list of 17 concerns, smoking was #1 of the top 10 health concerns compiled for the report.  Even with declining smoking rates among teens through the years, parents still see smoking and tobacco use as a health concern, enough so that it remains near the top of the list each year.

The newest report shows that childhood obesity is now the top concern at the local community level, followed by smoking/tobacco use, drug abuse and bullying.   The national level lists the same health concerns in a slightly different order:  childhood obesity, bullying, drug abuse and smoking/tobacco use.

MottDr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, says the newest top 10 report gives “a national agenda of the top health problems of the kids that adults would like to see policy-makers address.”

Click HERE to read the entire article.




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Keep Miss Kitty Safe

LucyHappy World Cat Day!  Ok, we understand you may not be a cat person, not everyone can be so special.  But be honest, you’ve smiled at some of those pictures of kittens seeing their reflection in a mirror, or hissing at each other.  It’s just plain cute.  But something that is not so cute is what secondhand smoke can do to your cat.

Secondhand smoke has over 4,000 chemicals, and while you can get away from the smoke, your inside cat is, well…stuck.  That blue haze of smoke is falling on everything in the house, including your pet.

Cats are not only breathing in the carcinogens from your secondhand smoke, they are Lucy1also ingesting all those chemicals each time they groom themselves, making them more prone to develop cancer of the mouth and lymph nodes. Living with a pack-a-day smoker means the cat is “three times more likely to develop malignant lymphoma than a cat living with a nonsmoker.”  Even a cat living with a light smoker, someone who smokes less than a pack-a-day, is “four times more likely to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma which is the most common and an aggressive type of oral cancer in cats.”

Keep cigarettes and cigarette butts out of reach of your curious cat as tobacco products contain nicotine, and even small amounts are toxic to your pet.

Talk to your vet about how to keep Miss Kitty safe from secondhand smoke and other dangers that lurk in your house.  Your fur baby will thank you.

Click HERE to read how secondhand smoke affects your pet.




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The FDA is Seeking Opinions

In 2009 The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act became law, giving the Food and Drug Administration “the authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products to protect public health,” according to a consumer fact sheet on the FDA website.  One of the aims of the Tobacco Control Act was to curb youth use of tobacco since the majority of new users of tobacco products are under 18, the legal age to purchase tobacco products.  But the tobacco industry has introduced products that not only appeal to youth, but get around loopholes in the law and cost the U.S. billions in tax revenue.  Changes need to be made to the Act, and the FDA is asking for your input on these matters and others that fall under the Tobacco Control Act

For one, the cigar industry wants out from under any FDA regulation, but adults aren’t the only ones smoking cigars.  According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, “high school students are twice as likely as adults – 13.1% compared to 6.6% – to report smoking cigars in the past month.”

When flavors were banned in cigarettes, manufacturers flavored other cigarette-sized products, wrapped them up in a thin brown paper-type leaf, and called them little cigars or cigarillos.  Some manufacturers increased the weight of the products by adding additional tobacco or adding clay filler, like that in cat litter, to give the products additional weight and classify them as cigars.  According to the 2013 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, 8.6% of high school students reported they had smoked a cigarette at least once during the past 30 days, while 9.3% reported they had smoked cigars.

While teens have been putting cigarettes down, they have also been using e-cigarettes in increasing numbers with use among high school age teens increasing over 100% in just two years.  Controlling sales of e-cigarettes and the flavored nicotine liquid would help reduce these numbers as well as the number of poisonings happening across the U.S.

20140215_163416Another area the FDA needs to look at is tobacco and e-cigarette display placements in retail establishments.  All tobacco products, including cigars of all types, and nicotine delivery devices such as e-cigarettes and e-liquids, should follow the rules applied to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and be placed behind the counter.  This will minimize confusion between candy and tobacco.  It will also mean sales clerks can control who has access to the products.  Note the picture with the NJOY e-cigarette display on the counter to the right and the candy sign in front of it.  The placement and bright colors of the packaging make it difficult for kids to know

In this day and age of the internet, it is too easy for youth to access websites and purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes online.  Age-verification procedures should be required to purchase all e-cigarettes and the liquids that go in them, much like those in place to purchase cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration is looking for public input as to these issues and others regarding tobacco and nicotine delivery systems, and has extended the deadline for public comment to Friday, August 8th.

You can read more about the issues HERE and HERE.
You can CLICK HERE to submit your comments directly to the FDA.

CLICK HERE for more information on this topic.


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Smokeless Tobacco Stats

New statistics are out on smokeless tobacco and the report shows there hasn’t been much change between 2005 when about 2.7% of working adults used the product to about 3.0% in 2010.  The report Copetracked smokeless users by age, education, geographical location, and by industry worked.  The report also measured whether the respondents were dual users of both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.   Those who used “chewing tobacco or snuff more than 20 times in their lifetime” and used “chewing tobacco or snuff everyday or some days” were considered current users.  A current cigarette user was someone who smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoked every day or some days.

In 2005 the survey found the smokeless tobacco numbers were highest among working adults in the 18-24 year old age group, male, non-Hispanic whites, high school educated, and living in the Midwest Skoalor South.  By the 2010 survey the smokeless tobacco users had aged and taken their habit with them as the 25-44 year old group was the highest users.  Males, non-Hispanic whites, high school education, and living in the Midwest and South were still dominant factors.  It should be noted that the number of smokeless tobacco users living in the Midwest did drop by 0.5% between the 2005 and 2010 survey.  Percentages were also given by industry and by occupation.

While cigarette smoking for adults (older than 18) had dropped between 2005 (22.2%) and 2010 (19.1%), dual users of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco increased slightly from 4.1% in 2005 to 4.2% in 2010.  In 2010, 5.6% of males reported using smokeless tobacco, but 7.3% reported being a dual user.  In the category “with no more than a high school education,” 3.9% reported using smokeless, but 4.5% reported dual use.  While smokeless use went down in the Midwest in 2010 (3.3%), dual use increased to 5.3%.  It also showed that dual users smoked more cigarettes (15.5) “compared with those who used cigarettes only (12.1).”

Our Florida Youth Tobacco Survey provides us with statistics for our middle school and high school populations. and some of those numbers for smokeless tobacco users appear higher than for the adults in the MMWR.  In smokeless_youth2005 3.9% of middle school and 4.9% of high school students said they considered themselves current smokeless tobacco users meaning they used the products at least once during the past 30 days.  In 2010 those numbers were down for middle school students, at 3.0%, but up for high school students at 6.4%.  The numbers were higher still for those students who reported “ever tried” smokeless in 2005 at 7.0% for middle school students and 12.2% for high school students.  Those numbers were down in 2010 at 5.7% and 11.9% respectively.   There were no figures given for dual tobacco use.

The  MMWR report suggests that the “lack in reduction” in the smokeless tobacco rates could be due to “novel smokeless tobacco products,” tobacco industry advertising encouraging cigarette smokers to use smokeless tobacco as an alternative when they can’t smoke, switching to smokeless for “purposes of harm reduction or smoking cessation,” and increases of tobacco industry marketing in the smokeless tobacco area.

Copenhagen2Smokeless used to mean using your fingers to dig into a can to put loose tobacco into your mouth and spitting out the juices.  Now some smokeless brands have individual pouches to make that part of smokeless tobacco easier, and no spitting means you can use it anyplace.  Smokeless has also changed their image from working men, like the Copenhagen cowboy image (2004 ad at the top) riding the range to a more youthful image (2007 ad) having fun riding a motorcycle.  Removing flavors, adding larger warning labels, and increasing taxes on the products could be a good start to decreasing use.  But unless you educate students early and often about the dangers of smokeless tobacco, you won’t deter them from ever picking up the habit.

Morbity and Mortality Weekly Report in its entirety.
Tobacco pictures from







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World No Tobacco Day 2014: Raising Tax on Tobacco

WHOIf we want to improve public health worldwide, we have to start by decreasing or ending tobacco use worldwide.  Clean air laws, graphic tobacco warning labels, education campaigns and banning advertising help, but raising tobacco taxes is “the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco among young people and poor people,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO) which has made this their campaign for the 2014 World No Tobacco Day on May 31st.

Studies have shown that a “10% increase in the price of cigarettes in developed countries will result in a 4% to 5% reduction in overall cigarette consumption.”  In fact, a 2010 study in 20 lower-middle income countries found that a price increase of 10% would reduce consumption in youth aged 14 by 18%, more than three times higher than the consumption reduction achieved by the same measure among adults.”

Raising taxes on tobacco is a “win-win situation because they are good for both public health and government revenues.”  Increasing the taxes saves lives by improving the health and “reducing the burden of disease and death” on governments as more people end their tobacco use.    Collecting higher taxes means the government will earn a higher revenue.  Those who no longer spend their earnings on tobacco, will now be able to purchase other consumer products and services.  Youth and “lower income people are sensitive to price increases” and will “alter their consumption behavior by either quitting or reducing the level of tobacco consumption more than higher-income consumers,” thus improving their health.

The tax rate on a pack of cigarettes here in Florida is 133.9¢, which includes a surcharge of $1 per pack, ranking us 27th in the nation in cigarette tax rate.  Loose tobacco/snuff is taxed at 85% of the wholesale price while cigars are not taxed at all.  In 2009 when the Food and Drug  Administration banned flavored cigarettes, except menthol, from being sold in the U.S. many products were reclassified by tobacco companies as “cigarillos” to avoid taxation and regulations by the FDA. The public should question why the tobacco industry is allowed to continue to sell these addictive tobacco products at prices below $1, which is easily affordable to many children.  While the legal age to purchase tobacco products is 18 in Florida (as well as most of the nation), in 2013 3.1% of middle school and 9.3% of high school students reported smoking cigars in the past month, less than the 2.6% and 8.6% respectively who reported smoking cigarettes.  Raising the taxes on all tobacco products here in Florida would decrease the number of youth not only trying tobacco but become regular tobacco users.

During this World No Tobacco Day, encourage your government leaders to put public health before the concerns of the tobacco industry.

Click here for the World Health Organization “Raising Tax on Tobacco.”



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