Finally, FDA oversight on e-cigs and all tobacco

In 2009 The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law, giving the “FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products.”  The law, commonly known as the Tobacco Control Act, placed restrictions on “marketing tobacco products to children” and gave the FDA authority to ban sales to minors as well as provide other restrictions.  In 2014 the FDA announced new regulations “to gain regulatory authority over tobacco products not yet regulated by the FDA,” including electronic cigarettes.

Now, a proposed ruling two years in the making will finally go into effect starting August 8, 2016, banning the sale of “e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah e-cig2tobacco to people under age 18.”  This new rule brings the above tobacco/nicotine products in line with the rules for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco.

The tobacco companies will be required “to submit these products to it (FDA) for regulatory review.”  The FDA will also require the list of ingredients in these products, with a “staggered review period.”  Health warnings will also need to be placed on packages and in advertisements.  In addition to reviewing the ingredients in tobacco products, the FDA will have authority to: “review new tobacco products not yet on the market; help prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers; and communicate the potential risks of tobacco products.”

While the new ruling stops teens from purchasing electronic cigarettes, it falls short.  It does not stop the marketing to youth “or the use of sweet e-cigarette flavors such as gummy bear and cotton candy.”  Even research conducted by the FDA stated that those youth “who had ever experimented with tobacco started with a flavored product, including 81% of youth who had ever used e-cigarettes.”  This ruling also doesn’t prevent “online sales of e-cigarettes and refill liquids to youth.”

While the FDA is trying to protect youth from addictive products, they are being cigarsblackmailed by “two provisions recently approved as part of the House appropriations bill that funds the FDA” which may take some of that control back unless the FDA “exempts certain cigars”.  The bill will also “limit FDA review of e-cigarettes and cigars already on the market, including the many candy-flavored products” youth are drawn to.  The question is why is Congress putting special interests ahead of public health, especially the future health of youth, by once again limiting the authority of the FDA?

Click HERE to read the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids article, and HERE to read the FDA link on this subject.

 

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Earth Day 2016

“Earth Day is more than just a single day,” according to the Earth Day website.  The movement that started in 1970 is still going strong and growing.   This year’s theme is “Trees for the Earth,” and it is very fitting considering the amount of deforestation that takes place every year.   Deforestation “increases the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide,  deforestationbut also affects the environment by inhibiting water recycling, triggering severe flooding, aquifer depletion, soil degradation and the extinction of plant and animal species.”   You may not think of tobacco when you think of deforestation, but the industry is known for massive amounts of deforestation.

In poorer, third-world countries trees are cut down to make way for tobacco farming, with more wood being needed to dry out and cure the picked tobacco leaves.  According to the World Health Organization, “an average of 7.8kg of wood is needed to cure 1kg of tobacco,” or stated another way, “5.7lbs of wood to make one pack of cigarettes.”  The site ydouthink.com states “35 countries are now facing environmental crises” due to tobacco production in their county with the percentage of deforestation ranging from 12% in South Africa, to 45% in the Republic of Korea.

photo from Wikimedia Commons

photo from Wikimedia Commons

If the trees are not being used to dry tobacco leaves, then they are being used to make paper for a cigarette.  One site suggests “modern cigarette manufacturing machines use six kilometers of paper per hour.” If a cigarette plant is running 24 hours a day, that’s 144 kilometers or about 89.48 miles worth of paper, the distance from Jupiter, Fl down to Miami, FL.

Deforestation is not the only environmental problem due to cigarette production. Erosion from the loss of these trees also strips the land of valuable soil.  Huge amounts of pesticides are needed during the tobacco growing process and the chemical run off contaminates the water supplies.  Growing tobacco strips the soil of nutrients needed to grow other crops “leaving soil in poor condition for essential food and cash crops.”  And then there is the “1.69 million pounds of toxic litter” each year from cigarette butts, the most littered item in the world.

If you won’t give up smoking for your health, at least consider giving it up for the environment.  Our planet Earth will be grateful.

Click HERE for Earth Day information.

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The data doesn’t lie: reason for raising the smoking age

Here in the United States, laws are in place to keep youth under the age of 18 from purchasing cigarettes.  However, those laws do not seem to deter youth from getting and using tobacco at an early age.  Considering tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, “teen and young adult smoking remains a public health concern.”

NSDUHAs you can see in the chart on the left, cigarette use more than doubles in the 18 to 20 age group, when tobacco sales are first legal, compared to the 16 or 17 year old age group.   About 1 in 4 young adults (24.0%) smoke once they hit legal age, versus 1 in 10 smokers (10.2%) in the 16 or 17 age bracket. And when compared to the 16 or 17 year age group, those in the 21 to 25 year old group have seen their cigarette use triple.  The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report  states”the majority (88%) started smoking before 18 years of age, and nearly all first use of cigarettes occur before 26 years of age,” and the chart bares this out.

Currently, high school students who turn 18 can legally purchase tobacco, and many are also purchasing for younger siblings, peers and friends.  Raising the tobacco age to 21 across the U.S. would have a huge impact on youth smoking, especially in the 18 to 20 year age group,  It would also decrease numbers for the next age group of 21 to 25 year olds, which currently has the highest cigarette use.  While it may take years to see decreases in other age groups, they would also come down over time.

In addition to raising the tobacco age to 21, increasing the number of tobacco prevention classes taught in U.S. school would also decrease the number of long-term smokers. Florida, with our Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators training program, is a prime example of how effective tobacco prevention education can be.  Educators in Florida are encouraged to take our course for professional development points, earning up to 60 points toward their teacher certificate renewal, which is up to half of their professional development requirements during any 5-year renewal period.  So far this past year alone, over 7,000 Florida students in K-12 have been directly impacted from teacher training lessons generated from our two online training courses.  These tobacco prevention training lessons have paid off as Florida has one of the lowest current cigarette use by high school students in the nation at 6.9%.

Click HERE for the SAMHSA link of The CBHSQ Report.  Chart from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

 

 

 

 

 

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Allowing the fox to guard the hen house

The tobacco industry has been accused of marketing to youth over the years, and rightly so. Now the electronic cigarette market can be put in the same category.  While cigarette companies must have a 21+ age to enter their sites, mandated as part of the 1998 Master marlboro_001Settlement Agreement, e-cigarette companies are less stringent, allowing youth easy access to their products.  A group of researchers looked at “12 e-cigarette companies and their 19 brands” to see what information was required in order for users to enter their sites, and found the information required to be lacking in comparison to cigarette companies.

In order to access cigarette companies websites, users must verify they are legal age (21+) by supplying information such as name, address, date of birth, and the last four digits of their social security number to be admitted.  Of the 19 e-cigarette brands, “2 had no gate, 5 stated warnings, 10 required click/checks, 1 required birthdate, and 1 required registration.”  Even within a company, different brands had different requirements.

markten“Despite strong claims of corporate social responsibility against marketing to adolescents,” electronic cigarette companies are taking an old page from tobacco and promoting their products to adolescents before regulations are imposed.   For example Altria has a corporate responsibly statement that claims it “connects with adult tobacco consumers through direct mail and websites,” but their MarkTen electronic cigarette website allows anyone in by simply clicking a button stating they are 21 years or old, with no check of their age.  Altria is not alone; Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco electronic cigarette sites operate much the same way.

Unfortunately, age-verification requirements will not be required until the Food and Drug Administration has authority over e-cigarettes.   Until then tobacco companies will continue to beat their corporate responsibility drum while continuing to allow adolescents in through the front door.  Profits once again win over what is morally and ethically right.

Click HERE for the article.

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Common sense needed to protect youth

More and more states are looking to raise the tobacco age to 21 and a few have already done so.  Hawaii raised the age on both traditional tobacco and electronic cigarettes back on January 1 of this year and the reason was simple, keeping tobacco out of the hands of youth may “keep them from developing an unhealthy addiction” to nicotine.

e-cig_002California has just approved a bill that not only raises the smoking age to 21, but will also “treat electronic cigarettes the same as their dangerous smoke-based brethren,” and it is not sitting pretty with some, namely the pro electronic cigarette people.  According the article “vaping can be an enjoyable means to get a nicotine fix” and therein lies the problem.  The article states that recent declines in smoking are due to the use of electronic cigarettes,” but they fail to mention the huge increases in youth use of e-cigarettes. especially those who haven’t smoked cigarettes before.  According to scientific evidence, “teenage brains are wired to get easily hooked on tobacco” which has nicotine, but so do the majority of the e-liquids used in e-cigarettes or vaporizers, with some levels much higher than traditional cigarettes.

But it doesn’t matter, because according to the article and pro e-cig proponents, “current evidence suggests the health risks are small” for e-cigs, right up there with “living and breathing.”  The article also failed to mention the nine chemicals in the California Prop 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins found so far in e-cigarettes.

Of course, the article also suggests that this bill tramples “on the rights of adults.”  The new law would not stop any legal-aged adult from using e-cigs.   It just matches the current legal age for purchasing adult beverages in the state.

The California lawmakers did make one concession since the state has such a high military presence, “legislators exempted members of the military from the boosted purchase-age rules.”  It appears that in the minds of the lawmakers, if they are old enough to serve in the military, they shouldn’t be stopped from developing a life-long addiction to nicotine, like a large majority of military before them.

One article did suggest these new laws go too far in California’s attempt to “stand up to the tobacco industry.”  Isn’t it about time public health comes first over tobacco industry profits?  After all, will the tobacco industry be there for you when their products, whether tobacco or liquid nicotine, cause you harm?

Click HERE for the Rstreet.org article and HERE for the LA Times opinion.

 

 

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Gallup Says: Majority of U.S. Favor E-Cig Regulations

According to a new Gallup poll, most U.S. adults favor some type of regulation when it comes to electronic cigarettes, with “the prevailing opinion” that both tobacco and electronic cigarettes should be regulated similarly.   The information comes from a phone survey conducted this past December of a random sample of 13,648 adults, living in all 50 states and D.C.

e-cigpic_001When it came to regulation, 60 percent said “e-cigarettes should be regulated as much as  tobacco cigarettes,” with another 19 percent saying it should be regulated “but not as much as regular cigarettes.”  An additional 17 percent said “they should not be regulated at all.”

The electronic cigarette industry has repeatedly stated the products carry no harm, but half of U.S. adults believe they are harmful to public health, according to the Gallup poll.  Only 14 percent said they are helpful.  Of course if you are a cigarette smoker or have tried e-cigarettes, you would probably be in the 28 percent who said the devices have no effect on public health.

When it came to harming the environment, it is split equally with 40 percent saying “e-cigarettes are harmful to the environment” and 40 percent saying it has no impact.  Eleven percent believe they help the environment.   Of course those who are “current tobacco smokers and those who have tried e-cigarettes say they have no impact on the environment.”  I guess neither group has ever participated in a tobacco and e-cigarette litter pick up on a beach.

While the majority of U.S. adults “believe cigarette smoking should be illegal in all public places,” about 48 percent believe e-cigarettes should be totally banned from restaurants with about 29 percent believing they should be banned from public parks.

The results of this Gallup poll and another poll conducted by National Public Radio, are about even when it comes to Americans wanting regulations on electronic cigarettes.  The Food and Drug Administration sent the regulations to the White House for review on October 19, and the White House can make changes to the rules as they see fit.  The e-cigarette industry may have a tough sell to go easy on e-cig regulations if this poll is any indication.  After all, the will of the people have spoken.

Click HERE for entire story.

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What’s Hiding in Your Hookah?

Using a hookah is not convenient.  It is not like you can comfortably walk around with a hookah pipe.  And finding the specialty blend of tobacco called shisha may not be easy. Yet here in Florida hookah seems to be more popular among high school teens then cigarette smoking as the percentage currently using hookah is higher than those currently smoking, 9.7% versus 6.9%.  Perhaps it is the allure of the exotic and unfamiliar that pulls the teens hookah_loungein. Or maybe it is the shared social experience, sitting around a hookah taking turns inhaling sweetened tobacco smoke.   While other hookah studies have looked at health risks such as the amount of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide associated with inhaling, a new study from the University of Tampa has focused on the stuff you may not see or think about, like the bacteria found in the pipes.  The researchers conducted field research at local hookah bars and discovered more than the sweet tobacco smoke of shisha going around.  Ah, yes, nothing quite like sharing another hit of bacteria as you pass around the pipe.

Student assistants in the project tested one pipe from 10 local bars and swabbed samples hookah_004were taken from “the mouthpiece, the hose and the connector where the hose meets the base.”  The collected samples were analyzed and bacteria was grown from the samples taken in all 10 bars.  The pathogens discovered “can lead to things like blood infections, food poisonings, skin infections, swelling of the heart, and a scarlet-like fever (a species of tuberculosis).”  What makes this dangerous is “several of these bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.”  When the research team contacted bars regarding their cleaning procedures, “none responded for comment.”

Research had already uncovered transmissible diseases such as “tuberculosis, mononucleosis and oral herpes” could be shared by passing around the mouthpiece yet information on bacterial contamination was scarce.  This new information could help FDA scientists to look at possible new regulations regarding hookah bars.

Click HERE for the entire news article.

 

 

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Kick Butts Day 2016

kickbutts1Kick Butts Day, March 16, 2016 is here!  This annual national day of activism, first held in 1996, empowers our youth to voice their concerns “and take action against” Big Tobacco at events by raising “awareness of the problem of tobacco use in their state or community.  Holding these events “encourages youth to reject the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing and stay tobacco-free.”  It is also a way for youth to “urge elected officials to take action to product kids from tobacco.”  

This year several of the Palm Beach SWAT clubs, in conjunction with the Palm Beach County Health Department, will be hosting a Kick Butts Day event at Roger Dean Stadium. Students will be doing street marketing, advocacy and conducting surveys outside the stadium before the game.  A big thank you to Roger Dean Stadium as they always do a wonderful job promoting the Kick Butts Day cause and hosting our students.  It is not uncommon for adults attending the game to share their quit stories with the students, urge them to never use tobacco, and thank them for speaking out against tobacco and for being at the game.

If Kick Butts Day advocates are conducting surveys in your community, take a moment to stop and lend your name to their petitions.  After all, this is the generation that is trying to stop tobacco.

Click HERE for more information on Kick Butts Day and get on board for next year.

 

 

 

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World Kidney Day 2016

We all know smoking causes lung problems, but how many know it can also cause kidney disease?  In fact smoking is a “leading risk factor that can lead to end stage renal disease,” or kidney failure.  While doctors have known that a smoker with diabetes has an increased risk of developing kidney disease, smokers without diabetes have also exhibited kidney changes.  The problem is that most people, whether they are smokers or not, may not know they are having kidney problems.   Today on World Kidney Day, let’s look at how smoking can affect your kidneys.

First, smoking can increase blood pressure which can cause artery damage.  Your kidneys need these arteries and the volumes of blood that flow through them to filter toxins out of the body.  Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause these arteries to “narrow, weaken or harden,” causing blood flow to slow or decrease.

Inside the kidneys are the smallest of the blood vessels, the capillaries.  These capillaries feed nutrients to the nephrons that filter your blood.  If the arteries are damaged, the kidneys “lose their ability to filter blood and regulate the fluid, hormones, acids and salts in the body.”  If your kidneys are healthy, they are able to produce a hormone to regulate blood pressure, but kidney damage means this hormone isn’t being produced.  This higher blood pressure can cause further kidney damage.

Smoking causes so many problems in the body.  But a study found that “former smokers had fewer kidney abnormalities that current smokers,” so it’s sort of like getting two good reasons to quit smoking.  (A little kidney humor).

Click HERE for more on World Kidney Day

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Film Rating System Could Get Slapped With Suit

Rango PG, 2011 - 50 tobacco incidents on screen, 948 million domestic tobacco impressions.

Rango PG, 2011 – 50 tobacco incidents on screen, 948 million domestic tobacco impressions.

Media influences, such as movies, have a profound impact on the adolescent self-concept,” whether it is through violence or making a character look more attractive, grownup or cool by smoking.  The tobacco industry understands this and for decades has played into these adolescent images and concepts by showing smoking scenes in movies designed for youth and teens.  The Motion Picture Association of America has finally been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit regarding their film rating system and it could change the way tobacco in films is rated. Right now it all hinges on being “accepted by a judge and not barred by the First Amendment.”

The Incredibles PG, 2004, more than 20 tobacco incidents, 925 million tobacco impressions.

The Incredibles PG, 2004, more than 20 tobacco incidents, 925 million tobacco impressions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the majority of adult smokers, nearly 9 out of 10, start smoking before age 18.  Too many lower rated “G,” “PG,” and “PG-13” movies contain tobacco scenes, exposing minors early on to tobacco and smoking, influencing their tobacco use, and increasing their risk of becoming regular smokers.  The major Hollywood film studios have known about this issue “since at least 2003” and “have been given recommendations from health experts,” but continue “to stamp ‘their seal of approval’ on films meant for children that feature tobacco imagery.”

The Simpsons Movie PG-13, 2007, more than 20 tobacco incidents, delivered 586 million tobacco impressions

The Simpsons Movie PG-13, 2007, more than 20 tobacco incidents, delivered 586 million tobacco impressions

According to the complaint between 2003 when studios were made aware of this issue and 2015 “approximately 4.6 million adolescents in the U.S.” were recruited to smoke through film imagery.  Of those, “1.5 million are expected to die from tobacco-induced diseases in years to come.”  If the film studios are allowed to continue with tobacco imagery in films designed for youth, an additional “3.2 million American children alive today” will begin to smoke and “one million of those will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases.”

The film rating system took effect in 1968 and although it is considered “voluntary,” over time it appears to be more enforced.   It wasn’t until 2007 that “smoking was added as a factor in the film rating process.”  While most parents turn to the ratings to help with film choices and the majority “agree that the rating system is accurate in the classification of movies,” more needs to be done to limit tobacco exposure to minors.  Film goers see the glamorous, sexy, tough guy, cool factor, but they rarely see the negative health effects of tobacco use.

Click HERE for the entire article on proposed law suit.  The films pictured are the top three films in terms of audience exposure to tobacco between 2002 and 2011 from Smokefree Movies website.

 

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