Just be Through With Chew

It seems smokeless tobacco, commonly known as dip or chew, has taken a back seat since the vaping craze took over, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t being used.  During Through With Chew Week, it’s important to remind students and adults that spit tobacco is not harmless tobacco as it contains cancer-causing chemicals and the addictive drug nicotine.

For those who aren’t familiar with smokeless tobacco, there are several types such as plug, twist, or chewing tobacco, all of which are placed in the mouth between cheek and gum and the juices need to be spit out.  The most recognizable smokeless tobacco product is dipping tobacco, or dip, which originally started out as dry snuff and evolved into the moist tobacco in the can.  Dry snuff is a ground tobacco that is inhaled in the nose.  Moist snuff tobacco comes in a can in a variety of cut sizes (the length of  the strands of dip) and flavors.  Users place it between cheek and gum or lip and gum, and while the nicotine and chemicals are absorbed through the tissues in the mouth, the juices have to be spit out.  It’s the type of tobacco most associated with baseball players, is highly addictive and very habit forming.  There are also tea-bag like pouches, called Snus, that are highly sweetened and also placed in the mouth like dip, but the juices are typically swallowed.

According to NSTEP (National Spit Tobacco Education Project), “almost half (46%) of new (smokeless tobacco) users are under 18 when they first try” smokeless tobacco.  National current use of smokeless tobacco is at 6.0% overall with more males (10.0%) using than females (1.8%). Current use means using smokeless tobacco products on 1 or more of the 30 days before participation in the survey.  Here in Florida the state numbers for current use of smokeless tobacco dipped from 3.0% in 2012 to 2.2% in 2016 among youth 11-17 according to the 2016 Florida Tobacco Youth Survey.  However, some rural counties in Florida are more than 5 times the state average for smokeless tobacco use by teens.

Many teens believe that since smokeless tobacco isn’t smoked, it is safe, but smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals which put users at a higher risk for oral cancer, as well as esophagus and pancreatic cancer, than non-users.  It stains the teeth, and can cause receding gums and gum disease.  A can of dip contains approximately 144 milligrams of nicotine, or the equivalent of about 80 cigarettes, or roughly four packs.  Nicotine affects you by increasing your blood pressure as well as increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Some websites have suggested using smokeless tobacco to quit smoking, but why use another tobacco product when you want to quit using tobacco?  If you need help quitting, talk with your doctor and check out some of the websites below.  Find the one that works for you.   Good luck.

Tobacco Free Florida
Kill The Can – a site of former smokeless tobacco users helping users quit
Smoke Free Vet  – the mission to is help veterans who get their health care through VA become tobacco-free (smoking, chew or dip, or any other tobacco products).
Quit Smokeless –  another site of former smokeless tobacco users helping each other stay tobacco free

Dry snuff picture from: The Northerner Blogger
Moist snuff in the can picture from: Air Force Times

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Be good to your heart

It’s not uncommon for people’s thoughts to turn to flowers and hearts on Valentine’s Day, and if your sweetheart is a smoker or uses any tobacco products with nicotine, their habit is not only hurting their heart, but their entire cardiovascular system.

Most adult smoking starts before teens even graduate from high school, and while they may not have developed a pack-a-day habit (or maybe they have), even a few cigarettes can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels.   So how does this happen?

When you take that puff, the nicotine speeds up your heart rate and increases your blood pressure.  Your blood vessels also narrow making it more difficult for organs through out your body to get adequate blood flow, including your brain.  This constant constriction hurts your vessels by causing them to be less elastic, even those in your heart.  In order to pump the blood through the vessels, your heart rate may increase.  Snuff and chewing tobacco users also show an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, but these types of tobacco act differently on the heart than cigarette smoking.

Ever notice how some smokers have blue lips?  Their body isn’t getting enough oxygen because the carbon monoxide in the smoke binds to hemoglobin, the molecule in your blood that carries oxygen and the carbon monoxide reduces it.  This happens to every cell in your body, including your heart and brain.  In order for your body to get more oxygen, your heart may enlarge, but that’s not a good thing because it has to work harder.

Many teens who would never have begun to smoke are turning to vaping because they believe it is safer that smoking.  The problem is we don’t have all the medical facts about vaping and what long-term use can do to your body.  What we do know now is that for those devices containing nicotine, there is potential of cardiovascular harm in the chemical vapor by boosting adrenaline levels in the heart which puts it under stress.  Inflammation in the body from smoking was also looked at and while e-cigarettes produced a “slightly less” inflammatory response when compared to cigarettes, it can still “contribute to heart attack and heart disease.”

Living with a smoker can be equally harmful to non-smokers because they are exposed to the same chemicals as the smokers and these toxins remain as residue on surfaces that even weekly cleaning cannot totally remove.  Not enough is known about secondhand vapor exposure at this time, but the devices do emit residue that will collect on surfaces.  How these residues react over time is still not known.

Be good to your heart and the hearts of your loved ones by quitting tobacco and nicotine products.

Click on the highlighted links to read more about smoking and the heart.

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State of Tobacco Control for Florida 2018

The American Lung Association has released its 16th annual State of Tobacco Control report for each state and provides grades in four areas:  Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Funding, Smokefree Air, Tobacco Taxes, and Access to Cessation Services.  A new category was added in 2017 for those states that have raised their state tobacco age to 21.  The one thing we can say is Florida remains consistent in its grades and there is room for improvement.

Once again Florida has earned an F in Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Funding by only providing 36.7% of what the Centers for Disease Control recommends.  Total funding for FY2018 is $71,278,084 and the CDC recommends $194,200,000.   On a side note you should know Florida’s citizens voted for Article X, Section 27 of the state constitution so money would be dedicated to tobacco prevention.  Now our state Finance and Taxation Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) wants to take money away from tobacco prevention and put it towards cancer research. Our youth smoking rate is below the national average, but teens are turning to other nicotine products such as vaping and a new generation of teens is getting hooked all over again.  Research has also shown that those teens who are currently vaping have a high probability of turning back to conventional cigarettes in the years to come.  Keeping our tobacco prevention programs funded at the current rate and teaching our kids about the dangers of tobacco/nicotine addiction will decrease future cancer rates.

For several years now Florida has received a B in Smokefree Air.  While that is an above-average, commendable grade, we could do better.  If you go to a restaurant, school or workplaces, you will have smokefree air.  But bars with less than 10% of sales from food and casinos owned by tribal establishments are exempt.  All Florida workers need smokefree laws to protect them.  In case you didn’t know, Florida is a preemptive state, a 1985 tobacco-industry holdover, which means cities and counties can’t put laws into place to protect their residents if the laws are stronger than the state.  It is time to make Florida businesses smoke-free for the health of all Florida workers which should come before tobacco industry interests that continue to control our state.

As of January 1, 2018, Florida comes in at 30th for Tobacco Taxes and earns another F in this category. The national average currently stands at $1.72 and Florida has been at $1.339 since 2009. Little and large cigars are not taxed thanks to a strong cigar lobby in our state that claims taxing cigars would destroy the fragile industry and take away its livelihood.  However, flavored little cigars are not manufactured by our cigar industry and are not smoked by true cigar aficionados.  Instead they are purchased by teens who can get 2 or 3 little cigars for under $1.  Each one of these cigars have the nicotine equivalent of 3 cigarettes and because of the size and flavoring, are smoked like a cigarette into the lungs rather than like a true cigar in which the smoke is held in the mouth.  Teens also believe these little cigars are safer than cigarettes  because of the flavorings.

If we are serious about getting people to quit tobacco, Florida has to get on board with providing Cessation Services to more people.  Right now Florida received a D in this area, but there are so many ways to improve the health of our residents.   Florida offers cessation access to state employees, but those who rely on state aid are limited in their resources such as medications and counseling.  All patients, whether covered by private insurance or state aid, should be asked by doctors about their tobacco use.  We already know tobacco use causes cancer, heart disease, strokes, COPD, diabetes and a laundry list of other problems. The state of Florida, and insurance companies, could save millions of dollars a year in health care for tobacco-related illnesses if patients were required to be counseled regarding cessation and follow-up was maintained in this area.

And finally, Tobacco 21.  This category was added in the last two years, so the majority of states have not passed legislation raising the age.  Right now the legal age in Florida for tobacco purchases is 18, but fewer high school student would be able to purchase products for underaged peers if the age was raised.  As an example, during an in-district conference we were talking to a teacher and mother whose 17 year old son was vaping.  His friend, who was 18, purchased the device for him.  If the age was 21, this student would not have been able to make a purchase.  On the other hand, in Florida it is illegal for anyone to purchase tobacco for a minor, but the law is rarely followed and arrests are not made.  Too many students under 18 are using tobacco/nicotine products.  On a side note, raising the age to 21 is currently being considered here in our state.

Laws to improve the health of Florida residents should be foremost in the minds of our lawmakers.   While we discuss the rising opioid addition gripping our nation, we forget we already have a life-long nicotine addition that is costing our state billions of dollars every year in annual health care costs, Medicaid costs, and smoking-caused productivity losses, and taking the lives of 32,300 adults each year.  Raising taxes of all tobacco products and e-cigarette products would decrease nicotine use by both kids and adults which will decrease tobacco-related health care in our future.  Providing cessation products at no or low costs will encourage more to quit.  Continued tobacco prevention education for our youth will help decrease future tobacco/nicotine use by helping them understand the dangers of the products. And raising the tobacco age to 21 will deter many of our youth from ever starting a lifelong nicotine addiction from peer pressure in school.  Florida really can’t afford to ignore these problems anymore.

Click HERE for the State of Tobacco Control 2018 report for Florida.

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What’s on the Tobacco Scene?

Trinkets and Trash came out with their December newsletter, and the non-cigarette brands are all vying for a piece of the cigarette smokers’ pie.

Zonnic, a nicotine gum produced by Reynolds America, Inc, offered coupons for free packs of gum, while Zyn, a tobacco-free nicotine pouch that uses nicotine salt produced by Swedish Match, also advertised their product as a way to avoid the smoke.  They don’t mention quitting smoking, just use their product.

Christmas ads for tobacco products aren’t like they used to be with decorated cartons of cigarettes and tins of pipe tobacco ready for gift giving.  Now the ads show serene winter scenes and if the warning that the product causes mouth cancer wasn’t there, you might not even know it was for a tobacco product.  When I hear “longhorn,” I think steakhouse, not tobacco.  Red Seal, another smokeless tobacco product, offered coupons and links to the brand website so users could see all the charitable donations the company made.  Does this make users feel warm and fuzzy towards the company?  You can also send “cheer” to a farmer, although they don’t mention whether it is a tobacco farmer or not.   American Spirit brand cigarettes sent a group photo of the brand staff.  Perhaps that makes the cigarette brand more personable.

The CEO of NJOY, a vaping device, claims “he didn’t quit, he switched,” and he is suggesting you do the same.  Their “Switch Kits” were available on the website during December at a savings of 73%.  They claim vaping is low-risk and offer “mentoring” on the brand’s website from vapers who have successfully switched to help you on your “self-guided switch journey.” They offer “advice and evidence-based behavioral change techniques developed by experts” so you will WANT to do this.   So now a company selling an addictive nicotine delivery system is using words like “evidence-based” and “behavior change” in hopes of giving their product legitimacy, all to keep people addicted to nicotine.

In case you need a definition, evidence-based practices started out in medicine and spread to other fields, such as education.   The evidence comes from “research findings derived from the systematic collection of data through observation and experiment and the formulation of questions and testing of hypotheses,” according the Wikipedia.  The people helping you on line aren’t scientists, they are users just like you.

No matter the delivery system, giving up any nicotine product will help you feel better, and allow your body to heal.  Your wallet will also appreciate having more money in it.

Click HERE for the December installment of Trinkets and Trash.


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Less addictive cigarettes or new products to keep Americans addicted?

Wouldn’t it be great if smokers could no longer become addicted to the nicotine in their cigarettes?  It could cause some to quit, but others would gravitate to lower-risk products. This may become a reality sooner than you think.

The Food and Drug Administration has a plan that would  lower the nicotine levels in cigarettes so they are no longer addictive.  But the plan would also allow products the FDA considers lower-risk to deliver nicotine but without “the deadly effects of traditional cigarettes.”

One such product is the iQOS (pronounced EYE-kose, and some say stands for “I quit ordinary smoking”).  iQOS uses compressed tobacco in smaller looking cigarettes called heet sticks that are put into a device and heated, not burned.  It is supposed to reduce the tar and other chemicals given off by cigarettes.

Big Tobacco talks about saving lives with new products that deliver fewer chemicals, but anti-smoking activists point out the tobacco industry has lied to the public about the health effects of smoking for more than 50 years.  Activists point out filtered and “low tar” cigarettes are prime examples that deceived users into thinking they were safe.  When the FDA tried to add graphic warning labels in 2010, the tobacco industry defeated that proposal.  And since 2011 the industry has thrown legal challenges at the FDA regarding the use of menthol, which targets minorities and teens who use the products in higher numbers.

The 2009 Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA authority over certain aspects of the tobacco industry including review and sales of new products such as e-cigarettes.  This authority also extends to nicotine content in cigarettes.  The FDA cannot remove it, but can reduce nicotine to lower, non-addictive levels.  The agency also wants to allow a variety of alternative products for smokers who aren’t ready to give up their addiction.

For now Philip Morris and Altria will try to convince the government that iQOS is less harmful than cigarettes.  If approved, it would allow the product to be advertised “as a’reduced-risk’ tobacco product, the first ever sanctioned by the FDA.”  Since it uses real tobacco, the producers think more smokers would be willing to try it versus e-cigarettes, which produces a vapor from a form of nicotine in a flavored liquid.

However “reduced risk” the iQOS product is, it sends a message to youth and non-smoking adults that it is harmless, much like e-cigarettes have before it.  While many e-cigarette users said the devices have helped them quit smoking, many other are combining e-cigarette use with regular cigarettes or other smoked tobacco products so the reduced harm is non-existent.

The problem also lies in that reducing the nicotine and having new products on the market won’t happen at the same time.  Do you really think the tobacco industry will not drag the lower nicotine process through the courts as they have with every other process the FDA has attempted to implement for the benefit of the health of the American public?  Once again the tobacco industry will win, and the health of the American public will lose.

Click HERE to read the entire article

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Tobacco Use is Down, Vaping Up in Monitoring the Future 2017

The University of Michigan Monitoring the Future report came out in December and there is some good news regarding declines in tobacco products among teens.  Cigarette smoking, smokeless tobacco, snus, and hookah have all seen declines in use.  Unfortunately, something else has replaced those forms of tobacco: vaping.

First the good news.  Cigarette smoking reports are listed as lifetime, 30-day, daily and half-pack/day, and all are at “historic lows” since they were first measured in 1991. Peak usage came in the mid-1990s and the declines are amazing:
– lifetime use:                    down 71%
– 30-day use:                     down 81%
– daily use:                         down 86%
– current half-pack/day: down 91%
Usage peaked in 1996 for 8th and 10th graders at 10.4% and 18.3% respectively, and in 1997 for 12th graders at 24.6%  Today’s numbers are at 0.6% (8th), 2.2% (10th) and 4.2% (12th). The declines show that teens are listening to the warnings about the dangers of cigarettes and smoking, and disapprove of smoking at a higher rate than previous generations.

Smokeless tobacco also reached a low point with numbers at 9.7% in 1992 to 3.5% in 2017.  This year alone the numbers dropped 0.7%.  Snus, a spit-less, smokeless tobacco product also saw a drop from 3.6% to 2.6%.

For the past several years hookah use increased, but since 2014 it has fallen 45% in the last five years from 23% to 10% this year.  This year alone it decreased 2.9 percentage points, from 13.0% to 10.1%.

Flavored little cigars and regular little cigar use is down since first measurements were tracked in 2014 , but this year did not decline.  Thirty-day use is at 5.4% for flavored and 3.7% for regular., proving that more teens like the flavored tobacco products over non-flavored.

Now for the bad news.  Decreases in conventional nicotine use is being replaced with liquid nicotine use in the form of vaping.  In the last year 8% of 8th graders, 16% of 10th graders and 19% of 12th graders reported vaping nicotine, although those numbers could be higher because students may not be aware of nicotine in their product. It will be interesting to see future numbers as it has been reported that students turn from vaping to conventional tobacco.  We may see an increase in smoking or other tobacco use again in the coming years.

It is good to know students are getting the message that tobacco is dangerous to their health, but information from YouTube and peers’ “knowledge” on the vaping rather than facts seems to be the way they are getting their information.   Now, more than ever, we need to teach our students about tobacco prevention before we lose this generation back to the tobacco industry.  Educators in Florida can take the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course and receive professional development points for teaching their students six (6) tobacco lessons.  You can find out more on the course HERE.


Click HERE for the Monitoring the Future Press Release.

Posted in Cigarettes, Cigars, E-Cigarettes, Hookah, Nicotine, Smokeless tobacco, vaping | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JUULS are Trending in Schools

During my high school years a certain group of students would smoke in the bathrooms, but teens today are vaping in the bathrooms, between classes in the hallways and right in the classroom, with many teachers not even aware of what is going on.  The tool of choice seems to be a JUUL (pronounced jewel), a device that resembles a USB drive, and so small you can literally put it in your fist and no one will be the wiser.   Many participants in the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course report the devices in their schools throughout Florida, but our state isn’t unique as the trend seems to be throughout the U.S.   So why has this device become so popular among teens?

The JUULpods, pictured in the upper left only come in six color-coded flavors (cool cucumber, a limited flavor, not shown) so you would think it wouldn’t be as popular as refillable devices with over 7,000 flavors.  But what it gives up in flavors, it makes up in nicotine strength, and it only comes in one strength.  The secret comes from the benzoic acid “which transforms the freebase nicotine into a salt of nicotine” which gives you that higher hit.  The 50 mg of nicotine per ml of e-liquid provides a hit similar to a conventional cigarette, and it appears the hit “is like no other e-cigarette on the market,” according to the JUUL review by eCig One, an E-cigarette review on the web.

The other attraction is the micro size which is easily hidden in a pocket, backpack, a Sharpie marker, or even in your hand.  The JUUL USB charger (pictured to the left, the 4th picture) looks like a normal USB drive (pictured right) but is magnetic to charge the tall, rectangular battery.  It is not uncommon for students to charge the USB from their laptops during a class and the teacher will never know. A fully charged battery will give you about 200 puffs, which should last for the duration of the pod which is the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.

Yes, the trend is worrisome, but not just because kids are using them in the classroom.  While researchers have studied the health effects of cigarette use for decades, vaping devices haven’t been on the market long enough to learn about all the damaging effects caused by the e-liquid chemicals or the effects on health over a prolonged period.

According to the JUUL support site, their “juice” contains propylene glycol and glycerol, benzoic acid and nicotine, natural oils, extracts and flavor.  Propylene glycol is used in a variety of consumer products such as processed food, medications and cosmetics and is “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA. However, there is one important point that needs to be made, there aren’t “any sort of extensive human-based research on its safety,” nor was it tested for inhalation over long periods.  Current research has found that propylene glycol can cause problems such as skin irritation and allergic reactions.  It could hurt kidney and liver function, and it’s “probably not safe” for pregnant woman and babies. And respiratory issues have been found after inhaling the chemical.  As for the natural oils, extracts and flavor, what is the chemical make-up and how can they affect you?

One of the most damaging chemicals is nicotine which is not only addictive, but hurts brain development.  According to the Surgeon General’s report on E-cigarettes, “the part of the brain responsible for the decision making and impulse control is not yet fully developed during adolescence.”  Teens are more likely to take risks that result in not only nicotine addiction but mood disorders, mental health changes, and “permanent lowering of impulse control.”  Nicotine works as a stimulant and a sedative. according to Psychology Today.  It releases adrenaline which in turn increases blood pressure, heart rate and respiration.  Many nicotine users many be slightly  hyperglycemic because it also suppresses insulin output.  Dopamine is released in the brain areas that control pleasure and motivation.  Over time users build up a tolerance which means more nicotine is needed to produce the same feel-good effects.  We know there are some negative health affects from vaping, but many are still unknown.

Will any of this information cause the teens to quit using this product?  Probably not.  It’s all about being cool, and right now “having it (JUUL) in your hand makes you look” cool.   The teens know who has them, where to get them, who to buy them from, and where to use them at school.  States need to increase the tobacco age to 21 and internet sales of vaping products need to be banned before we will see a decrease in use.  Until that time, we need to educate the parents on this problem.  This isn’t a right-of-passage, this is a life-long addiction that their kids are hiding from them.

Articles researched:
Teenagers Embrace JUUL, Saying It’s Discreet Enough to Vape in Class
Picture of hand hold a JUUL from article above
Hidden JUUL
JUUL Sharpie
Nicotine information: Psychology Today


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Vintage Tobacco Ads and a Smokefree New Year

The end-of-year holiday is fast approaching and hopefully you have finished your shopping. Back in “the day” the tobacco industry came through during the holidays by providing cigarettes in festive cartons to help you with your wrapping for friends and family who smoked.  Lucky Strike went as far as to make a collector’s tin with 50 cigarettes.  The tin matched their green packaging that was popular up to the 1940s and World War II. Nothing said you cared like giving cartons (or a tin) of cancer and tobacco-related illnesses at the holidays.

Of course Santa wasn’t the only celebrity pushing tobacco-giving during the holidays. The tobacco companies also used stars of the day like Ronald Reagan, Joan Crawford and a host of others to sell their products.  Many of the stars were given cases of tobacco for promoting the product in movies and in advertisements for the tobacco companies and of course they smoked the free products.  Those who smoked also died from tobacco-related diseases. 

Years ago pipe smoking was popular and the tobacco industry didn’t want to leave out their pipe smokers during the holidays.  Who better to promote pipe tobacco than Santa himself who was known to hold his pipe in his teeth as he delivered gifts.  Loose pipe tobacco, such as Prince Albert, came in decorated tins or boxed to help you with gift giving.  Of course, the current Christmas tins of loose tobacco sort of lose the holiday spirit with warnings “smoking kills” but it does get the message across.  These tins with large warnings are from the UK.

And let’s not forget about vaping.  Santa has decided after all these years he would rather vape than smoke a cigarette or a pipe, at least according to the man on the billboard.  He doesn’t quite look like the Santa we know and he doesn’t even go by that name, but the resemblance is close enough to give kids of all ages the idea that if the man in the red suit vapes, it must be safe.

Tobacco isn’t the only product that used Christmas to promote themselves.  Stores, perfumes, coffee, soft drinks and cars all used the holiday to their advantage, but it is difficult to forget the boxed gift packages from the tobacco industry you didn’t have to wrap.  Here’s one more ad to the right, this time from a company that developed a smoking cessation aid when you want help to quit.

Here’s to a smoke-free, nicotine-free 2018.  Happy Holidays.

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Will Florida Become Tobacco 21?

A Florida Senator has sponsored SB 1288 and if it passes, the legal age to purchase tobacco products and electronic vaping products would increase from 18 to 21.   Another bill, HB 1029, was filed in the House.   As of December 1, 2017, the states of Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maine, and Oregon have all raised their tobacco age as have 280 municipalities across the U.S.

Why is it important to raise the tobacco age?  According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Surgeon General, “more than 1,200 people die from smoking in the U.S. and for each death, at least two teens or young adults become regular smokers each day.”  Almost 90% of these replacement smokers start before turning 18.  The Centers for Disease Control estimates that “each day more than 3,200 youth aged 18 or younger smoke their first cigarette and an additional 2,100 youth and young adults become daily cigarette smokers.”

The longer we can keep tobacco and nicotine products out of the hands of our youth, the better the chance that they will not become tobacco users.   The measure will help save lives by reducing the rates of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and COPD, the top four diseases caused by smoking.   Keeping our youth from starting a deadly, lifelong addiction to nicotine will also reduce the lost productivity and the burden of health care due to tobacco-related diseases for our state which is estimated to be almost $17 billion each year.

Selling to underage consumers would mean a fine up to $500 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for a second offense.  Underage youth with tobacco or vaping products risk 20 hours of community service for the first offense and 40 hours for a second offense within a year.

One reason the bill may not make it into law is that it would mean less tobacco tax revenue; however, an increase in the tobacco tax, which hasn’t increased since 2009, would easily solve the problem.

The bill will go into consideration on January 9 when lawmakers meet again.  Thank you to Sen. David Simmons, who sponsored SB1288, and Rep. Don Hahnfeldt who filed HB1029.

Click HERE for the entire Orlando Sentinel article.

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Broken Promises to Our Children – Florida

In 1998 states started receiving money from the lawsuits against the tobacco industry and many saw this as a win for health.  Now 19 years later, the states’ buckets that the tobacco industry has been throwing money into seems to have had holes in it all along as that money is being drained to balance state budgets.  The states will collect $27.5 billion from tobacco taxes and the settlement in Fiscal Year 2018, but less than 3%, or $721.6 million, will make its way to youth prevention and adult cessation programs.  Meanwhile the tobacco industry is spending $1 million dollars every hour to target tobacco users with their products.  Put it another way, while states spend $1 to reduce tobacco use, the tobacco industry is spending $12 to market their wares.  Is it any wonder we aren’t making better progress?

According to the report, Florida’s ranking remains at 14 for the second year in a row.   Spending for programs is up $800k to $68.6 million this year, putting us at 35.3% of the Centers for Disease Control recommended spending of $194.2 million. Considering our state takes in $1,586.3 million in total state tobacco revenue, more could be spent. And while the state is spending nearly $70 million for programs, the tobacco industry is spending $558.8 million on marketing, or a ratio of 8.1 to 1.

In some regards, the state of Florida is luckier than most.  The number of high school students who smoke is one of the lowest in the nation at 5.2%.  And while the adult smoking rate is also low at 15.5%, it is troubling to see a big jump between high school and adult smoking rates.

More adult smokers means more smoking years and higher annual health care costs caused by smoking, which is at $8.64 billion in Florida.  Higher smoking rates means higher cancer deaths due to smoking, which is at 29.4% .  And every day approximately 88 people die in our state due to smoking.  The burden of smoking isn’t just for the smoker.   Every household in the state pays $748 towards the state and federal tax burden from smoking-caused government expenditures.

Tobacco use is the number 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, and we know we need to do more here in Florida.  The Florida cigarette tax, which hasn’t seen an increase since 2009, needs to be increased.  Studies has shown that when tobacco taxes are increased, smoking decreases among both adults and youth.  Florida also needs to remove the outdated preemption law from the state and allow cities and counties to pass laws to protect their citizens from smoking in public areas.

Our federal government also needs to do more to protect the public from tobacco related health issues.  Increasing the federal tobacco age to 21 would reduce youth use.  Almost 90% of adult smokers started smoking by age 18, but the peak years for first trying to smoke appear to be in the 6th and 7th grades.  Raising the age would help stop older youth from purchasing tobacco for younger peers.  Banning flavored tobacco products, including menthol, would also reduce youth use.  According to the CDC “in 2014 73% of high school students and 56% of middle school students reported using a flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days.”  Banning internet sales of all tobacco/vaping/nicotine purchases and requiring face-to-face exchanges only would further reduce youth use.  And finally, requiring graphic health warnings on all tobacco/nicotine products would help reduce use.

Cigarettes may be a legal product, but it is the only one that will kill half of its users early and sicken non-users who are exposed to the smoke.  We can’t expect the numbers to decrease by themselves, but we can make it more difficult for youth to start a deadly lifetime addiction.

Click HERE for the report Broken Promises to Our Children and the state by state report.

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