Happenings in August

August has simply flown by and we may have missed some observances that are highlighted this month.  It’s a tall order to remember all those special days, like Paul Bunyan Day on the 10th, or even some of those obscure days, like National Toilet Paper Day on the 26th.   However, there are some observances that do need to be mentioned.

August was Psoriasis Awareness Month and smokers “have almost double the risk of developing this chronic disease compared with people who have never smoked.”  Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease which means your own body attacks normal tissues.  If psoriasis runs in your family, your “smoking may trigger the genes to become active.”  Many people who smoke say they do so because of stress, yet stress is another trigger for psoriasis.  Nicotine affects the immune system, but other chemicals in the tobacco and smoke may cause cell damage.  Even exposure to secondhand smoke as children can increase the risk of developing psoriasis.  Click HERE to read more about psoriasis.

Sometimes psoriasis can cause joint pain, which is called psoriatic arthritis, and smoking can make the condition worse.  Since there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, you want to control the symptoms with treatments to prevent joint damage.  And smoking while you are taking treatments for your condition may decrease the results you get from the treatments.   The best thing you can do for your skin or joints is to quit smoking.  Click HERE to read more about psoriatic arthritis.

World Lung Cancer Day was August 1st, and while cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor and may be “linked to about 90% of lung cancers,” environmental exposures from “radon, asbestos, arsenic, beryllium and uranium have all been linked to lung cancer.”  Other factors such as age, a history of cancer in another area of the body and other respiratory diseases may increase your lung cancer risk.  Cigars and pipe smoking also increases your risk, as does breathing in secondhand smoke at home or at your workplace.  Regardless of your age, you can reduce your risk of disease by quitting and reducing your exposure to secondhand smoke, but then you knew I was going to say that because National Psychic Day was also observed this month.

Sometimes life provides you with a Serendipity moment, which by the way, was celebrated on August 18.  Other times you may have a “sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch” type of surprise, which was observed on August 8.  No matter the surprise, let’s hope you learned something new.  And you still have time to celebrate August with a sandwich or a panini, as both are observed this month.

 

 

 

 

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E-cigs: Safe or Not?

eCigsAn e-cigarette is a battery operated device that may or may not look like a traditional cigarette.   Instead of igniting the tobacco-filled tube of a cigarette, users inhale a heated, flavored nicotine liquid vapor which is produced by means of a rechargeable battery inside the device. The inhaled vapor provides a hit of nicotine and the exhaled vapor looks like smoke, but does not contain the thousands of chemicals found in traditional tobacco cigarettes or the awful smell.  E-cigarettes came onto the U.S. market in 2007, and while it’s already a booming business raking in billions of dollars, not much is still known about the long-term health affects of using these devices.  Now a UK study has proclaimed that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco and has given them a high seal of approval.  Considering e-cigarettes have been on the market less than 10 years which is not enough time to conduct long term health studies, it seems premature to provide such an approval.

The UK report was produced for Public Health England and was based on findings from other studies.  The results seem to be making headlines worldwide and some of their statements are interesting, to say the least.  One such statement under the Executive summary states “whilst there is some experimentation among never smokers, regular use among never smokers is rare.” Perhaps this “rare use” may be true in the UK as they report around 2% of youth is using electronic cigarettes at least monthly.  However, the U.S. findings on youth and e-cigarettes (EC) appear much different.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014” and “current e-cigarette use has surpassed current use of every other tobacco product overall, including conventional cigarettes.”  Here in Florida, current cigarette use among high school students is at an all time low at 7.5%, but current e-cigarette use is averaged at 10.8% overall, but higher for males and whites when the results are broken down.  So much for this rare use.

Another statement under Key messages says, “there is no evidence that EC are undermining the long-term decline in cigarette smoking among adults and youth, and may in fact be contributing to it.”   According to the MMWR link above, when you take into account e-cigarette and hookah use, “the increases in use of those offset declines in use of more traditional products such as cigarettes and cigars.  There was no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014.”

While the electronic cigarette industry may be celebrating this latest study, the information within sounds reminiscent of how the cigarette industry paid “experts” to downplay the dangers of cigarette smoking.  The study continually promotes EC as a cessation aid and urges public health officials to relax restrictions, and even license the devices as a medicinally licensed product through their health system.  They even suggest that the “use of the gateway terminology be abandoned until it is clear how the theory can be tested in this field.”  As you read through the study either the information doesn’t make sense at all, or claims made seemed too good to be true.

As new information comes out today regarding the conflict of interest of some of the authors, the celebrations may be over.  “Three of the 11 authors of that study disclosed their role advising the e-cigarette industry in the original text of their paper.” An Italian author has links to an e-cigarette distributor and pharmaceutical companies, and a U.S. author has links to “several manufacturers of smoking cessation products…”  A Swedish scientist “admitted to being a ‘consultant for most companies with an interest in tobacco dependence products.'”

Those who issued the report are standing by its claims, citing an “expect review” had already endorsed the findings, although the “authors themselves accept (the work) is methodologically weak.”  A statement at the beginning of the paper says “Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities… through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence…”  They may have let the public down on this one.  One statement in the report that can be agreed upon is found in the Key messages: “Continued vigilance and research in this area are needed.”

Click HERE for the study and HERE for the newest finding on the report.

 

 

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Welcome Back Teachers and Students!

back_to_schoolWelcome back Florida educators and students! This is the sixth year the Florida Tobacco Prevention course has been offered at the state level and we are so excited to share some changes for the 2015-2016 school year.

First, we have had a change to our name.  We are now the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators: An Online Professional Development for K-12 Educators.  You never realize all the places your logo appears until you change it.  While we continue to update our banners, flyers, headers and icons, know that our mission remains the same:  to provide current information to Florida educators so they may teach their students about the health dangers of tobacco and nicotine use.

The second big change we are excited about is we now have two courses – a 30- or a 60 point course –  in which to earn teacher in-service credits.  Many participants stated they wanted to take the course, but didn’t need 60 credits to renew their certificate.   Problem solved.  The 30 credit course will have reduced content in its 12 chapters, two forums and two comprehensive assignments, while the 60 credit course will have 14 chapters, four forums, and four assignments.  Both courses will have a quiz after each chapter and a comprehensive test at the end.  Participants are required to write and submit an original lesson plan as well as chose five other lessons from our lesson library to teach a total of six tobacco lessons to their students in order to receive the credits.

According to our statistics from last year, 223 educators in 42 counties completed this course and taught tobacco lessons which impacted 6,613 students.  The majority of our participants were in a public school district, but we also had participants in public charter schools as well as private/independent, campus-based, and special audience public. Elementary school teachers were the largest group who took the course at 40.7%.  And all subject areas were represented including School Counselors, Fine Arts, Administrators, ESE Adaptive and Drivers Education.

Every year participants state how they are amazed at the way our youth are targeted by the tobacco industry; before it was through smoking, now youth are targets of the e-cigarette industry.   We hear from our participants how the information they presented in their lessons had an impact on the lives of their students.  Students took their new knowledge home and shared it with their families, and several reported their family members either quit or reduced their smoking.  Less tobacco use by family members means our students are less likely to use tobacco in the future.

The new school year has barely started and already we have 30 participants registered from seven counties.  You can make a difference in the health of your students by teaching them about the dangers of tobacco and other nicotine delivery systems that are currently on the market.  Take a moment to look at our course and enroll at Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators.

Let’s have a great school year!

 

 

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The News Behind the Story

Back in January 2015 a story broke about a study by Portland State University chemists on e-cigarettes showing the levels of formaldehyde were higher than in traditional cigarettes. The researchers weren’t looking for formaldehyde, it was by accident that they found it, but they couldn’t sweep this finding under the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, so to speak.  What they discovered was that formaldehyde is hidden, because it attaches itself to another molecule, and “in this unstable form, it could be released again in the body.”  In their own scientific, easy-to-understand words, they “detected a boatload of it,” although they admitted they didn’t know if it was dangerous or “benign.”

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the amount of formaldehyde (a human carcinogen) produced by smoking a pack of cigarettes a day versus the amount of formaldehyde hemiacetal in aerosol particles in vaped e-cigs.  Not only was the formaldehyde hemiacetal 5 times higher, it was 15 times “as tall as the amount of formaldehyde gas discovered in a 2014 study of vaped e-cigarettes.”  It was also higher than the “concentration of nicotine,” which is not a carcinogen.  The original intent of the study was to find out if flavorings used in e-cigarettes were safe to inhale. It had nothing to do with formaldehyde, but when levels were found at such high levels, the researchers looked into it.

vaporUsing a common tank model e-cigarette with a variable-voltage battery, the researchers did not detect the formation of any formaldehyde-releasing agents at low voltage (3.3 V), but did at high voltage (5.0 V).  Their results created a vapor storm of comments by e-cigarette proponents who stated that the high voltage used by the researchers was unrealistic, would taste horrible and would be too harsh for users to inhale.  But by the time you have inhaled and discovered the harsh, unpleasant taste, “you’re exposing yourself to those conditions.  This level is a known phenomenon.”   The researchers also believe that “formaldehyde-releasing agents may deposit more efficiently in the respiratory tract than gaseous formaldehyde.”  As one of the researchers stated, “it’s pretty well known that inhaling cigars is unpleasant, but people do it.”

As they have moved forward, the researchers have continued to look at the formaldehyde issue using a variety of e-cigarette models, including a “dripper” in which users manually drop the e-liquid “onto the heating coil” in order to produce bigger vapor.  This also produces high formaldehyde levels.  The PSU team will be preparing a new article for the New England Journal of Medicine for the spring which “will address some of the controversies and will show results from the new round of research.”

CLICK HERE for the original article and HERE for the latest article.

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World Oceans Day 2015

oceans_day

Florida has over 8,400 miles of coastline including tidal areas, and whether you like the soft white powder beaches of the gulf or the coarse sand and rough surf of the Atlantic, Florida beaches are well loved by residents and tourists alike.  That’s why it is so important to understand the impact we are having on our oceans by discarding cigarettes on the ground, whether you are miles from the beach or sitting with your toes in the surf.  On World Oceans Day, take a moment to read some ideas on what you can do to help keep our oceans healthy.

Cigarette butts, one of the most littered item in the world, make their way from our sidewalks and streets through storm drains that carry it out to our oceans.  Beach goers add to the litter by disposing their butts at the beach.  Only a small portion of the litter is cleaned up, the rest becomes food for animals and birds and washes out into the ocean.

Most people believe that cigarette butts are biodegradable, but they are not.  While cellulose fibers degrade naturally, most filters are made up of over 12,000 white cellulose acetate plastic fibers which looks like cotton, but degrades very slowly.  The heavy metal toxins trapped by the filter slowly leach out, killing or injuring the wildlife.

Since tobacco litter makes up between 25% and 50% of all visible litter and costs millions every year to clean up, some ideas have been proposed to reduce the amount since it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.  Some believe that since the tobacco industry is responsible for producing a “toxic waste product,” they should be held accountable for the cleanup.  This could be achieved by substantially increasing taxes on tobacco products which would be used for clean up.  Another way to reduce litter is for the tobacco industry to have a “mandatory take-back policy.”  Prohibiting smoking, whether traditional or electronic cigarettes,in all outdoor public spaces, such as parks and beaches, and imposing stiff fines for those caught breaking the laws would be a great start to cleaning up the beaches.

While none of these ideas will be implemented anytime soon, our oceans need a change from the casual, indiscriminate tossing of toxic waste onto our beautiful beaches.  Since the tobacco industry doesn’t seem to want the responsibility of cleaning up a mess they created, perhaps it is time new laws are put into place and enforced as to where people can smoke in public.

CLICK HERE for information on the environmental impact of cigarettes.

 

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New Season, New Ads

The start of summer has heralded a new crop of summer tobacco ads courtesy of Trinkets and Trash Surveillance Update for May 2015.  It is always amusing to see what is out there in tobacco-land.

virginia_slimsVirginia Slims has changed its slogan from “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” to “Come What May,” which is odd for a tobacco slogan.  Sort of a cheeky way of telling your customer, “use our product, but whatever happens to you is your problem.”

Marlboro has moved from their famous “Come to where the flavor is” to their “Maybe” campaign, which caused an uproar for targeting youth in Europe, to their new “Bold” campaign.  Instead of the original cowboy riding a horse on the range, these new youthful cowboys are everyday people riding their motorcycle in the ocean, something you could see yourself Marlborodoing. Whether he is a maybe or is being bold, he’s not smoking in the picture, and neither should you.  While you are deciding how bold you want to be, Marlboro Gold offers you a chance to vote on the next Team Marlboro environmental project that will receive $25,000. Having a tobacco company sponsor an environmental project is an oxymoron, considering cigarette production is one of the most damaging industries to the environment in terms of stripping the land of forestation.  By the way, the projects you are voting for are for replanting forests and $25,000 doesn’t go very far.  It makes Marlboro look like they care about the environment, after they strip it of trees, pollute it with fertilizers and pesticides, and litter it with the end product.

General_snusIn smokeless tobacco news General Snus is showing us that “it’s warm out there,” as they promote their in-store chillers to keep their smokeless tobacco cool.  But the ad really makes no sense.  If it is warm out there, why would you be dressed in a heavy jacket and long pants?  Wouldn’t you want to show your model cooling off with a chilled dip enjoying warm weather activities?  As for the chilled tobacco, how many users are really going to keep it refrigerated, especially when the majority of users don’t want their other half to know they are still dipping?  Good thing this smokeless tobacco user is outside, he doesn’t need to be holding his spit cup.

In electronic cigarette news, Mark Ten is adding color to their ads to show off their flavored products.  Instead of their black/white with a splash of red, you can now chose your flavor according to one of four color themes: winter mint, classic, fusion and menthol.   NJOY had an exclusive offer available at Walgreens stores (as well as Love’s Country Stores) to receive 2 free flavor chambers with a purchase of a multi-kit.  Imagine that, a drug store getting an exclusive offer to sell an addictive drug.  E-cigarette producers continue to market new products, but they are being left in a cloud of vapor by the independent fill-your-own pens that allow you to flavor your own poison.

Kudos to both Outdoor Life and Latina for featuring “Tips From Former Smokers” in their magazines.  While many readers only see the glossed over version of tobacco in ads, it’s wonderful these two magazines decided to show the damaging effects caused by tobacco or e-cigarette use.

CLICK HERE to see more of the May 2015 Trinkets & Trash Surveillance Update.

 

 

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What’s Happening with Tobacco in Florida – Participants’ Views

This past year on the Florida Tobacco Prevention Online Course, we asked our participants to present their perspective on local, state and federal laws and the effectiveness of enforcement in the law forum.  Participants were asked to share information on their district and school policies concerning tobacco use, the overlooked violations and the ramifications that students experience when caught for possession and use of both smoking and smokeless products.  The responses they provided were eye opening and show what is happening in some of our Florida counties.

After going through our course, many participants are divided on tobacco laws.  While some believe laws have lead to a reduction of underage use, many others believe the tobacco laws, as they are now, are ineffective, as is the enforcement of said laws.  A participant from Palm Beach said she has witnessed teens purchasing tobacco products without showing proof of their age and feels tobacco violations aren’t a priority to law enforcement.  Other participants reported they have seen students smoking in front of stores or walking down the street smoking and nothing is done about it.  Some participants felt that while flavored cigarettes are no longer allowed, all flavored tobacco needs to be addressed as it is extremely popular with teens, and this issue needs to be addressed quickly.  One participant from Miami-Dade, however, stated his county has a flavored tobacco ban covering cigars and chewing tobacco as it is a “starter” product for teens.  Many participants felt Florida should raise the tobacco tax on cigarettes from the current $1.33/pack to further dissuade youth from purchasing cigarettes.

E-cigarettes and vape pens are more prevalent than cigarettes in schools these days, and several participants stated that their schools provided them with training for spotting e-cigarettes.  A participant from Palm Beach County stated that several students purchased hookah pens and were selling them on her campus, while another PBC participant said he noticed a decrease in smoky student bathrooms which may be stemming from use of vaping devices.  Another Palm Beach participant noted that even though he teaches at a middle school, e-cigarettes are an issue with some of the students. A participant from Wakulla County stated this past year there were only two instances of tobacco use on campus and both involved e-cigarettes.  One participant noted that an underage student was caught with an e-cigarette in class and said his parents bought it for him.  Another participant said an elementary student was caught using a vape pen in class which he probably had taken from his mother’s tobacco shop.  The student was suspended and afterwards the administrators talked to the class about vape pens, and the everlasting health problems associated with them.  One participant stated her principal said smoking on campus has dwindled, but vape pens are so readily available and are glamorized.  The students say they are using the pens because they have been told they are not are bad for them as real cigarettes.  One participant said her principal has a no-nonsense approach to tobacco on her campus.  This principal has sent automated messages to parents reminding them that e-cigarettes are illegal for minors.  If caught, they will be confiscated and given to police as evidence.  One student served as an example when he was expelled this year, and the entire student body have been much more weary about showing off their e-cigarettes.

When it comes to suspensions, schools across Florida appear to differ, even within the same district.   In many instances smoking materials are confiscated, students are written up, and parents are called.  In some cases, suspensions are not handed out until the second or third violation as the “ultimate goal is to educate the students about the dangers of tobacco use instead of simply suspending from school which would actually give them more time to engage in the activity.”  One participant from St. Lucie County said the students at her school had a choice of a smoke-free class with their parents for six weeks (one day a week) or a two day suspension  for the first violation.  Most took the suspension because parents had to work.  Sadly, the parents were aware their child was smoking, but felt they couldn’t tell their child what do to if they themselves were smoking.  Another participant from Miami-Dade said getting caught with tobacco is a 1 to 5 day suspension, depending on the student and if they are a repeat discipline problem.  A Palm Beach participant said “first and second violations are dealt with an immediate 5 day out of school suspension.”  Another Palm Beach participant who spoke to her school police, stated she was told tobacco products in a student’s possession is a 10 day out of school suspension.  One participant stated that since he is at an alternative education center, they have an unusually high percentage of former and suspected drug/tobacco users and have had to crackdown hard on violators to set an example for the students and parents.  A Clay County participant said students caught with tobacco go to “Tobacco Court” and have to serve mandatory community service for their offense as well as school suspension.  It sends a powerful message to the kids that this is not only a serious offense, it is an inconvenience.  The students didn’t like it, but it dramatically reduced tobacco use.  One participant said her district “does not have a zero tolerance rule for tobacco, but her school is stricter.  She stated that students having tobacco will get you suspended, finding it a second time or using it will get you expelled. However, if a student is found using smokeless tobacco, they are only suspended, not expelled as with smoking.  A Brevard participant stated they “issue a $35 ticket to those under the age of 18 who are caught on school grounds with tobacco products” as well as issued suspensions.   Finally, a participant from Pinellas County stated that their schools and All Children’s Hospital has been partnering to offer students who get caught using tobacco on campus to attend an educational program rather than suspension for the first offense.

There are policies in place for tobacco-free campuses, according to participants, but not all policies are enforced whether students or employees.  One participant from Martin County said that the boys using smokeless tobacco at the high school did not seem to have the same rules applied to them. Participants from St. Lucie County and Miami Dade schools have observed teachers smoking in their parked cars during breaks, and one noted the smell of tobacco smoke in the faculty bathroom.  One participant in Broward stated that while they have a tobacco-free policy in place, the “cafeteria ladies take a smoke break outside the back entrance to the kitchen,” and the administration says “well, no one sees.” Another St. Lucie participant witnessed teachers opening up their windows in their classroom to smoke, as well as smoking in areas visible to students, visitors, etc.  Many Palm Beach participants stated that while the majority of employees follow the no smoking policy, not everyone does, and many are still allowed to continue to smoke on campus.

On the other side of the coin, participants stated that the tobacco policy is highly enforced among employees, teachers, and parents, not just among students.  A participant from Bradford County stated her administrator has given verbal warnings to parents and bus drivers seen smoking at the edge of campus boundaries.  A Palm Beach County participant said the administration informs visitors of their violation and they are asked to stop.  Their failure to comply leads to them being escorted off campus.  One Brevard participant said a teacher was fired for smoking a cigarette in his car during one of his breaks.

The biggest complaint participants stated was that while their school had a tobacco policy in place and was “tobacco-free,” the worse violators were the parents who were in the drop-off line and nothing was said or done.  They would like the school districts to enforce the tobacco-free policy in the drop-off lines.  One participant said her principal has told parents to put out their cigarettes while waiting in line for their children.  Another participant stated that his administration has had to “break up smokers in the stadium at a football game” even though there is a tobacco policy in place.  A Broward participant said you can see parents lighting up behind the bleachers and in the parking lot during sporting events and nothing is done about it.  The majority of participants would like to see stronger consequences for those visitors who violate the tobacco policy on campus as it sets a bad example for the students.

Some participants spoke of underage students being able to purchase tobacco products without much problem in their counties and would like to see stricter laws in place for the violators, both the teens and the store owners.  One participant in Dade County and another in Broward said the “Mom and Pop” type of convenience stores do not often ask for ID to purchase tobacco products.

A participant stated that her district does not do enough when it comes to giving students the necessary knowledge about all tobacco products.  While she said she tries to teach an anti-smoking lesson every year, for the most part the students know very little about the effects of tobacco yet still continue to use the products.

One participant summed up Florida tobacco policies nicely.  He said that while a Florida statute appears to penalize those who know or should know that they are distributing tobacco products to minors, the “level of offense – a second-degree felony – is grossly disproportionate to the amount of damage the act of selling these products to minors can do.  You cannot increase the threat against the minors themselves for purchasing tobacco because they have little to lose.  However “the adults – the store owners, neighbors, family members and so on – who have something to lose” should be held accountable.  While many school districts have consequences in place under the Student Code of Conduct, “there are only vague intimations about consequences for staff members, and no consequences listed for non-student and non-employee visitors who violate this policy.” School policies are a first step, but enforcement of these policies for everyone is necessary.

 

 

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2015 World No Tobacco Day

Tobacco kills up to half of its users and this epidemic “is one of the biggest public health 2015_world_no_tobacco_daythreats the world has ever faced.”  The World Health Organization has used May 31, World No Tobacco Day, to focus on various ways to stop this tobacco epidemic.  In 2012, the focus was on the aggressive attempts tobacco uses to “undermine global tobacco control efforts.”  Bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorships was the theme of the 2013 observance.  Last year, 2014, the focus was on raising taxes to reduce consumption.   The 2015 theme is for countries to work together to “end the illicit trade of tobacco products,” which costs countries billions in lost tax and customs revenue.

According to the World Health Organization site, “illicit tobacco may account for as much as one is every 10 cigarettes consumed globally.”  Illicit tobacco hurts people and control policies, taking revenue away from the government, while increasing wealth and power of organized crime activities.  The World Health Organization is using this day to also request the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) promote the ratification of, accession to and use of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.

ashtrayIn addition to the five goals of the World No Tobacco Day 2015 campaign, there are four key public messages as to why “illicit trade of tobacco products is detrimental to your health and your interests,” as well as calls to action for policy makers and the public. Members of academia are also called to action to “undertake additional research on the subject of the illicit trade of tobacco products to further document its harmful impacts” and to provide research into the “active role the tobacco industry plays in supporting the illicit tobacco trade.”

Click HERE to read more about the scale of the problem of illicit tobacco trade, and HERE to read some facts on tobacco.

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E-cigarettes: Nicotine delivery system or drug paraphernalia

School districts throughout the United States have included electronic cigarettes in their anti-tobacco policies, but some have taken it to another level by listing the devices as drug paraphernalia.  While using tobacco on a school campus can get you a detention, using an e-cigarette in some school districts could net you a long suspension, drug testing and possession of drug paraphernalia charges.  And drug charges could go on your permanent record and keep you from getting into a college.

States, such as North Carolina, New Jersey, Washington, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania are grouping e-cigarettes with the likes of bongs and pipes which makes sense because the devices can be loaded with more than just flavored liquid nicotine.  Used as a drug delivery device, electronic cigarettes or vape pens can be loaded with THC or liquid hashish (hash oil), as well as liquid synthetic cannabis.  A particular synthetic drug sold over the counter and used in vape pens just recently sent several Michigan high school students to the hospital, one in critical condition.

E-cigarettes or vape pens are easily hidden and using them, whether with liquid nicotine or THC oil, produces very little smell.  Students have been known to use them in school or in class behind the teacher’s back without getting caught.

While “the National Association of State Boards of Education doesn’t have an official policy on e-cigarettes, the executive director said she believes the group would recommend that the devices be treated as tobacco products.”  Unless, of course, the district is having a problem with the devices, “then sending a really clear message may be a good idea.”  It is always best to use good judgment and discretion, according to the NASBE executive director.

Click HERE for the entire story.

 

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Tobacco Ingredients on Display

This year our participants have far exceeded our expectations in creativity for assignments in the Florida Tobacco Prevention on-line course.  They have taken the topics given to them and truly made them their own.  The participants have also been willing to have their work shared with others.  The following essay was for the chemical assignment.  The criteria chosen by this participant was for them to share their perspective on why tobacco has been exempt from displaying ingredients while other items that are for human consumption must show details of what goes into their products.  We also asked what changes should be made and do they see them happing in the near future.  Thank you Tim Bove from St. Lucie School District for your essay.

The question remains as to why tobacco products are not required – in the interest of full disclosure – to reveal their entire ingredient list, as are other products monitored and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There seem to be two components to this answer, neither of which is sufficient in its own right, but, when combined together, provide a compelling explanation for this phenomenon.

First and foremost is the very nature of tobacco products themselves. As it is summarized by one source, this agency “is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), cosmetics, animal foods & feed and veterinary products” (Wikipedia, n/d, “Food”). While the agency was originally intended to monitor and provide product control for foodstuffs, drugs, and medical devices and equipment, it has only recently seen fit to expand its purview to other substances, technologies, and procedures that affect health, either directly or indirectly. Its regulation over tobacco products, for example, only dates back to 2009, with the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Wikipedia, n/d, “Food”). As yet, the agency appears unsure as to how to go about regulating these particular products, which are not technically food, drugs, or medical substances. It appears that the FDA has two choices:  It can continue its current campaign to regulate factors surrounding smoking, like advertising, accessibility to minors, and warning labels on packaging; or it can treat tobacco products as inherently dangerous recreational products that are purposely designed to kill their targets, even when used as intended. The first is a more cost-effective and legally-justifiable approach, and it appears that this will be the one taken in the foreseeable future.

The second issue in tobacco labeling is the list of ingredients itself. There is no issue regarding the additives to cigarettes and other tobacco products; a comprehensive list of about 600 ingredients has been submitted to the United States Department of Health and Human Services as early as 1994 (Wikipedia, n/d, “List”). While these ingredients could be displayed on every package of tobacco product sold, the rationale for doing so is unclear.  How would this list benefit the average consumer, who would still remain woefully unaware of the health consequences of even the most dangerous chemicals on the list? After all, this list of ingredients is already available to the public, but it goes largely unused and, when used, is not very well understood. How are tobacco products different than other readily available consumables? It is rare to find warning labels on apples or blueberries, for instance, which regularly make the list of fruits containing the most pesticide residue at point of sale  (blueberries, for example, exhibiting at times more than fifty dangerous pesticides when sold to the public) (Good  Housekeeping, n/d). While it is reasonable to hold tobacco products to the same standards as other consumables, it would be questionable to hold them to a higher standard simply due to their unpopularity among certain activist groups. Finally, the list of ingredients that go into cigarettes is simply unhelpful due to the dissimilarity between this list and the list of substances that come out of tobacco products when they are used: “When burned, they create more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and many are poisonous” (American Lung Association, n/d). It is this list that has the potential to help consumers, but is, once again, both overwhelmingly long and difficult to comprehend.

The simplest way to remedy this situation is two-fold. First, disclosure should be based on what is reasonably expected to happen when the product is used as intended. After all, the warnings on heat producing appliances, for example, are based not on what goes in but on what comes out. Ingredients should be listed, not in the order of quantity (as is commonly done with foodstuffs), but in the order of quality (with the most toxic elements noted upfront). Second, however, is the more obvious solution: Tobacco products should be regulated for what they are, which is a delivery system for dangerous chemicals that endangers the user and those around him or her as well. Quite simply, if we discovered that a manufacturer was producing and selling products containing dangerous chemicals, we would normally fine the manufacturer and immediately recall the products (see, e.g., the recall of Chinese products ranging from toothpaste and pet food to children’s toys and lipstick, all containing lead (Wikipedia, n/d, “2007”)). The only reason that tobacco products are not regulated the same as other dangerous and toxic chemical delivery systems is that they have a much better legal defense team.

References:
– American Lung Association. (n/d). What’s in a cigarette? Retrieved from http://www.lung.org/stopsmoking/about-smoking/facts-figures/whats-in-a-cigarette.html
– Good Housekeeping. (n/d). The new dirty dozen: 22 foods to eat organic. Retrieved from 
http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/healthy/news/g168/dirty-dozen-foods/
– Wikipedia. (n/d). 2007 Chinese export recalls. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Chinese_export_recalls
– Wikipedia. (n/d). Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_and_Drug_Administration
– Wikipedia. (n.d). List of additives in cigarettes. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_additives_in_cigarettes

 

 

 

 

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