Tobacco policy changes in the air for Brevard Public Schools

Brevard County School District in Florida is cracking the whip, but it is at those using tobacco and electronic cigarettes or vape products on school property.  The ban “is among the most comprehensive in the area” and could have an affect on more than just the schools.  Any brevard_countyone doing business with the school will also have to follow school district policy when on district property.  Although the policy has been in effect for a year, the school district has allowed time for staff to transition and for employee unions to “approve new language in their contracts.”  Enforcement began the first week of February.

The policy covers all district employees, who number about 9,500.  According to the district, about 5 – 6% of employees or roughly 475 – 570 are or were smokers.  The policy doesn’t force employees to quit tobacco, they just can’t use it on school district property or at events.

In addition to employees, 74,000 enrolled students fall under the policy, but it doesn’t stop there.  Whether you are a visitor, vendor, or volunteer, if you are on school grounds or in school property, the policy affects you, including being in your own car in the parking lot. Off-campus schools and off-campus district-sponsored events are also covered.  And thanks to the Brevard Tobacco Initiative, new signs went up throughout the district alerting all to the policy changes.

According to Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Desmond Blackburn, “We are all here for the children. Setting a tobacco-free policy and embracing a culture of well-being provides the district with an opportunity to positively influence the lives of our students by creating a healthy environment through positive role-modeling.”

Congratulations to Brevard Public School District for creating, promoting and enforcing a district-wide tobacco-free policy which supports their vision of a positive, healthy environment for both students and employees.

Click HERE for the story.

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State of Tobacco Control 2016

The State of Tobacco Control, from the American Lung Association, comes out every year with grades for each state in four categories: Tobacco Prevention, Smokefree Air, Tobacco Taxes, and Access to Cessation Services.  In 2015, Florida grades were dismal with three “F” grades and only one passing grade for smokefree air.  And while we improved just slightly, going from an “F” in cessation to a “D”, our other grades remained the same from previous years.

FTobacco Prevention and Cessation Funding: Although Florida gets kudosUSmapprevention from the American Lung Association for our constitutionally voter-required funding of tobacco education and prevention programs, Florida fails because the programs are funded at only 36.2% of what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends of $194,200,000.

BSmokefree Air: For the most part, you cannot smoke in Florida restaurants,USmapSmokefree schools and workplaces, but casinos owned by tribal establishments and bars with less than 10% of sales from food are exempt.  Florida is also a preemptive state, meaning no city or municipality can make a law against tobacco that is stronger than the state level.   Preemption is a holdover from 1985, making the state a “successful test-case for the tobacco industry lobbyists.”  Considering what we know about tobacco and secondhand smoke, it is clearly time that the needs and health of the public should come first over the interests of the tobacco industry.

FTobacco Taxes:  The last time Florida cigarette taxes were increased was USmapTaxes2009, when $1.00 was added per pack bringing the total to $1.339.  As for the large cigar tax in our state, there is NONE, thanks to a strong cigar lobby that claims it would hurt their business.  While everyone knows cigarette smoking is harmful, not many understand cigar smoking is equally as harmful.    Electronic cigarettes also need to be included in this increase.  The argument by the tobacco industry against raising the cigarette tax is that it would hurt the low income smokers.  But these smokers are already being hurt as their hard earned money is going to purchase tobacco and is taking away from their other needs.  Raising taxes would help decrease youth use and provide an incentive for adults to quit.

DAccess to Cessation Services:  Our state medicaid program covers five of USmapCessationseven recommended cessation medications, but limits the medications to 6 months, and counseling varies according to plan.  Private insurance may not even have a provision.  While you can not force insurance companies to pay for cessation treatment, in the long run it would be cheaper than to continue to pay for tobacco-related doctor visits and hospitalizations. It should be mandatory for all doctors throughout the U.S. to discuss cessation treatments with patients.  Cessation should be offered free of charge in all middle and high schools for those students who want to quit.  Barriers to this idea is that parents would be alarmed that their child is given NRT therapy without parental knowledge, while students would not want parents to be notified.  But getting students to quit while they are young would save so many lives.

These low grades are inexcusable when we have facts and figures to back up every reason to increase taxes on tobacco, provide cessation to whomever needs it, and make our public areas totally smokefree.  While Florida may not fund tobacco prevention at the CDC levels, the Florida Department of Education sponsors a tobacco prevention course at no-cost for educators (with a current Florida certificate) giving them an opportunity to not only teach tobacco prevention lessons, but to also receive points towards their certificate renewal upon completion of the course.  In the past four years over 2,000 teachers have completed the course and 45,000 students have benefited from these lessons.  We currently have 37 out of 67 districts represented in our course and strive to teach tobacco prevention in every district.  Preventing tobacco usage is a cost-saving measure every state needs.


Click HERE for the State of Tobacco Control 2016






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What you may have missed in the January tobacco ads

A new year is here and with it new resolutions to stop smoking, but if the tobacco industry had its way, they will do everything they can to make you change your mind.  Trinkets and Trash has released their January Surveillance Update – 2016 and the January offers make for some good, if not amusing, reading.

NJOY_001Trying to give up smoking for the new year?   NJOY wanted to unhook you from smoking and hook you up to their products with a $1 promo code.  Notice any warning label on the page?  Nope, not unless you live in California, and then this ad would have to have a NJOY1_001warning label.   Why be an ex-smoker when you can use electronic cigarettes and keep getting chemicals into your lungs and experience that nicotine high? And, if you can get your friends hooked on NJOY…er, if your friends make a purchase from their site, you get 45% off for every friend.  Keeping each other dependent on nicotine, that’s what friends are for.

blu_003According to blu electronic cigarettes, you can beat the winter blues by using a Pina Colada flavor in your blu tank.  Of course, the sale was only for one day, and was gone in a flash.   There are plenty of other ways to “beat the winter blues” than using nicotine.  It also seems that every tobacco or e-cigarette has their own social media connection, and blu is no different.  Connect up, talk to others about blu, and earn “reward points.”

If you haven’t heard about the Grizzly “Tellin’ It Like it Is grizzly_001Topics,” you are in for a treat. January’s topic asked “Duct Tape vs. Spray Lube: Which should every man’s toolbox include?”  Someone actually gets paid to come up with this!  And do users actually take part in this conversation?  Our opinion, for what it’s worth, is since both products are used for considerably different purposes, you should have them both.  And we didn’t even have to use tobacco to figure that out!

Cope_001Not to be outdone, Copenhagen had a Cabela’s Commercial Food Dehydrator up for grabs on their site for January.  It appears they are going after the hunter-tobacco-user as they tell you to “follow the tracks, fill the racks.”  They also give you a time line so you can Prepare (month 1)…(guess that means to stock up on Cope), Pursue (month 2) and Preserve (month 3). But wait, if you enter now, you may be up for the Yoder YS1500 Pellet Cooker.   There is no purchase necessary but you do have to be 21 or older and a legal resident “of the 50 U.S. or D.C. (except MA, MI and VA).  Void in MA, MI, VA and where prohibited.” I guess saying 47 states just doesn’t sound right.    The stipulations themselves are amusing.  But if you aren’t a hunter, does that mean Copenhagen discriminates against you?

Marlboro has a “Made in Marlboro Country” sweepstakes users can enter everyday to earnmarlboro_booklet credit towards prizes in their 20-page booklet filled with pictures of cowboys, horses and the great open west.  Prizes include tents, canoes and fishing rods, making sure “even the sweepstakes’ losers earned some loot.”  Somehow you could lose more by using tobacco.  Why do you need to spend money on cigarettes to get credits to buy a fishing rod? Give up tobacco and you will be able to purchase that “loot” faster and be healthier to enjoy it.

As always, Trinkets and Trash provides an excellent source of information regarding tobacco and e-cigarette product advertising.  Look carefully on the offers for electronic cigarettes as blu, Vuse and NJOY ads have no minimum age requirement for coupons and offers, while the tobacco ads listed have a 21 years or older age limit.  The tobacco industry says they don’t market to youth, but it is obvious they will do whatever they can to hook our youth before regulations on electronic cigarettes change.

Click HERE for the January – 2016 Trinkets and Trash Surveillance Update.  All photos above can be found in their January report.


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Dangers of Thirdhand Smoke

Walk into someone’s house and you can immediately smell if they are or were smokers., because the remnants of cigarette smoke blanketing walls, furniture, drapes and carpeting thirdhand_smokesmells awful.  Remove a picture from the wall and you will notice how yellow the wall is from the smoke.  While you may not be able to see the smoke, it lingers on surfaces long after you put the ignited tobacco out.  Even if you take your smoking outside, the residue still clings to your clothing, hair, and skin and you bring in back inside with you.  Scientists are now saying this thirdhand smoke, which you cannot see, may be as dangerous as the secondhand smoke you can see.

According to the American Lung Association, cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, with at least 69 chemicals known to cause cancer.  These toxic chemicals are deposited on surfaces, and although “these chemicals may be quite low in thirdhand smoke reside, they are dangerous when you have chronic exposure.”  It is especially dangerous to those living with compromised immune systems or babies and young children who often crawl on the floors and touch surfaces.

One group of scientists have “found a link between thirdhand smoke and the presence of extremely hazardous carcinogenic compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs.” Not only do these compounds increase cancer risk, they “can also trigger asthma attacks and eye, lung and throat irritation, interfere with wound-healing and cause cardiovascular problems.”

thirdhand_smoke_residueIt also takes more than just vacuuming and cleaning and painting the walls to remove or contain the compounds.  At the moment, according to the scientists, “there are no real known solutions for cleaning up thirdhand smoke.”  With the help of a grant, the scientists will be  spending the next three years recruiting study participants who live in low-income housing to access what type of cleaning is needed in order to make them safer for living.

Until we learn what will work to minimize thirdhand smoke exposure, the scientists offer some suggestions, such as not smoking cigarettes or electronic cigarettes in homes or cars, staying in smoke-free rooms in hotels and renting smoke-free vehicles.  If you rent an apartment or home, ask about prior tobacco use and stay away from places where smoking was allowed.

You can see other suggestions the scientists made by reading the entire article HERE. Wall picture from Respiratory Health Association.  Cleaning picture found on Liberty Voice.




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The Cost of Smoking 2016

rolled_cigarettesThe cost of a pack of cigarettes a day may not seem like a lot of money, but before you shell out another dollar on tobacco, you need to look at the big picture.  That $6 pack of tobacco could end up costing you millions.  Yes, you read that right, MILLIONS.   Wallethub has published their latest numbers for the “economic and societal costs of smoking-related issues” and the numbers are “staggering.”  Depending on where you live, your total cost to smoke could be as low as $1.23 million (Louisiana) or as high as $2.45 million (New York) over a smoker’s lifetime.

The largest portion of this includes the “financial opportunity cost,” or the “calculated amount of return a person would have earned by instead investing that money in the stock market over the same period.”  Granted, not everyone would take their tobacco money and invest it, but by not smoking, you would have a greater income, lower health care costs and other lower costs, such as homeowner’s insurance credits, and those amounts do add up over time.

Calculations for the chart were determined by assuming “an adult smokes one pack of cigarettes a day beginning at age 18” (legal purchase age in the U.S.).  Since the average age for a smoker to die is 69 years, that would allow 51 years to smoke.  So the out-of-pocket costs were determined by taking the average cost of a pack of cigarettes and multiplying “that figure by the total number of days in 51 years” or 18,615 days.

cigarettepackUsing the information above, a smoker in Missouri, where cigarettes average $4.55/pack, will spend about $84,754 (the lowest), while a New York smoker will spend more than double that amount, or about $187,379 as cigarettes cost on average $10.06/pack (the highest).  Of course, if the chart included smokers in New York City, you would see they pay about $15/pack and would have an out-of-pocket cost of roughly $279K.  Seeing how much comes out of your pocket just on tobacco should make you want to put your wallet away for good.

If the cost of cigarettes is not enough to make you quit, wait until you see the health care costs, which “are one of the biggest financial detriments caused by tobacco use.”  Kentucky smokers had the lowest health-care costs at $111,475 over a lifetime, while Massachusetts had the highest at $269,447.

Let’s not forget the income loss you will experience as a smoker.  This loss is due to being absent, “workplace bias or lower productivity due to smoking-induced health problems.” Smokers in Mississippi dollar_signs_001can expect to lose $161,013, while those in Maryland can see a loss of $302,528. Also, according to the data, “smokers earn 20% less than nonsmokers,” something else to keep in mind regarding your habit.

“Other costs per smoker” includes the loss of homeowner credits, and the “cost of victims of secondhand-smoke exposure.”

The article does a great job in showing smokers the big picture of the cost of smoking. However, most adult smokers in the U.S. started smoking before 18, and this early start means earlier health damage, which means your life expectancy could be cut shorter than the age listed in the article.  The article also doesn’t take into consideration those smokers who go through more than one pack a day.  However, looking at the numbers, it does explain why smokers don’t have a lot of money in their pockets.

Click HERE for the entire article by Wallethub.





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Smokeless Tobacco: Not a Safe Alternative to Smoking

Smoking cigarettes causes more than 480,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with an increased risk of 12 types of cancer and 21 diseases.  It affects not only the smoker, but anyone who breathes in their secondhand smoke.  Some may think smokeless tobacco is safer since the user isn’t inhaling thousands of chemicals and any harm would only affect the health of the user, but that’s not a very good reason to use it. One of the Food and Drug Administration’s warning labels for smokeless tobacco states, “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes,” and a new study confirms the truth to that statement.

smokeless4_001Smokeless tobacco is addictive because it has higher levels of nicotine.  It also has higher levels of nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.   These products can be analyzed through biomarkers in user’s blood or urine that “show whether someone had been exposed to chemicals found in tobacco products.” The researchers looked at 23,684 adult study participants from 1999 to 2012 for “biomarkers for nicotine, one type of nitrosamine, lead, and four other compounds.”

Those in the study who only used smokeless tobacco versus cigarettes had higher blood levels of a nicotine biomarker, because “dip and chew contain more nicotine than cigarettes.”  Two cans of dip a week gives you the equivalent nicotine as if you smoked 1-1/2 packs of cigarettes a day.   Lead levels were higher for smokeless tobacco users versus non-tobacco users, but similar to cigarette smokers.

The study only looked at adult tobacco users, but results from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed “nearly 10% of high school boys have used smokeless tobacco in the last 30 days.”  Some youth may use smokeless because they deem it safer than cigarettes, but cancers associated with its use and its highly addictive nature should be a concern for those in tobacco prevention.

Some questions weren’t asked of the participants, such as the amount of smokeless tobacco used, what other smokeless products participants used, or how often they used the products.  But researchers say even with these questions unanswered, the study provided “a good snapshot of typical levels of carcinogen and nicotine exposure in current smokeless tobacco users in the United States.”  Another study is already in the works.

Click HERE to read the entire article.  Picture from FDA “Recognize Tobacco in its Many Forms.”




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Giving Up Smoking – A Personal Story

Being on Facebook allows you to reconnect with others and read their adventures, sympathize with their loses, and cheer them on when they win over adversities.  Over holiday break a post on a personal Facebook account stated a friend was celebrating being smokefree for eight years, which is quite an accomplishment.  I added my congratulations and then read some of the other posts.

I discovered Kathy had actually started smoking at 14 years of age and was a 34 year smoker.  When you hear about people who start smoking early in life, you wonder what motivated them to start, and when they stop, what motivated that also.   Did they start smoking due to their home environment or was it due to peer pressure?  When they finally stop smoking, was it due to a health diagnosis or did they finally just tire of it one day?

As you read her story, the reasons why she started are probably the same reasons why millions of kids start smoking today – home environment, easy access to tobacco, wanting to look more grownup, and denial that the ill effects of smoking would happen to her.  She finally had a strong reason to quit, and although she started smoking at a young age, she urges youth to not even start because tobacco will win.

I reached out to Kathy and asked a few questions about her smoking.  I also asked if she would like to share her story, and she was kind enough to do so.

I came from a family of smokers. I remember being in the car – windows rolled up with both of my parents smoking. I thought it made me look so grown up and sophisticated. I used to pretend when I was walking to grade school that I was driving a car and smoking. I remember my parents had a cigarette drawer so I had ready access to cigarettes or I could go to the corner store and tell the clerk I was buying smokes for my Mom or Dad.

When I was about 9 I was sitting with my Dad, who was smoking his pipe. I asked him if I could smoke it and he let me. I was so sick from that pipe he actually thought he had “cured” me from smoking.

I started off innocently – those smokes tasted BAD – nasty – but I kept doing it until I was hooked. I never really wanted to quit. I watched people suffer from the effects of smoking all of my life – did not matter, it would not happen to me. 

Thank God I never desired to smoke when I was pregnant and a blessing that none of my three children ever smoked – that would have been the ultimate in addiction if I could have poisoned my babies. But as soon as they were born – right back at it. The inconvenience of having to leave a room or a party to smoke or dreading traveling because I could not smoke – wow! 

What finally did it for me was when my first grandchild was born. No one else but me smoked and the thought of that precious baby boy associating that horrible smell with his grandma was what it took for me to decide enough was enough. I was not going to succumb to the will of tobacco – I was done. That was 8 years ago and it was the best thing I ever did.  

If you smoke, do what you need to do to get rid of the burden of smoking.  If you are playing with it – stop, it will win. If you never have smoked – DO NOT EVER pick one up – not worth it!

Freedom from addiction is the most free you will ever feel!

Kathy Rasmussen
Clean for 8 years – smoked for 34!


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Lowering nicotine levels may mean fewer cigarettes smoked

Between 1998 and 2005, “smoke nicotine yield per cigarette” increased an average of 1.6% per year, or about 11% during the above time frame in major brand name cigarettes. Although chemicals are added to cigarettes to help make them more addictive, it is the nicotine that is the primary addictive chemical.  When the 2009 Tobacco Control Act “granted the FDA vastly greater regulatory power over tobacco products,” the FDA was also granted “the authority to reduce nicotine” if it meant improving public health.  It has taken all these years for a large study to show that reducing the nicotine in cigarettes benefits the smokers.

During 2013 and 2014, “840 smokers” took part in a study funded by the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) and conducted by the University of Pittsburgh.  Smokers were divided randomly including those who “smoked their usual brand”; those who smoked “an investigational cigarette with 15.8mg of nicotine” (similar to what one would purchase in a store); or those who would smoke “one of few investigational cigarettes with a nicotine concentration ranging from 33 percent down to 2 percent of a typical cigarette.”  The cigarettes were provided to the participants and the end results surprised the researchers.

Those who smoked the lower-nicotine cigarettes actually “smoked 23 to 30 percent fewer cigarettes than those smoking their own brand or one of the other investigational cigarettes with 15.8 mg/g and 5.2 mg/g” of nicotine.  Surprisingly, reducing the nicotine by two-thirds did not alter the smoking behavior, but “an 85 percent reduction (or more) did.”

While nicotine does not cause the diseases associated with smoking, such as heart disease  or cancer, it does cause addiction to tobacco.  Researchers were concerned that reducing nicotine levels would increase cigarette consumption to get additional nicotine and thereby removing any benefit to the smoker, but in fact that didn’t happen.

Lower nicotine levels, less cigarettes smoked overall, and the health benefits that come with less smoking sounds like a win for smokers.

Click HERE for the entire article.




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Kids are captive targets of the tobacco industry

It’s the holiday season and video games are showing up on gift wishlists, but how do you know if the games and apps are not only age appropriate, but content appropriate as well, for your children?   The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating category guide provided on the front of the video rating_categoriespackage or boxed game can give parents a general idea of the age level and possible content of the game. The game content descriptors are supposed to reference any tobacco use, but often times fail to do so.  As an example, “researchers verified tobacco content in 42% of the video games that participants reported playing, but only 8% of these games had received tobacco warnings from the ESRB.”  It’s little ways like this that the tobacco industry reaches our youth to normalize smoking and tobacco use.

According to a new report titled “Played: Smoking and Video Games” by truth initiative, “tobacco use is prevalent in video games played by youth.”  About “56% of teens play video, computer or mobile games, averaging two hours and 25 minute per day”  That is a lot of exposure watching someone using tobacco, even if the characters aren’t real. Gamers identify with the animated characters who “provide role models for behaviors” and help shape game users’ “opinions, attitudes and behaviors” that “smoking is common.” movies_vs_video_games

The tobacco companies deny they target youth, but the placement of tobacco in video games and apps is a form of free advertising, even if specific trademarks are absent. Studies on smoking in movies has found “44% of adolescents who start smoking do so because of smoking images they have seen in the movies,” but few studies have focused on video games.  Players spend far more time gaming than watching movies so it would make sense that this exposure to tobacco would have a similar or stronger influence in shaping their attitudes about tobacco.  And these tobacco scenes have increased dramatically throughout the years, according to the chart on the right.

Some games allow players to select whether they want a character to smoke, while other games remove that option.  In one popular game rated “Teen” (content generally suitable for ages 13+), three of the 13 soldiers players can select smoke.  And some of the characters who smoke are the only ones “capable of doing particular tasks.”  In another game chewing tobacco provided characters with increased abilities.  Players may not be legal age to purchase tobacco for their own use, but their characters can purchase and sell it for profit, again normalizing underage use.  It appears if you want to play the game to win, tobacco must play a key role to get the job done.

There are steps that can and should be taken to protect our kids from becoming targets of the tobacco industry while they play games.  Most parents would not let their children watch hours of someone smoking or using tobacco, but how many of them know this is exactly what is happening while their child games in video games?  One way for this to change is for the ESRB, which is self-regulating, to support and adopt the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control guidelines, and require “adult ratings which restrict access of minors.”  We know this will not stop popular games from being used and viewed by minors.  Our policymakers, however, are in a position to mandate restrictions of tobacco imagery to youth, whether it is advertised on television, or hidden in a video game.

Click HERE to read the entire article.


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Poll shows smoking down, but alternative tobacco use up among young adults

A new Gallup Poll out December 2015 states that “cigarette use among U.S. adults aged 18 to 29” is down, dropping 12 points from 34% to 22% in the past decade.  The results for this age group are similar to those in the 30 – 49 and 50 – 64 age group, which is good news.  Could it be the positive outcome of anti-smoking efforts for those in this age group are making a difference?  There is more to it, according to the Poll.

It appears our young adults are switching up their tobacco game.  Data collected from January to October of this year suggests that young adults are using other types of tobacco “well above the averages for all other age groups.”  At this point the Poll can’t determine if “young adults’ use of non-cigarette tobacco alternatives has increased over time,” because they just starting asking them to specify the form of tobacco in 2014.  tobaccouse

Cigarettes are the go-to choice for tobacco, but smokeless tobacco seems to be the most common alternative across the board, with young adult usage higher than the national average.  In fact, the young adult age group is “more likely of all age groups to use smokeless tobacco, to smoke pipes and to smoke cigars.”  While 4.1% of the 18-29 year age group may smoke cigars, for example, only 2.4% of the 30-49 year age group go for stogies. Pipe tobacco use is also higher for the young adults, but there could be a simple reason of misunderstanding.  In the young age group pipe tobacco could be construed to mean tobacco used in water pipes or hookahs, rather than a traditional tobacco pipe.


Young adults and middle aged tobacco users also share another trait and that is using at least two forms of tobacco.  But young adults  lead the usage of three or more types of tobacco, almost double the middle aged users and double the national average.

There are several factors for the high numbers of tobacco use for young adults.  While older adult tobacco users have more loyalty to their habit, the young adult group is less likely to stick to one product and more open to experimenting with all the alternatives, especially those with flavor.  Young adults may have left the high school environment, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t encountering peer pressure from other tobacco users, especially now that they are legal age to purchase and consume tobacco.  Those in the young adult category are more likely to have started smoking at a young age.  According to the CDC  “9 out of 10 cigarette smokers started before turning 18.”  Their need for nicotine may be stronger than an older adult.  Plus being able to switch products means never having to be without a fix of nicotine, something the young adult brains seem to crave, and a way to get around smoking bans.

Click HERE to read the entire December Gallup Poll used in this blog.







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