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Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Cancer Death Rate Drops Again

In National News on May 28, 2009 at 7:13 am

The U.S. cancer death rate dropped again in 2006, according to an article published by Fox. Experts attribute the downward trend to declines in smoking, earlier detection, and better treatment.

Lung cancer accounted for about 30% of the cancer deaths. Of course, the vast majority of lung cancer are caused by smoking. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that smoking or tobacco use in general causes a variety of other cancers, as well, including cancers of the lip, oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, larynx (voice box), lung, uterine cervix, urinary bladder, and kidney. Toxins from tobacco spread beyond just the mouth and lungs.

This is one big reason we work so hard to reduce tobacco use — because by reducing tobacco use, we are reducing the number of cancer deaths and improving the length and quality of people’s lives. And that’s what really matters.

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Tobacco Companies Guilty Of Fraud And Lying

In National News on May 27, 2009 at 10:06 am

On May 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the 2006 ruling that tobacco companies are guilty of fraud and lying about the dangers and addictiveness of their products, marketing tactics, and the dangers of secondhand smoke. The suit was originally filed in 1999 under the Clinton administration. Several news outlets have reported on this decision, including Yahoo, New York Times, and USA Today.

Not only have the courts agreed that tobacco companies have deceived people for decades, they have also found that the companies manipulated ingredients and marketing strategies to more deeply addict smokers and draw in new young users to replace those that die from the use of their products. Interestingly, the suit was filed under a statute usually used to prosecute organized crime. Should we be calling Big Tobacco the “Tobacco Mafia”?

In any case, Big Tobacco can no longer label cigarettes as light, mild, or low tar because these products do just as much harm as “regular” products. They must also publish corrective statements on the health effects and addictiveness of tobacco products.

Whether this will prevent future deception remains to be seen. In fact, we may already be seeing it again with the new dissolvable tobacco products/tobacco candy. (See yesterday’s post.)

Dissolvable Tobacco Products, Tobacco Candy New Threat

In State News on May 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm

RJ Reynolds has introduced three variations of dissolvable tobacco products all grouped under the “Camel Dissolvables” banner in test markets including Columbus, OH; Portland, OR; and Indianapolis, IN. The three products are smokeless, spit-free, made from finely milled tobacco, and held together by food-grade binders. It is designed to be placed in the mouth, on the tongue or between the cheek and gum where it dissolves to release tobacco. Orbs were introduced to Indianapolis retail markets in January 2009.

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Marketing material and website content indicates that these products are being marketed as an “alternative” to smoking when the user is in a situation where they cannot smoke (a smokefree school, workplace, restaurant, on an airplane, while riding a bike).

There is the potential for “dual use” of these smokeless products with cigarettes or other smokeless tobacco products. The health impact of such dual use has not been studied. It is difficult to evaluate these new products, as there are no governmental regulations or legislative guidelines allowing for the independent testing of such products, illustrating the need for FDA authority to regulate all tobacco products.

Orbs are a “pellet” or tablet that looks like a breath mint and lasts about 15 minutes. It comes in flavors Mellow (original) & Fresh (mint).

Strips are opaque strips similar to Listerine brand breath-freshening strips and last about 3 minutes..

Sticks are toothpick-like sticks that can be placed in the mouth whole or broken into pieces. They last about 10 minutes.

Harm Concerns

Dissolvable tobacco products may contain up to three times the amount of nicotine found in one cigarette. A cigarette smoker typically takes in about 1 milligram of nicotine. Camel dissolvables are said to deliver about 0.6 to 3.1 milligrams of nicotine each. Therefore, the nicotine delivery of the products is high.

Smokers who use these products may get a higher dose of nicotine than they are used to, possibly resulting in  nicotine poisoning which manifests through adverse reactions such as tremors, nausea, vomiting, agitation, and in more extreme cases, seizures, coma, and death.

The high nicotine content combined with the nature of the products and the ease of use is a potentially deadly combination. For example, users may be tempted to ingest multiple Orbs at one time, like they would “tic-tacs” or any other breath mints.

Dissolvable tobacco is not a safe alternate to cigarettes. People who use spit tobacco are at risk of many health problems including cancers (lip, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, pancreas and stomach) and mouth diseases (leukoplakia, a disease of the mouth characterized by white patches and oral lesions on the cheeks, gums, and tongue).

An Especially Escalated Risk for Children and Adolescents

These products are likely to appeal to children and adolescents because they are flavored and packaged like candy or “tic tacs,” and are easy to conceal (at school, at home, and in public places). They are labeled with the Camel brand and logo, which is already one of the three top selling brands with underage smokers. Data just released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the most preferred brands of cigarettes are Marlboro, Camel and Newport, also the most heavily advertised brands.

While these products are sold in “child-resistant” packaging, their resemblance to candy and breath mint strips and the likelihood that adults will carry the small packages in their pockets or leave them in other unsecured places, means that children may have easy access to them.

The packaging is so difficult for even adults to open, that another possible scenario may involve an adult emptying the entire contents of the dissolvable tobacco product into a baggie or alternate container, or simply leaving the child-proof container open, thus posing a great risk that a child may ingest a lethal amount of nicotine.

Good Housekeeping has produced a video describing some of the dangers of tobacco candy.

Partial Bans On Smoking Don’t Save Jobs In Restaurants And Bars

In National News on May 22, 2009 at 8:27 am

From Prevention Science:

First study to compare partial and complete bans finds no significant difference in impact on employment

Washington, DC — Some cities and states around the country have completely banned smoking in public places. Others have instituted partial bans to avoid negative economic consequences, such as loss of employment in restaurants and bars due to reduced patronage by smokers. But a new study from Minnesota finds that there is no significant difference between partial bans, complete bans and even no bans, in terms of their impact on number of employees in restaurants and bars.

“This is the first study to compare the economic consequences of partial bans, total bans and no bans on smoking in public places. Because they don’t have any differential effect on employment in restaurants and bars, it is obvious that a total ban on smoking is the only way to protect employees and patrons from second hand smoke, which is known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases,” according to study author Elizabeth Klein, Ph.D., MPH, Assistant Professor in the Health Behavior & Health Promotion Division of the College of Public Health at Ohio State University.

Klein conducted the study while she was at the University of Minnesota. The study is published in the June issue of Prevention Science, a peer reviewed journal of the Society for Prevention Research.

Klein studied ten cities in Minnesota from 2003 to 2006, using data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Employment was based on per capita figures to allow comparison among non-urban, small cities, suburban and large cities for a 45-month period. The range of employment in restaurants and bars across the various cities was 467 to 11, 296, and the total number of establishments ranged from 20 to 440 per city.

Communities that had a total ban on smoking in public places had 2 fewer employees per 10,000 residents compared to those without any ban on smoking. They also 9 fewer employees per 10,000 community members compared to communities with partial bans on smoking.

“These differences are not statistically significant, they are not disastrous, and they are not long-term, as are often predicted by opponents of any type of bans on smoking in public places,” Klein said.

“Before Minnesota passed a complete ban on smoking in public places, some communities had complete bans; some had partial bans while others had no bans on smoking in public places. The different types of bans provided a perfect opportunity to study how these laws affected employment in restaurants and bars,” according to Klein.

Klein’s study covered free standing bars, which included lounges, taverns and nightclubs; and full service restaurants, which included family style restaurants, fine dining and steak houses.

Klein’s paper notes that the concern for the economic health of bars was one of the reasons that led to a rollback of a county level, comprehensive clean indoor air policy in Hennepin County in Minnesota, which includes Minneapolis. The rollback in Hennepin County was eventually reversed by the comprehensive state-level ban on smoking in all public places.

The fact that large scale changes in employment were not observed in Minnesota should be useful to policy makers across the country as they weigh the known health benefits of bans on smoking in public places against any perceived loss of employment in restaurants and bars,” Klein said.

FDA Regulation Approved By U.S. House, Senate Committee

In National News on May 21, 2009 at 8:43 am

The U.S. House and a Senate sub-committee have now both passed versions of bills that would allow the FDA to regulate tobacco products. The Senate version now up for vote would also allow regulation of tobacco candy — dissolvable tobacco products. If the Senate approves the bill,  the House and Senate would have to work out any differences before sending the legislation to President Barack Obama, who supports the effort.

According to a Gannett article, the measure would require the new Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee to study the public health effects of tobacco candy, particularly the risks to children, and report to the FDA within two years. Right now, we don’t know what is in these products or how harmful or safe they may be. Also, according to public health experts, this candies are designed to target children, not just smokers looking for alternatives.

Some people say they are no more dangerous than NRT gum or losenges. But we know what is in FDA-approved NRT; we don’t know what is in tobacco candy. If we can find out, then we can make a call on the safety of using tobacco candy.

The proposed legislation would also restrict marketing to children, dictate package warnings, and control nicotine content.

From a Reuters article:

Reaction from tobacco companies has been mixed, with the nation’s largest cigarette maker, Altria Group Inc’s Philip Morris unit, backing the plan amid opposition from several smaller makers such as Reynolds American Inc’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and Lorillard Inc’s Lorillard Tobacco Co. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew Myers, whose advocacy group is one of many backing the bill, applauded the committee’s vote.

Not Enough Smokers Find Quit Support At The Doctor’s Office

In National News on May 18, 2009 at 8:03 am

Health care providers are one of the most important allies a smoker can have, particularly when it comes to understanding health risks of smoking and learning about the quitting process. Why, then, have more than one in five smokers (21%) never talked to a provider about their smoking?

A national survey from the American Legacy Foundation of more than 1,000 current smokers reveals that smokers may be overlooking critical opportunities to talk to their health care providers about smoking – and, more important, about quitting.

“A surprising number of smokers aren’t taking advantage of their health care providers’ ability to help them quit smoking, and are therefore continuing to put themselves at risk for serious health issues,” said Cheryl G. Healton, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. “Even more alarming is that when conversations do take place about smoking, patients don’t seem to be getting the information they need to begin a successful quit attempt.”

On average, smokers make 6 to 9 quit attempts in a lifetime. National government guidelines state that the most effective way to quit smoking is through a combination of medication and counseling. But of the smokers surveyed who have talked to their health care providers about smoking, just 20% were provided with either self-help cessation materials, information about classes and counseling programs, shown a video about quitting, or referred to a cessation specialist. Moreover, fewer than half (44%) were recommended a smoking cessation medication, such as over-the-counter nicotine replacement products or prescription drugs. Ironically, nearly eight in 10 (79%) smokers surveyed said they were satisfied with the help they received from their health care provider, even though so few were given resources to quit and all of them remained smokers.

The survey also revealed a disconnect between smokers’ perceptions of how their health care provider can help in the quitting process and their actions in actually starting a conversation with them. While 83% of smokers who want to quit in the next 30 days said they would feel comfortable asking for help, just 53% of this group actually asked their health care provider for quitting assistance.

These survey findings also identified the following barriers to smokers seeking and getting support for a quit attempt:

  • Only about half of survey respondents (52%) said they think a health care provider should help them quit smoking.
  • Nearly half of smokers surveyed (45%) said they are very concerned or concerned about their personal health.
  • While talking to their health care providers about smoking, 54% of respondents felt the negative emotions of guilt, uneasiness, annoyance, pressure or embarrassment, while just 28% reported the positive feelings of motivation, pleasure, or confidence.

“It’s clear from this survey that we need to change the way people think about quitting, and help them realize that nicotine addiction is a chronic medical problem that can be overcome with assistance from a health care provider,” added Dr. Healton.

To learn more about quitting smoking and to download a discussion guide on how to start an effective dialogue about quitting with a health care provider, visit BecomeAnEx.org. This survey was supported by a sponsorship from Pfizer Inc. You can also get free help from the Indiana Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Summer Fun In The Park 2009

In Local News on May 15, 2009 at 9:50 am

Purdue Extension, the Washington Parks Department, and several other organizations are once again partnering to offer Summer Fun In The Park. Activities including sports, arts and crafts, movies, and games will be available in Washington’s Eastside Park Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-3 p.m. June 9-25 and from 10 a.m. to noon July 7-23.

It’s good, clean, healthy fun for all kids … and it’s FREE.

For more information, contact Dan Neely, parks superintendent, at 254-6010.

Yet Another State Goes Smokefree

In National News, State News on May 14, 2009 at 10:35 am

Check out this article from Fox. I’ve added my comments throughout in red.

Wisconsin Smoking Ban Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Lighting up in bars and restaurants would be illegal anywhere in Wisconsin under a bill state lawmakers approved Wednesday. The Senate voted 25-8 and the Assembly 61-38 to approve a statewide ban on smoking in almost all indoor workplaces across the state. The Democratic-authored measure now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who can sign it into law or veto it.

The governor, a Democrat, issued a statement saying he supports the ban but did not explicitly commit to signing the bill.

Opponents decried the measure as an attack on personal freedoms that could keep smoking customers away and drive businesses under. Supporters countered the move will save lives and tax dollars that would otherwise go to pay for health care costs tied to secondhand smoke. That, and the fact that smoking bans are proven not to harm business. In Bedford, IN, one restaurant that recently went smoke free has actually seen an increase in business.

“This is a hazardous material in the workplace,” said Rep. Mark Gottlieb, R-Port Washington, one of more than a dozen Assembly Republicans who voted with Democrats to pass the bill. “I think we are going to move our state to a better place after we pass this bill.” Right on!

Twenty-five other states already are smoke-free. North Carolina’s Legislature approved a statewide ban just Wednesday. Wisconsin’s ban has been years in the making, however.

The powerful Wisconsin Tavern League has stymied past attempts to impose the prohibition. The league fears the ban will drive taverns out of business because smoking patrons will choose to drink at home. Sounds like what we’ve been facing with proposed legislation in Indiana.

But nearly 40 local governments have passed anti-smoking ordinances in the last five years. The league says that’s led to a patchwork of regulation that has pit smoking bars against nonsmoking bars.

State politics shifted in last November’s elections when Democrats seized control of the full Legislature. Assuming a statewide ban was now inevitable, the tavern lobby struck an uneasy truce with anti-smoking groups and hammered out compromise legislation.

Under the plan both houses approved Wednesday, the ban would apply in almost all workplaces. It would take effect in July 2010, giving businesses time to prepare.

Smokers who violate the prohibition would face fines of up to $250. Bar owners could set up outdoor smoking areas within a reasonable distance of the establishment. Owners who don’t try to stop smokers would get a warning and then face a $100 fine for subsequent violations.

Local governments couldn’t pass any regulations stricter than the state ban. The prohibition wouldn’t apply to tribal casinos, existing cigar bars and existing tobacco shops. OK, so Wisconsin’s new law isn’t perfect, but…

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, chief author of the bill, said the prohibition creates fair competition throughout the state and would save both lives and taxpayer dollars on health care expenses. A state Department of Health Services fiscal estimate attached to the bill said the measure would save about $754,000 in Medicaid expenses annually, with savings likely to grow over time.

“I don’t have to tell you about the health effects of smoking,” Risser told the Senate. “We all know it. It is the most preventable cause of illness in the state.” Also in Indiana.

Senate and Assembly Republicans tried to upset the delicate alliance between the tavern lobby and anti-smoking groups. They spent hours in each house trying to attach dozens of amendments to create exemptions, from hotel rooms to private clubs.

Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, branded the ban “anti-smoking zealotry.”

“The only thing that’s compromised are individual rights and individual freedoms,” she said. What? It’s our RIGHT to smoke in public? Nowhere in the constitution are we guaranteed a right to perform an activity in such a way that it harms other people.

Democrats rejected all the amendments, preserving the compromise.

“It’s not a tough thing to get off the bar stool and step outside and smoke,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, himself a smoker who helped craft the legislation. Right on!

Eric Schutt, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, called the votes historic. They will protect generations of Wisconsin residents, he said. Pete Madland, executive director of the tavern league, and league lobbyist Scott Stenger didn’t immediately return messages late Wednesday evening.

Tag Grotelueschen, 41, co-owner of the Club Garibaldi bar in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, said it’s “ludicrous” to regulate consumption of a legal product, but he’s glad the ban would be statewide. Umm, we regulate all kinds of legal products. Like prescription drugs.

“If it were by municipality it would hurt the bars on the fringes, but if it’s statewide I don’t think it’s going to hurt us,” he said. “Customers might complain at first but I think they’ll acclimate.”

But businessman Bruce Andreasen, 62, of Milwaukee said he wouldn’t go to bars any more if he has to step away from his drink to light up.

“Rather than meeting friends at a bar I’d suggest alternatives, like meeting at someone’s home,” he said. “This ban is definitely going to make me stay home.”

CDC Says Media Messages Result In People Quitting Smoking

In State News on May 11, 2009 at 7:54 am

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that states deliver “strategic, culturally appropriate, and high-impact messages in sustained and adequately funded campaigns.”

  • CDC states that media needs to reach 75-85% of adults to be effective.
  • The Indiana reach to adults is currently at 51%.
  • The FYI 2008 budget includes $2.65 million or 15.3% for health communications.
  • Overall program funding is about a quarter of CDC recommendations.
  • Total funding for health communications is well below CDC recommendations.
  • ITPC recommends increasing the overall share of dollars dedicated to health communications to 25% percent.

Contact your legislators and tell them we need to put the tobacco settlement money towards helping people quit smoking and preventing children from ever starting.

Snus Is Dangerous

In State News on May 8, 2009 at 10:15 am

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Not a lot is known about the health effects of snus, but we now know that the snus sold in Sweden increases risk of stroke. We do not know what all the ingredients/additives are in American snus from Camel or Marlboro, but these companies are not known for the safety of their products. They manipulate the amount of nicotine and other ingredients to get smokers more deeply addicted (and therefore take even more of their money).

The more we find out about alternative tobacco products like snus, the more I think we will find the tobacco companies using the same tactics to keep smokers addicted to tobacco as smoking in public becomes less and less acceptable. Just this week, the city of Franklin removed all exemptions to their smoking ban so even bars, hotel rooms, and private clubs will be smoke-free starting next month.

As Franklin’s city council president said, “A lot of people said we should wait for the state to pass a statewide ban. But this was a very important issue, and it’s our role to do what’s best for our citizens.”

You can be sure a lot of lawmakers and business people will be watching to see what the effect of the smoking ban is on the hospitality industry in Franklin.