Haruko’s 2017 Hall of Fame update

I’m going to focus on who I think helped their Hall of Fame case in 2016 and who I think didn’t and who I think stayed in about the same position.

I’m going to ignore a few people who are kind of Hall of Fame no-brainers — Albert Pujols and Mike Trout mainly. I’m also mostly going to ignore younger players like Jose Altuve and focus on guys who have been around for a while. Many of these guys are currently on the borderline of the Hall, I think. Probably less than half the people I talk about will actually make the Hall of Fame, but I think they have the potential to possibly get there by the time their careers are over. I’m also ignoring guys that have PED suspensions like Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon and Alex Rodriguez because that’s still kind of a non-starter for the Hall of Fame.

Keep in mind that when I talk about some of these players that I’m not sure that many people really considered Adrian Beltre a serious Hall of Famer just five years ago. He’s stayed healthy and had five outstanding seasons in his mid- and late-30s and is now an almost certain Hall of Famer. Some guys in their mid- to late-30s find new life and can really bolster their chances. Some guys fade pretty quickly when they hit 35. You never know.

And, as usual, I’m sure I will miss some people.

First, I will start with position players.

Position players who helped their Hall of Fame cases.

Carlos Beltran

Career numbers

.281, 2,617 hits, 421 HRs, 1,536 RBIs

2016

.295, 29 HRs, 93 RBIs

Beltran had his best season in several years in 2016. To be honest, I have a hard time thinking of Beltran as a Hall of Famer. He got fourth place in the MVP vote one year, but that’s the one and only time he finished in the top 8 of the MVP vote. But, at the same time, his cumulative numbers are getting pretty impressive, a bit surprising considering how many games he’s missed to injury. He turns 40 this year. If he plays a couple more years, and there’s no reason to think he won’t, averages over 100 games a year and ends up with 2,800 hits, 450-plus home runs and over 1,700 RBIs, that’s getting really hard to ignore for the Hall of Fame. If he never played another game, I think he would fall a bit short. One thing that will really hurt him for the Hall of Fame is what I call the “Fred McGriff Syndrome.” Beltran has bounced around his entire career; he’s played for a total of seven teams and he’s never stayed anywhere more than seven years. When you don’t really identify a guy with one or two teams, I think that hurts at Hall of Fame balloting time. If McGriff had played his entire career with the Yankees or Red Sox, he’d be in the Hall of Fame with the numbers he put up. I really believe that.

Chances for Hall of Fame.

Probably about 50/50.

Adrian Beltre

Career numbers

.287, 2,942 hits, 445 home runs, 1,591 RBIs.

2016

.300, 32 HRs, 104 RBIs, Gold Glove

Beltre helped cement his Hall of Fame resume with an awesome year at the age of 37, in which he won his fifth Gold Glove. I can’t believe there’s still people who insist he isn’t a Hall of Famer — and there are, trust me. He should get to 3,000 hits in June and when he does, he will be  one of just nine guys in history with 3,000 hits and 450 home runs. If he can get to 500 home runs, he will be one of only six guys with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. All that and he’s been an outstanding defensive third basemen for 15 years.

Hall of Fame chances

Automatic, likely first ballot.

Robinson Cano

Career numbers

.307, 2,210 hits, 278 HRs, 1,086 RBIs.

2016

.298, 39 HRs, 103 RBIs

Cano had his best power year ever in 2016 at the age of 33. He will be only 34 this year and is just 790 hits short of 3,000. At the pace he’s going, he should get to 3,000 hits when he’s 38 or 39 years old. And he never misses games. One of his most incredible stats is that Cano has missed a total of 24 games since 2007. Cano has never had fewer than 155 hits in a season. It appears he will easily get to 350 HRs and could make it to 400, a lot for a second baseman. All that and two Gold Gloves.

Hall of Fame chances

Better than 50/50.

Miguel Cabrera

Career numbers

.321, 2,519 hits, 446 HRs, 1,553 RBIs

2016

.316, 38 HRs, 108 RBIs

Cabrera was probably a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame, but he had experienced a pretty major dropoff in power in 2014 and 2015. If there was any doubt about his Hall of Fame chances, he erased that last season, putting up huge numbers. Cabrera will be just 34 this year and is only 481 hits short of 3,000. He could get to 3,000 hits before the age of 37. He will easily surpass 500 HRs (sometime in 2018, likely) and could get to 600 (and could crack 2,000 RBIs). Add to that two MVPs and four batting titles.

Hall of Fame chances

First ballot slam dunk.

Joey Votto

Career numbers

.313, .425 OBP (12th all-time), .961 OPS (18th all-time), 221 HRs, MVP

2016

.326, 29 HRs, 97 RBIs, 101 runs, 108 walks

Joey Votto has his second straight outstanding season in 2016.  He is quietly putting up amazing numbers that I believe deserve to get serious Hall of Fame consideration. However, because he walks a lot and has lost nearly 200 games in his career to injuries, he hasn’t compiled numbers and this will likely hurt him at Hall of Fame time. Did you know Votto has the 12th-highest on-base percentage of all-time? He also has the 18th highest OPS … ever. That’s why I think he deserves some attention for the Hall of Fame. Votto has an MVP and has finished in the top seven of the MVP vote five times. Still, he only has 1,407 hits and 730 RBIs at the age of 33, which is a negative on his resume. If he can continue putting up the kind of seasons he has most of his career for perhaps another five years and make it to at least 2,000 hits (not easy when you walk over 100 times a year) and 350 HRs, I think he’s got a shot at the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame chances

Hard to predict, deserves to be 50/50, I think

David Ortiz

Career numbers

.286, 541 HRs, 1,768 RBIs, .931 OPS, WS MVP, ALCS MVP, .455 in World Series

2016

.315, 38 HRs, 127 RBIs, 1.021 OPS (are you kidding me?)

There’s no doubt Ortiz is a polarising figure because of the suspicions that he juiced. Without getting into the juicing accusations (based primarily on a New York Times article about a positive test for an unknown substance before baseball had sanctions for positive tests), I’m just going to look at his raw numbers. Based on numbers and nothing else, Ortiz should be the first pure DH to go into the Hall of Fame. He had a monster year at the age of 40, leading the AL in OPS at the age of 40, which is unheard of. He ended up 17th all-time in home runs and 22nd all-time in RBIs. Add to that a World Series MVP, an ALCS MVP and a .455 batting average in 14 World Series games. It will be hard to predict how Ortiz will do when his time comes up for a Hall vote because of the PED suspicions, but his cumulative numbers are so impressive that I think it quells the “DHs don’t belong in the Hall” nonsense. Bagwell and Piazza going into the Hall of Fame helps Ortiz’s chances because of the PED suspicions surrounding them.

Hall of Fame chances

It’s complicated

Ichiro

Career numbers

3,030 hits, .313 average, 10 Gold Gloves, 508 steals

2016

.291, cracked 3,000 hits

I don’t think there was a lot of doubt before last year that Ichiro was going to make the Hall of Fame, but since he cracked 3,000 hits (and 500 steals) in 2016, I think that removed any and all remaining doubt. He will go in first ballot.

Actually, I really felt like it was very much in doubt he was going to make it to 3,000 hits after hitting just .229 in 2015. He ended up with his highest batting average since 2010. Ichiro passed eight Hall of Famers in hits last season and now stands at 3,030 hits. He could end up 20th all-time in hits if he gets 85 more in 2017. And he started as a 27-year-old rookie. His stretch between 2001 and 2010 was simply incredible — he averaged 224 hits a year over a 10-year period and holds the record for most hits in a season at 262.

Hall of Fame chances

First ballot.

Dustin Pedroia

Career stats

.301, 1,683 hits, 133 HRs, four Gold Gloves, MVP, 56 career errors

2016

.318, 15 HRs, 74 RBIs, 105 runs, 201 hits

 

Ft. Myers, FL, February 17, 2013:
(Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox)

Pedroia had a really nice bounceback season in 2016. It was his first genuinely injury-free season since 2012. Pedroia is still just 33 and easily could play another five full years. He’s hit over .300 five times and over .290 eight times. I think he needs to get to at least 2,400 hits and perhaps 200 HRs (and keep his career average above .285) to get a shot at the Hall of Fame. If he can average 140 hits a year and 12 home runs a year for five years, that gets him close to 2,400 hits and 200 home runs. He’s a really underrated defensive second baseman, having made just 56 errors in nearly 1,400 games at second base. That’s unreal. He still has work to do for the Hall of Fame, but with a couple more years like last year hitting well over .300, he has a shot.

Chances for Hall of Fame

Less than 50/50.

Edwin Encarnacion

Career numbers

.266, 310 HRs, 942 RBIs

2016

.262, 42 HRs, 127 RBIs

Don’t laugh. I think he has a real shot at the Hall of Fame after another big year in 2016.  The biggest reason I include Encarnacion is his 310 HRs at the age of 33. He’s gotten more powerful as he’s gotten older and I expect he will DH soon, extending his career. He could easily get to 450 home runs and he has a legitimate shot at 500 … if he averages about 30 home runs a year until he turns 39 .. and power ages well. He has hit 193 home runs over the past five years (38.6 home runs a year) and has 550 RBIs over that same span (110 a year). I think Encarnacion probably has to get to 500 home runs to get in the Hall of Fame, or he’ll end up like Carlos Delgado or Fred McGriff, on the outside looking in.

Hall of Fame chances

Less than 50/50.

Ian Kinsler

Career stats

.277, 212 HRs, 211 stolen bases, 1,696 hits

2016

.288, 28 HRs, 83 RBIs, Gold Glove

I never thought of Kinsler as a potential Hall of Famer until someone pointed out to me just how good his career numbers are. He has an outside chance at the Hall. He had his best power year since 2011 last year and he has started hitting for average again the past two seasons after a few seasons hitting in the .250s. He also is a rare breed — a second baseman with more than 200 home runs and 200 stolen bases. Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg might be the only others who have ever done that. He also won his first Gold Glove last year. One thing that will hurt him, and I think it will hurt him a lot, is his fairly low career batting average — .277. Kinsler will turn 35 this year. If he can get to 2,000 hits, 300 home runs and 250 steals, he might have a shot at the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame chances

Less than 50/50.

Evan Longoria

Career stats

.271, 241 HRs, 806 RBIs

2016

.273, 36 HRs, 98 RBIs

Longoria had his best power year ever in 2016. I included Longoria because he is still just 31 years old and already has 241 home runs. He’s hit over 30 HRs four times and it’s conceivable if he averages 30 home runs a year over the next five years that he could have 390 home runs at the age of 35, well within range of 500. Longoria is hurt by a fairly low career batting average, some injury-plagued years and being stuck in Tampa Bay, where he doesn’t get much attention.

Hall of Fame chances

Less than 50/50

Position players whose Hall of Fame stock remained about the same

Yadier Molina

Career stats

.285 average, eight Gold Gloves, 1,593 hits

2016

.307, 8 HRs, 58 RBIs, 38 doubles

A weird year for Molina. He hit over .300 for the fifth time (his first .300-plus year since 2013), which really helps his case, but for the first time since 2007, he didn’t win the Gold Glove (and he actually didn’t throw basestealers out very well last year). He had won eight Gold Gloves in a row. Molina probably needs to get to 2,000 hits to have a real crack at the Hall of Fame, and at the age of 34, he can probably do that in about another four years.  There aren’t many guys who have gotten 2,000 hits from the catcher position. Just three. Not even Gary Carter, Mike Piazza or Johnny Bench did it. Molina has 1,576 hits as a catcher, only 424 hits short, so if he does it, that will be a huge plus for him. Still, offensively, he’s a bit of a mixed bag — .285 for a catcher is pretty good, but his power numbers for the catcher position are pedestrian, just 108 home runs and 703 RBIs in his career. That could hurt him at Hall of Fame time. But, with eight and possibly more Gold Gloves on his resume and considered the best defensive catcher in the National League for a decade, he has a real shot.

Hall of Fame chances

About 50/50.

Position players whose Hall of Fame stock declined

Chase Utley

Career Statistics

.278. 250 HRs, 977 RBIs, 1,777 hits

2016

.252, 14 HRs, 52 RBIs, 115 strikeouts

Utley gets some Hall of Fame buzz; there are definitely people out there who believe he ought to be a Hall of Famer, mostly because of his stellar career WAR of 64.4. Utley to me is a classic example of why I don’t like the WAR stat. There are times it simply makes no sense. Why his career WAR is so high, I have no idea because honestly, he hasn’t been that great for a while now.Utley didn’t have a particularly good year in 2016  and he hasn’t had a particularly good year since … 2009. Over the past seven seasons, Utley’s average stats per year are .260 with 13 HRs and 56 RBIs a year. Those aren’t Hall of Fame numbers. Not even close. He has five absolutely outstanding years between 2005 and 2009, but he’s had a ton of injuries and six very sub-Hall of Fame years since (with one decent year in 2013). He likely won’t make it to 2,000 hits and unless he has a serious career renaissance beginning at the age of 38 this year, I don’t see him making the Hall. If Jeff Kent isn’t in with the numbers he put up at second base, then Utley won’t get in. I don’t care what his WAR is, I look at 14 seasons, and eight of them are not remotely close to Hall of Fame-worthy. He’s more the Hall of What Coulda Been.

Hall of Fame chances

I say slight, pfffft to WAR

Mark Teixeira

Career Stas

.268, 409 HRs, 1,298 RBIs

2016

.204, 15 HRs, 44 RBIs

I honestly think Teixeira could’ve made the Hall of Fame, because he had a pretty valid shot at 500 home runs and actually was having a really good year in 2015 until he broke his leg. But, after another awful year in 2016, Teixeira called it quits at the age of 36. I figured if he could stay healthy and play until he was 40 and get to 500 HRs, he might have a shot at the hall. I think his numbers fall far short for the Hall of Fame.

Chances for the Hall of Fame

Virtually zero

Jimmy Rollins

Career stats

.264, 2,455 hits, 231 HRs, 131 triples, 470 stolen bases, 511 doubles, 1,421 runs, MVP, four Gold Gloves

2016

.221, 2 HRs 8 RBIs

I only include Rollins because at one time, it looked like he was a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame. He had 2,175 hits at the age of 34, well within range of 3,000, and a LOT of runs, steals and home runs. But, over the past three seasons, he’s batted .233 and last year appeared in just 41 games. It appears his career is all but over at the age of 37. He’s compiled a lot of numbers — hits, home runs, stolen bases, triples, runs. But, Rollins has never hit for particularly good average, he’s never had even one .300 season and he hasn’t hit over .268 since 2008 (In fact, since 2008, his cumulative batting average is just .247). He’s a guy who’s played a ton of games and had a ton of at-bats so he compiled a lot of numbers, but overall, those numbers aren’t going to be good enough for the Hall of Fame.

Chances for the Hall of Fame

Virtually zero

Joe Mauer

Career stats

.308, MVP, 3-time batting champ, three Gold Gloves, 1,826 hits

2016

.261, 11 HRs, 49 RBIs

Mauer has had a weird career. I only include Mauer because he had a truly extraordinary Hall of Fame-calibre stretch between 2006-2013. In those eight years, he had three batting titles, hit over .300 six times and hit a cumulative .327. Since 2013, he’s hit .267, with little power.

Mauer after 2013 looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer, with an MVP and four top-8 MVP finishes. But, in the past three seasons, his numbers have nosedived, maybe too many injuries, I don’t know what is behind it. In 2016, he had his third straight season of hitting below .280. He’s still a .308 career hitter (down from a career batting average of .323 before 2014), but it appears his career is winding down at the age of 34.

Unless Mauer has a big resurgence for at least three or four years, and that’s looking unlikely, I think he comes up short for the Hall of Fame. His career numbers are looking really similar to Don Mattingly’s and Steve Garvey’s — two guys who were great the first half of their careers but pedestrian their second halves — only without power numbers to help his cause.

Chances for Hall of Fame

Slight

Pitchers who helped their case for the Hall of Fame

Max Scherzer

Career stats

125-69, 3.39 ERA, 2 Cy Youngs, 1,881 strikeouts, two 20-win seasons

2016

20-7, 2.96 ERA, 284 strikeouts, Cy Young award, 0.968 WHIP (First in NL)

Scherzer really helped his Hall of Fame resume this year. He won his second Cy Young and is only one of six pitchers now to win a Cy Young in both the American League and the National League. Only one non-steroids tainted pitcher has won two Cy Youngs and is not in the Hall of Fame — Brett Saberhagen, whose career was cut short by injuries. Scherzer had a spectacular season, leading the National League in wins (he had his second 20-win season), strikeouts, WHIP and innings pitched. He is averaging 256 strikeouts a season over the past five years and seems likely to pass 3,000 strikeouts. He has also averaged 17.3 wins a year over the past six years. He is still only 32 and barring arm injuries could get to 200 wins (prolly a Hall of Fame minimum) by the age of 37 or 38. He does have a potentially chronic hand/finger injury, which is worrisome.

Hall of Fame chances

About 50/50.

Justin Verlander

Career stats

173-106, 3.47 ERA, four strikeout titles, MVP,  Cy Young, two Cy Young second-place finishes,, 2,173 strikeouts

2016

16-9, 3.04 ERA, 254 strikeouts (first in AL), 2nd in Cy Young voting

Verlander’s numbers and career appeared to be in decline, but last year, he had a great bounceback season, which got him second place in the Cy Young vote (and many people will argue Verlander got robbed because a couple of writers didn’t even bother to even include him on their ballots). Verlander is 173-106 in his career and is still just 34 years old; 200 wins seems a certainty. He also now has five top-5 finishes in the Cy Young vote with one Cy Young award and is one of the few pitchers to ever win an MVP. He’s also at 2,173 strikeouts, with a shot at 3,000, and he’s led the AL four times in strikeouts. I think he needs to get to 200 wins and have perhaps another two or three pretty good seasons to make the Hall of Fame.

Chances for Hall of Fame

About 50/50.

CC Sabathia

Career stats

223-146, Cy Young, 2,726 strikeouts, 3.70 career ERA

2016

9-12, 3.91 ERA

Sabathia actually had a decent season; enough to show that he isn’t done yet as a pitcher after a lot of injuries and personal problems. I honestly thought last year could’ve been his final season. Sabathia had a losing record in 2016, but a respectable ERA, so he may have a few years left at the age of 36. Sabathia has 223 wins with 2,726 strikeouts. So, 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts are not out of the question. Even 270-280 wins is still possible. Some people scoff at the idea of Sabathia being a Hall of Famer, but they forget how good he was from 2001-2012. In those 12 seasons, he went 191-102, won a Cy Young and had five top-5 Cy Young finishes. His career ERA of 3.70 is a bit high. If Sabathia retired today, I doubt he makes the Hall.

Chances for Hall of Fame

Probably less than 50/50.

Clayton Kershaw

Career stats

126-60, three Cy Youngs, 2.37 career ERA , MVP, Fifth in Cy Young vote

2016

12-4, 1.69 ERA, 172 strikeouts in 149 innings

Kershaw had his first major injury in 2016, he was likely on his way to his fourth Cy Young before he got hurt. Still, he had decent numbers and came in fifth in the Cy Young vote despite only pitching 21 games. So, 2016 didn’t hurt his case. Kershaw is likely a lock for the Hall of Fame already with three Cy Youngs, six top-5 Cy Young finishes, an MVP and the lowest career ERA since Walter Johnson. Kershaw’s career ERA of 2.37 is almost half a run better than the next modern-era Hall of Fame starter — Whitey Ford at 2.75. And he already has over 1,900 strikeouts … he is still only 29 years old.. He could really compile some impressive numbers if he can pitch another 10 years — 250+ wins and 3,000 strikeouts is a real possibility. On the bad side, Kershaw’s injury was a bad one — in his back. Hopefully, it won’t become a chronic issue. However, even if Kershaw retired after this year, I think he’d make the Hall of Fame with what he has already done.

Chances for Hall of Fame

Near certainty.

Madison Bumgarner

100-67, 2.99 career ERA, NLCS MVP, WS MVP

2016

15-9, 2.74 ERA, 251 strikeouts, Fourth in Cy Young vote

Bumgarner had another typical Bumgarner season in 2016, not what I would call spectacular, but pretty darn good.  It was Bumgarner’s third year in the top-6 of the Cy Young voting. Bumgarner also got to 100 wins last year and believe it or not, he is still only 27. He easily could have 140 wins before he turns 30. He is also 8-3 in the postseason with an NLCS MVP and a World Series MVP, which helps his case. He needs to do more, obviously, but is on a good Hall of Fame track with a  lot of wins for a guy who is still pretty young. It would help his case if he could win a Cy Young before he’s done.

Hall of Fame chances: About 50/50

Jon Lester

146-84, 3.44 ERA, three world championships, 4-1 in the World Series, three top-4 Cy Young votes

2016 season

19-5, 2.44 ERA, second in Cy Young vote

Lester had one of his best years ever in 2016. He’s won 15 or more games seven times and has three top-4 finishes in the Cy Young vote. He’s 33 years old and could get to 200 wins by the time he’s 36. I still consider him a longshot for the Hall of Fame, but I think after last year, he has a chance. He needs to have at least three or four more really good years to have a shot.

Hall of Fame chances: Less than 50/50

Pitchers who didn’t help their case

Zack Greinke

155-100, 3.42 ERA, Cy Young, second-place Cy Young finish

2016

13-7, 4.37 ERA

Greinke had a down year in 2016. His record of 13-7 was OK, but his 26 starts and high ERA weren’t. After an amazing year in 2015 (19-3, 1.66 ERA, second in the Cy Young), I felt he was a serious Hall of Fame candidate. He still is, but he can’t continue having seasons with an ERA way over 4.00. Greinke is still just 33 years old and could have 200 wins by the age of 35. He also won a Cy Young in Kansas City. Much like Lester, he needs to have at least three or four more really good seasons to have a shot.

Hall of Fame chances: Less than 50/50

Felix Hernandez

154-109, Cy Young, four top-4 Cy Young finishes, 2,264 strikeouts, 3.16 ERA

2016

11-8,  3.82 ERA

Felix had a bit of a lost year, with a major calf injury costing him a couple of months. At one point, he was 11-5 and still could’ve ended up with a decent season, but he lost his last three games and his ERA ballooned in Septmeber. He is still just 31 years old and seems a cinch to get to 200 wins (he could get there at the age of 33). In fact, he’s got a legitimate shot at 250 wins. The good news is his injury was in his calf, not his arm, so there is likely little danger of it becoming chronic. He needs to bounce back and regain his form from 2009-2015. Seattle now has some offence, too, so that should help his win total, which was killed earlier in his career by pitching for bad offensive teams. He also seems a cinch to get to 3,000 strikeouts and could get to 3,500, something only nine pitchers have done.

Chance for Hall of Fame: About 50/50

 

Indonesia, still the “Disneyland of smoking”

Yeah, a cigarette ad in Indonesia literally saying: “Don’t Quit”

Speaking of tobacco and emerging markets: The tobacco industry has poured a ton of its resources into Indonesia. This nation of 250 million people has one of the highest smoking rates in the world at about 40 percent (70 million-plus smokers, compared to about 40-45 million smokers in the U.S.).

And there are few if any restrictions on smoking, smoking advertising or packaging. In fact, you will find cigarette advertising literally right outside of schools in Indonesia.

Emerging markets — really big emerging markets like Indonesia, the Philippines, India and pretty much all of South America and Africa — are the international tobacco industry’s solution to remaining a financial juggernaut despite the plummeting smoking rate and stricter laws regulating tobacco in the West. In fact, Indonesia is on track with its lack of any semblance of regulation and its huge population to become the biggest tobacco market in the world.

Not even subtly using sex to sell cigarettes in Indonesia.

From the Southeast Asia Globe:

The end result is a looming public health disaster. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Indonesia has one of the highest male smoking rates in the world at 67% – and the number of women lighting up is rising fast as well, partly due to role models such as the popular, chain-smoking fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti breaking down gender norms. The impacts are already huge, with the WHO estimating that smoking claims about 425,000 Indonesian lives each year – nearly a quarter of the country’s annual deaths. Some media outlets have even begun referring to the country as ‘Tobaccoland’.

And Indonesia is a country with a depressing and well-publicized issue with childhood smoking.

From a Quartz Media article:

And it is no accident either, according to Mark Hurley, the Indonesian director at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

 “These tactics are used by international giants like Philip Morris and Indonesian brands alike because tobacco companies rely on luring in youth to replace those who die or quit smoking,” he says. “It’s part of their deadly playbook.”

A survey conducted in 2016 found 85% of schools surveyed in five Indonesian cities were surrounded by tobacco advertisements. And according to Purnomo from the smokers’ rights group, their campaigns appear to be working.

Experts say the tobacco companies’ corporate social responsibility programs are merely a strategy to further entrench their products into society and do little social good. “Through their CSR activities, the Indonesian tobacco companies have precisely ignored the negative impacts of tobacco,” said a recent report from the Online Journal of Health Ethics.

It is tobacco’s entrenched status in Indonesian society that makes fighting tobacco so difficult for campaigners, who are often labelled agents of US pharma giants trying to bring down Indonesia’s sovereignty.

… Philip Morris International remains confident about Indonesia. The company’s 2016 investor day presentation (pdf) said Indonesia shows “favourable market demographics over the long term.” Another slide was titled, “Indonesia: Positives results from recent new launches.”

It seems the tobacco industry is counting on Jakartans like 19-year-old Ayu (who like many Indonesians goes by one name), who says she is too addicted to quit and will continue to smoke despite the harms.

“My friends all smoke, my colleagues all smoke. The whole damn city smokes,” she says. “How am I ever going to quit?”

Australian study shows plain packaging laws work

This is about the only Australian plain package I could find that WASN’T completely disgusting.

More great news … the smoking rate in Australia is also dropping, probably because of that country very tough plain packaging laws.

The smoking rate in Australia declined from 19.4 percent about three years before the plain packaging law to 17.2 percent three years after the plain packaging law. The new law, which was battled in the courts for years by Big Tobacco, was given credit for causing at least 25 percent of that decline.

Australia was the first country to impose a plain packaging law. That law got appealed in the courts by Big Tobacco and it went all the way to the Australian Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the government. Then Big Tobacco went to the World Court, trying to have the law overturned by arguing it was somehow violating free trade agreements with other countries. That effort likewise fizzled.

A study done in Australia suggested that one of the things that kept smokers smoking was brand loyalty. With no more brand loyalty possible with the mandatory plain packages, one encouragement for smoking was reduced.

 

From Quartz Media (a pretty interesting mobile device news site):

In 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to make tobacco companies strip their branding off products, leaving nothing but drab packaging covered with graphic health warnings. A recent study shows that this too has encouraged smokers to quit by reducing their affinity with specific brands.

The researchers, psychologists at Australian National University and the University of Queensland, suggest that as smoking has become stigmatized, tobacco companies have increasingly relied on brand identity to reach customers. “Smokers are now viewed by many as unhealthy, unattractive, and even dirty,” the researchers write, but identifying with a particular brand “deflects the negative connotations” of being seen as a smoker and “may help to define the self with more positive content (e.g. ‘Winboro Woman’ can be sassy, independent and minty fresh).”

Since Australia has imposed plain packaging rules, other countries such as the UK, France and New Zealand have followed suit. A proposal to do the same in the U.S. was stopped by the courts on First Amendment grounds.

Tobacco use dropping in India

Great news, cigarette smoking in India has dropped dramatically in just one year because of that country’s new tough stance against tobacco.

According to this story from the Daily News and Analysis of India, the smoking rate among men has dropped from 57 percent in 2006 to 44.8 percent in 2016. That’s still a really high smoking rate, but that represents a 21 percent drop in 10 years.

Among women, the smoking rate has dropped from 10.8 percent to 6.8 percent during that same time period.

From the Daily News and Analysis:

“The NFHS 4 results offer some hope. I attribute this reduction to mainly to gutka ban and partly to increased awareness,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Oncologist, Tata Memorial Hospital. The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), the fourth in the NFHS series, provides information on population, health and nutrition for India and each State and Union territory.

“The reduction in consumption is due to the tobacco control laws that the Government is implementing over the years and steps taken like 85 percent graphic health warnings, Smoke Free Rules and Gutka Ban,” Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive Voluntary Health Association of India, said.

“The government needs to implement evidence based tobacco control policies to reduce further tobacco consumption as (1 million) people die due to tobacco use every year (in India). There is also an urgent need for higher tobacco taxes, as taxes in India are very low particularly the beedis and hope in the new GST regime, this will be addressed,” Mukhopadhyay said.

An Indian anti-smoking ad

While the Indian smoking rate for men is still astonishingly high, the drop in smoking in India is important because as smoking rates have utterly collapsed in the West, Big Tobacco is looking increasingly at overseas markets to make up for the shrinking markets in North America and Europe. India with its 1 billion-plus people is absolutely in the crosshairs as the biggest potential market in the world (since China’s market is 99 percent state controlled).

FDA reaches agreement with Natural American Spirit

The FDA and Natural American Spirit cigarettes have been locked in a legal battle for a couple of years now over the brand’s advertising that its tobacco is “natural” and “additive-free.”

The FDA  reached an agreement (secretly, apparently) with American Spirit that allows the brand (owned by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company which is not an independent company, it’s actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of RJ Reynolds) to keep “Natural” in its name, but that it must stop all advertising that its tobacco is “additive-free”. The FDA way back in August 2015 gave American Spirit a cease and desist order on its advertising. RJ Reynolds filed an appeal and for more than a year, I’ve continued seeing American Spirit ads in my Sports Illustrated, still touting “natural!” and “additive-free.”

The agreement was reached in January, but was disclosed this month as part of a discovery process in other litigation involving Natural American Spirit.

Not everyone is happy with the settlement. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids put out a statement that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. From the CTFK website:

“This FDA/Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company agreement is a gift to the tobacco industry, permitting R.J. Reynolds to continue the highly misleading, and very possibly legally fraudulent, marketing and labeling of American Spirit cigarettes,” said Robin Koval, CEO & President, Truth Initiative. “Our research shows that a majority of Natural American Spirit smokers incorrectly believe that their cigarettes are safer than other cigarettes. The truth is that they are just as dangerous as any other cigarette. This agreement does little to address those widespread and highly dangerous misperceptions. The only way to protect consumers is for the FDA to immediately go back to the drawing board to ensure that R.J. Reynolds and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company can no longer mislead consumers about the safety of their product.”

Earlier this month, RJ Reynolds reached a settlement agreement that it will stop doing that. I’ll be keeping my eye on Natural American Spirit ads to see if they do! Their false advertising that somehow a “natural” tobacco is somehow safer (and there are people out there who believe this malarkey hook, line and sinker) his has been bugging me for a couple of years.

Tobacco and schizophrenia

An interesting study about the ties between smoking and schizophrenia.

Studies have shown for years that a really large percentage of people with diagnosed mental illnesses are smokers. According to one study, as many as 90 percent of schizophrenics are cigarette smokers. There may be a real tangible reason for that — that the nicotine really might be providing some relief from their symptoms.

A recent study in Nature Medicine suggests that nicotine is a form of self-medication and perhaps can calm some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

From this Raw Story article:

“An international team of scientists says it may be able to explain why so many schizophrenics are heavy smokers — the addictive nicotine in cigarettes is boosting an area of their brains that becomes sluggish due to their illness. The researchers also suggest a particular genetic mutation has been found to cause that sluggish activity, which can occur in other mental conditions as well. A study in Nature Medicine says the findings may guide future drug developments.

Read: Antibodies Linked to Schizophrenia Onset

The root of their experiment was something called hypofrontality, which is decreased activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex that leads to cognitive issues like troubles with memory and decision-making. By studying mice, the scientists from Institut Pasteur in Paris and from the University of Colorado at Boulder showed that the CHRNA5 genetic mutation, previously linked to a greater risk of schizophrenia, is also linked to that decreased function in the frontal lobe, the University of Colorado said in a statement. They also say nicotine reverses this problem, at least in the mice, because the addictive chemical acts on “receptors in regions of the brain key to healthy cognitive function.

The benefits of the findings extend beyond just schizophrenia — hypofrontality is an issue in other mental health issues like addiction and bipolar disorder.

“Basically the nicotine is compensating for a genetically determined impairment,” Jerry Stitzel, a researcher from Boulder said in his university’s statement.”

So, it’s possible that nicotine, as bad as it is for regular smokers, might actually have some benefits for the severely mentally ill. More research is needed.

The Lounge is back after a hiatus

Back after a hiatus

I’m back after a few months-long hiatus, mostly caused by moving to a new state and starting a new job, and frankly, being pretty down about politics in the U.S. since Nov. 9. I avoid partisan politics here, but I felt like for a while tobacco issues didn’t seem all that important compared to the train wreck we’re all headed for with the orange shitgibbon in the White House.

Anyway, I realized these issues still matter and they haven’t gone anywhere and I found myself wanting to start up writing about it again. I did a cursory search and found at least eight or nine tobacco-related stories from the past three months that interested me.

So, thanks for hanging in there. Real life gets in the way of blogging sometimes. I hadn’t abandoned the lounge, but it did feel like a bit of a vacation from it.

Anyway, there will be a bit of a deluge of posts here, so try to keep up. I’ve got some lost time to make up for.

MLB, union agree to phase in ban on chewing tobacco

getfile-aspx
Babe Ruth selling chewing tobacco. Ruth, a lifelong chewer, died of throat cancer in his 50s.

As expected, Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association agreed to a ban on chewing tobacco in baseball, though it’s a bit of a wishy-washy ban because it only applies to incoming players. Basically, they’re going to phase it in.

This means expect to see chew around on the baseball field for the next 10 years, though you will gradually see less and less of it.

It’s a step in the right direction, I suppose, and perhaps the best that could be accomplished going up against a very powerful players’ union. Some tobacco control advocates likely won’t be that thrilled with it, but I would tell them, this is arguably the most powerful union in the country. Getting anything out of them is a win.

img24620278

Someone pointed out to me it’s very similar to how batting helmets were introduced into baseball. Existing players who didn’t like them didn’t have to wear them, but new players did (actually, hockey was the same way. You still saw a few old-timers not wearing helmets into the early 90s. The NHL finally made visors mandatory in 2013, but again, existing players who don’t want to wear them are grandfathered in, so you will slowly see visorless players disappear from the game.).

For Libertarians screaming “Freedom of choice!” think of it as a workplace ban. Name a workplace, any workplace, in which chewing tobacco is allowed in the building. Maybe warehouse workers, truck drivers and longshoreman can chew on the job. That’s about it. No one is telling ballplayers they can’t chew if they really want to deal with the gum disease and losing their teeth. They just can’t chew on the job, in the ballpark.

Chewing tobacco has been banned for years in the minor leagues and by the NCAA. In fact, according to this article, it’s not unheard of for players to be thrown out of NCAA games for chewing.

For some reason that no one can really explain, chewing tobacco is deeply entrenched in the culture of baseball. According to this story, 47 percent of NCAA baseball players chew. 47 percent! Keep in mind less than 10 percent of adult males chew tobacco. It really is a baseball thing.

And dying of throat cancer is also a baseball thing — going all the way back to dipper Babe Ruth, who died of throat cancer.

The latest push to ban chew came after Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, a lifelong chewer, died in 2014 of salivary gland cancer. Gwynn advocated against chewing tobacco the last few months of his life, as has Curt Schilling (Yeah, I know he’s a butthead), who survived a pretty serious bout of oral cancer around the same time.

In addition to the MLB ban that will begin next year, several cities have banned chew in ballparks — Boston, New York, Chicago, L.A. and San Francisco (Oakland and San Diego are included in a statewide ban, too, but this ban doesn’t really have an enforcement tool attached).

 

Smoking rate now down to 15 percent; biggest single-year drop ever recorded

A story from National Public Radio that the smoking rate in the U.S. is now down to 15 percent, the lowest ever recorded.

This also gives me the opportunity to fire up my Excel and make a new smoking rate graph! This is especially cool because it is actually the 50th anniversary of the CDC keeping track of smoking rates. In those 50 years, the smoking rate has dropped by nearly two-thirds from 42.4 percent to 15.1 percent.

u-s-smoking-rate

The last time I wrote about this, almost exactly a year ago, that figure was at 16.8 percent. These numbers released this month by the Centers for Disease Research actually refer to the 2015 smoking rate; it takes several months to put out a report, so that figure could be even lower now.

This is also the biggest single-year drop in the smoking rate ever recorded by the CDC. The next closest was 2009 to 2010, when the smoking rate dropped from 20.6 percent to 19.3 percent.

The news gets better. The smoking rate for people aged 19-24 is just 13 percent. There’s virtually no future smokers after someone turns 24, so that 13 percent figure will just drop as those smokers grow older and wiser.

Another bit of good news — California just passed a $2 a pack cigarette tax increase, which could drop the smoking rate in California down by as much as 20 percent (studies have shown a $1 a pack increase in cigarette taxes drops the smoking rate by roughly 10 percent).

If the California smoking rate drops by 20 percent, that’s 500,000 to 600,000 smokers giving up the habit, and that will have a major effect on the national smoking rate. That all by itself is more than 1 percent of the smokers nationwide.

There’s myriad reasons for the drop in the smoking rate — higher cigarette taxes, indoor smoking bans, more awareness of the health risks, social disapproval of smoking and, to be honest, the rise of e-cigarettes.

From the graph up above, you can see there is actually a pretty frustrating era from 1990 to 2009 in which the drop in the smoking rate was excruciatingly slow — in fact, incredibly, one year (2008) it actually went UP. That’s the effect of Joe Camel and a big increase in tobacco advertising in the 1990s and an increase in smoking in PG-13 and PG movies and cuts to tobacco education in the 2000s, in my opinion.

In those 19 years, the smoking rate only dropped from 25.5 percent to 20.6 percent, an average of 0.26 percent a year. Since 2009, the smoking rate has dropped from 20.6 percent to 15.1 percent, a drop of 0.92 percent a year over the past six years. The rate has actually dropped more during the past six years than it did in the 19 years prior to that. I do think e-cigs have something substantial to do with that, as well as Hollywood stubbing out smoking in PG movies.

If FDA regulations of e-cigarettes go through, and I’m sure it will be tied up in court for a while, it will be interesting to see if there is any effect on the smoking rate, because these regulations are expected to all by wipe out all the small e-cigarette companies, which make up roughly 40 percent to 50 percent of the market. Big Tobacco itself owns the three best-selling e-cig brands — Vuse, Blu and MarkTen.

 

 

 

California voters raise cigarette tax by $2 a pack

 

sjm-tobacco-09xx-021Lost in all the hubbub over this election (and a reason why I waited a week and a half to post about it) was California voters approving a $2 a pack increase in their cigarette tax.

California will go from having one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country at $0.87 a pack to $2.87 a pack. Big Tobacco spent tens of millions to defeat prior attempts at raising California’s cigarette tax (in fact, a 2012 measure failed literally 49.9 percent to 50.1 percent), but this time it failed.

According to Salon, Big Tobacco spent $71 million to defeat the California measure, which was approved with 63 percent of the vote. California has one of the lowest smoking rates in the country at about 10 percent, so why would Big Tobacco care? Because that’s 10 percent of 38 million people — basically about 3 million adults.

It’s estimated (and studies have backed this up) that raising the cigarette tax by $1 a pack cuts the smoking rate by about 10 percent. So a potential 20 percent cut in those 3 million smokers (that’s 600,000 smokers), each of them no longer spending roughly $1,000 a year on cigarettes? You can see why Big Tobacco cared.

The Salon article claims this measure will cost Big Tobacco $250 million a year in lost sales (at least, that’s roughly a loss of 250,000 smokers). A drop in the bucket for Big Tobacco, but enough to get their attention.

Big Tobacco was able to defeat similar measures in Colorado and North Dakota, where health agencies didn’t have that much to spend against the industry. In California, health agencies spent $36 million to offset the industry’s $71 million.

From the Salon article:

Big Tobacco killed similar tax proposals in Colorado ($1.75 a pack; 46 percent yes) and North Dakota (44 cents; 45 percent) by outspending proponents by a factor of six.

The lesson: You don’t have to spend as much as the tobacco industry, but you need enough money to get your message out.

As an aside, California also approved legalizing pot, as did Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. The Salon article goes on at length about the danger of Big Tobacco moving into the pot industry, something I’ve written about extensively in the past and don’t need to rehash in this post.