CDC study — teen vaping, smoking rate slowly declining

A couple of contradictory articles here about what appears to be the same survey. Took some research, but I got to the bottom of what these numbers really mean. This CDC graphic is REALLY helpful. I recommend clicking on it to see it full size.

According to U.S. News and World Report, a new Centers for Disease Control survey showed that teen smoking rate has dropped to 9 percent, while teens are also doing fewer drugs, having less sex and … drinking less milk?

OK, the milk part was weird. The point being more kids are drinking sodas and energy drinks.

However, a story from NBC News, which appears to cite the same CDC study, says that teen use of tobacco products has dropped from 24 percent in 2011 to 20 percent today — but that 13 percent of that is from cigarettes, with the rest vaping.

This is mostly good, if not confusing news. Well, more good than bad. I see a glass half-full from the fact that when I started looking at these CDC surveys 10-12 years ago, the teen smoking rate was pushing 30 percent. Now, it’s somewhere between 9-13 percent.

The glass half-empty is that there are still kids getting addicted to nicotine, just from a different delivery system. E-cigs aren’t as bad as cigarettes, but they aren’t 100 percent benign either. It’s best if kids don’t get addicted to nicotine … period. Regardless of the delivery system.

So, I decided to look at the CDC survey directly. I HATE contradictory information like this when different reporters see different results when they look at different part of the same study.

Here’s MY take on the CDC survey (these surveys are done every two years, by the way). A little more in-depth and a little more carefully worded than the two articles:

  • There is something there that says 8.8 percent of teens have smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days, so that’s where they got 9 percent.
  • Total number of teens using a tobacco product is 19.6 percent. That’s e-cigs, smokeless tobacco, cigarettes, cigars and hookahs combined.
  • percentage of kids using e-cigs is 11.7 percent
  • There is something that says total percentage of “combustible” tobacco products — that’s cigarettes, cigars and hookahs — is 12.9 percent. I’d be willing to bet most “cigars” being smoked by kids are those Swisher Sweets.

So, it appears that both articles are right. It also showed to me that there’s some overlap between kids who smoke and kids that vape — that’s why 11.7 percent + 12.9 percent = 19.6 percent. The articles aren’t clear about that. There is a category in the study that says, “more than two types” of tobacco products. That’s roughly about 10 percent of teens. And that’s why 11.7 + 12.9 = 19.6.

Anyway, the graphic I included with this post makes it MUCH clearer. According to that graphic, the news is generally good, though it could be better.

Teen vaping has actually dropped since it hit its peak in 2014. Yayy, I’m actually heartened by that, though I’d like to see it drop faster. Total nicotine use via either e-cigs or cigarettes has dropped since 2014.

In 2014, roughly 17 percent of teens were using e-cigs, that’s now down below 12 percent.

Total nicotine uses by teens in 2014 was just above 25 percent. That figure is just under 20 percent in 2017. Smoking is down a ton, from about  18 percent (any combustible) in 2014 to 13 percent in 2017. Cigarettes are down from about 11 percent in 2014 to just under 9 percent in 2017.

I don’t know if the CDC broke down the difference between cigarettes and cigars before. I never noticed it before this year’s survey, and I’ve been perusing these CDC survey reports for a decade. But, it’s good to have the whole story. A lot more teens smoking cigars and cigarillos than I thought.

 

Complaint filed over Big Tobacco-funded effort to oppose Montana tobacco tax

A group is proposing a $2 a pack tax increase to help raise funding for Medicaid in Montana.

For Montana, that is a big tax increase and such a proposal is likely fighting an uphill climb in maybe the most Libertarian state in the country. You might be surprised to know that about 10 years ago, Montana voters did approve a $1 a pack cigarette tax hike. But, times have changed. People have become more extreme in their positions since then.

Anyway, the group behind the measure, Healthy Montana, filed a complaint against a group opposing the measure — Montanans Against Tax Hikes, for illegal campaign behaviour, including not reporting expenditures and making illegal robocalls to Montana voters.

First thing I thought was, “oh, I bet MATH is actually funded by Big Tobacco.”

Sure enough, from a Missoula Current article:

The complaint says Chuck Denowh, the treasurer for MATH, also filed a letter with the Montana attorney general in April, “opposing the proposed ballot statements for I-185 on behalf of Altria Client Services LLC and Rai Services Company, whose parent companies dominate the tobacco market, controlling roughly 86% of the market share in 2016.”

Sure enough, as we all know Altria is the company formerly known as Philip Morris. And Rai Services Company, I had to Google. It’s the parent company of — you guessed it — RJ Reynolds.

Quelle shock, huh? So MATH is bankrolled pretty directly by Big Tobacco.

Anyway, this just blew me away, incredibly, one of the robocalls offered people $100 if they called back. I’d love to know if anyone actually received their $100.

Montana’s current tobacco tax is $1.70 a pack, which is almost exactly the national average ($1.68 a pack).

Anyway, in addition to the cigarette tax increase, the proposal would also increase smokeless tobacco taxes by 33 percent and taxes on vaping products. I’ll be keeping on eye on this ballot measure in November. Again, this being Montana, where the sheep are nervous and the taxes are detested, I can’t hold my breath about its chances.

 

San Francisco bans flavoured tobacco products

Yup, these are e-cigs … they’re not marketed to kids at all

San Francisco voters, by an extremely wide margin, voted during California’s Tuesday election to ban all flavoured tobacco products.

This include sugary cigars, menthol cigarettes and most importantly, sugary- or fruity-flavoured e-cig products. That is a HUGE deal because most e-cig flavours are fruity or sugary.

68 percent voted in favour of the measure. Just 31 percent voted against it.

San Francisco is notoriously one of the most stridently anti-tobacco cities in the country. And get this, RJ Reynolds spent $12 MILLION to try and defeat this measure. Why does RJ Reynolds care so much? In addition to owning  Newport menthols, the No. 1 menthol cigarette (Lorillard originally bought out Vuse and then RJR merged with Lorillard), RJ also owns Vuse e-cigarettes, the No. 1 e-cig company in the U.S. (Somewhere along the line, Vuse must have passed Blu).

Anti-tobacco advocates have been trying to get menthol cigarettes banned for a few years, with little luck, no doubt because they’re a huge part of the overall market and are particularly popular with African-American smokers (My parents always smoked menthols when I was a kid). While menthols get a pass from the Food and Drug Administration, the feds a few years ago did ban candy-flavoured cigarettes because they were clearly being directed by tobacco companies toward teen smokers.

And this is the one of the issues with all these fruity and candy-flavoured e-cigarette flavours out there. It’s well-known that teen vaping is way up; more teens vape today than smoke, which is one of the reasons why teen smoking is way down.

This is a good thing … and it isn’t. Kids are still getting addicted to nicotine, they’re just finding a less obnoxious and cheaper delivery system than cigarettes. I’m fine with smokers using e-cigs to get off of cigarettes. I’m not fine with teenagers getting addicted to nicotine to begin with via e-cigs instead of cigarettes.  And there’s no way you will convince me that c-cig flavours like strawberry shortcake, bubblegum or smurf grape are actually meant for adults.

From a CNN article:

“San Francisco’s youth are routinely bombarded with advertising for flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes every time they walk into a neighborhood convenience store. It’s clear that these products with candy themes and colorful packaging are geared towards teens,” the American Lung Association stated.

I love this quote, too from Patrick Reynolds, whose grandfather started RJ Reynolds. He’s now an avid anti-tobacco (and anti-vaping) advocate:

Patrick Reynolds, the executive director of Foundation for Smokefree America, said that R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco company that his grandfather started, had spent a lot of money fighting the ban because it’s concerned that if it passes in San Francisco, other cities will follow suit.

The company didn’t respond to messages from CNN.

“Big tobacco sees vaping as their future,” Reynolds, an anti-tobacco advocate said. “They are very afraid this is going to pass and if the voters make an informed decision to side with the health community, it will lead to hopefully a tidal wave of cities doing what SF did because the FDA did nothing. We will start to turn the tide against vaping.”

 

 

FDA to e-cig companies: Stop making your products look like candy

“Candy King” is an actual e-cig product.

The FDA is warning e-cigarette companies in a letter sent out earlier this month to stop making their products look like candy.

This has been one of the big battles against the fledglinge-cig industry — candy-flavoured products. Candy-flavoured products marketed as candy-flavoured products. And most of all, candy-flavoured products that the industry insists are not designed for underaged users.

Some of these products have names like Smurf Sauce, Twirly Sour Patch kids and Nilla Wafers.

Yeah, this is for real, those are e-cig products on the left.

Are you seriously going to try to convince me that any product with the word “Smurf” in it is actually being marketed to adults?

From a Bloomberg article:

The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission sent 13 letters Tuesday to companies that make and sell the liquids used in e-cigarettes, warning them for using false and misleading labeling and advertising. The nicotine products resemble juice boxes, whip-cream canisters and well-known candy and cookie packages like Sour Patch Kids and Nilla Wafers.

The move follows an FDA sting operation that resulted in 40 warning letters last week to retailers that sold kids Juul e-cigarettes, the latest craze in underage tobacco use.
The FDA has given e-cigarette makers extra time to comply with certain e-cigarette regulations and is attempting to rein in youth use while it learns more about the products. Antismoking advocates have criticized the agency for not moving to ban flavors in tobacco products. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said he wants to take a balanced approach to help adults who enjoy the flavors switch from regular cigarettes to vaping.

“Companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use, and we’ll continue to take action against those who sell tobacco products to youth and market products in this egregious fashion,” Gottlieb said in a statement.

The agency plans “a series of escalating actions” as part of a new plan to prevent youth tobacco use, Gottlieb said.

From a Washington Post article:

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in a telephone briefing with reporters, said that it would be hard for “any reasonable person” to examine the products and not conclude that “they are deliberately being packaged and marketed in a way that is designed to not only be appealing to kids” but also to confuse them by mimicking items they frequently consume.

So, something is supposed to hit the fan within three weeks. I’ll be keeping track of this.

I hate to say it. I try to avoid partisan politics on this page, but I am not a fan of Donald Trump and his administration, but I have to admit, this Scott Gottlieb *appears* to actually take his job seriously. I say “appears” because I am by nature a cynical person and I will await to see if the rubber meets the road with him, so to speak.

But, Jesus Christ on a cracker, e-cig flavours based on Oreo cookies, “Smurf sauce” and “Cookies & Milk” and you’re actually going to sit there with a straight face and try to convince me these are products designed for adults? C’mon!

 

Chewing tobacco banned at Safeco Field

Seattle joined a list of cities around the country that has banned chewing tobacco at Major League baseball games.

Other cities that have banned chewing tobacco at games are Chicago, New York, Boston, Toronto, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Additionally, California state law prohibits chewing tobacco use at games in Oakland and San Diego.

This means players and coaches can’t chew it on the field and spectators can’t chew it in the stands.

Major League baseball has been urged to ban chewing tobacco. For some odd reason, chewing tobacco use is rampant among ballplayers. The MLB and the player’s union took a somewhat wimpy approach to the issue, banning tobacco use on the field for all incoming players but grandfathering it in for existing MLB players. Which means, eventually it’ll go away, but for the time being you’re still going to see coaches and players chewing on the field.

Philip Morris stock crashes

Woot! This story made my heart warm. Philip Morris International (a company split off from Altria that focuses specifically on the tobacco market outside of the U.S.) stock dropped 18 percent on April 19, partly because sales of its iQos product — a device that heats a tobacco plug without setting it on fire — has not gone as well as projected.

For the year, PMI stock has dropped 4 percent.

PMI is such a huge player in the tobacco market that its drop affected the stocks of all tobacco companies. British American Tobacco PLC and Imperial Brands PLC dropped 5.4 and 2.9 percent respectively while Altria dropped 7.7 percent.

Oh, ouch, I hope people lose their jobs. I hope CEOs lose their bonuses. I can dream, can’t I?

According to MarketWatch, much of this is tied to the iQos and its performance in Japan. From a MarketWatch article:

Philip Morris and its rivals have spent billions of dollars in recent years to research and market tobacco heating and other new products they believe will help lure existing smokers from conventional cigarettes, whose sales are in decline globally. While tobacco companies have so far been able to offset declining volumes with rising prices, that strategy is seen as having limits, and companies are scaling back investments in traditional tobacco operations.

Japan, where Philip Morris launched IQOS in 2016, is closely watched by investors and public-health researchers as a test case for how reduced-risk products could catch on with consumers. Smoking rates in the country have plummeted after IQOS’s introduction — it has captured 16% of the tobacco market — and Philip Morris has pointed to that success as an indication of what could be achieved elsewhere.

But Thursday, the company warned that once-breakneck sales in Japan had cooled.

“Device sales were slower than our ambitious expectations,” Philip Morris Chief Financial Officer Martin King said on a call with investors. Mr. King warned of a maturing market in Japan, saying Philip Morris had run through early adopters quicker than expected and must win over “the more-conservative consumers, especially the age 50-plus smoker segment which represents approximately 40% of the total adult smoker population.”

I would love to see all these companies go belly-up. I know it won’t happen overnight, but it’s a good sign that the end of Big Tobacco could be in sight.

What the hell is a “Juul”?

This is a “Juul”

Never heard of these things until a couple of weeks ago. I’m still not 100 percent sure what the big deal is about them.

It sounds to be something like Vaal, from the original Star Trek and  reminds of an old SNL skit about some feminine product where the whole point of the skit was “what is it?”

A Juul is apparently a new kind of e-cigarette that looks a hell of a lot like a flash drive for a laptop. And, apparently, in fact, they can be charged by plugging them into a laptop.

Anyway, the New York Times thought it was a big enough deal to do a huge article about them.

Not Vaal, Juul!

From the Times story:

Resembling a flash drive, Juul conveys a sense of industry — you’re Juuling into your MacBook Air while you are cramming for your test on Theodore Dreiser and thinking about trigonometry — and it is so easy to conceal that, as one mother explained to me, she failed to notice that her daughter was vaping in the back seat of the car as she was driving.

It’s basically just the latest “hip” e-cig. And this is one of the issues I have with e-cigs … is they keep trying to pass themselves off as “hip” and the “latest thing.” And kids love stuff that’s “hip” and the “latest thing.”

From the Times story:

The company’s position that Juul is intended strictly for “adult” smokers as its website repeatedly indicates, is belied by the menu of flavors in which the nicotine pods are offered. These include Mango, Cool Mint, Fruit Medley and Creme Brulee. As Anthony Charuvastra, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor at New York University’s Medical Center put it, “Who over 25 is looking for creme brulee as part of a smoking experience?”

Like all modern tech companies that attract tens of millions of dollars in venture capital funding, Juul believes it is doing something globally valuable, acting as “part of the solution to end combustible smoking,’’ as its marketing material proclaims. A “Mission & Values” statement on the company’s website declares that no minor should be in possession of Juul and argues that the company is working to combat underage use. In August, it instituted an age-verification system on its e-commerce site to try and prevent anyone under 21 from buying Juul products.

“James and Adam recognized a groundbreaking opportunity to apply industrial design to the smoking industry, which had not materially evolved in over one hundred years,” the Juul website also declares, indicating how little Silicon Valley can distinguish between what needs to be disrupted and what simply needs to go away.

When asked about Juul’s use by teenagers, the company said in a statement, “We condemn the use of our product by minors. We are fully committed to dramatically reducing the incidence of young people using Juul.”

Yeah, the “we here at Juul are very concerned about teen vaping” sounds pretty lame and vapid (They gave a similar statement to Women’s Health), especially when it sounds EXACTLY like the Tobacco Industry excuses for their products being blatantly marketed to teens for decades. So, colour me seriously unimpressed with the owners of Juul and their milquetoast response about teens using their product.

FDA proposes reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes

Got mixed feelings on this one and I definitely need to get more information to have a hard and fast opinion.

The FDA, which under the Trump Administration I seriously no longer trust at all, is taking public comment on its proposal to drop the level of nicotine to “minimally or non-addictive levels.”

Seriously, considering who is the president right now, I’m amazed the FDA is going after Big Tobacco at all. Which makes me paranoid that this is some kind of end run that will end up actually helping Big Tobacco. How, I’m not sure, but I cannot trust this administration. It doesn’t help my paranoia that the tobacco industry is weirdly applauding the measure.

From a Agence French Press article:

“Today’s advance notice is a request for information, not a proposed rule, and is the first step in a multi-year process that will require the agency to examine and resolve many complex issues,” said Murray Garnick, executive vice president and general counsel of Altria Group, Inc., which includes tobacco giant Philip Morris.

“As FDA has acknowledged, any proposed nicotine standard would need to be part of a comprehensive package,” he added.

“Altria has already been preparing for any reasonable potential standard, and we plan to participate in every step of this process.”

I’d feel more comfortable if the industry was openly freaking out about this.

Anyway, without getting into conspiracy theories, right off the bat,   I have two thoughts.

If you simply reduce the level of nicotine, won’t that prompt smokers to smoke more in order to get the same level of nicotine they got prior? Remember, these are people already addicted to nicotine. I have no science to back this up, it’s just a thought on my part.

I CAN see a benefit that lowering nicotine drastically will make it much more difficult for young smokers to get addicted to nicotine to begin with.

There is some science to back up this point.

From a the Agence French Press article:

“We’re taking a pivotal step today that could ultimately bring us closer to our vision of a world where combustible cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction -– making it harder for future generations to become addicted in the first place and allowing more currently addicted smokers to quit or switch to potentially less harmful products,” said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

A study released Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine projected that cutting nicotine to a non-addictive level could mean five million fewer smokers in the first year of implementation.

Within five years, another eight million fewer people would smoke, and by 2060, the smoking rate in the United States could drop to 1.4 percent, down from its present level of 15 percent, said the report.

Anyway, interesting times. I will definitely keep an eye on how this turns out. I expect it will be a while and I expect Trump will be long gone before it comes to any fruition.

Study: Cancerous chemicals found in e-cigarettes

Another negative study about e-cigs.

This one is from the University of California, San Francisco (one of the leading anti-tobacco schools in the nation). It found that vapour from e-cigarettes not only contain carcinogenic chemicals, it also found that sweet, fruity-flavoured e-cig flavours are the worst for delivering carcinogenic chemicals into the lung.

These chemicals do not show up in the “ingredients” of e-cigarettes.

From an NBC story:

The chemicals are not listed on the ingredients of the vape liquid. They’re found under the catch-all description of “flavorings”, the researchers said.

Dr. Mark Rubinstein, of UCSF’s Division of Adolescent Medicine, and colleagues tested 67 teenagers who vape and compared them to 16 teens who both vape and smoke tobacco cigarettes and to 20 teens who do not use either type of cigarette.

They tested their urine and saliva and asked questions about cigarette use.

Those who used both types of cigarette had significantly higher levels of dangerous chemicals, including acrylonitrile, acrolein, propylene oxide, acrylamide and crotonaldehyde, the team reported. And those who used only e-cigarettes had much higher levels than those who used neither product.

“Among our e-cigarette–only participants, the use of fruit-flavored products produced significantly higher levels of the metabolites of acrylonitrile,” they wrote.

Glycerin and other flavorings in both tobacco and e-cigarettes can react with one another or break down into the potentially harmful chemicals.

“Acrylonitrile is a highly poisonous compound used widely in the manufacture of plastics, adhesives and synthetic rubber,” the National Center for Biotechnology Information says on its website.

Acrolein “is toxic to humans following inhalation, oral or dermal exposure,” the Environmental Protection Agency says. Some studies show it can play a part in bringing about lung cancer, although the EPA says there is not enough data to show whether it causes cancer in people.

Propylene oxide and crotonaldeyde are probable carcinogens, the EPA says, while acrylamide’s role in causing cancer is more controversial.

 This is just the latest in countless studies showing that e-cigarettes are — at BEST — not completely benign and really should be avoided by teens … and more should be done to dissuade teens from using them. They might be better than cigarettes, and might be a viable option for a smoker to quit cigarettes, but they should not be used by teens as an alternative delivery system for addictive nicotine. The best choice is to simply avoid nicotine in any form … period.

Another nail in the coffin on the idea that e-cigs are completely safe. Again, I’m a bit ambivalent on e-cigs, but it does bother me — a lot — to see them pretty blatantly marketed to teenagers. Like Medical News Today states … teenagers should not be using e-cigarettes at all.

 

 

 

India’s Supreme Court backs warning labels on cigarettes

Here is a story for our readers from India.

This is a big confusing. I had to read the story carefully three times to make sure I was understanding it correctly.

The Supreme Court of India last week set aside a lower court that had quashed the nation’s rule that cigarette packs must contain graphic warnings.

The rules changed a requirement that 20 percent of the cigarette packs surface must contain health warnings against cigarettes to 85 percent of the surface. A big change.

In essence, a bad ruling for the tobacco industry in India.

From a Reuters story:

The Supreme Court, which heard petitions brought forward by tobacco-control activists, stayed the Karnataka court’s order on Monday, citing the need to protect the health of citizens.

“Health of a citizen has primacy and he or she should be aware of that which can affect or deteriorate the condition of health,” the Supreme Court said in its 13-page order.

“Deterioration may be a milder word and, therefore, in all possibility the expression ‘destruction of health’ is apposite.”

The court’s decision comes as a relief for health advocates and federal health ministry who say bigger health warnings deter tobacco consumption. More than 900,000 people die each year in India due to tobacco-related illnesses, the government estimates.

I liked this part of the story most:

The court’s decision is a blow to cigarette makers such as India’s ITC Ltd and Philip Morris International Inc’s Indian partner, Godfrey Phillips India Ltd, whose representatives call the rules extreme. In protest at the health warning measures, the industry briefly shut its factories across the country in 2016 and filed dozens of legal cases.

Awwww, poor babies. Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than the thought of tobacco executives POUTING. Especially Philip Morris International. They have been aggressively fighting warning labels on cigarettes worldwide.

Cigarette pack in India with new warnings.

This is not the end of the case. The Supreme Court essentially just stayed the lower court’s decision. The case will continue to be heard by the courts in March.

However, it appears some tobacco companies in India are already complying with the Supreme Court decision and are putting the 85 percent warnings on their cigarette packs.