All posts by Pepe Lepew

Altria now trying to buy into Juuls

Well, this was as predictable as the day is long.

I wrote a few days ago about how Altria is expanding its business to marijuana. Altria, which already owns the e-cigarette brand MarkTen, is now making a move to buy into the biggest e-cigarette brand out there, Juul.

It’s interesting. A lot of people think e-cigarettes and cigarettes are somehow in competition. Nothing could be further from the truth. They’re really two sides of the same coin, doing a cutesy little dance around each other.

At one time, Big Tobacco controlled about 80 percent of the e-cigarette market. Altria had MarkTen, RJ Reynolds controlled Blu for a while, then Blu was sold to and controlled by Imperial Brands, a subsidiary of Philip Morris. Meanwhile, RJ Reynolds kept control of Vuse. Those three brands constituted about 80 percent of the e-cigarette market.

So, no, e-cigarettes were not competing with Big Tobacco. E-cigarettes WERE Big Tobacco. All those people usuing e-cigarettes to get off cigarettes. All those people using e-cig to say “F U” to the tobacco industry. Hey, you were giving your money to the same CEOs. Big Tobacco was selling you both the disease and the cure.

Then, along came Juul to overturn the apple cart. Juul is a relatively new player in the e-cigarette market and sometime around 2017, this company started dominating the e-cig industry, pushing down Big Tobacco’s share in the market. Juul’s share got up to 75 percent. They did this in about two years.

Now, Altria is following the Big Tobacco playbook. When you can’t beat them in the marketplace, simply buy them out. 

Juuls are incredibly convenient. They look exactly like a computer flash drive. They can charge up by plugging them into a laptop. And the flavour viles are little and easy to use.

Juuls are controversial with a lot of people in the tobacco control industry because the company, much like Blu, was pretty fucking brazen about marketing to teens. Juul relied heavily on social media to market itself and they got themselve in the crosshairs big time not only of the tobacco control community, but of the FDA. After the FDA started suggesting that it was cracking down on e-cigs because of the explosion of e-cig use by teenagers, Juul very quickly abandoned all of its social media accounts and announced that it would no longer sell many of its fruity and surgary flavours.

Along comes Altria to save the day. Altria, the parent company behind what used to be known as Philip Morris, is abandoning its failed MarkTen product.

According to this CNBC article, Altria is looking at buying a “significant” share of Juul. And again, we follow the same pattern as Blu and MarkTen and Vuse.

Now, this news came out around the same time as the FDA announced that it was cracking down on e-cigs, mostly by requiring that e-cigs be sold in areas closed off to minors, and Juul shut down its social media accounts. We all know Altria has a long, long history of playing cutesy with the “Marketing to teens? Moi? Never!” game that Juul and every other e-cig brand has copied from.

I see this as Altria evolving and trying to stay an active player in the nicotine addiction game, via e-cigs and international marekts. (And my concern about Altria getting involved in marijuana is over the company cooking up schemes to add nicotine to marijuana to make it more addictive). This is a multi-billion dollar corporation that has no plans of simply slinking off into the sunset.

I toldja! Big Tobacco looks to get into the pot business

The Marlboro Head

I toldja! I toldja!

I knew this would happen. In fact, to be honest, I’m surprised it took this long.

As marijuana becomes legal in more and more of the U.S., I knew sooner or later Big Tobacco would look to get into the game. 

Sure enough, a bunch of huge stories came out this week that Altria … the parent company of Philip Morris, makers of Marlboros, is investing $1.8 billion in Cronos, a Canadian marijuana company. And as we all know, marijuana was legalized across ALL of Canada a couple of months ago.

About 80 million people in the U.S. live in states where marijuana is now legal. Add that to the 36 million of so people in Canada … that’s a lot of legal marijuana users. And that number is just going to continue to grow as more and more states figure out that keeping pot illegal is not just stupid but also a waste of a BIG potential tax source.

So, tobacco sales in the U.S. have been in decline for decades. Big Tobacco is being forced to diversify … by pouring more energy in developing tobacco markets in the Third World, by investing in e-cigarettes (though the future of e-cigs is now in doubt with new FDA regulations being proposed) and now pot. It was totally predictable.

My biggest concern about Big Tobacco getting their beak wet in the pot industry is my fear that they’ll pull the same underhanded, amoral crap with pot that they’ve pulled with marijuana for decades. For instance, I could totally see Big Tobacco artificially adding nicotine into marijuana to make it physically addictive like cigarettes. (And then acting all “Moi? Not us!” before Congressional committees about it). Think of it. The pure, amoral genius of it. The most addictive substance in the world added … to marijuana. They would do it, too. They totally would.

One of the biggest worries about legalizing pot was allowing big corporations to take over the pot industry. I remember an article from a year or two ago worrying that the beer industry would get involved in pot. Honestly, that doesn’t scare me nearly as much as Altria or any tobacco company getting their paws on it. 

Something to keep an eye on.

Juuls, menthols and e-cigarettes, oh my — the FDA cracks down finally

Big update today because there’s a LOT to talk about.

Well, the FDA did it, they came down fairly hard on e-cigs. And not just e-cigs, but finally came down on menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigars like Swisher sweets.

I keep scratching my head and asking myself … wait, this is the Trump Administration? The incredibly anti-regulatory and pro-business Trump Administration imposing a whole bunch of new regulations on e-cigs and cigaretttes.

The FDA is making its move as new figures from the Centers for Disease Control show a 78 percent increase in the use of vaping among teenagers since 2011.

E-cig use by teens went up from 1.5 percent of teens in 2011 to 20.8 percent of teens in 2018, according the CDC. The industry has played coy and cutesy about

From an NBC story:

“These data shock my conscience: From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students,” said FDA administrator Scott Gottlieb.

We’re not telling the retail stores you can’t sell them,” Gottlieb said. “If the establishments want to continue to sell these fruity flavored products, they’re going to have to put into place measures that will make sure they are not going to get into the hands of kids,” Gottlieb told NBC News.

OK, this is a big story that kept getting bigger, so let’s start with e-cigs.

Restrictions on sales of e-cigs and e-cig flavours

The new e-cig policy is confusing and I’m still trying to parse it.

Tthe FDA’s proposal would limit the sale of these products in retail stores to closed-off areas that are inaccessible to minors.”

I’m not positive what these means, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen an “adults only” area in a minimart. So, I guess that means no more e-cig sales or fruity flavours on display on the counters of minimarts and convenience stores. This seems slightly watered down from the proposed rules that were leaked last week, which flat out said a ban on sales in minimarts and convenience stores.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Children also wonders what “adults only” actually means.

From NBC News:

Anti-smoking advocates praised the moves, while questioning how easy it would be to enforce them. For one thing, vape products are sold in a variety of outlets, said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It’s a loophole big enough for a truck to go through,” Myers told NBC News.

“(Gottlieb) doesn’t define age-restricted, in-person locations. For this to have any effect, that has got to be a very vigorous definition.”

Gottlieb told NBC that measures might include a curtained-off section where vapes are sold. Online sales will need age verification protocols, he said.

The FDA is also imposing new rules on online sales of e-cig products, requiring better age verification measures from companies (Right now, literally all a kid has to do is click on “Are you 21?” Seriously, that’s all they have to do.)

Maybe this ultimately accomplishes the same thing as a flat-out ban, but it remains to be seen. The FDA might have totally wimped out here.

Juul feels the heat

Juuls have quickly grabbed up 70 percent of the e-cigarette market and this company came to realize it was seriouly in the crosshairs because its products are very popular with teens.

Juul announced a number of steps this week to try and restrict sales to minors, I’m sure realizing that if it didn’t take actions, the FDA might do worse.

Juul said it is voluntarily restricting the sales of some fruity flavours only to businesses that invest in technology to verify the age of customers, such as scanning IDs.

Juul also completely shut down all of its social media accounts — Instagram, Facebook and others. Though, now that Juul has 70 percent of the market, some people would argue that this is too little, too late.

From a New York Times article

Caroline Renzulli, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called Juul’s announcement too little too late. “Juul’s social media marketing fueled its popularity with kids,” she said. “Now that it has captured 75 percent of the e-cigarette market, Juul no longer needs to do social media marketing because its young customers are doing it for them.”

Maura Healey, the attorney general for Massachusetts, echoed that sentiment. “Unfortunately, much of the damage has already been done,” she said. “Our investigation into Juul’s practices, including if it was knowingly selling and marketing its products to young people, will continue.”

Myers agrees:

“Juul is smart enough to try to use FDA actions to falsely create an impression of it as a caring, responsible company,” he said.

Juul now dominates the e-cigarette market with its small, sleek, pod-based product that delivers a far heftier dose of addictive nicotine than other vape devices.

“Having used social media to gain market dominance among young people, Juul can step back now because it no longer needs to pay for social media. Its young, addicted customers are doing it for them. It’s stunning to me,” Myers said.

“It is so completely out of the Big Tobacco playbook it is unbelievable,” he added.

Juul defends itself, using lame corporate-speak.

From an Associated Press article:

Its products are meant to help adult smokers quit regular cigarettes, CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement.

“We don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke, or already use nicotine, to use Juul products,” Burns said. “We certainly don’t want youth using the product. It is bad for public health and it is bad for our mission.”

Menthol cigarettes, flavoured cigars BANNED

No if ands or but(t)s. Unlike some of the slightly milquetoast measures taken toward Juuls and e-cigs, menthol cigarettes will be simply BANNED. Sugary or candy-flavoured cigarettes were banned by the FDA a few years ago, but the agency allowed menthols to continue.

Well, no more, the FDA announced it will ban all sales of menthol cigarettes and sugary cigars like Swisher Sweets.

(As an aside, my parents smoked menthols, mostly Kool brand. Most menthol smokers are black.)

However, don’t expect menthols to disappear any time soon. The tobacco industry has vowed to fight the ban and it could be tied up in the courts for years.

From the NBC story:

Tobacco companies signaled they would fight efforts to ban menthol.

“We continue to believe that a total ban on menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars would be an extreme measure not supported by the science and evidence,” Altria, which makes a range of tobacco products, said in a statement. “We expect that establishing product standards on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will be a multi-year, deliberative process, and we will be fully engaged throughout.”

FDA to ban flavoured e-cig products from minimarts

Well, this is progress, I wonder if it will have any effect.

The FDA announced that it will soon ban the sale of e-cig flavourings at minimarts. This is in response to the rapid rise of e-cig use by teenagers. The FDA warned a few weeks ago that it was cracking down on e-cigs because of the epidemic of teen e-cig use. So, this is apparently step one.

Also, cartridge-based e-cig products like Juuls will no longer be allowed to be sold at convenience stores. Sales will be limited to tobacco and vaping shops. Juuls are relatively news, they’ve only been around a year or two, but their use has exploded (not literally) among teens.

That seriously limits the venues that e-cig flavours and Juuls will be sold at — basically from millions of convenience stores around the country to about 10,000 estimated tobacco and vaping stores. It won’t stop kids from trying to buy them, but will make it harder. And tobacco and vaping stores are more regulated than convenience stores.

The FDA, and this is a big one I think, is also going to impose more rules and regulations on online sales of vaping products, requiring stricter standards for age verification. Today, any kid with their own debit card can just click on “yes, I’m 18” on most of these sites.

Will these be enough to stop the epidemic of kids using e-cigs? Only time will tell, but the FDA suggested this is just the beginning of the steps that it plans to crack down on the industry and its lax attitude toward teen vaping.

From an NBC News article on the FDA’s move:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that adult smoking rates have dropped to their lowest level yet, at 14 percent. But the CDC found that 47.4 million U.S. adults , or 19 percent of the adult population, uses any tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, or e-cigarettes.

Public health experts have been complaining that the fruity, candy-like flavors found in e-cigarettes are targeted directly at children and teenagers, and rates of teen cigarette use have soared.

The FDA has also expressed concern about online sales to teens. In September, the FDA made an unannounced visit to Juul headquarters to look for evidence about the company’s marketing practices. In April, the agency launched what it called a “blitz” to stop retailers from selling vaping products to underage children. And it has warned several online sites about sales.

“We’re also going to restrict online sales only to sites that put in place specific age verification measures and limit access to kids that we are going to specify in guidance,” the official said.

Immune therapy breakthrough for cancer wins Nobel

Two medical researchers, James Allison of the U.S. and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine this week for their breakthrough research in harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Allison and Honjo’s breakthroughs came way back in the 1990s. Their research eventually led to the production of immunotherapy drugs such as Yervoy in 2011 and later the well-known drug Keytruda.

Immunotherapy unleashes the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells rather than chemotherapy. It tends to not have as many side-effects as chemotherapy and for certain kinds of cancers, such as melonoma, it has provided astounding results. Keytruda is most famous for being known as “The Jimmy Carter” drug because Carter was given the drug on an experimental basis several years ago when he had advanced melanoma and brain cancer. And Jimmy is still around today to talk about it.

Keytruda has shown success in treating certain kinds of small cell lung cancer (if patients have certain gene markers). While there are some reports that people with melanoma have been literally cured by Keytruda, it’s not a cure for lung cancer. However, for some patients, they live much longer on the average than with traditional chemo and have much better quality of life.

From a Scientific American article:

Allison, a professor at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, discovered that a molecule called CTLA-4 (cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4) acts as a “brake” on the immune system; remove the brake and—in many cases—immune cells are unleashed to fight the cancer. Allison spent 17 years convincing others that this approach could work, leading to approval in 2011 of the drug Yervoy, which showed near-miraculous results for a fraction of patients with a lethal form of skin cancer.

The pharmaceutical industry is vigorously pursuing immunotherapy, and hundreds of trials are currently underway based on CTLA-4, PD-1 and other immune approaches.

For decades researchers had been trying to figure out effective ways to use the body’s own immune system against cancer. They tried vaccines and other approaches for ramping up immune activity. Allison’s insight, Perlmann said, was to trigger the brakes instead. “It represents a completely new principle because, unlike the previous strategies, it is not based on targeting the cancer cells but rather the brakes, the checkpoints of the host immune system,” he said. “It represents a paradigmatic shift and a landmark in the fight against cancer.”

Honjo’s research was completely separate from Allison’s, but used a similar approach.

From the article:

Meanwhile Honjo, of Kyoto University in Japan, was studying a different immune brake called PD-1 (programmed cell death 1), according to Thomas Perlmann, secretary general of the Nobel Committee, who spoke about the findings amid the prize announcement early Monday. Allison’s success with CTLA-4 in cancer persuaded Honjo to consider his molecule in cancer as well—and he found PD-1 therapy was even safer and more effective against a number of cancers, including lung cancer, which kills about 150,000 Americans a year. Drugs based on his findings also work in combination with Yervoy against a number of types of cancer.

Keytruda is not quite a miracle drug, unfortunately. Not everyone has the gene markers for it, but it has gained a massive reputation thanks to Jaimmy Carter. From a Times Now article:

While in theory it should work for most forms of cancer, it’s most effective on those with the highest numbers of mutations such as melanomas, lung cancer and smoking, he added.

And it has sometimes been met with too much enthusiasm by patients. In the US, some have reportedly asked their doctors to immediately use immunotherapy instead of traditional treatments like chemotherapy, even when they are more effective.

After his big win on Monday, Allison warned that immunotherapy will not replace all other cancer treatments. Instead, it is “going to be part of therapy that potentially all cancer patients will receive in five years,” he told a press conference in New York. Honjo, meanwhile, said he wanted to continue his research “so that this immune therapy will save more cancer patients than ever”.

 

 

FDA: Teen vaping has reached “epidemic” level

Is this the beginning of the end for e-cigs in the U.S..?

It sounds like a hammer might be coming down very soon, one way or the other.

The FDA is really ratcheting up the rhetoric level against e-cigarettes this week, with FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb saying new data that is soon coming out is showing that the problem of e-cigarette use by teens has grown far worse.

They sound serious. I get a little jaded that the FDA will do anything about nicotine products, but I’ve never seen such strong governmental rhetoric against e-cigarettes before.

From a Bloomberg article.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency will soon release data that show a “substantial increase” in youth vaping this year compared with 2017. He said the problem had reached “epidemic proportion.”

“I have grown increasingly concerned around what we see as rising youth use in these products, and I’m disappointed in the actions the companies have taken to try to address this,” Gottlieb said in an interview.
The FDA told five major e-cigarette manufacturers Wednesday to come up with ways to address youth use in 60 days or the agency could require them to stop selling flavored products that appeal to children. The products being targeted are: Juul, Altria Group Inc.’s MarkTen, Fontem Ventures’s blu, British American Tobacco’s Vuse and Logic.
Whoa, 60 days, so that will be mid-November.
And they’re going after the big boys. Blu, Vuse, MarkTen are about 75 percent of the e-cig market, not counting Juuls.
This new sense of urgency toward e-cigs appears to be driven somewhat by concerns over the exploding use of Juuls. Juuls are a relatively new kind of e-cig that look like a flash drive and are powered by actually plugging them into a laptop computer. They’re incredibly popular with kids.
From the Bloomberg article:

“This could result in a bullet through the head of Juul, the driver of youth initiation,” said Nico von Stackelberg, an analyst with Liberum in London.

To gain clearance to return to the market, the companies would have to prove that the benefits to adults who use e-cigarettes to stop smoking outweigh the risks associated with youth vaping.

“I certainly am in possession of evidence that warrants that,” Gottlieb said. He declined to disclose the evidence.

Of the 3.6 million middle- and high-school students who said in 2017 they are current tobacco-product users, 2.1 million used e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There is no question that a lot of the youth use is being driven by Juul,” Gottlieb said.

And From a Washington Post article:

Much of the FDA’s sharp change in course is a result of the phenomenal success of the Juul vaping device, which looks like a USB flash drive. In just three years, it has captured about 70 percent of the e-cigarette market, according to a Wells Fargo analysis of Nielsen sales data. The FDA has pressed Juul in recent months for information about its marketing.

“Juul was a game changer,” said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He listed three reasons the company became so successful: It figured out how to deliver high levels of nicotine in a way that wasn’t harsh; it packaged the product in a streamlined, clever way; and it developed a social media and advertising campaign that made a Juul e-cigarette “cool and hip.”

Keep in mind, this issue here isn’t that e-cigs are as bad as cigarettes. But,they are a nicotine-delivery system and they are effectively getting teenagers physically addicted to nicotine. And nicotine addiction is a bad thing in of itself, regardless of the delivery system. And the issue here is e-cig companies have been BRAZENLY marketing e-cig products to kids for years. I know I’ve been railing about it for years.

So, stay tuned. The end could be nigh for e-cigs.

 

 

Keytruda, a new hope

The issue of Keytruda has become near and dear to my heart the past few weeks with a close family member taking it to treat his lung cancer.

Keytruda is an immunotherapy drug that instead of poisoning the body, uses the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. It’s been very effective for melanoma.

Keytruda is sometimes known as “The Jimmy Carter drug.” He is the most famous Keytruda patient. In 2015, Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in his brain and liver and was given months to live. Three years later, after being given Keytruda on an experimental basis, he’s still kicking and cancer-free. In fact, now, many cancer patients are left asking their doctors “can I get the Jimmy Carter medication”?

That doesn’t mean Keytruda is some kind of “miracle drug.” It hasn’t worked on everyone. But, after being shown that it was more effective than chemotherapy for melanoma, they started giving it to lung cancer patients.

This is the best description I’ve seen about Keytruda. That it “wakes up” the body’s natural immune system and teaches it to recognize that cancer cells are not normal cells and need to be destroyed.

Keytruda is manufactured by Merck and its chemical name is pembrolizumab. There’s some similar auto-immune cancer drugs, one of which is called Opdivo.

The drug has created so much buzz that it’s gotten attention in L.A. Times articles that it could be a more effective first-line defence against lung cancer than traditional chemotherapy.

Some people call Keytruda a “miracle drug,” but it isn’t quite that. Not yet. It doesn’t cure everyone with melanoma or lung cancer, but apparently it is more effective than traditional chemotherapy. It’s a promising breakthrough. It works fantastic for some people.

Hopefully, immunotherapy will ultimately lead to a total cure for lung cancer.

Montana puts huge cigarette tax increase on ballot

Another ballot measure to watch. Montana recently put a $2 a pack cigarette tax increase on its ballot to help pay for Medicaid programs. And sure enough, a fishy organization that is quietly funded by RJ Reynolds and Altria is putting out a massive advertising campaign to stop it.

Having lived in Montana for 12 years, I suspect this ballot measure will fail. Montanans are extremely anti-tax. That being said, voters in the state did approve a $1 a pack tax increase about 12, 13 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised that it passed.

That brought Montana’s cigarette tax to $1.70 a pack, which is just below the national average. The raise to $3.70 a pack would be one of the highest taxes in the nation.

This group, called Montanans Against Tax Hikes (notice no mention of that Big Tobacco financing in its name?), is expected to spend up to $680,000 to defeat the measure. According to the Helena Independent, Montanans Against Tax Hikes is almost entirely funded by the makers of Marlboro and Camel. That would be Altria and RJ Reynolds.

That figure compares to $61,000 being spent by proponents of the tax increase. They barely seem to have a chance.

$680,000 sure seems like a lot to defeat a tax measure in a smalls state like Montana, but keep in mind, Big Tobacco spent tens of millions to defeat cigarette tax measures in California (Big Tobacco won the first time, defeating a cigarette tax increase by a few thousand votes, but lost round two, as California raised its cigarette taxes by $2 a pack thanks to a Nov. 2016 ballot measure.)

Probably roughly about 200,000 people in Montana smoke. Say they spend an average of $1,500 a year on cigarettes (that would be just less than a pack a day). It’s believed that every $1 you add to a pack’s cigarette tax drops the smoking rate about 10 percent — so a $2 a pack increase would translate into about 40,000 lost smokers. So 40,000x$1,500xper year = Now you see why Big Tobacco is willing to spend $680,000 to defeat the measure.

The measure would also tax e-cig products for the first time in Montana. The measure goes to a vote in November.

FDA thinking about ban on vaping flavours; Juuls on the radar

Oooh, I will DEFINITELY be keeping my eye on this one. The Food and Drug Administration is apparently mulling the possibility of banning vaping flavours and is reviewing any regulations that are needed for Juuls, as well.

Juuls are a fairly new type of e-cigarette that doesn’t look like an e-cig at all. It looks like a little flash drive that plugs into a laptop computer … and they DO plug into laptop computers in order to recharge.

Anyway, for now the FDA is doing anything, but will be starting an anti-teen vaping initiative in mid-September.

From a USA Today article:

This month, the FDA asked four e-cigarette companies for information about the appeal of their products to youths and said it could take enforcement action against the companies based on what it learns.

In mid-September, the FDA will launch a vaping prevention campaign targeting 10 million youths who vape or are open to trying it, Scott Gottlieb said. It will continue enforcement against retailers that sell to minors.

“We are very concerned that we could be addicting a whole generation of young people,” Gottlieb said. “We only have a narrow window of opportunity to address it.”

Instead of committing to regulate flavor, the FDA solicited more research on flavor’s role. Robin Koval, CEO of the anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative, said there is ample evidence that flavors attract teens.

USA Today interviewed a bunch of young college students who vaped. The interview that really jumped out at me came from Kevin Kee.

From the article:

Kevin Kee, 22, took up vaping to give up smoking when he was starting college but found himself going back to smoking again when he noticed the Juul was “more ingrained in my life than cigarettes ever were.”

“With the Juul, you can vape anywhere, 24/7. I went through pods way quicker – I could go through a pod in one day,” Kee said. “My tolerance was higher, and I didn’t want that kind of life coming out of college.”

Kee said he thinks people who vape to quit smoking are a minority and most people “vape just to vape.” Out of college and working, he’s given up cigarettes and vaping but fears a flavor ban would really hurt others.

“It’s become so ingrained in our culture that banning flavored nicotine would be like the prohibition,” he said.

People vape just to vape, not to quit cigarettes. I’m all for people using ecigs to get off cigarettes. What I’m not all for is kids 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds becoming addicted to nicotine to begin with via ecigs or Juuls.

Gottlieb also said that the FDA is keeping an eye on Juuls and for its alleged marketing to teens.

Also from the USA TODAY article regarding the controversial and relatively new Juuls:

A class-action lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in San Francisco by Juul users alleged that the vaping giant used a two-pronged approach to target adult smokers and teens.

One San Diego teen said she was introduced to Juul by eighth-grade classmates. When her device broke last November, she obtained a warranty replacement through Juul’s website even though she was only 14, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges Juul targeted youth and nonsmokers through ads and “social media blitzes” using “alluring imagery.” Adult smokers were wooed with the promise of a lower or equal amount of nicotine compared with a cigarette even though the product is designed to be more potent and addictive than cigarettes, the lawsuit says.

“On a puff-for-puff basis, this was designed to be more powerful than the gold standard – the cigarette,” said Esfand Nafisi, a San Francisco Bay Area attorney representing Juul users. “That potency was either not disclosed or misrepresented continuously from the time of the company’s inception.”

So, the moral of the story goes … teen smoking has been all but  eliminated, but the struggle continues, and likely will always continue as long as nicotine is a legal product and companies are looking to make billions off of it by attracting new users … be it cigarettes, e-cigs or Juuls. I suspect it will be a never-ending battle.

Cigarette butts the No. 1 cause of beach pollution

This is why I have ZERO sympathy for smokers complaining about beach smoking bans. They really have no one to blame but themselves for smoking being banned on beaches.

Here is an NBC story about the latest campaign to ban plastic straws. There’s a good argument for banning plastic straws, especially when paper straws are a perfectly usable alternative.

But, the article points out that cigarette butts have been and continue to be the champion contaminant in the oceans and on the beaches.

This story makes an interesting point, that flicking butts away on the ground is a pretty deeply ingrained behaviour that’s hard to stop. A tobacco industry study confirmed this.

From NBC News:

In industry focus groups, some smokers said they thought filters were biodegradable, possibly made of cotton; others said they needed to grind the butts out on the ground, to assure they didn’t set a refuse can afire; others said they were so “disgusted” by the sight or smell of cigarette ashtrays, they didn’t want to dispose of their smokes that way. In one focus group cited in industry documents, smokers said tossing their butts to the ground was “a natural extension of the defiant/rebellious smoking ritual.”

According to this story:

The Ocean Conservancy has sponsored a beach cleanup every year since 1986. For 32 consecutive years, cigarette butts have been the single most collected item on the world’s beaches, with a total of more than 60 million collected over that time. That amounts to about one-third of all collected items and more than plastic wrappers, containers, bottle caps, eating utensils and bottles, combined.

People sometimes dump that trash directly on to beaches but, more often, it washes into the oceans from countless storm drains, streams and rivers around the world. The waste often disintegrates into microplastics easily consumed by wildlife. Researchers have found the detritus in some 70 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of sea turtles.

Actually, I never thought of that before, that the butts are washing into the oceans though sewers.

Anyway, some people are taking an interesting tack on the cigarette butt problem — get rid of cigarette filters altogether.

Yeah, now that you think about it. Why not? It’s been long proven that cigarette butts serve no useful purpose other than trying to trick smokers that their cigarettes have been made safer. No one really buys that anymore, so why keep the filters around. The Truth Initiative has proposed simply getting rid of cigarette filters.

So cigarettes butts continue being a huge pollution problem, despite the precipitous drop in smoking rates in the West.. Anyway, I’ll keep an eye on this campaign to get rid of cigarette butts and see if it goes anywhere.