Category Archives: centers for disease control

Good news everyone … teen smoking AND vaping both drop

Great news again.

For the first time in five years, not only did teen smoking drop this past year, but the teen vaping rate also dropped … and by quite a bit.

This is according to figures released last week by the Centers for Disease Control.

Teen vaping use had increased dramatically from 2011 to 2015 (from less than 2 percent to 16 percent in just four years). Why? Kids were seeing lots of advertising in teen magazines and on TV making e-cigs look cool and hip … and harmless. In the long run, despite an initial investment, they’re cheaper than cigarettes. And most of all, they used to be really easy to buy — and still are pretty easy to buy online.

From 2015 to 2016, teen vaping actually dropped a bunch, from 16 percent to 11.3 percent. That’s roughly a 30 percent decrease.

Meanwhile, teen smoking dropped to an all-time low of 8 percent (high school students). Man, when I first started this blog over on blogspot 10-12 years ago, the teen smoking rate was still 22.5 percent. It frustrated the crap out of me because year after year, it refused to drop.

Amazingly, 19 years ago, it was over 35 percent! (Thanks, Joe Camel). Now, it’s down to 8. That is roughly a 72 percent decrease in 19 years. And the combined teen smoking/vaping/chewing rate (essentially any tobacco product) is down to 20.2 percent.

Preteen girl tries e-cigarette with her friend

the past couple of years have been frustrating, as well. While it was great to see the the smoking rate among teens dropping dramatically, the teen vaping rate was increasing during that time just as dramatically. What that meant is that roughly the same percentage of kids were still getting addicted to nicotine, but that they had just discovered a new delivery system.

Matt Myers, from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids responds: “This is unimaginable, extraordinary progress. This is a change of a cosmic nature that has the potential to dramatically impact lung cancer, heart disease, asthma and other problems.”

Robin Koval with the Truth Initiative said these latest numbers might be showing that smoking its on its way out for good. Cigarette smoking has really dropped dramatically just in the past five years for a variety of reason — the popularity of vaping, cigarette taxes, the stigma of smoking and smoking bans being the main reasons.

I want to make it clear, I don’t have a problem with adults vaping, especially if it’s helping them quit smoking. I do have a problem with teenagers getting hooked on nicotine to begin with via vaping. And I really have a problem with some of the reckless advertising being done by vaping brands. It’s still nicotine and it’s still one of the most addictive substances on the planet.

Anti-tobacco advocates had a variety of theories behind the dramatic dropoff in teen vaping (one advocate suggested that the experimental allure of e-cigs has worn off). I have a theory that I think more vendors are cracking down on selling vaping products with an ID … and more states are not allowing vaping products to be sold to teens or even to people under 21. This Washington Post article points out that the feds sent out more than 4,000 warning letters to retailers cautioning them against selling e-cigs to minors.

Anyway, it’s looking good for the moment, though the FDA has delayed implementing regulations over e-cigs … and who knows what the Trump administration is going to do on this issue. I have zero trust in them.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Teen vaping rate continues to climb

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Well, the Pollyanna side of me wants to say, “good news, bad news,” but I think it’s more bad than good.

According to the CDC, the teen vaping rate continued to climb in 2015. That’s the bad news. The good news is it isn’t climbing as rapidly as it was in 2014.

Teen Vaping Rate

The teen vaping rate is now 16 percent; roughly one teen out of six has vaped in the past 30 days. In 2014, it was 13.4 percent. That figure tripled from 2013, when it was just 4.5 percent. So, basically it went from increasing 200 percent in 2014 to about 20 percent in 2015. Is that good news? I don’t know. It could be the teen vaping market is as saturated as it’s going to get.

Hopefully, part of the reason for the slowdown is most states now do prohibit selling vaping products to teenagers However, it really isn’t very hard for kids to order vaping products online, which seriously needs to be banned by the FDA.

teen smoking

The FDA has been dawdling for well over a year now on e-cigarette regulations. And in that time, the teen vaping use continues to climb … though perhaps it isn’t quite “skyrocketing” like it was a couple of years ago. It’s damned frustrating. I cannot envision why it has taken so long to finalize regulations. All I can think of is the lawyers must be making the decisions at this point.

The draft FDA regulations that came out a while ago now were pretty weak, and didn’t do a heck of a lot to address teen vaping use. The FDA proposed banning sales to minors, but as I mentioned earlier most states already do this anyway. That won’t make a dramatic difference.

e-cig ad
A real e-cig ad.

The FDA neglected to ban online sales (you can’t sell cigarettes online), nor did the agency address e-cigarette marketing and advertising — both of these are serious issues that need to be dealt with in my opinion. E-cigarette companies are using the exact same kind of ads making e-cigs look sexy and sophisticated that cigarette companies successfully used for decades to make their products appear cool to kids.

I’m perfectly fine with people using e-cigarettes to quit smoking. When all else fails, I feel they have nothing to lose. And while I certainly don’t trust that e-cigarettes are 100 percent benign (the vapour is known to contain formaldehyde and diactyl) , they are less toxic than cigarettes.

However, I’m not cool with teenagers simply finding  different delivery system to get physically addicted to nicotine to begin with. And unfortunately, that is a big part of the e-cigarette market. The e-cigarette companies can act all innocent all they want … they’ve also put their brand names on women’s panties. That’s not about people getting off of cigarettes. That’s about enticing horny young teens to use your product.

The other good news is largely because of e-cigarettes, the teen smoking rate has basically completely collapsed. I saw one graph that showed that the 12th-grade smoking rate in 2013 is now at a minuscule 6.7 percent. When I started blogging about tobacco about 10-12 years ago, the teen smoking rate was pushing 30 percent.

The CDC report also states that the middle school vaping rate is about 5.3 percent. Again, this is up dramatically from 2011, when less than 1 percent of all middle schoolers were vaping.

 

Study: E-cigarette ads reach 7 kids out of 10

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Very upsetting study by the Centers for Disease Control which speaks to the absolute biggest problem I have with e-cigarettes — how they are marketed.

The e-cigarette industry has been just downright brazen and blatant about marketing their products to teenagers. E-cig ads today employ all of the exact same techniques used by the cigarette industry for decades to entice teen smokers — sexy, suave, sophisticated people using their products, cartoon characters (even Santa Clause) and ads featuring women’s panties. Women’s panties? … I mean, seriously, you just don’t get more blatant than that.

Anyway, the CDC survey found that 7 out of 10 middle school and high school students had seen these e-cig ads, which are all over the place, magazines, mini-marts, billboards, etc.  Tom Friedman, head of the CDC, makes this exact point:

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Yeah, sure, e-cigarette companies aren’t trying to market to kids at all.

“The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes. I hope all can agree that kids should not use e-cigarettes.”

It’s no secret that teen use of vaping products has absolutely exploded in the past three or four years. More than triple the number of kids vaped in 2014 than in 2013 and studies show that more teenagers vape today than smoke cigarettes.

This simply isn’t a good thing on so many levels. Kids are still turning into nicotine addicts, which is bad no matter what the delivery system of that nicotine is. And studies show that a higher percentage of kids who start out vaping eventually turn to cigarettes to get their nicotine fix than kids who never vape.

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Blu E-cigs, fast, sophisticated, cool … they make you feel like a race car driver.

So, what’s to be done. The Food and Drug Administration is mulling proposals for regulating e-cigarettes. One of the common-sense proposals by the FDA is to ban the sale of e-cig products to teens (most states already ban this, but it is not banned on a federal level … AND e-cig products can be easily purchased by kids online).

The CDC recommends that e-cigs can only be bought in “face to face” transactions, and that online transactions be banned. The FDA did not propose banning online e-cig sales in its draft regulations, but it’s been working on finalizing those regulations for nearly a couple of years now. The FDA also didn’t consider any curbs on e-cigarette advertising in its draft regulations, something that caused a major hue and cry from anti-tobacco advocates.

Washington Post: U.S. smoking rate drops below 17 percent … and other smoking trends

smoking rate

A very nice article in the Washington Post this week about “who stills smokes today.”

First of all, the good news. According to the Post article, which got its numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, the smoking rate in the U.S. has dropped to 16.8 percent. That’s the lowest I’ve ever seen. It was only about  four years ago when the smoking rate finally dropped dropped below 20 percent (officially 2010). When I began blogging about tobacco about 10 years ago, the smoking rate was about 22 percent. The smoking rate dropped below 25 percent for good in 1995 and dropped below 30 percent in 1987 . .. see how slowly the smoking rate was dropping compared to the past few years?

This is fantastic news. I’m guessing one major factor for the escalating drop in the smoking rate is the rising popularity of e-cigs. E-cigs are fine for people trying to quit cigarettes, in my opinion, but it also sucks that so many teenagers are taking up e-cigs rather than cigarettes. Nicotine addiction is nicotine addiction … and it’s never a a good thing.

I made my own smoking chart (I rule … I can use Microsoft Works!) to further parse these numbers year-by-year. Click on it to blow it up. Notice the dramatic drop-off in the smoking rate since 2009. That’s e-cigs and higher cigarette taxes, more smoking bans and a lot less smoking in Hollywood movies all working together to drive down the smoking rate. Notice how the smoking rate flat-lined between 2004 and 2009 (In fact, the smoking rate dropped just 0.3 of a percent in those five years — from 20.9 percent to 20.6 percent.) It was a very, very frustrating time. The tobacco industry was successfully fighting anti-tobacco efforts by spending billions on advertising and marketing. After many, many battles in many state Legislatures, cigarette taxes went up and more states passed smoking bans and smoking was removed from movies marketed to kids — hence, smoking rates started declining.

Smoking rates
I made my own graph. I rule with Microsoft Works.

Also notice a fairly steep drop in the smoking rate between 1999 and 2004 (from 23.5 percent to 20.9 percent.). I believe that’s a direct result of the notorious 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. While this agreement was roundly and justifiably criticized, in the long run, it did a lot of good, such as banning tobacco marketing icons like Joe Camel and banning product placement in Hollywood movies (shockingly, smoking still kept showing up in kids’ movies even after the practise of tobacco product placement was banned.)

Here’s a bunch of other interesting tidbits in the WashPo article. This is another issue I’ve touched but a lot of people don’t think about when it comes to smoking trends. Not only are fewer people smoking today, but those who do smoke smoke less. This is mostly because of smoking bans in most workplaces and more rental residential units not allowing smoking. And generally because smokers have become a lot more savvy about not lighting up around kids and other nonsmokers.

smoking amount

In 2005, 12.7 percent of smokers smoke over 30 cigarettes a day (a pack and a half). Today, that number is down to 6.9 percent of smokers. Those numbers are mind-blowing to me considering that my dad smoked at least 80 cigarettes (four packs) a day and my mom many years ago probably smoked at least 40 cigarettes a day. Between the two of them — roughly six packs a day. Barely anyone smokes even three packs a day anymore. There’s simply not many places left where you can light up cigarettes that constantly.

Another tend touched on by the WashPo article that I was already aware of (but I’m glad the Post is writing about it) … the absolute direct correlation between smoking and education. The smoking rate for people with GEDs is 43 percent. For people with a high school degree — 21.7 percent. College degree, it’s 7.9 percent and for people with post-grad degrees, 5.4 percent.

smoking education

The ethnic group with the lowest smoking rate is Asians, while American Indians have the highest smoking rate at 29.2 percent. (Interestingly, Hispanics and blacks both have a lower smoking rate than whites.) Yikes, I didn’t realize that Native smoking rate was so high. That is a real problem.

smoking ethnicity

Here is something that has changed dramatically from 10 years ago — and this is mostly due to e-cigs, I believe. Teens and young adults have for many years now had the highest smoking rate of any age group. No longer. The smoking rate for people aged 18-24 is now 16.7 percent. The smoking rate for people aged 25-44 is 20 percent; age 45-64 is 18 percent and age 65-over is 8.5 percent (because by that age, many smokers are facing tobacco-related illnesses and are forced to quit.). I like the fact that the smoking rate for teens and young adults is so low, but I wish it was for a better reason than more young people simply taking up e-cigs instead (and I give the WashPo credit for talking about the effect of e-cigs on the young adult smoking rate.)

 

Bills would cut CDC funding for smoking prevention; limit FDA review of e-cigs, candy cigars

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I wasn’t even aware these bills were out there until I saw this recent editorial from The Hill.

There are two bills floating through Congress that would cut more than 50 percent of the funding for a Centers for Disease Control program to prevent kids from taking up smoking and for helping them to quit once they’ve started.

The second bill is even more heinous. It would restrict the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight over e-cigarettes and candy-flavoured cigars., including oversight over new tobacco products.

Gosh, I wonder who is lobbying for both of these bills?

Even though the editorial doesn’t get into partisanship, it’s also pretty obvious to me that these are likely both Republican-sponsored bills. Why they would want to cut funding for tobacco education and prevention is beyond me. I have no doubt the people behind these bills are receiving campaign contributions from Big Tobacco. It’s so cynical. And 77 percent of Big Tobacco’s political contributions go toward Republicans.

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Fortunately, even though these provisions have been approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, I doubt that either bill will become law, as long as a Democrat is in the White House. But, what a waste of time and energy to be even be proposed such ridiculous ideas.

The FDA is expected to release rules and regulations — eventually, one of these days — regarding e-cigarettes.

FDA study: Cigars are not safer than cigarettes

 

APTOPIX Cuba Cigar Festival

This story actually surprised me a little bit, because prior studies had suggested that cigarettes were actually more dangerous than cigars because cigarette tobacco is a different kind of tobacco from cigar tobacco, and it is also cured differently. Allan Brandt also talked about this somewhat in his excellent book, “The Cigarette Century.”

(Part of where this idea comes from is people smoked cigars all through the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that there was a huge uptick in lung cancer cases — roughly about 30 years after cigarettes started becoming popular in the early 1900s.)

cigar

The latest study done by the FDA contradicts this notion, showing no tangible difference in the danger from cigarette smoke and cigar smoke.

 

From a Medical Daily article:

“The results reinforce the fact that cigar smoking carries many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking,” lead researcher from the FDA Cindy Chang said in a statement. “Cigar smoking is linked to fatal oral, esophageal, pancreatic, laryngeal, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease and aortic aneurysm.”

Chang and her colleagues combed through 22 studies from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland that focused on cigar smoking, smoking-related mortality, and all-cause mortality. The studies focused primarily on white men from North America and Europe in the 1960s or earlier. Researchers assessed the health risks for cigar smokers and compared them to people with no history of cigarette smoking or people who have never used tobacco.

People who smoked only cigars and had never smoked any other tobacco products still stood a higher risk for all-cause mortality. Risk for death caused by oral, esophageal, and lung cancers increased significantly after a person started smoking cigars, even if they reported not inhaling cigar smoke. People who smoked cigarettes before picking up cigars were at a significantly higher risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared to those who smoked cigars exclusively.

I found some other links that state that cigarettes do seem to be more dangerous as far as causing COPD than just cigars.

What’s worrisome about this story is that cigar use is up — wayyy up. I believe part of the reason why is people are thinking cigars are safer than cigarettes. (The increase in cigar use has correlated with a sharp decline in smoking.) Cigar use has doubled in the U.S. from 6.2 billion in 2000 to 13.7 billion in 2011.

One thing to keep in mind about cigars is that they contain considerably more tobacco than a cigarette. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one cigar contains as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. So, even if you just smoke one cigar a day, you’re consuming as much tobacco as 20 cigarettes.

Needle in the eyes: CDC anti-smoking ads get more graphic

anti smoking ad
CDC anti-smoking testimonial. That’s a hole in his throat he is covering up.

 

The Centers for Disease Control has released a new series of “Tips from Former Smokers” ads designed to seriously turn people off of smoking — we’re talking missing teeth, operation scars and ….needles in the eyes (and yes, I watched with my hand in front of my face.).

The needles in the eye involve a testimonial from a woman suffering from macular degeneration in her eyes caused by smoking. From a story done by NBC last week on this campaign:

This year, Marlene, who isn’t fully identified, tells about having to endure regular treatments for macular degeneration. “Please don’t end up like me. Don’t sit in a doctor’s chair, have a clamp put on your eye, and have needles stuck in your eyeballs. It’s horrible,” Marlene, who is 68, told NBC News.

I get these ads on my Facebook feeds from time to time and I’ve watched a few of them. Great for NBC News to do a feature on the “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign, focusing on the cringe-worthiness of the ads.

 

Part of the emphasis of the “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign is sending the message that smoking doesn’t just cause lung cancer. Research has shown that smoking either causes or is a huge risk factor for a wide variety of diseases, including COPD, diabetes, sight loss and arthritis. I’ve personally seen how smoking probably made my mom’s arthritis much worse, if it didn’t downright cause it to begin with.

Dr. Tim McAfee, head of the CDC Smoking and Health Office, claims that the campaign has prompted 100,000 smokers to quit.

Some of the stories from former smokers quoted in the CDC campaign and NBC story:

Julia, a 58-year-old Mississippi native, advises on how to use a colostomy bag in one video. “I smoked and I got colon cancer,” she says. “What I hated the most was the colostomy bag. That’s where they re-route your intestines, so you have bowel movements that go into a bag.”

One tip: Get a sense of humor. “You’ll need it,” she says.

“When you have a hole in your neck…be very careful shaving,” advises Shawn, 50, of Washington state, a smoker who got throat cancer.

One in four nonsmokers still subjected to secondhand smoke

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This study surprised me a bit, only because I bet it’s been two or three years since I’ve last had to breath someone else’s cigarette smoke.

The Centers for Disease Research released a report this week that one in four nonsmokers continues to be exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke.

Good news, bad news: While that number is about half the percentage is 1999, 7 out of 10 African-American children are “regularly exposed” to  smokers’ secondhand smoke. And two out of five children under the age of 11 continue to be exposed to adults’ cigarette smoke.

From the NBC News articles (NBC is great for stories on tobacco control, BTW):

“Although we’ve made significant progress in reducing smoking rates … some populations are subjected to the deadly impact of tobacco more than others,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “… Secondhand smoke disproportionately affects African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, who are more likely to work in jobs that have the least amount of protection from smoking — such as service, hospitality and manufacturing industries.”

 

Interview with Centers for Disease Control chief — Tobacco is still the No. 1 health issue in America

Thomas R. Frieden

Really good interview I saw on a site called Vox.com (was not familiar with it) with Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control, about health in America. The headline talks about legalized pot, but honestly, I didn’t see pot mentioned in the article. Just trying to drive clicks, I guess. Hee, the interview room looks pretty spartan. Did they conduct this interview in an old parking garage somewhere?

Anyway, it’s a wide-ranging interview touching on  e-cigs, tobacco, vaccines, prescription drugs, etc. I’m going to focus on the tobacco and e-cig and pot part of the discussion. There’s a lot of other good stuff there if you want to read the whole thing.

Some excerpts:

Frieden’s comments on tobacco control, when asked if tobacco has become a passe public health issue. The message is, yeah, fewer people might be smoking today than in the past 100 years, but the health crisis caused by the smoking epidemic has not gone away, and we must remain continually vigilant to get the message out to kids that smoking isn’t cool:

What is the single biggest opportunity out there in health?

 I would start with tobacco control. You know what, people sometimes think, “Oh, tobacco. That’s yesterday’s issue.” It still kills more people than anything else in this country and around the world. And there’s a lot more that we can do about it. It doesn’t just kill people, it disables, disfigures, causes diseases. It increases our health care cost. Tobacco is really the number one enemy of health in this country and around the world.

When you say that a lot of people think that tobacco is yesterday’s news, what is the next step on policy? At this point you’re dealing with taxes in New York that are high enough that one out of three packs is basically smuggled into the state. When you say there’s a lot more to do, what is there more to do?

First off, there are a lot of places that haven’t yet implemented the things that we know will work, whether that’s protecting people from second-hand smoke at work or increasing tax or reducing smuggling, which there are ways to do. Or running hard hitting ads, which we know make a major impact – they save lives and save money. These are some of the things that work.

Health care system can do much better at helping people quit. Medications will double or triple the chances that you’ll succeed. But the things that are going to make the biggest impact are price, hard hitting ads and smoke-free laws.

Now, some interesting comments about e-cigs. Frieden actually mentions a couple of issues I hadn’t thought about much personally.

E-cigarettes may help in some ways but they are definitely harmful in many ways as well. If they get kids hooked on tobacco and nicotine, which they are doing. If they get smokers to continue smoking rather than quit. If they get smokers who quit to come back to smoking.

What’s your view of the evidence on whether they actually help people quit?

If they re-glamorize the act of smoking or confuse smokers at what works to quit. These are all real problems with only at this point potential benefits from e-cigarettes.

There’s one small well-done study that they helped a little bit. The patches helped a little bit in that study too. The two weren’t statistically different. We do know that people who are using e-cigarettes are not quitting at higher rates than people who aren’t using them now. As we learn more, I have no doubt that an individual here or there can be helped by them, that they might be helpful to some people. As a societal issue, they’re only going to be helpful if they’re well-regulated and if cigarettes are well-regulated.