Interesting story and the first time I’m aware of (I wouldn’t doubt it has happened before, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it) of family suing the tobacco industry because a loved one likely died of someone who died from a chewing habit, rather than a smoking habit,
Tony Gwynn’s family filed the suit in San Diego Superior Court against Altria (formerly Philip Morris). Gwynn died in 2014 at the age of 54 from salivary gland cancer after chewing tobacco for more than 30 years.
According to the lawsuit, Gwynn became addicted to their products.
“The tobacco industry had a responsibility to disclose the risk they knew of to him,” Gwynn’s attorney David S. Casey told The Associated Press. “They did not. At the time he made a choice with them marketing to try tobacco at a time it was not disclosed that it was dangerous.”
I’ve no idea what the chances are for success in the California court system. In Florida, mostly because of the Engle decision about 10 years ago, a number of families have successfully sued and received multi-million-dollar judgements from tobacco companies for the deaths of their loved ones from smoking. There are more than 8,000 such lawsuits winding their ways through the courts in Florida.
The Engle state supreme court decision overturned a $140 billion class-action judgement against the tobacco industry, but the wording of the decision basically said smokers and their families have the right to sue the industry for damages, but they have to do it on an individual basis, not as a class-action suit. That opened the door to thousands of lawsuits in Florida against Big Tobacco, and so far, several dozen judgements have gone against the industry.
From a San Diego Union-Tribune story, apparently Gwynn dipped 1 1/2 to 2 cans a day from 1977 to 2008. Oh, man, that’s an insane amount of chewing tobacco. That’s more than 17,500 cans of chewing tobacco.
Gwynn’s son, Tony Jr., said his father was used as a “billboard” to promote the product. His father, an eight-time batting champion, was often photographed with a chew in his mouth during his 20-year playing career.
He recalled visiting his father after his playing career ended, in the hospital when the Hall of Famer was being treated for cancer.
“I remember him saying that he wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody else, especially having seen what my mom and sister and the rest of our family was going through with him, you wouldn’t wish that upon anybody,” he said.
The suit says Gwynn was a perfect vehicle for promoting the products to the target audiences.
“They definitely used him as a billboard,” Tony Gwynn Jr. said of his father. “If you were a baseball fan and watched a lot of baseball, one of the things you remember really well is the outline of those Skoal cans or Copenhagen cans in the back of the (players’) pockets. Everybody knew what it was. You were virtually a walking billboard without having to pay them. They got free advertising.”
Gwynn’s death prompted a push to ban chewing tobacco in Major League Baseball. MLB wants to ban it on the field, but is facing resistance from the Players’ Association. Expect it to be part of the negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement.
Chewing tobacco has been banned in stadiums in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Chew will be banned in all stadiums in California in 2017, including San Diego and Oakland. Toronto, Minnesota and Pittsburgh are also considering laws or ordinances to ban chewing tobacco in baseball stadiums in those cities.
One thing that could hurt the Gwynn family’s lawsuit. I seem to remember when Gwynn died, some doctors were quoted as saying salivary gland cancer isn’t caused by chewing tobacco. However, Gwynn himself said he never bought that and insisted that the cancer developed in the exact spot in his mouth where he always dipped.
Disgusting, just disgusting. All I can express is rage over this one. I try not to get partisan on the Lounge, but I can’t ignore which party is behind this.
Members of the Virginia Republican Party today killed a bill that would have put an end to child labour in tobacco fields. This is an issue that has been featured by both NPR and the Daily Show. Believe it or not, there are migrant kids as young a 12 years old working in tobacco fields in the South, sometimes for 12+ hours a day, and getting sick from constant exposure to the nicotine coming off the plants.
A bill in Virginia would have stopped the practise of underaged workers working directly with tobacco plants, but Republicans on a House committee effectively killed the bill by tabling it. They wouldn’t even allow a vote on it.
A growing coalition is getting very vocal about the use of child workers on tobacco farms across Virginia. Virginia House Bill 1906 would have made it illegal for minors to work directly with tobacco plants or their dried leaves. The bill would have made an exception for children working, as part of a tradition, on family farms.
“One of the refrains we hear from kids who do this kind of work is, when they get the tobacco sickness, they say, ‘I felt like I was going to die,'” said Reid Maki, Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards Coordinator, Child Labor Coalition for National Consumers League.
“The overwhelming majority of children interviewed reported experiencing symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning,” said 49th District Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D).
Some of the opponents (aka Republicans) of the bill feel the conclusions made in the Human Rights Watch (see below) report are unfair to make at this point.
“My grandmother raised tobacco,” said 14th District Del. Daniel Marshall III (R). “I grew up in a tobacco family…My whole life I had been exposed to tobacco.”
Some of the opponents of the bill feel the conclusions made in the Human Rights Watch report are unfair to make at this point.
“My grandmother raised tobacco,” said 14th District Del. Daniel Marshall III (R). “I grew up in a tobacco family…My whole life I had been exposed to tobacco.”
Del. Marshall says he introduced the motion to defeat HB 1906 because he doesn’t like where it was going.
“Only thing they made were accusations, didn’t hear any facts,” Marshall said. “The other issue that I worried about is it tobacco this year What’s next year?”
Rep. Marshall — you’re a butthead. A serious butthead. Maybe all that exposure to nicotine as a kid is what turned you into such a serious butthead.
It’s amazing in this day and age that this is still going on. It blew me away when I found about it a year or two ago. From a Human Rights Watch video about the practise:
Child labor is common on tobacco farms in the United States, where children are exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, and other dangers. Child tobacco workers often get sick with vomiting, nausea, headaches, and dizziness while working, all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning. Many work 50 to 60 hours a week without overtime pay, often in extreme heat. They may be exposed to pesticides that are known neurotoxins. Many also use dangerous tools and machinery, lift heavy loads, and climb to perilous heights to hang tobacco for drying.
The largest tobacco companies in the world purchase tobacco grown in the US to make popular cigarette brands like Marlboro, Newport, Camel, Pall Mall and others. These companies can’t legally sell cigarettes to children, but they are profiting from child labor. US law also fails these children, by allowing them to work at much younger ages, for longer hours, and under more hazardous conditions than children working in all other sectors. Children as young as 12 can work legally on tobacco farms and at even younger ages on small farms.
We all know that the tobacco industry is a big part of the economy in Virginia, and I’m sure contributes a ton of money to state Legislators, but somehow I think the industry could survive a rule that kids between 12 and 17 can’t work in tobacco fields. I mean, seriously, this is a new low, even for Southern Republicans. C’mon man, this is about basic humanity.
Here’s a comment from the Crooks & Liars article:
My half brother and sister worked picking tobacco.
Where they grew up, it was either working restaurants, or ‘picking’. It sucked, it was hard work, they worked you to the bone. They hated the job, but it paid more than working restaurants.
It sucked. Kinda like the idea of enlisting because it’s ‘better than’, something…
‘They’ have you. ‘They’ have it all figured out…
Kids ‘picking’ got sick. Some had to quit because it got too bad. YUCK…
A coalition of tobacco companies lost a major decision this week in Great Britain. The companies — Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International — were challenging a law requiring the removal of all branding logos and fonts and plain packaging on all tobacco product as well as graphic warnings showing diseased gums and lungs, etc.
In a 386-page ruling, the High Court rules against the tobacco industry.
“It is wrong to view this issue purely in monetised terms alone,” the court ruled.
“There is a significant moral angle which is embedded in the regulations which is about saving children from a lifetime of addiction, and children and adults from premature death and related suffering and disease.”
Japan Tobacco International plans to file an appeal, but Philip Morris International announced that it will not.
From the Express:
Daniel Sciamma, UK managing director of JTI, said: “We will continue to challenge the legality of plain packaging. The fact remains that our branding has been eradicated and we maintain that this is unlawful.”
Tobacco companies fought a similar law in Australia, which was upheld by the Australian Supreme Court. However, companies have continued to fight the law in international courts, arguing that it violated trade treaties with other countries. So far, that fight has failed.
Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “This landmark judgment is a crushing defeat for the tobacco industry and fully justifies the Government’s determination to go ahead with the introduction of standardised packaging.
“Millions of pounds have been spent on some of the country’s most expensive lawyers in the hope of blocking the policy.
“This disgraceful effort to privilege tobacco business interests over public health has rightly failed utterly.”
The tobacco industry has been able to fend off plain packaging laws in the U.S., however, as courts have ruled such laws violate the companies’ First Amendment rights.
Good news, bad news on the cigarette tax front. First the good news:
Proponents of raising California’s cigarette tax from 87 cents a pack to $2.87 a pack say they have nearly twice as many signatures as needed to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. They were required to get 545,000 signatures and say they have gathered nearly 1 million.
You might be surprised to know California actually has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation. California has the 36th-highest cigarette tax in the nation and the average state cigarette tax of $1.60 a pack is nearly double California’s tax.
This is partly because even though California has one of the lowest smoking rates in the nation at about 13 percent (I believe Utah is the only state lower), the state represents about 11 percent of the population of the country, so even with a low smoking rate, California represents a huge chunk of the national tobacco market. Big Tobacco spent tens of millions fighting a cigarette tax ballot measures in 2006 and 2012 (a whopping $66 million in 2006 and at least $40 million in 2012). The industry ended up winning in 2012 by the narrowest of margins (literally 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent). Expect Altria and RJ Reynolds to again pour millions into California trying to defeat this measure. If I remember right, that proposed cigarette tax increase in 2012 was only $1 a pack, not two.
And Big Tobacco will fight it, because study after study has shown that an increase in cigarette taxes has a tangible effect of driving down the smoking rate. It simply gives people more motivation to quit and prices a lot of teens out of the cigarette market. California is roughly 10 percent of the cigarette market in the U.S. This freaks out the tobacco industry.
However, California has an ace up its sleeve this time. In addition to public health groups such as the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, the effort to raise the cigarette tax has some deep pockets of its own to combat Big Tobacco’s spending. Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer is helping to bankroll the cigarette tax measure this time around. He’s already chipped in $1 million to fund the petition drive. Several other major groups are spending millions to back the measure.
If the measure passes, it would raise roughly $1 billion a year. That money is specifically earmarked in the ballot measure for MediCal and programs to reduce smoking. Latest polls show 67 percent support for the proposal, but there was a similar level of support in 2012 before the Big Tobacco anti-tax media blitz.
Bad news in Missouri, where a state judge invalidated a ballot measure that would raise Missouri’s dead-last-in-the-nation cigarette tax of 17 cents a pack. The judge ruled that financial estimates of the ballot measure were “insufficient” and “unfair.”
This measure is extremely modest compared to California. Tax increase proponents are proposed a tax increase of only 60 cents a pack — to be phased in over three years — leaving Missouri with a cigarette tax of 77 cents a pack, which would still be one of the lowest in the nation.
From a KSL.com story:
The financial summary prepared by Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office estimates the measure would generate between $263 million and $374 million annually. That largely would go to early childhood education; smaller portions would go to early childhood health programs and anti-smoking programs for youth and pregnant women. The financial summary said the impact to local governments was unknown.
Green struck down the financial summary for two reasons: The estimate on state revenues failed to account for the fact that people may buy fewer cigarettes as the price rises, resulting in an “unreasonably high” revenue projection, and the summary should have noted the potential costs to local governments due to a possible decline in cigarette sales.
The financial summary appeared on the petitions people signed and also would appear on the ballot.
“I collected signatures myself. Nobody really ever asked about that” financial estimate, said Linda Rallo, executive director of Raise Your Hand for Kids. “They are more interested in seeing that we don’t adequately invest in early childhood education. … A lot of folks, too, think our cigarette tax is too low and would like to see that raised.”
An appeal of the decision is planned. A competing measure is being backed by the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association. This would only raise the cigarette tax by 23 cents a pack — again gradually — and would raise about $100 million annually.
Missouri is one of the most tobacco-friendly states in the country. In addition to its ridiculously low cigarette tax, Missouri has no statewide smoking ban. It also, not coincidentally, has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation at 20.6 percent (compared to a national rate below 17 percent). Missouri also has the third-highest rate of lung cancer in the country.
The West Virginia State Senate last week approved by a 17-16 vote to increase its cigarette tax by 45 cents a pack. Get this, most of the Republicans voted for the tax increase, while most of the Democrats voted against it. Why? Because the tax increase wasn’t big enough.
Like Missouri, West Virginia has a very low cigarette tax at only 55 cents a pack. Republicans are proposing making it an even $1 to help make up a $270 million budget deficit. The measure would raise an estimated $78 million a year. West Virginia may have to shut down its state government in July if a budget cannot be passed.
Democrats want to raise the tax by $1 a pack to $1.45, which would raise $115 million a year.
The proposed tax increase goes to the State House, where it faces a tough fight from a coalition of Republicans who oppose any tax increase and Democrats who want to see a bigger increase.
West Virginia has the highest smoking rate in the nation at 26.7 percent. Because of the high smoking rate and the coal industry, West Virginia also has the second-highest rate of lung cancer in the country.
California is the latest entity — and the biggest — to raise the age for buying cigarettes and vaping products to 21 (There’s a misunderstanding here, it’s not against the law for 18-year-olds to smoke or vape … it’s against the law to sell products to people under 21 now.).
This is one area where I’m not 100 percent on board with the rest of the tobacco control community. There is a part of me that thinks when you’re 18, you can vote, join the military and go to prison for committing a crime; you’re considered mature enough to vote and do prison time, but not smoke? I’m still struggling with this, though virtually the entire rest of the tobacco control community is in favour of it. The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (the group’s advocacy affiliate), the American Lung Association and the president of the California Medical Association all came in favour of the California law.
Interestingly, I think lawmakers in California listened to some of these concerns. People in the military between 18 and 21 are exempted from the law (though I need to follow up later on a story that the military is cracking down on tobacco sales on its bases.).
California now joins Hawaii and New York City and a few other places that have raised the age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21.
Perhaps this will be effective in stopping kids from not only smoking but vaping. One reason I remain a bit skeptical about how effective this law will be is most kids don’t start smoking or vaping after they turn 18; most of the time they start when they’re 13 or 14 years old. Maybe it will be harder for their 18- and 19-year-old friends or siblings to buy their tobacco products for them. We’ll see. If the teen smoking and vaping rates go down in five years because of these laws, I’ll be more
“[These laws] will save countless lives, reduce astronomical costs to the health care system, and cost very little because it uses existing enforcement mechanisms,” said Senator Ed Hernandez, who authored the bill to raise the age of tobacco products. “Today was an enormous victory for not only this generation, but also for many generations to come who will not suffer the deadly impacts of tobacco.”
One thing I like is that the bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed also prohibit the use of e-cigs in public buildings, even in bars.
The e-cigarette is nothing more than a new delivery system for toxic and addictive nicotine,” State Sen. Mark Leno said Wednesday. “Ensuring that e-cigarettes fall under California’s comprehensive smoke-free laws is critical to protecting public health, especially given the alarming rate at which young people are picking up these devices.”
What I like most about the law is that it actually makes it a criminal offence — a misdemeanor, not a citation — to sell or buy cigarettes or vaping products for underaged users. Basically, the same as alcohol. That should put a dent in retailers selling vaping products to teens.
At long last, after TWO years of deliberations, the Food and Drug Administration earlier this week FINALLY issued a ruling on e-cigarette (and tobacco) regulation.
Unfortunately, this came at a time when I was really busy, plus I wanted to take a few days to digest the news.
My initial reaction to the news was disappointment that the FDA will do nothing to control e-cigarette marketing, online sales or candy flavourings. The biggest obvious change is the sale of e-cig products to minors will be banned. However, over 40 states already ban e-cig sales to minors, so this ruling is a bit cosmetic.
However, then I started reading comments from the e-cigarette industry absolutely FREAKING OUT over these regs, and I started thinking, “wow, if the e-cigarette industry is so pissed off, the regs can’t be that bad.”
It turns out the FDA ruling is pretty complex, and I’m personally still sifting through it to see what it means, and I fully expect to be writing more posts about this over the next several weeks and months. I saw several headlines that screamed, “E-cigarettes virtually banned.” Here’s what they’re talking about and what turns out might be the biggest effect of this ruling: The FDA will require that all tobacco products (which under the FDA definition includes e-cigs even though they don’t actually contain tobacco — they do contain nicotine) that hit the market since 2007 must be individually approved by the FDA. E-cigs were basically non-existent before 2007, so this affects nearly all e-cig products.
That means nearly every e-cigarette on the market — and every different flavor and nicotine level — would require a separate application for federal approval. Each application could cost $1 million or more, says Jeff Stier, an e-cigarette advocate with the National Center for Public Policy Research and industry officials.
One million dolalrs each for every flavour? Holy cow, on the face of it, that would cripple the industry. Sure enough, industry leaders are incensed.
Ray Story, the founder and CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, called the ruling “a complete disaster.” Since 2009, his association has advocated for a change in the law that would require age verification and restrict sales to minors.
“No children should have access to these products. Just like with alcohol, these are adult products,” he said.
What he takes issue with is the FDA requirement for approval on the products, down to the batteries. He said the rule “essentially bans the product across the land.”
E-cigarette shouldn’t be sold to minors, and government should restrict advertising so they aren’t marketed to kids. But the FDA’s drastic overstep today will require e-cigarettes not already on the market by February 2007 to undergo a costly and onerous Premarket Tobacco Application process that holds e-cigarettes to a standard nearly impossible to prove, and one that well-established actual cigarettes don’t have to face.
By the way, this commentary was actually written by Jeff Stier, who is from an organization called the National Center for Public Policy Research, which is described by Wikipedia as a “conservative think tank.” These are the same kind of “think tanks” that claimed for decades that there was no proof that smoking caused lung cancer or that secondhand smoke was completely harmless. If that wasn’t convincing enough … the National Center for Public Policy Research actually receives some of its funding from Big Tobacco and Big E-Cig (Which is rapidly becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Tobacco). So take this hyperbole with as many grains of salt as you please. I take it was LOT of grains of salt.
Now, it could be these industry folks are being hyperbolic as hell. I remember back in the day everyone thought the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement was going to be the death of Big Tobacco. But, I love that the e-cig industry is freaking out. GOOD. They deserve to freak out.
Here’s why. I walk a fine line with e-cigs. I get it that e-cigs genuinely help some people get off cigarettes. There’s mixed data about the effectiveness of e-cigs as a tool for smoking cessation. But, I’ve seen enough anecdotal information online about people praising them for helping to get them off cigarettes to believe that they have a genuine value.
However, here is the problem with e-cigs. It has been painfully clear to people actually paying attention that e-cigs are blatantly marketing their products to kids … using actors dressed up as race car drivers, using women’s panties, even using Santa Clause … to sell e-cigs. Jesus …even Santa Clause? Big Tobacco did this kind of stuff 60 years ago, heck they were still using race car imagery with Joe Camel as recently as 20 years ago.
They’re using this hip, young, active, savvy, sexy imagery to addict teenagers to nicotine. For all of the benefits of e-cigs, and it appears there are some real benefits, it’s still a delivery system for nicotine. And nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. And people still don’t know what all is in e-cigarette steam. We know it contains formaldehyde and another chemical called diacetyl, which causes a disease known as “popcorn lung.”
From another very well-written USA Today editorial, this written by the USA Today editorial board of directors, appropriate titled “FDA takes e-cigs out of ‘wild West'”:
Once before, the nation let an addictive product get by with little regulation. By the time the surgeon general first warned of cigarettes’ deadly dangers in 1964, about four in 10 Americans were already hooked. It has taken more than 50 years and a costly war on smoking to cut that adult rate in half and to bring teen smoking down to about 9%.
No wonder the government and public health advocates are wary of these new “vaping” products, which also contain nicotine, and some of which are made by the same companies that brought the nation Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man.
While advocates for e-cigarettes talk about their potential upside in the future — getting smokers to quit — they seldom acknowledge the facts on the ground right now: E-cig use among teenagers is exploding. Last year, 16% of high school students used e-cigarettes at least once in the past month, making the devices more popular than traditional cigarettes among teens, according to a national survey by the federal government. That’s up from 1.5% in 2011 — an astounding rise.
Promoters argue that teens are switching to a safer product. Great if true. But some earlier data show that many teens who use e-cigarettes have not smoked traditional cigarettes before. Exactly how many fit that description now is a key question that researchers need to sort out.
Industry players also underscore that their products are only for adults. Their advertising says otherwise: The women who vape are sexy and glamorous, the men rugged and rebellious, the very themes that attracted generations of teens to traditional cigarettes. In stores, e-cigarettes are sold above ice cream freezers, next to candy and in flavors that include Cherry Crush and Gummy Bear. About 85% of youths who had used e-cigs in the past 30 days used ones that were flavored.
Game. Set. Match. Thank you, USA Today.
These rules will not go into effect immediately. I was initially deeply disappointed in the lack of regs over e-cig marketing (I believe the FDA was wary of going here because of fears over First Amendment lawsuits, and guess what, if the FDA loses a First Amendment lawsuit over e-cigs, that might affect the federal government’s ability to regulate marketing of cigarettes.). I don’t get as worked up about the candy flavouring because so many adult users have told me they like the sweet flavours, too, but I know a lot of anti-tobacco advocates hate that e-cigs are allowed to have sugary flavours.
But, this subtle little language about requiring all e-cig products to be approved by the FDA might reel in this out-of-control industry, which is selling a drug and is selling an addictive drug … to kids … with a wink and a nod … “Moi? Not us!”
Now, there is apparently legislation in Congress to push up this 2007 date and grandfather current e-cig products so they wouldn’t require individual review by the FDA. Golly wonder whose lobbyists might be behind that? I hope Obama and any other future Democratic president vetoes any such legislation that reaches his or her desk. The e-cig industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, about 40 percent of which is actually owned by Big Tobacco. It can damn well pony up to have its products approved fair and square.
I will be posting more on this, I promise, as the story develops.