Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids takes on Sports Illustrated over tobacco ads


Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids slammed Sports Illustrated last week for continuing to take tobacco advertising.

Magazines are split on taking tobacco advertising; quite a few refuse while others continue to take it. Very few newspapers will take tobacco advertising (believe it or not, while tobacco advertising is banned on television, there is no law against ads in newspapers; newspapers just don’t take national tobacco ads.).

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids specifically targeted SI because it’s a magazine read by a lot of kids and teens. SI’s latest Swimsuit Issue contained two cigarette ads, three smokeless tobacco ads and two ads for e-cigarettes. (I can attest to the e-cig ads because it my head exploded when I saw a Blu e-cig advertisement in SI featuring its brand on a woman’s bikini bottom.)

According to Tobacco-Free Kids, SI has more than 1.6 million teen readers.

From the group’s website:

As young readers browse through the magazine, they’ll get messages that cigarettes are fun, chewing tobacco makes you a real man and e-cigarettes are the cool new thing. Most of all, these ads mask the reality of deadly and addictive tobacco products by associating them with sex, glamour and sports, as the tobacco companies have long done.

Unfortunately, Sports Illustrated gives tobacco companies access to its youth readers on a weekly basis.

The magazine’s Sportsman of the Year issue in December was another major offender, with five tobacco ads (two for smokeless tobacco, two for e-cigarettes and one for Newport cigarettes). Featuring World Series pitching hero Madison Bumgarner on the cover, it provided tobacco companies another opportunity to link smokeless tobacco with baseball.

Tobacco-Free Kids also points out the irony of featuring smokeless tobacco ads in the Madison Bumgarner edition as in the past year, one baseball legend, Tony Gwynn, died of salivary gland cancer after a lifetime of chewing and another famous ballplayer, Curt Schilling, battled oral cancer after a lifetime of chewing.

I hope SI dumps the tobacco (and e-cig) ads eventually, but I won’t hold my breath .. and here’s why. SI just got read of its entire photography department and will only use freelancers from now on in order to cut costs. The publishing industry as a whole is hurting, partly because of the cost of paper, partly because it’s never recovered from the recession of 2008, but mostly because more and more people are going to the Internet to get their news.

As an aside, one of my biggest triumphs in my personal anti-tobacco campaign was I helped get tobacco advertising removed from Discover magazine. Years ago, I used to subscribe to it, and I was fairly pissed off when i saw a full-page ad in Discover for American Spirit cigarettes. While SI is read by a lot of teens, Discover is a magazine popular with both teens and preteens. I pointed this out to Discover. I got a free subscription out of it and an apology and a promise that they were pulling all the tobacco ads from now on (I’m sure many more people than me complained about the cigarette ad in the magazine.).



CVS revenues soaring — despite ban on tobacco sales


This is an awesome story.

When CVS Pharmacies cut out tobacco sales, everyone fully expected the company’s revenues to drop, including CVS. Instead, the opposite has happened.

In the fourth quarter of 2014, the first full financial quarter after CVS banned tobacco sales, the company’s revenues didn’t go down, they went up 12.9 percent to a record $37.1 billion.

Apparently, one of the reasons for the increase in revenues was the Affordable Care Act.

From this Forbes article:

CVS, which stopped selling cigarettes and related products in September, previously generated an estimated $2 billion in annual tobacco sales. But sales in the pharmacy segment alone in the fourth quarter jumped 21.7 percent to $24 billion buoyed by an early flu season with an ineffective vaccine that caused flu victims to search CVS for other treatment options. CVS also saw increased paying customers under the Affordable Care Act.

The newly insured Obamacare customers and increased drug sales helped overcome a dip in revenue from the front-end of the store where customers used to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Also from the Forbes article:

The end of tobacco sales has improved the company’s image and helps in discussions attracting employers to its pharmacy networks and its prescription management business. In the fourth quarter, pharmacy benefit management sales were up 21.7 percent to nearly $24 billion.

The CVS decision has also put pressure on other retailers like Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) and Wal-Mart (WMT). “It’s opening up some doors to some unique opportunities,” CVS CWO Larry Merlo told analysts.

Report: Smoking’s death toll higher than previously thought


Wow, this story is a big wow.

I had many an argument back in the day with Smoker’s Club weasels: that the death toll from smoking (440,000 a year in the U.S.) has been exaggerated by anti-smoking fanatics and the government. Well, according to a new study released this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, that death toll figure is actually too low.

This new report includes an estimated another 50,000 to 60,000 deaths a year caused by smoking (over half a million a year when you add it to the existing numbers). Over the past 20 years, research has shown that smoking is a huge risk factor for a variety of diseases beyond lung cancer and COPD — this research in particular points to diabetes and especially arthritis as diseases that appear to have ties to cigarette smoking.

One of the reasons cigarette smoking seems to cause so many diseases is that it restricts blood flow to various organs in the body. According to this report, diseases now linked to smoking include kidney disease and intestinal diseases, and heart and lung diseases not previously associated with smoking — again, due to the lack of blood flow caused by smoking.

The diseases that had previously been established by the surgeon general as caused by smoking were cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, liver, pancreas, larynx, lung, bladder, kidney, cervix, lip and oral cavity; acute myeloid leukemia; diabetes; heart disease; stroke; atherosclerosis; aorticaneurysm; other artery diseases; chronic lung disease; pneumonia;influenza; and tuberculosis.

(This list forgot to mention arthritis, which is a sore spot for me watching what my Mom is going through.)


Raley’s to no longer sell tobacco products


Raley’s, a fairly major supermarket chain in California, announced this week that it will no longer sell any tobacco products in its stores.

Raley’s is the second large store chain to refuse to sell tobacco products. The first was CVS Pharmacies, which made its decision last year.

A press release from the company states:

“This is not a decision that we’ve taken lightly. There is a very strong correlation between tobacco use and many serious health issues … At this time, the evidence against tobacco usage is simply too strong to ignore.”

Hopefully, more chains will join in. It seems to be a trend. Raley’s owns 128 supermarkets in Northern California and Nevada.

Obama proposes raising federal cigarette tax 94 cents a pack


In Obama’s proposed 2016 budget, one thing quietly included is a raise in the federal cigarette tax.

In 2009, the feds raised the cigarette tax from $0.39 a pack to $1.01 a pack. Obama is proposing in his 2016 budget raising that tax again to $1.95 a pack.  The money would go toward CHIP and preschool programs and would raise $95 billion a year annually.

(For someone that smokes a pack a day, this would raise the cost of their habit by $343 a year or $28.60 a month.)

It’s actually kind of difficult to find news about this, one of the places I found it was on a website for convenience store owners, who are understandably interested in the proposal.

I’m all for it. I think you can overtax cigarettes to the point at which you’re encouraging smokers to drive out to the nearest Indian Reservation or buy bootleg cigarettes, but 94 cents a pack, seven years after the last raise (from a ridiculously low 39 cents a pack), does not strike me as being onerous.

Of course, there’s no telling if this proposal is dead-on-arrival with a Republican Congress. Republicans not only tend to be anti-tax, they tend to be recipients of a lot of Big Tobacco campaign dollars.


Tourist dies drinking nicotine tea — you don’t mess around with nicotine

This is a tragic story. A young tourist in Peru was participating in an ayahuasca ceremony. As part of that ceremony, she drank nicotine tea to purge her body beforehand. She then died of nicotine poisoning.

This demonstrates a little-known fact about nicotine: Not only is it incredibly addictive, arguably the most addictive substance on the planet, it’s also incredibly poisonous, especially in larger doses than a person gets from a cigarette. I never even heard of nicotine tea before. Obviously, this story makes it’s clear that it’s something to be handled very carefully.


What’s brought how dangerous nicotine really is to light is e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes require these little vials of liquid nicotine. Thousands of people have been poisoned by nicotine the past few years because of these vials. Some people have been poisoned just by spilling a vial onto their skin.

In 2011, there were 271 cases of nicotine poisoning reported in the U.S. By 2014, that number had jumped to 3,957. More than half of these poisonings involved children under the age of 6. That’s a 14-fold increase in just three years. Thanks, e-cigs.



Medicare will now cover lung cancer screenings


You mean they weren’t already? Seriously? Isn’t preventing disease a lot cheaper and more efficient than treating it?

Anyway, Medicare today announced that it will begin covering lung cancer screening tests. Catching lung cancer early — <i>very</i> early — has long been known as the best way to combat it.

Medicare will pay for annual lung cancer screenings for people aged 55-77 who are current smokers or quit within the past 15 years (Me, the flaming Socialist, says free lung cancer screenings for everyone over 55, since 15 percent of the people who get lung cancer never once smoked a cigarette.)

From the NBC article:

“It will save tens of thousands of lives,” says Laurie Fenton Ambrose, president and CEO of the Lung Cancer Alliance.

“We think it’s a transformative moment for our community.”

The screenings cost $250 to $300 per person and would likely save 20 percent of the people who get lung cancer. Before you think that’s a trivial amount, remember 158,000 people a year get lung cancer in the U.S. — that translates into 31,500 lives a year saved. That’s a city the size of Monterey, Calif., saved each year.

These screenings will cost Medicare $9 billion a year, or $3 a month per each Medicare beneficiary.

The article acknowledges that nonsmokers are left out of the Medicare coverage, but that efforts are ongoing to cover everyone with occupational or genetic risks.

One in four nonsmokers still subjected to secondhand smoke


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.”


California latest state to consider raising smoking age to 21

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California is the latest state to propose raising the smoking age to 21.

A bill has been introduced into the California State Assembly to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. The State of Washington is considering similar legislation.

Some states have a smoking age of 19 (Utah, Alaska, New Jersey and Alabama), but no one has raised it to 21 yet (I need to correct this on an earlier post). Some cities and counties have raised the age to 21, including New York City and the Island of Hawaii.

I’m on record as not being a huge fan of the idea. It just comes down to two issues for me:

1) 18-year-olds can vote, die for their country and are arrested as adults if they break the law. About the only thing they cannot do is buy alcohol, and there’s a reason — public safety. It’s hard enough to convinced some 25- and 30-year-olds that they’ve had too much to drink as they get behind the wheel of a car. It’s that much harder to convinced 18- and 19-year-olds who don’t have the experience with alcohol yet that they shouldn’t be driving.

2) The second reason is I’m all for laws and regulations that I think are going to combat tobacco. I’m all for smoking bans and raising cigarette taxes (within reason) and getting smoking out of PG movies because I think these approaches have worked and continue to work to cut down smoking. I question if raising the smoking age from 18-21 is effective in keeping young people from getting started with tobacco. Most kids start smoking at 14, 15 or 16, not after the age of 18. By then, most smokers have been smoking for a few years. If 15- and 15-year-olds can already easily get their hands on cigarettes, how hard will it be for 19- and 20-year-olds?

Anyway, while I might have some misgivings about it, there seems to be growing momentum for the idea. I’m not necessarily opposed to it, I just wonder how effective it would be to raise the smoking age, and I think I’d prefer resources going toward educating kids younger than 18 about why smoking is so bad than enforcing laws prohibiting legal adults from smoking.

Libertarian stooge John Stossel: No data showing that secondhand smoke kills

Ladies — I’m a Libertarian … I’m smarter than you. Now make me a sandwich!


I can’t believe in this day and age, people are still stupid enough to try to argue this point, but then again, John Stossel is an avowed Libertarian and he does work for Fox News, so wonders never cease.

A decade ago, I butted heads on the old Topix forums with people who claimed secondhand smoke was harmless and the anti-tobacco Nazis were exaggerating the dangers from it. Dave Hitt and the Smoker’s Club used to be really hung up on the secondhand smoke is harmless argument (haven’t checked out either Website in several years, they probably still do).

Remember, decades ago, the tobacco industry argued, with some success that there was no proof that cigarettes caused lung cancer. My own parents argued that lung cancer was caused by air pollution; my mom continued to argue this even after her four-pack-a-day husband died of lung cancer at 49. They totally bought into the industry propaganda.

But, the narrative completely changed with the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on secondhand smoke that came out in 2006 detailed unequivocally, with considerable  backing from the science community, that yes, secondhand smoke is bad for you and that yes, people have actually gotten sick and died from longterm exposure to it. This was followed up with a second U.S. Surgeon General’s report in 2014 with even further details, again with considerable backing from the science community, that secondhand smoke is bad for you and that people have died from breathing it constantly.

In addition, the World Health Association, the American Cancer Society, the International Center for Research on Cancer and National Academy of Sciences all also agree — secondhand smoke kills.

john stossel

OK, that big run-up brings me to Libertarian stooge idiot John Stossel, who recently claimed, and I quote: “There is no good data showing secondhand smoke kills people.”

You mean there are still clowns trying to claim this? The Tampa Bay Times Pundit Watch, in doing a study on Fox News lies, found that 61 percent of the time, Fox News employees (not guests, employees) are making false statements or outright lying. Stossel’s whopper about secondhand smoke made the list as plain old “false.”

fox part 2

Good, thanks guys for catching it and calling out Stossel.

The Pundit Watch story does a pretty good job of explaining how the data is determined to calculate deaths from secondhand smoke. It’s just idiotic to claim there is no “good data,” but then again, science is hard for people whose worldview revolves around the  fairy tales of Ayn Rand.

From the Pundit Watch story:

It’s a complicated statistical analysis, one with which Stossel obviously finds fault. But it’s not unusual. The same method is used to attribute the number of deaths from obesity through diabetes, for example, Samet said.

“This is the basic way to use to understand how the disease is exposed to this risk,” Samet said. “We understand that there are uncertainties that go with this, but this is a very basic tool. … The approach here is embedded in science and policy and understanding how much a disease is caused by something.”

Now, part of me doesn’t care what idiotic things global-warming denialist Stossel says (Offhand — Earth to John Stossel, the porn stache hasn’t been a “look” since 1978). One thing I learned about Libertarians, don’t waste your time arguing with them. The U.S. Surgeon General, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the Academy of Sciences can all agree on a point … “Nope, I’m a Libertarian, I’m smarter than thou. You’re all wrong.” Never met a Libertarian yet who wasn’t convinced he was right about everything and had all the answers.

I mean there’s a reason that Stossel is on Fox, where once-legitimate journalists go to watch their integrity and careers wither and die (Brit Hume, Geraldo Rivera — yeah, Geraldo was considered a legitimate journalist at one time). I mean the guy has claimed that the U.S. government has helped Native Americans more than anyone, and he’s been a sexist, misogynist male chauvinist pig on not one, not two, but three separate occasions. So, I can’t take his ignorant crap about secondhand smoke terribly seriously based on his track record.


What bothers me is people who watch Fox believe whatever swill Fox pundits put out there. There’s a reason why they’re watching Fox in the first place. They only want to hear things that fit their worldview, which is immigrants are taking over, blacks are all thugs, Obama is a communist Muslim tyrant and that women are begging to be raped. So, when Libertarian moron John Stossel makes up crap on Fox and Friends, Fox viewers buy it hook, line and sinker — like my parents bought the propaganda by the tobacco industry 40 years ago hook, line and sinker.