New York City bans cigarette sales to people under 21

teen-smokingOK, I’ve been called a do-gooder more times than I can count, but even for me this is a bit much (thanks to Haruko for the link). Sorry to the rest of my tobacco control brethren whom I support 97 percent of the time, I can’t completely jump on board this one. I have enough of a Libertarian streak that I think this is a little overboard.

The City of New York just imposed a ban on cigarette sales for people under the age of 21.

My problem with this is it likely will do little to cut down on smoking and it just smacks a little too much of “nanny state.” This is the same city under serial do-gooder Michael Bloomberg banned extra large sodas, which didn’t stand up to legal challenges (dumbest law ever. People would just buy two large sodas rather than one jumbo soda and drink the same amount.) Bloomberg was behind this law, too, though he is no longer mayor.

On Raw Story, which is a pretty liberal web site, even most of the supposed “nanny state liberals” are opposed to this. 18-year-olds can get a full driver’s licence, they can join the military, they can vote, they can see R-rated movies by themselves. But, they can’t buy a pack of cigarettes in New York City. Really? I’m old enough to remember that 45 years ago, young adults protested for the right to vote. And after years of protests and the ugliness of the Vietnam War, in which they could not vote but were asked to die for their country, they’re told in NYC they can’t buy a pack of smokes?

Haruko beat me to this point. The only thing 18-20 year olds can’t do is legally buy or use alcohol. The theory behind keeping alcohol illegal for kids under 21 is that teens haven’t developed the common sense yet to know when they are too drunk to drive. Of course, you can say this about ANYONE, but it’s particularly acute for kids 18-21. So there is some common sense to that law. But, I’m not seeing the common sense in the New York City law and I question whether it will accomplish anything. I doubt it will stop 18-21 year-olds from smoking.

The difference between alcohol and cigarettes is cigarettes aren’t an intoxicant, well, not much of one … let’s put it this way, no one ever got killed from someone smoking and driving. And frankly, I don’t see how this is going to save anyone’s life. Very, very few people start smoking between 18-21. Almost everyone starts smoking at 15-18, when cigarettes are already illegal for kids. All this is going to do is encourage adult teens to get their older brothers or friends to buy their cigarettes for them, or they can just drive or take the subway to Hoboken or out to Uniondale or Hempstead or to Yonkers and buy all the cigs they want (or frankly, it will probably encourage more adult teens to use e-cigs. The law also banned e-cig sales to adult teens, but again, they can just take a subway to Long Island to buy their e-cig products.). Again, it’s laws like this that don’t seem to be based on a lot of common sense that give the tobacco control crowd such a bad rep as do-gooders. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone files suit over the law (like people did against New York’s really stupid jumbo soda pop law).

Frankly, I support an approach of continuing to educate kids of the dangers of smoking rather than this law. In the long run, education will make more inroads than laws that adult teens will see as specious and hypocritical.

 

Big Tobacco getting into the e-cigarette business — a good thing or a bad thing?

Photo Credit: Goodluz / Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Goodluz / Shutterstock

Here is a story from Alternet about how Big Tobacco companies are buying into the e-cigarette business. This began a couple of years ago when Lorillard (Newport Cigarettes) bought Blu E-Cigs, the biggest e-cig company out there. RJR owns an e-cig brand called Vuse.

The article correctly points out that there are no rules or regulations controlling marketing of e-cigs to minors, which is a major concern to me and other anti-tobacco advocates. E-cig companies have been pretty aggressive in using the exact same techniques to market their products as the tobacco companies used to market cigarettes 30 and 40 years ago.

This is a fairly scathing article from Alternet, and based on my research into e-cigs, I see some of the points they are making (I totally agree with the article’s points about the dangers of no control over e-cig marketing), but don’t entirely agree with all of them, suggesting that e-cigs are nearly or virtually as bad as cigarettes. A number of commenters (and e-cig proponents) are taking Alternet to task for the article.

Let me make it clear — again — I am not an e-cig proponent. BUT, I have read and heard enough anecdotal evidence to accept that they may help SOME people quit smoking. And while e-cigs are not entirely harmless, nor are they anywhere nearly as toxic as cigarettes.  Do, I think they should be regulated? Absolutely. The FDA is doing this and importantly, is banning sales to minors. Do I think their marketing should be regulated? Absolutely. The FDA is NOT doing this, but should. Do I think they need to be banned? No, I’m not on board with that yet.

The article decries that Big Tobacco is getting into the e-cig business. I don’t see this as either a bad thing or a good thing. I see it as an inevitable thing.

Big Tobacco has lost billions in sales in the U.S. and the rest of the West in the past 25 years as smoking rates have plummeted, and lately smoking rates among young people, which had stubbornly refused to drop, finally starting dropping dramatically about four or five years ago.

Big Tobacco is a lot of things, evil, venal, amoral, etc., but it isn’t stupid. The execs see the future, and the future is, cigarette sales in the West will never remotely approach where they were 30 years ago, and will continue to decline. So, what are they doing? Diversifying. Into e-cigs. It’s capitalism, love it or hate it.

 

NPR story: Kids are harvesting the tobacco for cigarettes and getting sick doing it

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NPR photo — Eddie Ramirez, 15

Outstanding story from NPR today; really powerful stuff.

Listen to the NPR report here.

Kids, some as young as 12 years old, are helping to harvest tobacco crops through much of the South. NPR interviewed Eddie Ramirez, a Honduran kid who picks tobacco with his migrant family in the South:

“In the mornings, tobacco is wet because of the dew and, like, the rows are narrow and the tobacco is really big. You just feel like you’re suffocating or can’t breathe really well,” he says. “You just want to stop and not do it no more.”

Well, all that tobacco is absolutely leaking nicotine, and as I’ve talked about especially a lot lately, nicotine is actually poisonous, especially to kids. So, these young kids are absorbing nicotine through the hands and skin by working in the tobacco fields all day (Remember a story I posted about a woman ending up in the emergency room because she fell asleep on a bottle of liquid nicotine for her e-cigarette and got severe nicotine poisoning because it was absorbed into her system through skin contact?)

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In the NPR article:

“We found that the overwhelming majority of kids we interviewed got sick while they were working in tobacco fields with nausea, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness,” says Human Rights Watch researcher Margaret Wurth. “And many of the symptoms they reported are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, which happens when workers absorb nicotine through their skin.”

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A group called Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 children who work in tobacco fields, but has no idea how many kids are really doing this … and possibly getting sick from it. The group is calling for the end of using child labour in tobacco fields, and is calling on Big Tobacco to take a more active role in stopping it.

Of the 133 kids interviewed by HRW, more than 66 percent reported feeling sick with symptoms consistent with nicotine poisoning; 73 percent report getting sick in the fields with other symptoms.

Just awful story, and it’s being enabled by the Labor Department, which refused under political pressure (gosh, from where, I wonder? RJR and Philip Morris, no doubt)  to implement tougher work standards for employers hiring crews to work in tobacco fields.

Anyway, a great story that sheds a light on something that needed to be exposed, and needs to stop.

 

Committee votes to allow tobacco sales on military bases

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A loss for the anti-tobacco crowd.

They had been a proposal to ban tobacco sales on military bases (not smoking, but sales), but the House Armed Services Committee (obviously stacked with Republicans) did the opposite, approving a measure to specifically protect tobacco sales on military bases. (Had to use a Stripes link, because the only other stories I found were Washington Times and Fox News. I don’t post links to the Moonie Times or Faux News.).

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a former Marine, said:

young servicemembers should have the right to smoke or chew, and lawmakers who support base tobacco bans should “just outlaw war” because it also damages servicemember health.

OK, fair enough, I guess, except the proposal never said that service people couldn’t smoke or use tobacco products on bases; it just said that these products couldn’t be sold on the bases. So, that is a false analogy, I think. By protecting tobacco sales on military bases, you aren’t doing the service people any favours, you’re just making it easier for Big Tobacco.

 

 

Smoking can both cause arthritis and make it worse

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You know, when I first got into this racket five or six years ago, I would have never believed smoking — in particular heavy smoking — actually not only can cause arthritis, it makes arthritis far worse for the people who develop it.

This is something I’ve been meaning to touch on for weeks. This topic is an especially raw subject for me, because my mom is absolutely suffering from severe arthritis; she is diabetic and has COPD and high blood pressure, but honestly, the last year or so, it’s been the arthritis that has robbed her the most of her quality of life (And if anyone has witnessed the ravages of COPD, you know that to say that arthritis is wrecking her quality of life more than COPD is a hell of a claim, but it really is. The COPD is under control for the moment, but not the arthritis.)

She can sometimes barely move or walk because of the pain. When I last visited her, she could barely get in and out of bed and could barely use the restroom. She was in agony; it’s in her spine and most of her body, frankly. The only way she could function was by taking oxycontin and other heavy painkillers and they make her sick to her stomach, it’s terrible. When I last saw her, an epidermal had helped her, but she was still getting sick to the stomach from the oxycontin. It’s either throw up a lot or be in excruciating pain — that’s the choice she faces.

x-rayI hate to come off like, “she did it to herself,” because frankly, no one even really knew about the connection between smoking and rheumatoid arthritis (from now on, RA, because rheumatoid is a pain in the ass to spell) until a couple of years ago. Additionally, other studies have shown that smoking increases the risk for osteoarthritis (essentially the loss of cartilage — and smoking can cause a deterioration of cartilage, somewhat different from RA), as well. (I’ve had Mom’s arthritis described as both osteoarthritis and RA to me. The story has changed over the years. Her hands look like RA to me.) Anyway, Mom didn’t know, only a few people knew. And frankly, blaming her doesn’t do her or me or anyone any good.

So, to be clear, I am not point a finger and laying blame. Just simply trying to explain the staggering physical damage that smoking causes — and the damage I’ve seen with my own eyes.

I began reading a couple of years ago about the ties between smoking and arthritis. I dismissed it initially; you see a lot of articles splashed all over the Internet saying that smoking is a “risk factor” and , and since then, I’ve seen a literal cascade of information about how smoking both causes RA and makes it far worse. And all I can think of when I read this stories is my mom.

It’s important to remember that RA is an autoimmune disorder. While it is a genetic disorder (as is lung cancer), studies have show that smokers are three times as likely to develop RA as nonsmokers, in particular heavy smokers. So, like lung cancer, smoking is environment and genetics working together to ravage the body.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General put out a report on the 50th anniversary on the landmark 1964 USSG report declaring that smoking causes lung cancer detailing all the other diseases believed to be caused or exacerbated by smoking, which people didn’t know in 1964. A the top of this list is diabetes, macular degeneration, erectile dysfunction … and arthritis.

From the 2014 U.s. Surgeon General report:

Immune and autoimmune disorders: This report finds that smoking is a cause of general adverse effects on the body, including systemic inflammation and impaired immune function (Chapter 10). One result of this altered immunity is increased risk for pulmonary infections among smokers. For example, risks for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and for death from tuberculosis disease are higher for smokers than nonsmokers (Chapter 7). Addi­tionally, smoking is known to compromise the equi­librium of the immune system, increasing the risk for several immune and autoimmune disorders. This report finds that smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis, and that smoking interferes with the effectiveness of certain effectiveness of certain treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (Chapter 10).

This report finds that active smoking is now causally associated with age-related macular degeneration, diabetes, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, adverse health outcomes in cancer patients and survivors, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction, orofacial clefts in infants, ectopic pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, and impaired immune function.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

  1. The evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between cigarette smoking and rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition, a recent Swedish study focused on smoking and RA among women. this study surveyed 34,000 people and found that women smoking as little as one to seven cigarettes a day more than double their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

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(My mom, at her heaviest smoking, probably smoked 30-plus cigarettes a day)

Not only does smoking increase the risk of RA, but it makes the arthritis worse and more difficult to treat, other studies have shown.

I mean, this is stuff I didn’t know as recently as a year ago, but the evidence is pretty overwhelming and pretty damning. Just part of the 20th century tobacco holocaust. Even if you are spared lung cancer, there’s so many other things that smoking does to the body. And not only does smoking kill people, it also destroys the quality of life through COPD and arthritis and other diseases. It’s a plague.

Great article comparing today’s e-cig ads to vintage cigarette ads

1933-v-2012-e-cigarette-ads-can-target-the-free-flowing-disposable-income-of-the-crucial-nightlife-crowd

This is a point I’ve been making for weeks now. E-cig companies are making their ads almost identical to cigarette ads from 40 and 50 years ago, using sex and sophistication to sell their products.

Business Insider came up with a feature showing the amazing similarity between today’s e-cig ads and vintage cigarette ads. The problem with this? Tobacco companies are on record using sex, sophistication and even cartoon characters with the expressed purpose of marketing those cigarettes to teens (or, what the industry liked to call “new smokers.”)

It’s no secret e-cig use has been growing exponentially the last couple of years, and in particular, it’s becoming increasingly popular with kids. One of the reasons for the use of e-cig among kids is that until now, it’s been legal to sell e-cigs and e-cig products to kids, so it’s a lot less hassle for kids to get their hands on them than cigarettes (and ultimately much cheaper, too).

It wouldn’t be that big of a deal except e-cigs contain nicotine and as we all know, nicotine is one of the most physically addictive products on Earth, so the e-cig companies can act all innocent, but they know damn well kids are buying their product and their product will addict kids to nicotine.

Anyway, here is the gallery from Business Insider with these amazing comparisons.

 

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Legacy puts out scathing report on e-cigarette marketing to kids

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Good. Apply the pressure to the FDA to crack down on e-cigarette advertising aimed at teens.

The Legacy Project put out a no-nonsense report this week taking the e-cigarette industry to task for pretty blatantly marketing e-cigs to kids.

I will quote from Legacy directly here:

Key findings include:

Use and Awareness among Teens and Young Adults:

  • Results indicate that awareness of e-cigarettes among young people is nearly ubiquitous, ranging from 89% for those ages 13-17 to 94% for young adults ages 18-21.
  • In addition to this extremely high awareness of e-cigarettes, ever-use (whether a product has ever been tried) among these age groups is also high, with 14% of those ages 13-17 and 39% of those ages 18-21 reporting having used e-cigarettes.
  • Results show that, among the major advertising channels, youth awareness of e-cigarette advertisements is highest at retail sites, with 60% of teens ages 13-17 and 69% of young adults ages 18-21 saying they always, most of the time, or some of the time see e-cigarette advertising at convenience stores, supermarkets, or gas stations.

Industry Advertising:

  • Overall, e-cigarette advertisers spent $39 million from June through November 2013, with magazine and national TV accounting for more than three-quarters of dollars spent.
    • Magazines made up the majority of the ad dollars spent ($23 million; 58%)
    • National TV ads were second, accounting for 19% of spending at $7.4 million.
  • From June through November 2013, the blu, NJOY and FIN brands put the most money towards advertising, accounting for 86% of the overall category spend.
    • Far and away, blu spent the most money on paid e-cigarette advertising during this time, accounting for 56% of all e-cigarette ad spending—more than all other brands combined.

Just two weeks ago (April 14), key Senate and House leaders released a similar report concluding that e-cigarette companies are aggressively promoting their products to young people – much like tobacco companies have in the past. The report surveyed nine e-cigarette companies and found that:

  • Many companies are promoting their products through sponsorship of youth-oriented events, and some companies are offering free samples of e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes are available for purchase in stores and online by children and teenagers.
  • Surveyed e-cigarette companies extensively utilize social media and product websites to promote their products.
  • E-cigarette product warning labels lack uniformity and may confuse or mislead consumers.

These two complementary reports on e-cigarettes demonstrate that many of the tactics that have long-been banned or restricted by both the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act are now being utilized to market these emerging products to youth. Legacy’s report adds to the data Congress has already collected – showing that e-cigarette companies are aggressively promoting these products and reaching our nation’s young people.

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Pretty damning. I really hope the FDA reels in the e-cig industry. I don’t have a problem with e-cigs, but I’ve grown increasingly turned off with their advertising techniques and how they are obviously trying to make e-cigs look hip and sexy (rather than promoting them as a smoking cessation product.). The biggest problem with e-cigs is they do contain nicotine and nicotine is incredibly physically addictive. Physical addiction is not sexy or cool. It’s one thing if someone uses e-cigs to quit smoking, it’s quite another if a 16-year-old starts using them because they seem cool.

Legacy is a group formed as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and is the group behind those “Truth” TV ads you have probably seen over the years.

 

Great old Mad magazine anti-smoking ad

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Got this from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. This is great! Really funny.

Mad magazine used to be famous for its fake ads (and some of them looked very real).

Here is a scathing ad from way back in 1965 just skewering Big Tobacco with a “Us Cigarette Makers Would Rather Fight than Quit” ad, mocking the old, long running Tareyton cigarette campaign of “I’d rather fight than switch.”

As a smoker smokes a dollar bill, the ad for “Carry On” reads:

“You think we’re going to let our billion-dollar industry go up in smoke? Sure those Gov’t reports linking cancer and smoking gave us a black eye! But just you wait! Our own scientists and public relations men are hard at work and we’ll be fighting back pretty soon!”

The ad concludes: “Coming Soon! Self serving reports to help the tobacco industry. Higher sales through statistical double talk.”

Wow, that is REALLY ahead of its time. I guess Mad magazine had no desire for any cigarette advertising.

 

Baseball stars who endorsed tobacco products — a lot of them died young

Roger Maris
Roger Maris died of cancer at 50

Again, another idea from Haruko.

She showed me an ad with Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams advertising cigarettes and I got the bright idea to see how many ads there had been with baseball stars hawking tobacco products.

And when I looked, I said, “WHOA!”

I found dozens upon dozens upon dozens of ads going all the way back to the early 1900s. I was really shocked. I had never seen these ads before. I knew full well that tobacco companies had used many, many movie stars over the years to sell cigarettes, but I wasn’t aware of all the baseball ads.

The first ad that popped up hit me like a ton of bricks — Roger Maris. Roger Maris, as we all know, smoked five packs a day to deal with the stress of going after Babe Ruth’s home run record. He also died at the age of 50 from cancer. (Strangely enough, his family has always been fiercely private about what exactly Maris died of. There’s been varying reports that he died either of head and neck cancer, lung cancer, lymph gland cancer or lymphoma; I’ve found articles saying all four. The family has always been reticent to discuss it and the story seems to have changed at times about what exact kind of cancer he had. All I can think of is they don’t want people saying, “Well, Maris did it to himself.” Anyway, I digress. He died of cancer. At the age of 50.)

Maris also had a fairly short career. He was basically done at 30 and completely out of baseball at 33. I’ve always wondered if his heavy smoking habit helped break his body down so quickly. It definitely couldn’t have helped.

Babe Ruth died of throat cancer at 53
Babe Ruth died of throat cancer at 53

Another ad that jumped out of me was Babe Ruth endorsing Old Gold. He was a smoker and chewer who died of throat cancer at 53. There’s more. DiMaggio was in a ton of cigarette ads. And while he lived into his 80s, he died of lung disease (likely COPD). Another one that jumped out at me — Jackie Robinson, who died at 52 of diabetes (and it’s known today, not then, that smoking is a risk factor for diabetes).

Another tobacco ad featured Harry Heilmann, a very good hitter in the 1920s. He died of lung cancer at the age of 56. Another chew ad featured Nellie Fox, a Hall of Famer who died at 47 of melanoma.

Anyway, here is a slideshow of these old baseball tobacco ads:

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