USA Today, NBC News take on e-cig advertising

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Good, it’s more than me who is bothered by e-cigarette marketing techniques and how they mirror cigarette marketing techniques from 20, 30, 40 years ago.

Both USA Today and NBC News jumped all over this story with extensive articles on a study in the journal Pediatrics explaining how much exposure children have to e-cig advertising.

Researchers from RTI International found that kids aged 12 to 17 experienced a 256 percent increase in exposure to ads touting e-cigs during the study period of 2011 to 2013. The exposure of young adults, those ages 18-24, increased by 321 percent.

Man, and it’s just a coincidence that e-cig use among teenagers has exploded in the last couple of years … right, e-cig industry?

I will reiterate. I don’t have a big problem with e-cigs. They apparently help some people quit smoking, are not nearly as toxic as cigarettes and the steam is not as toxic or annoying as cigarette smoke. I honestly have the attitude that if they genuinely help people quit cigarettes, more power to ’em and to their customers. However, I have a HUGE problem with some the e-cig advertising I have seen in the past year or two … ads making e-cigs look sexy and glamourous and cool. As the headline in the NBC News story reads: “The new Joe Camel?”

The problem is kids starting up with nicotine via e-cigs rather than cigarettes because of all the advertising they’ve seen making it look cool and hip. Nicotine is nicotine. I don’t care what the delivery system is. It’s incredibly addictive and really has little or no redeeming values. It also is bad for your blood pressure and can lead to further addictions (most drug addicts started using tobacco as their first drug — fact.)

According to the NBC News article (with a photo of that anti-vaccination loon — thanks for the return of childhood Measles, dimwit — and e-cig pitchwoman Jenny McCarthy):

The researchers used a common measurement to gauge how many people saw an e-cigarette, and how often they likely saw it. Based on that data, they estimated that 50.0 percent of all kids between the ages of 12 to 17 in U.S. TV households were exposed to an average of 21 e-cigarette ads from October 2012 through September 2013.

They also say data could represent an exposure to an average of 105 advertisements for 10 percent of all U.S. youth or an exposure to an average of 13 ads for 80% of all U.S. youth over the 1-year period.

Those numbers have researchers and other public health advocates worried.

“We don’t know the extent to which an e-cigarette is really a gateway to other tobacco products,” explains lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Duke, senior public health analyst at RTI. “What we do know is that nicotine spurs changes in the brain that leads to addiction. And no one knows what the ramifications of e-cigarettes and potential addiction will be.”

USA Today’s article is titled “An explosion of youth exposure to e-cig ads”

In the USA Today story:

Results of the new media study provide “the strongest evidence that there has been an absolute explosion of youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising on television,” says Matthew Myers, president of the advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“It’s particularly disturbing precisely because Congress removed cigarette advertising from television because of the unique impact TV advertising has on young people,” Myers says. ” When e-cigarette manufacturers say that they don’t market to minors, it’s deja vu all over again. This study demonstrates the importance of FDA moving rapidly and decisively to protect our nation’s children.”

What’s especially galling to me about this is the Food and Drug Administration does have some power over e-cigs. The agency has recommended, finally, banning the sales of e-cigs and while advocates were hoping to some rules on e-cig advertising, the FDA deferred on this issue. It’s an OK first step, but the FDA needs to do more to try to prevent kids from taking up e-cigs.

 

 

Anti-soda activists look to war on cigarettes as a model with warning labels

Benjamin Lesczynski takes a sip of a "Big Gulp" while protesting the proposed "soda-ban," that New York City Mayor Bloomberg has suggested, outside City Hall in New York
French Press Agency (AFP)

Interesting article from Raw Story and the French News Agency (which does a lot of articles on tobacco and e-cigs).

Activists trying to fight obesity in kids and adults got together at the Center for Science in the Public Interest to discuss how to combat the epidemic of obesity and diabetes. One of their proposals was to copy a technique used by anti-tobacco advocates many, many years ago –legislation calling for warning labels on surgery drinks. It’s not as goofy as it sounds. Such a bill has already passed the State Senate in California.

The language is similar to warning labels for cigarettes: “Drinking beverages with added sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

“Give people the information at least,” said Harold Goldstein, one of the doctors and experts who attended the “Soda Summit.”

 “Once they have the information, then they will be ready for more.”

Now a warning label isn’t going to stop a 10-year-old kid from buying a soda, but maybe just maybe it will make parents think before buying a 12-pack of Coke for their kids if they are seeing that warning on the box.

Interesting, I have seen the period between 1960 and 2000 often referred to as either the “Tobacco War” or the “Cigarette War.” This article references the “Soda War.” I guess with the severe epidemic of diabetes, especially in the Deep South, it’s reaching the same level of urgency as the battle against tobacco 50 years ago (which obviously lingers to this day, or I wouldn’t be here doing this.).

The good news is, the education is having an effect:

“The signs of early victories in this war are that soda consumption, particularly consumption of sugar sweetened sodas, is down significantly” from a peak in 1998, said Jim Krieger, an organizer. “People are getting the message.”

Annual US consumption has dropped from 55 gallons to 44 gallons, a 17 percent decline, and water consumption has increased 38 percent over that period.

Russia bans smoking in restaurants, cafes and hotels — yes, Russia

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Russia, one of the most heavily smoking nations in the world is cracking down on tobacco use. I’m honestly kind of shocked by this.

Russia passed a smoking ban that had already been implemented at schools, public transportation and hospitals. Now, part two of the ban is coming into play — bans on smoking in restaurants, cafes and hotels (apparently not bars, yet, however.).

Russia joins most of the rest of Europe in implementing various levels of smoking bans.

In addition, according to this article from the French Press Agency, Russia has also raised the taxes on cigarettes, more than doubling the price of  a pack from 25 rubles in 2010 to 59 rubles in 2014. (Still cheap, that’s $1.25 Euros vs. $1.70 Euros per pack).

Here is a funny article from NBC News about Russians complaining about the smoking bans, one of them saying, “We are a doomed country.” (Oh, Christ that reminds me of the some of the doom and gloom stuff from smokers’ rights weasels in the U.S. 10 years ago about smoking bans.).

Russia, like much of Eastern Europe, is a region of the world where people smoke heavily. According to this article, 40 million of the 143 million people in Russia smoke, about 28 percent, compared to about 19 percent in the U.S. And according to the same article, about 400,000 people in Russia die every year from smoking -related illnesses.

Unfortunately, Russia basically being the Wild, Wild west, especially when it comes to tobacco control, I fully expect these smoking bans to be flouted by a lot of people. The higher tax rate on cigarettes has created a huge black market in Russia, with dealers buying cigs in Belarus or Kazakhstan. Still in the French Agency article, tobacco officials concede their sales are dropping, and that blaming the black market is an excuse.

 

 

Gil Hodges ad promoting cigarettes — Gil Hodges died of heart attack at 47

Gil Hodges

My old Oregon friend Bill posted this on a Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame page.

As I posted a few weeks ago, a lot of baseball players endorsed cigarettes. I found literally dozens of ads of baseball players endorsing either chew or cigarettes — and a hell of lot of them died young of cancer.

Gil Hodges was only 47 when he died in 1972. He literally keeled over dead from a massive heart attack while golfing. He was also a chain smoker. I’ve often wondered if he would have long ago been in the Hall of Fame had he lived and continued to manage and had his face and profile out there. He was 10th all time in home runs when he retired, an integral part of a number of Dodger champion teams, and arguably the best first baseman in the National League during the 1950s. On top of that, he managed a World Series-winning team with the Mets in 1969. But, he was quickly forgotten when he died. He was good, but wasn’t quite as good as Duke Snider, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron and a few others. Still, when you see guys like Tony Perez, Ron Santo and Orlando Cepeda in the Hall of Fame, it’s really hard to believe Hodges can’t get in. (And my point stands that one of the reasons Santo got in was he had a high-profile job for many years as an announcer.).

Hopefully, that will be cured soon. Gil Hodges is on a short list of serious contenders for the Hall of Fame from the Veterans Committee. He is such an obvious oversight.

Anyway, I always cringe at the irony of stars endorsing cigarette products — stars who later died  of cancer such as Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne. Or in the case of Gil Hodges, heart disease.

Mother Jones jumps on tobacco on military bases story

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Mother Jones has an interesting take on a story I posted about a few weeks ago, when a proposal to ban tobacco sales on military bases fizzled.

Mother Jones writes:

Suppose you wanted to quit drinking, but all the AA meetings in your town were held in the back of a bar with $2 well drinks?

That’s basically the conundrum the US military faces when it comes to regulating tobacco. Smoking is a drain on the force, physically and financially, and over the years the brass has implemented all sorts of efforts to get soldiers and sailors to avoid it, with some success. But every time military officials make a move to stop offering cheap cigarettes to their personnel, they get shot down by the tobacco industry’s allies in Congress. In the latest skirmish, earlier this month, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee launched a preemptive strike to prevent the Navy from ending tobacco sales on Navy and Marine bases and ships.

One thing to remember, not only are tobacco products available on military bases and ships … they’re considerably cheaper than what you find in civilian retail outlets because when tobacco products are sold on military bases, the local and state taxes don’t apply. Seven times, advocates have attempted to have the prices on military bases raised to civilian levels and seven times, they’ve failed, thanks to Big Tobacco lobbying and Big Tobacco allies in Congress. Another study showed that the average civilian price of Marlboro Reds is $6.73 a pack, while on military bases, it’s $4.99 a pack, nearly 30 percent lower.

According to Mother Jones, 36 percent of men aged 45-54 in the military smoke, compared to 24 percent of nonmilitary men in that same age group.

All of this puffing amounts to a massive medical bill, not just for the men and women dying horrible deaths from cancer and heart disease and emphysema, but for the taxpayers, too. In his letter to the Navy, (Rep. Duncan) Hunter, R-Calif. (a proponent of tobacco sales on military bases), noted that banning tobacco sales would mean a loss of profits for the Military Exchange Command. In reality, cigarettes are a net loss for the military. For every dollar of profit from selling tobacco to personnel, according to data from a 1996 Inspector General’s report, the Pentagon spent more than nine dollars on healthcare and lost productivity.

 

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.