All posts by Pepe Lepew

Can China really stop 350 million people from smoking?

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Deng Xiaoping, “Paramount Leader” of China 1982-1987

Interesting read from NBC about China getting serious about cracking down on smoking.

China is the biggest smoking country on the planet with 350 million smokers (compared to about 45 million in the U.S.). According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million people in China die every year from smoking-related illnesses. WHO also estimates 3 million Chinese will die every year from smoking-related diseases by 2050.

A high level Chinese committee announced last week that it plans to ban smoking in public places by the end of 2014. (China also recently banned public officials from smoking in public).

I have no idea how strictly such a ban would be enforced. The state tobacco company in China, called China National Tobacco Corporation, grossed an incredible $19 billion last year in tobacco sales (making it the largest tobacco company in the world, not Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds or BAT.) Is China really looking to put a dent in its own $19 billion business? (By the same token, why would state governments want to really cut smoking rates when they get so many revenues from cigarette taxes? It’s a conundrum.)

Anyway, I’ll keep my eye on this developing story. See if China is really serious about a smoking ban.

 

Yet another Marlboro Man dies from smoking

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Incredible, yet another “Marlboro Man” dies from smoking. By my count, that makes four.

Eric Lawson, who portrayed the iconic Marlboro Man cowboy in Marlboro ads from 1978 to 1981, died this week of COPD at the relatively young age of 72. He appeared in anti-smoking ads after he worked for Philip Morris.

Lawson joins Marlboro Men models Wayne McLaren, Dick Hammer and David McLean, all of whom died of lung cancer. McLaren testified in favour of anti-smoking laws many years ago and Philip Morris tried to claim he was never a Marlboro Man model, but McLaren still had pay stubs calling him the Marlboro Man (what, a tobacco company LYING…?)

 

More 50-year anniversary stories: Smoking has killed 20 million people since 1964

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Another story on the 50-year anniversary of the Surgeon General’s, this one from Think Progress.

The RawStory article touched on this, but this article deals with it more directly: Since the 1964 landmark Surgeon General’s report, more than 20 million people in the U.S. have died as a result of smoking — 2.5 million of those deaths are blamed on secondhand smoke (boy that’ll drive the Smokers’ “secondhand smoke is harmless” Club crazy.).

Think about that — what a holocaust, and that’s just in the U.S. That’s more than twice the number of people killed in Hitler’s Holocaust — only it happens in slow motion, a person there, a person here. I know I watched my mom’s entire circle of friends wiped out by smoking — almost all of her friends smoked and most of them died of cigarette-caused diseases relatively young. She smoked for 60 years and managed to outlive almost all of them.

 

More 50-year anniversary stories: Cigarettes do more than cause lung cancer

A-woman-smokes-a-cigarette-in-the-pedestrian-plaza-located-in-Times-Square-AFPLots of news outlets are doing 50-year anniversary stories on the Surgeon General’s landmark report. I’m posting links to a couple of them.

This one is from RawStory (Reprinted from a French news service — thanks to Haruko for the link and there she is posting away and a bunch of people shilling ecigs– starting to see these folks all over the Internet, and am starting to wonder how many of them are paid to promote ecigs), about a 50-year anniversary report put out. Two conclusions from this report stood out for me:

1) Cigarettes are more potent than they’ve ever been.

2) And this is a big one, there’s a LOT more health risk involved in smoking than just lung cancer. The updated report specifically mentions:

…. active smoking can cause a common form of blindness called age-related macular degeneration, as well as diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer.

Smoking can also cause tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction, facial clefts in infants, ectopic pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, impaired immune function, and worsens the outlook for cancer patients and survivors.

Those who do not smoke but are exposed to second-hand smoke face an increased risk of stroke, said the report.

So, it’s right there in an official Surgeon General’s report: Smoking increases the risk for macular degeneration, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and arthritis (in particular, I’ve been looking into the ties between arthritis and smoking. Want to do a major post about that soon). This is important to me, because people tend to get hung up on idea that smoking causes lung cancer and that’s it. A lot of information has been coming out in the past 5 years about the connection between smoking and diabetes and arthritis.

 

Senators: E-cigarettes glamorized during the Golden Globes

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OK, this is just getting silly.

Dick Durbin, D-IL, Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, Sherrod Brown, D-OH, and Edward J. Markey, D-MA, all slammed the Golden Globes for “glamorizing” e-cigarettes during last weekend’s show. because Julia Louis-Dreyfus was shown smoking an e-cig.

According to this article:

Louis-Dreyfus — nominated at the ceremony for her roles in the film “Enough Said” and the television series “Veep” — was seen drawing from an “e-cigarette” and blowing smoke out of her mouth as part of a gag skewering haughty Hollywood behavior.

“She has really changed,” co-host Amy Poehler deadpanned from the stage, as Louis-Dreyfus, wearing cat-eye sunglasses, caricatured a snooty star.

The letter from the Senators to the Golden Globes reads:

“In light of studies showing that exposure to on-screen smoking is a major contributor to smoking initiation among youth, we are troubled that these images glamorize smoking and serve as celebrity endorsements that could encourage young fans to begin smoking traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes.”

I hate to come off like I’m promoting e-cigs (I’m really, really NOT — seriously) , but this whole skit struck me as being fairly benign. Don’t you think U.S. Senators have some bigger issues to deal with?

NBC, CNN go all out on smoking this weekend

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For the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s watershed report on smoking and lung cancer, both NBC News and CNN had for a time last weekend smoking as their top stories. Imagine my excitement seeing cigarette smoking dominating the top of both websites with so many other stories going on — Ariel Sharon’s death, Bridgegate, West Virginia, etc.

(Hey, doesn’t that Bing window look like a cigarette?)

Anyway, NBC’s take on the issue was to look at, yes the smoking rate in the U.S. has been reduced greatly since 1964, from 43 percent to 19 percent, but can it ever be reduced to 0?

Several experts weighed in. One idea was to raise the minimum age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21. Another one, by Michael Fiore of the University of Wisconsin, is a two-pronged approach of “hard-hitting public policy. At the same time, we need the ready availability of treatments for smokers.”

Yes, I agree. Treatment should be available and covered by insurance, be it patches, Nicotine gum, or even Chantix or e-cigs (and I’m not wild about the last two, in fact, I’m not positive any health care officials consider e-cigs a “treatment.”)

NBC also cited a Harvard study stating that smoking has killed 17.7 million people in the U.S. between 1964 and 2012 (So, when I call it a “holocaust,” I am not screwing around — 17.7 million people is a holocaust.

Also mentioned in the NBC article. How to stop smoking? Stop it before people start, before nicotine’s incredible addictiveness takes hold. 88 percent of smokers begin smoking before they turned 18. Education, education, education, is the way to stop smoking.

Ah, the NBC article also talks about how the $180 billion from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement is not being used properly to combat smoking. Instead that money is being used by states simply to help balance their general funds. States are receiving $8 billion a year from the settlement, but are only spending $640 million a year on tobacco control.

A good article from NBC News, that touches broadly on most of the major issues surrounding tobacco control.

 CNN story on smoking — Why do people still smoke?

I like CNN’s angle, too. CNN asks the question of when people know how bad smoking is for you, why do they still smoke? The answer, according to CNN, a “portrait of defiance.

CNN dug up a portrait site on smokers (Oh, man, I have to do a separate post on this site with the photog’s permission, hopefully). The photographer, Laura Noel, said that:

While shooting these portraits, she noticed the age difference among smokers. Young smokers, she said, enjoy it with a kind of practiced defiance. “You see a little more of the addiction when people get older.”

The CNN story makes a great point. The whole argument that smoking is a “personal choice” becomes complete bullshit when the smoker is no longer making the choice to smoke — the nicotine is in control. It stops being “choice” when addiction takes hold. (The tobacco industry long ago abandoned the battle trying to fight the evidence that smoking is deadly and has instead adopted a Libertarian coda that it’s personal choice. I’ve had two or three Libertarian trolls stink up this blog with their “personal choice” bullshit, too. And, oh by the way, of course, none of them were actual smokers. :roll:)

“Smokers typically start smoking as adolescents or young adults, with initial smoking occurring in social situations,” said Sherry McKee, the director of the Yale Behavioral Pharmacology Lab. “Most young smokers believe that they can easily quit at any time and nearly all believe that they won’t be long-term smokers.”

“Ultimately, they will lose their capacity to make a free choice to smoke,” said Jed Rose, the director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation in North Carolina. “Then 30 years later, that’s when we typically see them in our program desperately trying to quit, because now they can’t go a single day without (a cigarette).”

And one final point in the CNN story, something I actually learned. I never really thought of this, but it makes sense. The addiction to smoking is more than just the chemical components of nicotine, it has to do with the smoking behaviour.

“The chemicals in cigarettes work on the structures deep within a smoker’s brain, literally rewiring it so the habit becomes deeply ingrained,” said Rose.

With drugs like cocaine, there can be extreme discomfort from withdrawal in those first few days, but it goes away. “The behavior addiction of smoking may be far more compelling than just the short-term withdrawal symptoms of a hard drug,” he said.

That means smokers may be more addicted to the smoking behaviors than the nicotine.

“Every move a smoker makes: the lighting of the cigarette, the inhaling, all the feelings and sensations of it, the whole package becomes highly addictive,” Rose said.

 

Tobacco companies must place full-page ads admitting they lied

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Interesting and to me surprising story.

This week, several tobacco companies — RJ Reynolds, Altria (Philip Morris) — agreed with the Justice Department to print “corrective statements” in major newspapers around the U.S. admitting that they lied for many years about the health effects of smoking.

These full-page ads will appear in the Sunday editions of 35 newspapers. In addition, the tobacco companies have to post articles on the newspapers’ websites and on their own websites admitting their lies. On top of that, there will be television commercials as well.

A long way from the early 1990s, when tobacco executives testifying before Congress continued to claim that nicotine wasn’t addictive and that there was no proof smoking caused lung cancer (Yup, they kept claiming this right into the ’90s.)

This agreement is part of a 15-year-long racketeering case being pursued by the Justice Department against the tobacco industry.

The five lies the industry will be forced to publicly admit:

The five corrective statements will address the companies’ deceptions regarding 1) the health effects of smoking; 2) the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine; 3) the false advertising of low-tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes; 4) the designing of cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine; and 5) the health effects of secondhand smoke.

Oh, No. 5 is a hoot. Reminds me all the old arguments I’ve had with smokers’ right’s nuts that secondhand smoke is completely harmless. Dave Hitt, FORCES, the Heartland Institute will not be happy with these full-page ads.

I mean does this make any difference? It won’t undo the damage done and bring people back to life. But, I think it’s important that these lies are exposed once and for all (and I’m serious, there are still people to this day arguing that secondhand smoke is harmless). It’s all about maintaining the legacy of the “cigarette century,” a century in which untold millions died from their tobacco addiction, and the industry’s cover-up of that holocaust. Ultimately, that’s how we will win.

 

What? — Oh you cannot be serious — Santa used to sell e-cigs

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I take back everything even remotely uncritical I might have said about e-cigs in previous posts. Watch these guys and watch their advertising.

This is really despicable. I mean, c’mon, really? A billboard in Florida advertising e-cigs using Santa as an icon to sell their product.

Santa hasn’t been used to sell cigarettes for more than 50 years. Even the tobacco industry, in all its venality, eventually realized that was just simply too evil.

But, some e-cig company didn’t see a problem with it. And this isn’t from 1955, this is from last month.

I’m reminded of the sexy ads used to sell e-cigs, especially the ones with Stephen Dorff. I mentioned a few days ago e-cig companies are using the same techniques that cigarette companies used for 100 years to sell their products — trying to make their products look sexy, suave and sophisticated. Now, whoever came up with this brainstorm just looks like an idiot, like the people who used babies and Santa Claus to sell cigarettes 60 years ago.

Starting over at the Lounge

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As you may have noticed, it’s a brand new Party Lounge. Had issues with WordPress.com over links I had posted to commercial sites. The biggest issue I had was the lack of communication and response from them — and that’s not the first time we have had issues with lack of response and communication from WordPress. So far I have been impressed with the communication here with my new hosts.

So, the Lounge looks a little different, but all the old content was saved. You might see the site go through some changes as we experiment with different themes to make it look nice. Thanks for your patience.

 

2013 — The Year of the E-Cig

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You’ve seen the ads, we’ve all seen them. They’re almost ubiquitous on TV and in magazines.

One publication called 2013 the “Year of the E-cigs.” E-cigs are expected to seriously take off in 2014.

I can type “e-cig” into Google or into the Tobacco.org database and I will literally get hundreds of hits. You can find hundreds upon hundreds of articles about e-cigs all over the Internet. It reminds me of Googling “smoking ban” five years ago.

Here’s a sampling of articles I found.

France will regulate e-cigs as tobacco products.

E-cig industry booming.

2014 expected to be a huge year for e-cigs.

E-cigs booming, government rushing to regulate them.

Philip Morris getting involved in e-cig business.

I see them on sale now at every mini-mart I walk into. Two years ago, you never saw them for sale anywhere. E-cigs became a billion dollar industry in 2013, and the tobacco companies are jumping on board to get a piece of the pie (until now, mostly smaller companies made this things.) Blu, the biggest e-cig company out there was bought by Lorillard last year (Lorillard makes Newport cigarettes which are heavily marketed to African-Americans.)

But, what does it mean? And what are e-cigs, exactly?

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E-cigs are not fully understood by a lot of people, but more people are learning. I related a story the other day about when Montana’s smoking ban went into effect, the state issued a ruling saying e-cigs were banned, too. After the state was given more information about what e-cigs were, the state quickly lifted that ban. It was obvious that state officials weren’t even sure what they were.

Here’s the deal, e-cigs are not literally an electronic cigarette. A better definition is that they are a battery-powered nicotine delivery system. Essentially the user gets a little jolt of nicotine-laced steam. They don’t have any smell, they don’t irritate the eyes. I’ve tried them. There is no flavour. You just get a jolt, like a cup of coffee.

Is this a bad thing? A good thing? I’m honestly on the fence here.

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Honestly, on some levels, I don’t see a difference between e-cigs and nicotine patches. The person is getting a jolt of nicotine, but not the 1,000 other carcinogens and toxins contained in real cigarettes. There isn’t the benzene, formaldehyde, Polonium-210, toluene, acetone, cyanide and arsenic  as found in tobacco.

[EDIT: Someone pointed out to me after reading this that some studies have shown there ARE some of these carcinogens found in e-cig vapour such as formaldehyde and toluene, etc., and that the vapour is not “pure” nicotine. I was not aware of these studies. The amount of these carcinogens is vastly lower than what is found in cigarettes. One study showed 9-450 times lower.]

But, what there is is nicotine. Nicotine itself is not well understood, either. It’s actually not the ingredient in cigarettes that gives people lung cancer (a lot of people believe it is.). Nicotine all by itself isn’t that bad for you, other than it’s not good for your blood pressure.

It isn’t that bad for you except for one devilish trait. It is incredibly addictive, possibly ounce for ounce the most physically addictive substance on the planet. Like heroin and cocaine, it’s an alkaloid that triggers an incredibly powerful addiction response. That’s the evil of nicotine. It physically addicts people to a product that is incredibly toxic and poisonous.

So, when a smoker puffs on an e-cig, they’re satisfying that nicotine addiction, similar to a nicotine patch, without all the other poisons. Is this a good thing? I don’t know. I don’t have a problem with nicotine patches. I would prefer people use patches or e-cigs than Chantix as a way to quit tobacco because of Chantix’s side effects of causing depression and suicide.

But one of the way nicotine patches work is through a regimen of lowering the dose of nicotine until the person can go “cold turkey.” The down side of e-cigs is sure, there’s not the same level of toluene and benzene, but you’re still feeding that addiction. And ultimately, if you want to break away from cigarettes, you have to break away from the nicotine.

In talking to people who use e-cigs, I’ve gotten mixed feedback. A lot of people use them so they can get their little jolts of nicotine when they go out because they’re no longer allowed to smoke anywhere. Some people have told me they helped them quit smoking, but most people told they don’t really help. Because they’re tasteless, they don’t satisfy the urge to smoke.

So, I remain on the fence. I simply cannot develop a strong opinion pro or con — though I detest the “sexy” advertising Blu is using to sell its product — using the same ad techniques that the tobacco industry has used for years to make their products look sexy and sophisticated. They might help some people quit smoking, but it appears, at least anecdotally, they aren’t that effective as a quitting tool. They aren’t as toxic as cigarettes, but they keep the nicotine addict addicted to nicotine. I know this, they aren’t going away, not anytime soon.