Tag Archives: tobacco

How Big Tobacco has made cigarettes more deadly in the past 50 years

tobacco-2 The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids put out an interesting report last week about the various additives tobacco companies are putting into cigarettes today to make them more addictive and hence more deadly. According to this graphic from CTFK, there’s a number of things the tobacco industry has done over the past 50 years to make cigarettes more addictive. I’ve read all about how the tobacco industry has been known for manipulating the level of nicotine in cigarettes.  (Something the tobacco industry continues to deny) Anyway, here is an interesting infographic. The various ways the industry increases the intake of nicotine:

  • Increased Nicotine: Tobacco companies precisely control the delivery and amount of nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
  • Bronchodilators: These added chemicals expand the lungs’ airways, making it easier for tobacco smoke to pass into the lungs.
  • Levulinic Acid: Added organic acid salts, like levulinic acid, reduce the harshness of nicotine and make the smoke smoother and less irritating.
  • Menthol: Menthol cools and numbs the throat to reduce irritation and make the smoke feel smoother.
  • Sugars and Acetaldehyde: Added sugars make tobacco smoke easier to inhale and, when burned in cigarettes, form acetaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical that enhances nicotine’s addictive effects.
  • Ammonia: Added ammonia compounds produce higher levels of “freebase” nicotine and increase the speed with which nicotine hits the brain.

“Most people would think that 50 years after we learned that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, cigarettes would be safer. What’s shocking about the report we issued today is that we’ve found that a smoker today has more than twice the risk of lung cancer than a smoker fifty years ago, as a direct result of design changes made by the industry,” Matt Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in an interview with ThinkProgress.

(One note about the Matt Myers quote. I would disagree with one aspect of his comment. A two- to three-pack-a-day smoker was not uncommon 50 years ago, and that’s almost unheard of today with the breadth of smoking bans, so smokers are not smoking nearly as much as they did 50 years ago. But, his point is taken.) Pretty chilling stuff. The industry has done everything in its power to try and make cigarettes more physically addictive to keep their customers until death do them part.

Daily Show skewers tobacco farmer defending using kids to pick his tobacco

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I reported on this a few weeks ago — a story about migrant kids as young as 12 working in tobacco fields, some of them getting sick from constant exposure to nicotine.

The Daily Show skewers a real dirtbag Republican state senator and tobacco farmer defending kids spending 12 hours a day in his tobacco fields picking in 100-degree weather. Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee does an absolutely ferocious report, skewering a Kentucky tobacco farmer (I hope this guy never lives it down).

And, just in case YouTube takes it down … which they will eventually. A link:

Daily show takes on tobacco farmer

You can’t make this stuff up. I couldn’t figure out initially if this POS was for real or satire, but, incredibly, he appears to be for real. His name is Paul Hornback. A real douchebag … or playing one on TV:

“You got long days. It’s in the heat, it’s out there in the sun. It might be 100 degrees. But that’s not bad. You got lots of places to get shade.”

All kids complain about work! Our society is becoming too soft. You might see a 10-year-old picking tobacco, but you won’t see him out there all day.”

“Acute nicotine poisoning is not that big of a deal. It’s no different from having a virus.

See, what I mean? Pretty hard to believe.

 

 

Federal judge finds graphic cigarette warnings unconstitutional

french cigarettesNot surprising since the same judge a few weeks ago slapped an injunction on these cigarette labels.

Washington Post story. New York Times story.

Judge Richard J. Leon ruled this week that graphic warnings on cigarette packs violate the First Amendment, because, essentially, they go too far in forcing tobacco companies to advertise something against their will that goes against their own self-interests (Basically, there is a judicial precedent that as part of the First Amendment you can’t be forced to say something you don’t want to say. The government can require written labels on cigarette packs, but graphic images go too far in provoking an emotional reaction against the tobacco companies’ own product, the judge ruled.)

“The government’s interest in advocating a message cannot and does not outweigh plaintiff’s First Amendment right to not be the government’s messenger,” Judge Leon wrote.

australia plain packaging

This is a bummer, but after the injunction, I wasn’t very optimistic. The Justice Department and Obama administration can appeal the decision (They’ve already appealed the injunction, which was imposed late last year. I guess that appeal is moot now). It would first go to a Circuit Court of Appeals, but I expect it would eventually go before the U.S. Supreme Court, and with the incredibly pro-corporate judges on the Supreme Court, I’m not optimistic this ruling would get overturned.

Again, a bummer. Most of the countries in the West require these graphic images on cigarette packs, but in the U.S., it appears the tobacco companies will squirm out of it. Unfortunately, for the moment, the First Amendment seems to be on the tobacco companies’ side.

 

Baseball partially bans chewing tobacco

baseball

It isn’t a full-fledged ban, but baseball is taking action on chewing tobacco.

Anti-tobacco advocates — and several Congressmen and U.S. Senators — have been pushing for months to have chew banned by Major League Baseball. It would mean no chew on the field, or during games. Before you laugh, that rule has been in effect in Minor League Baseball for 15 years. (And smoking during games in the dugout is banned by MLB.).

The reason for this is plenty of kids get to watch their favourite players chewing during games and that helps encourage them to take up the habit.

Well, advocates won a partial victory. During negotiations between the players’ union and MLB, the union did agree to limitations on chewing tobacco. No chewing tobacco tins on the field in players’ pockets and players cannot be seen with chew in their cheek during television interviews.

Not everyone is happy with the agreement.

“Baseball players are idols to millions of youth, and they should strive to be healthy role models. The failure to ban smokeless tobacco is bad for the health of the players and worse for the kids who emulate them,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

“The fact is that smokeless tobacco use by baseball players will still appear on television screens across the United States,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

This is a compromise, not exactly what we were looking for, but at least it’s a first step. The players’ union was fighting a tobacco ban tooth and nail. Perhaps this will lead to an eventual ban on tobacco chew in ballparks. Players can chew if they want on their own time, but when they are in an MLB, they are on the clock, and there aren’t very many workplaces that would allow you to chew on the job.

The other big news from the agreement is that players will now be tested for HGH, human growth hormone.

“Dammit, Blamtucky, I ain’t reprogramming a VCR”


Sorry, I just think that’s the funniest movie line. Ever.

Kentucky? and Indiana? are considering smoking bans? Well, I suppose I believe it when I see it, but a smoking ban did pass last year in a Republican-dominated Kansas, Virginia and North Carolina in the the last year or two, so anything is possible. I was actually genuinely shocked when Kansas passed a strong smoking ban. Very, very conservative state.

Kentucky and Indiana are obviously both Republican-dominated states, and Republicans are loathe to pass smoking bans, because many conservatives see them as infringing on small businesses (I’m sure all the campaign contributions Big Tobacco consistently shovels toward Republicans have nothing to do with it.). They also happen to have two of the highest smoking rates in the nation. Not coincidentally, they are also two of the 12 states left with absolutely no statewide smoking ban whatsoever. It will be interesting to see how far these bills proceed. After the bloody battles in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states recently, I believe the tide has turned on smoking bans. The opposition is crumbling and there are fewer and fewer “black states” on the smoking ban map.

Thirdhand smoke

This is an interesting issue that drives the anti-smoking ban lobby crazy, but trust me, it’s real. You’ve heard of first-hand smoke, right? That’s the smoke the smoker inhales. Second-hand smoke? That’s the smoke hanging in rooms that non-smokers have to breathe.

There is also something called Third-hand smoke. And it’s real. That is the residue left behind in the walls, the carpet, the furniture, but cigarette smoke. And trust me, it stinks. When we had a chain-smoker move downstairs at the condo, the smoke got in the furniture and the carpet. After we got this smokestack to not smoke directly underneath us anymore, you could still smell it in the carpet and furniture. I had to have the carpet cleaned and the upholstery cleaned to get rid of the reek. I did not send him a bill, though I was tempted.

That thirdhand smoke not only stinks, it is genuinely bad for you. Several studies have pointed out, including a new one just came out this week from Israel, states that the residues in thirdhand smoke can cause respiratory problems and more. I can believe it. Before we had the condo cleaned, I felt constant irritation in my throat and nose from the residue, and I could feel those airways starting to clamp up from it. It’s not a joke, it’s real.

Ohio can grab tobacco funds

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week that the State Legislature does have the power to raid $250 million of the state’s tobacco funds. This is money from the 1998 $280 billion Tobacco Settlement Agreement between the states and Big Tobacco.

Several states have used these monies simply to balance their budgets. The states won the settlement initially because of the costs of smoking on state’s Medicaid programs. But, instead of using that money for anti-smoking education or health care, most states have simply thrown the money into their general fund pots so they can avoid raising property taxes. There’s nothing in the agreement that prevents states from doing this. And no one expected it or saw it coming. It was one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the 1998 settlement. So much more could have been accomplished with that money, but politicians wanted to be able to spend more money without raising taxes and it turned into an easy little windfall for a number of states.

So, Ohio actually set up a quasi-nonprofit quasi-public agency to run its anti-tobacco program. A couple of years ago, Gov Ted Strickland decided to raid the agency’s funds, and the agency fought back. The American Legacy Fund (a national anti-smoking organization) sued, saying the $10 billion Ohio received from the 1998 settlement was a trust that the state couldn’t simply raid.

After two years of the case winding through the courts (At one point a court ruled in favour of the anti-tobacco plaintiffs and against the state), the state Supreme Court ruled that what Strickland did was legal.

Children and cigarettes

This is a Dinosaur Jr. album cover

Two articles today about smoking and cigarettes.

One comes from a jury award in Boston. I’ve read about this case before. In the 1950s, Lollilard employees used to hang out at playgrounds handing out cigarettes to kids to get them started smoking. A jury awarded the family of a woman who died from lung cancer a $152 million judgement (including $81 million in punitive damages) because she got hooked on cigarettes from Lollilard enticing her and others with free cigs. The woman said that Lollilard employees first gave her free cigarettes when she was 9 years old. She got free cigarettes for years and didn’t actually start smoking them until she was 13. Here is her son’s story, in the Boston Globe.

At the trial, Lollilard denied giving away free cigarettes to children. Of course, they wouldn’t lie. Right? I mean, cigarette company never lied about their product causing lung cancer … or nicotine being physically addictive …. right? Smiley

There is also a racial component to the case. The plaintiffs claimed Lollilard intentionally targeted black children in black neighbourhoods with a brand — Newport — that has long been marketed to blacks.

Pretty disgusting stuff.

Cigarette smoke in apartment buildings bad for kids

A recent study showed that children living in apartment buildings had 45 percent higher amount of tobacco byproducts in the their bloodstream than children living in houses … even if adults in their units weren’t smokers.

Time Magazine’s story:

In a study of tobacco exposure from secondhand smoke in more than 5,000 children, researchers led by Dr. Karen Wilson at University of Rochester found that youngsters aged 6 to 18 years who lived in multi-unit housing had a 45% increase in a chemical byproduct of tobacco in their blood compared with children who lived in detached family homes. And these were youngsters who lived in units where nobody smoked inside the apartment itself, meaning that the exposure was occurring primarily via secondhand smoke drifting in from other units.

This study surprised even the scientists involved. 99 percent of white children living in apartment complexes had cotinine, a byproduct of cigarette smoke, in their systems. It’s a pretty shocking story. You should read it.

Frankly, I can believe it. When I still lived in a condo (It was a non-smoking building), I still had neighbours downstairs who smoked. One guy moved in who literally went out on his deck every 20 minutes to smoke. That smoke blew right into my place. It was really nasty when you would get two or three people downstairs outside smoking. One day I came home. I had left my bedroom window open because it was hot, and there was literally a fog of cigarette smoke in the apartment from the guys downstairs. I had to have the carpet cleaned and the upholstery cleaned to get rid of the reek. I had tobacco grit in my throat and nose from breathing it. It reminded me of how awful my parents’ smoke had been. It really pissed me off. Fortunately, he wasn’t a bad guy at all — just utterly clueless about his cigarette smoke — and we were able to work things out amicably (they were breaking the rules. The rules said no smoking on the property, period), and they agreed to stop smoking underneath my deck.

I think it’s a case in which some smokers to this day (granted, a lot of smokers “get it.”) continue to be clueless about just how far their smoke can drift, and just how much it irritates non-smokers.

South Dakota approves smoking ban; the South remains the ashtray of the United States

First on the docket is a month-old story from South Dakota (we gots some catching up to do). In South Dakota, the State Legislature passed a smoking ban a couple of years ago. Bar and casino owners passed around a petition to put the issue to a public vote. That petition went to court and it appeared would be overturned because it came out something like 13 valid signatures short.

Well, the judge wasn’t going to stop the ballot measure over 13 lousy signatures, so he approved the ballot measure, putting the smoking ban on hold for a year. I’m not wild about any tobacco measure being put on the ballot because the industry has a history of defeating measures at the ballot box by pouring millions into state elections (Read: Oregon, California cigarette tax increases).

On Nov. 2 (toldja I’m in catch-up mode), South Dakota voters approved the ballot measure with 64 percent of the vote, one of the widest margins I’ve ever seen. Similar measures in Ohio, Nevada and Arizona all passed with less than 60 percent of the vote. At least one restaurant is already reporting that their business has gone up since the smoking ban went into effect.

So, I haven’t checked this map in a while, but it now appears that 29 states have “strong” smoking bans (bars and restaurants), and 38 states have some form of smoking ban (at least restuarants.)

This map is helpful. Even in those black states, most major cities have smoking bans. The last I checked, San Antonio, Texas, is the biggest city in the country with no smoking ban.


What do those black states mostly have in common? They are all Republican-controlled states. Republicans hate rules and regulations, except of course when it comes to gays and women wanting control over their own bodies.

When I first started blogging about this, probably fewer than a dozen states had smoking bans. How far we’ve come.

Pepe’s Non Smoking Party Lounge explained


Well, it’s the tentative return of Pepe’s Non-Smoking Party Lounge, where we talk about smoking, tobacco, cigarettes, pot, health, lung disease and whatever else pops into the scrambled eggs of our minds.

One thing that will be different from the previous incarnation of The Lounge is I won’t be talking about Facebook stuff; there won’t be much personal information and I won’t be discussing local politics. That’s what Facebook is for. So, “Confederate” from Kentucky, you won’t find out much useful information about me here.

Here’s my agenda in a nutshell. I lost my dad to lung cancer when I was 16. He smoked four packs a day and was 49 when he died. He smoked the day that he died, hooked up to an oxygen tank. Later that day, he drowned in his own bodily fluids.

My mom has had cancer, a heart attack and for the past several years has suffered from COPD. She gets pneumonia and bronchitis every winter. COPD is almost exclusively caused by smoking. She has smoked as much as two packs a day. I figure between my mom and my dad, they have probably smoked considerably more than 1 million cigarettes in their lifetimes. To learn more about COPD, click here.

I grew up exposed to as much as six packs a day of other people’s (mostly my parents) cigarette smoke. I estimate that I ingested the equivalent of 25,000 cigarettes by the time I turned 16. I had constant ear infections, had to have three surgeries to combat the ear infections, and to this day have trouble with my ears. I grew up with chronic bronchitis which later evolved into a kind of asthma. I got pleurisy one year and pneumonia twice. Eventually, it cleared up. I haven’t had a single bout of bronchitis in probably 15 years and now I climb mountains for a hobby.

So, a few years ago, after watching my mom pawing through her luggage, desperate for a cigarette after being hospitalized for a heart attack, then begging me to stop at a store to buy her cigs as I drove her home from the hospital, then after getting word three months later she was back in the hospital with pneumonia, I decided to get more involved in anti-tobacco issues and start up an anti-tobacco blog. The blog did all right, but my readership never really got beyond the teens. I’m hopeful with more “pings” and more Internet contacts and more knowledge of how to build up readership, it will get a few more readers.

We’ll see. This will be a work in progress and I really am an neophyte with WordPress, so bear with me.