Another Engle Case judgement — $17.3 million against Philip Morris


This is yet another in a long line (literally thousands) of Engle Case lawsuits in Florida. The Engle case was a Supreme Court decision that overturned a $145 billion class-action judgement against Big Tobacco, while at the same time allowing individual lawsuits against various tobacco companies to be filed. This opened up a floodgate of lawsuits and jury awards in the hundreds of millions (perhaps even billions by now, I don’t know if anyone is keeping track.)

According to Wikipedia, the tobacco industry has lost 77 of the 116 Engle cases that have gone to trial so far.

This case is in Jacksonville and the plaintiff is a 64-year-old woman’s whose legs were amputated due to vascular disease caused by 40-plus years of smoking. The jury found the plaintiff, Donna Brown, 45 percent to blame and Philip Morris 55 percent to blame for lying about and covering up the dangers of smoking and awarded Brown $9 million in punitive damages and $8.3 million in compensatory damages.

From the article:

“The jury recognized that every person has a right not to be hurt by the careless, intentional misconduct of another, and Donna was hurt very badly by Philip Morris’ reckless and intentional misconduct,” attorney Nathan Finch said Friday.

Brown was a Marlboro smoker, but she also occasionally smoked Winstons, made by RJ Reynolds, which apparently reached a settlement with her.

The woman tried to quit several times, using Chantix, nicotine patches, nicotine gum, even a hypnotist,  but nothing worked. She was not able to quit until she finally had a stroke in 2014 (Sounds like my mom, who kept smoking through cancer, heart attacks, chronic bronchities, etc., and only quit when she had a severe COPD episode.).

Minnesota smoking rate drops to lowest-ever-recorded 14.4 percent — higher cigarette taxes get credit


According to a survey of 9,000 people from Clear Way Minnesota and Minnesota Department of Health, the statewide smoking rate has dropped to 14.4 percent, the lowest ever recorded and down from 16.1 percent in 2010. That number is also down a whopping 35 percent from the 1999 smoking rate of 22.1 percent.

When asked what factor played an important role in helping people quit, the No. 1 reason was the increased cost of cigarettes. Minnesota’s state cigarette tax was raised $1.60 in 2013 and is one of the highest in the country at $2.83 a pack (only New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Washington are higher). 63 percent of the survey respondents said the new price of cigarettes helped encourage them to quit smoking.

The survey also found that teens and young adults (18-24), the age group with the highest smoking rate normally, no longer as the highest smoking rate in Minnesota (likely because of e-cigs).

Interesting info in the survey about e-cigarettes. The survey found that 66 percent of people reporting using e-cigs were also smoking cigarettes (telling me they were using e-cigs to get around smoking bans in workplaces, bars, etc.). 22.5 percent were former smokers while 11 percent were people (ie, kids) who had never smoked a cigarette. So, at least according to this one survey, fewer than one-fourth of the people using e-cigs used them as a smoking cessation tool, while over 10 percent were likely kids who had never smoked a cigarette in their lives. To me, that does not bolster the case for e-cigs well.

Study: Smoking marijuana has no adverse effect on lung function


This story is a bit frustrating and contradictory.

It states, and was widely reprinted in a number of pro-marijuana Websites, that a study from the Annals of the American Thoracic Society says that long-term marijuana smoking has no adverse effect on lung health. (However, this is where these stories drive me crazy — what the study actually said is that long-term marijuana smoking has no adverse effect on lung function. Important distinction.)

What these means is that even after 20 years, it appears for most pot smokers, the lungs still operate at the same capacity, etc., as before the smoker started using pot. That’s drastically different from cigarettes, which seriously impair lung function after a few years (Basically, smokers finding themselves easily out of breath.)

This article, which was written by someone from NORML, contradicts itself slightly by stating that long-term pot smokers “self-report” increased symptoms of bronchitis … and this is the contradiction. Bronchitis, especially chronic bronchitis, leads to more serious COPD … so taking this statement at face value, chronic pot smoking does in fact have a negative effect on lung health.

This article on the same study from ThinkProgress is a little more balanced, I think. It acknowledges that pot smokers seem to have increased bronchitis symptoms, but it blames the rolling paper for that.

There’s studies out there finding zero link between pot smoking and COPD and pot smoking and lung cancer. I don’t have a problem believing the studies on lung cancer, but I personally believe, despite the fact I can’t cite studies to back this up, that long-term chronic pot smoking is simply not good for your lungs. It might take a lot of pot for a long time to seriously damage your lungs — a lot — but it’s still smoke and constant smoke in your lungs are not going to do them any favours. Again, this is just another in a long series of exasperating articles on pot smoking and lung health.

All that being said, I absolutely believe pot should be legal. There’s no logical reason why it is illegal while tobacco and alcohol and legal. And whatever damage pot does to people physically pales by comparison to the damage that pot laws do to people’s lives.





Washington attorney general proposes raising smoking age to 21

18-year-old smoker

This is an issue where I tend to split off from a lot of anti-tobacco advocates.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a bill last week to raise the smoking age in Washington from 18 to 21. It’s an effort I can’t totally get behind for several reasons.

First of all, when do most kids start smoking? Virtually no kids actually start smoking when they turn 18. Most kids start smoking at 14 or 15 or even younger. So, I have to question if such a law would get much accomplished in stopping kids from smoking. Most kids have already been smoking for at least three or four years by the time they turn 18. Putting off the legal age for buying cigarettes another three years isn’t going to change that.

Secondly, I have a Libertarian enough streak that I buy the argument that at 18 kids can vote, join the military and go to prison for committing a crime. They can do anything except buy alcohol or weed — and I have a  Socialist enough streak to see the logic behind laws trying to keep alcohol away from 18- and 19-year-olds, because 18-year-olds aren’t smart enough yet to know when they’ve had too much to drive, etc. (Like everyone over 21 is, but you see my point.).

Anyway, I’m all for keeping kids from cigarettes, but the best tactic is education, and spending resources on educating kids on why tobacco is bad, rather than spending resources trying to enforce a new law.  I’m for common-sense solutions that I think will actually accomplish something, and I don’t see the common sense in raising the smoking age to 21.


RJ Reynolds’ Revos — Still a cigarette


I saw a tiny blurb in a local alternative weekly about these things called “Revos.” Never heard of them before. They’re like a weird combination of e-cigs and real cigarettes.

Revos, put out by RJ Reynolds, use a carbon tip to heat tobacco, rather than burning it, for inhalation. Apparently, they don’t put out as much secondhand smoke. Like this editorial from Massachusetts says: “And this would be beneficial how, exactly?”

The editorial points out — one benefit would be perhaps it wouldn’t stink up smokers’ hair and clothing so much. But, it won’t have any benefit to a smokers’ lungs. Just another sleazy tactic from RJ Reynolds, which I’m sure won’t exactly come out and say, “they’re safer than cigarettes,” but will employ sneaky marketing tricks to passively and vaguely suggest this.

It appears to be some kind of weird reverse marketing ploy. E-cigs are taking business away from tobacco (even though RJ Reynolds now owns Blu E-cigs), by putting out essentially a fake cigarette. So, now a cigarette company is returning the favour by putting out a fake e-cig. It’s like how Japanese and American animation keep stealing from one another.

I also hope Revos won’t be used as a way to try and get around smoking bans. I’ll be keeping an eye on RJ Reynolds and their new Revos.

Study: E-cigs may contain more formaldehyde than actual cigarettes


This is a big story I saw on NBC News, and

real startling news that’s leading me to change my attitude about e-cigs. I’m sure it had the e-cig companies scrambling afterward.

According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the level of formaldehyde in e-cigarettes may be as much as 15 times higher than an actual tobacco cigarette, especially if you use e-cigs at a “high voltage” setting. (I didn’t realize you could change the voltage settings of an e-cig.)

From the NBC News article:

“It’s way too early now from an epidemiological point of view to say how bad they are,” said co-author James F. Pankow, professor of chemistry and engineering at Portland State University in Oregon. “But the bottom line is, there are toxins and some are more than in regular cigarettes. And if you are vaping, you probably shouldn’t be using it at a high-voltage setting.”

Pankow and his colleagues analyzed aerosolized e-liquid in “tank system” e-cigarettes to detect formaldehyde-releasing agents in “hidden” form at various voltages.

They found that vaping 3 milligrams of e-cigarette liquid at a high voltage can generate 14 milligrams of loosely affiliated or “hidden” formaldehyde. Researchers estimated a tobacco smoker would get .15 milligrams of formaldehyde per cigarette or 3 milligrams in a 20-pack.

Pankow told NBC News those numbers “may be conservative.”

“We are not saying e-cigarettes are more hazardous than cigarettes,” he said. “We are only looking at one chemical. … The jury is really out on how safe these drugs are.”

“A lot of people make the assumption that e-cigarettes are safe and they are perfectly fine after using for a year,” said Pankow. “The hazards of e-cigarettes, if there are any, will be seen 10 to 15 years from now when they start to appear in chronic users.”

I think the message here is a lot is still unknown about e-cigs and the chemical compounds they release when liquid is heated into steam. They’re not completely benign and harmless, especially for kids finding a different delivery system to get hooked to nicotine.

Formaldehyde is just one of many carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes. Others include benzene, arsenic, vinyl chloride, Polunium-210, acetone, toluene and a bunch more.

New Orleans passes comprehensive smoking ban

Mardi-Gras-fattens-businesses-in-New-Orleans-C4116DKM-x-largeThe New Orleans City Council Thursday night adopted — unanimously — a comprehensive smoking ban in the city. This is the first time I’ve written a post about the passage of a smoking ban in a long time. Pretty much everywhere that was going to pass a ban has already done it.

Louisiana already had a ban on smoking in restaurants, but the New Orleans council went one step further and banned smoking in all nightclubs and bars. New Orleans was one of the largest cities in the country without a comprehensive smoking ban. (I think San Antonio is the biggest city without a comprehensive ban … the city has a ban, but it’s full of a loopholes, so it doesn’t count in my book.).

There were some concerns during the council hearing that the new law could financially hurt city businesses. I would respond that the No. 1 industry in New Orleans is tourism obviously and most tourists are coming from areas of the country that already have smoking bans, so they are used to it. No one is going to stop coming to New Orleans because of a smoking ban.

Here is an editorial from the New Orleans Times-Picayune hailing the vote.

Smoking ban widely supported in tobacco-growing Kentucky


An interesting story. A bill is floating in the Kentucky State Legislature to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants. Kentucky is one of the few states left that doesn’t have a statewide smoking ban.

Now, Kentucky is also the second-highest tobacco-producing state in the U.S. and it also has the highest smoking rate in the nation at roughly 30 percent (Kentucky is the only state left above 30 percent.)

All that being said … a Kentucky Health Issues poll shows that two-thirds of the people in Kentucky favour a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. Sixty-six percent are in favour and 29 percent are opposed. Wow, in a tobacco-growing state with the highest smoking rate in the state.

I suspect a pretty strong reason there’s such strong support for a statewide smoking ban is most of the larger cities and several other smaller towns in Kentucky already have smoking bans, so people are used to the idea. The three biggest cities in Kentucky — Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green — have had total smoking bans for at least a couple of years. There simply aren’t that many places left in Kentucky where people can smoke indoors, at least in restaurants.

Sure enough, the cities of Louisville (74 percent support) and Lexington (75 percent) had the most support for a statewide ban.

In light of this poll, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo said it’s time for a House vote on a smoking ban. In previous years, proposed bans have not been able to get out of committee … to be honest, even with such overwhelming public support, there’s no guarantee a proposed ban will get to a House vote this year, not with the money and lobby power of Big Tobacco in Kentucky.

Still, it’s encouraging and interesting how attitudes have changed about public smoking — even in Kentucky.




Cancer death rate keeps dropping; lung cancer death rate way down


Good news. The cancer death rate in the U.S. continues to drop, well down from its peak in 1991, according to the American Cancer Society.

According to the ACS, between the 20-year period from 1991 to 2011, the cancer death rate dropped 22 percent in the U.S. For one big main reason — the decline of smoking and smoking-related lung cancers among men (Remember, lung cancer is far away the most deadly cancer; roughly 25 percent of all cancer deaths are from lung cancer alone.).

According to the ACS, the rate of lung cancer deaths among U.S. men dropped a whopping 36 percent from 1990 to 2011. Among women, the decline hasn’t been as dramatic, unfortunately (in fact, lung cancer deaths for women actually went up quite a few years in the 1990s.). From 2002 to 2011, the lung cancer death rate for women dropped 11 percent in the U.S.

Breast, prostate and colon cancer death rates also dropped.

The decline of lung cancer deaths hasn’t been as dramatic in the South, because these states tend to have high smoking rates. For instance, the number of lung cancer deaths in Kentucky is three times the rate as in Utah, which has the lowest smoking rate in the U.S.

Venture Bros.’ Brock Samson quits smoking, now he vapes


Brock Samson is a chain-smoking assassin and bodyguard character on the Venture Brothers. In fact, the Venture Bros. have a long history of making fun of smoking and cigarettes.

In the new Venture Bros. special aired this weekend, I noticed that Brock no longer smokes. He was smoking an e-cig! I thought that was pretty funny. I didn’t like so much that it was a fairly blatant ad for Blu E-cigs, because it was obviously a Blu he was vaping. I don’t know why that cracked me up, but it did. I wonder when they decided that Brock should quit smoking, I haven’t watched the show much in the last couple of years because new episodes just became so spotty.

Here are some various characters from Venture Brothers smoking over the years and smoking jokes on the show. The show airs at 11 p.m. and is geared toward adults. Trust me, the smoking is the tamest stuff on the show sometimes.

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In the special epilogue of the Venture Brothers that you have to watch online, Brock Samson is back smoking.

brock samson back smoking