A really eye-opening study done in Buffalo shows that pregnant women who inhale a lot of secondhand smoke have a higher incidence of stillbirths, ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages than women who do not.
It’s long been known that smoking is bad for pregnant women and their babies, but this is the first study I’ve seen showing how secondhand smoke is damaging to pregnant women and their babies. Really powerful study.
This story will sure to make the smokers’ rights’ crowd go nuts. I haven’t tangled with that crowd in a long time, but one of their loudest arguments — in complete defiance of absolute reams of studies stating otherwise — is that secondhand smoke is essentially harmless and all the studies stating otherwise were just “junk science.” A lot of people actually listened to these people 10-15 years ago, but they don’t have much of an audience anymore.
These people are just like global warming denialists and people who denied for decades that smoking causes lung cancer. The study compared populations of women who were exposed to secondhand smoke before and during their pregnancies to women who were never exposed to secondhand smoke.
According to the conclusions:
For nonsmoking women exposed to the highest levels of secondhand smoke, the study reported a 17 percent higher risk of miscarriage, a 55 percent higher risk for stillbirth and a 61 percent higher risk of ectopic pregnancy, a complication when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus.
Those risks approached the risks seen among women who smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, the researchers said.
The highest level of lifetime secondhand smoke exposure was defined by childhood exposure for longer than 10 years, adult home exposure for more than 20 years and adult work exposure for more than 10 years.
Some of those numbers are pretty startling — a 55 percent increase in stillbirths. Christ, if you gotta smoke, go ahead and smoke, just don’t smoke around kids … or pregnant women. Please, just don’t.
“The significance of the study is that it shows that secondhand smoke is more harmful than previously thought, not just during pregnancy but over a woman’s lifetime,” said Vince Willmore, vice president for communications at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C.
“Hopefully, information like this will encourage people who smoke to be more sensitive about smoking in the house,” said Gary Giovino, chairman of the University at Buffalo’s Department of Community Health and Health Behavior.
A study recently published in Neuropsychopharmacologyshows that something called the “insula,” which is part of the cerebral cortex, is thinner in the brains of teens who smoke versus teens who don’t smoke.
The insula helps govern emotions and consciousness and it also contains a lot of nicotine receptors so is part of the brain where the craving for nicotine comes from.
According to the Discover article:
“It looks like, even in these very young kids, there is a link between the structure of the insula and the extent to which they smoke and become dependent,” London said in a Neuropsychopharmacology podcast. “It was shocking. We are beginning to get a story of the functional neuroanatomy of smoking.”
Although the study illustrated a difference in brain structure of young smokers and nonsmokers, it did not establish whether smoking caused the variations. It could be that people with differently structured insulas are more likely to take up smoking for an unknown reason. However, the results pave the way for future studies to determine the actual cause and effect.
“Ideally one would start the study in 12-year-olds who haven’t begun to smoke; follow them out after they begin to smoke; and see if in fact the smaller insula thickness was a predictor of a predilection to become a smoker,” London explained in the podcast.
On the other hand, if London’s team finds proof that smoking causes thinning of the right insula, it would provide further evidence of the detrimental health effects of picking up the habit at a young age
And this is why this is important. It could be that kids prone to addictive behaviour already have this thinner insula, or that smoking creates more addictive behaviours later (I’ve long said that pot is not really a gateway drug, but cigarettes are. Almost all drug addicts started using cigarettes as their first drug).
Cigarette dependence and the urge to smoke were negatively related to cortical thickness in the right ventral anterior insula. Although the results do not demonstrate causation, they do suggest that there are effects of cigarette exposure on brain structure in young smokers, with a relatively short smoking history. It is possible that changes in the brain due to prolonged exposure or to the progression of dependence lead to more extensive structural changes, manifested in the reported group differences between adult smokers and nonsmokers. Structural integrity of the insula may have implications for predicting long-term cigarette smoking and problems with other substance abuse in this population.
Honestly, don’t have a strong opinion on this. I see the logic behind making 21 the legal age for alcohol, because too many 18- and 19-year-olds are still too stupid to know how to use alcohol responsibly — supposedly, a certain percentage of those dumb kids will be smarter at 21 to know not to get plastered and drive, etc. Supposedly. But, since tobacco isn’t really an intoxicant, that argument doesn’t wash.
I suppose you could make the argument that most kids by the time they are 21 know better to even get started with cigarette smoking, but most kids get started anyway when they’re 15 or 16. Perhaps those kids who are just smoking a handful of cigarettes a day, start buying their own packs at 18, and by the time they’re 20, they’re addicted to the nicotine. Perhaps, a certain percentage of those kids never get addicted to begin with because by 21, they’re smart enough to know cigarettes are stupid. I mean, very, very few people actually start smoking after the age of 18.
Not surprisingly, lobbyists representing mini marts and convenience stores are opposing both bills. I’m not a total socialist weasel, but I can’t feel too much sympathy for retailers on this one. Hey, really, you want to keep making money selling cigs to 18-year-olds? Raising the price of beer by 5 cents and gasoline by 1 cent per gallon ought to make up for the lost revenues.
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.
Lots 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I wrote about this several months ago. The cancer death rate in the U.S. has dropped dramatically in the past few years, especially for lung cancer.
1) Better treatment
2) Better detection
and a big one
3) a drop in the smoking rate
According to this study from the American Cancer Society:
An estimated 1.7 million new cancer cases are projected for 2014, including some 586,000 deaths, according to the new report from the American Cancer Society. And cancer remains the second-most common cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease.
The good news in those grim figures is that the rate of death from cancer has fallen from about 25 per every 10,000 people in 1991 to about 17 per 10,000 in 2010. That translates into about 1.3 million cancer deaths avoided, including nearly 953,000 men and nearly 388,000 women.
Lung cancer remains the top killer for both sexes, followed by prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women. But largely because of declines in smoking, the lung cancer death rate dropped by 34 percent in 20 years.
I’ve actually had this argument with some smokers’ rights idiots, claiming “why is lung cancer going up if smoking rates are going down.” Well, I will have to remember this link if I ever run into another one. Lung cancer death rate down 34 percent in 20 years awesome. Lung cancer used to be pretty much a death sentence, less than 20 percent survival rate, but that’s improved dramatically in the last 20 years due to better treatment and better detection.
I also wonder if another factor if a higher percentage of people getting lung cancer are people getting lung cancer NOT caused by smoking. Remember, not all lung cancer is caused by smoking — about 15 percent of the people who get lung cancer never smoked a cigarette in their lives. And smoking is believed to cause a specific kind of lung cancer. There are other forms of lung cancer that don’t appear to be tied to smoking. So that could be a factor, too. Perhaps because of fewer smokers and fewer people getting lung cancer, period, that 15 percent figure has become higher. And these other forms of lung cancer may be more treatable than the cancer caused by smoking. Just a thought. No proof or evidence, just speculation.
A lot of this is documented pretty well in an excellent book called “The Cigarette Century.” The report was fought big time through political channels by the tobacco industry, trying to get it suppressed.
The report issued by Surgeon General Luther Terry came out on Jan. 11, 1964, and along with the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry, was a major turning point in the fight against smoking. Now, there was a highly official report, signed off by the U.S. Surgeon General, unequivocally with no subtleties — smoking causes lung cancer. And that cigarette filters did nothing to lower the risk.
Think about that for a moment. No if, ands or butts. There is no doubt. For years, the cigarette industry had been working feverishly to create “doubt” about the science (the same techniques are used by global warming and evolution denialists today — feed the “doubt.”).
It was such a momentous report that it was actually released on a Saturday for fear that it would devastate the stock market.
Think about 1964 … smoking ubiquitous on TV, in movies, in almost every workplace. Ashtrays jammed with cigarettes in hotel lobbies, restaurants, work desks, cars, everywhere. There were no smokefree areas, not in restaurants, not in airplanes, not even in hospitals. The smell was everywhere. Cigarettes sold in vending machines.
My how times have changed since 1964. But, it changed slowly.
A few years after the report, the warnings arrived on packs of cigarettes.
You would have thought this would have been the end of the tobacco industry with two or three years, but no, incredibly, smoking continued to thrive and smoking rates didn’t really start to drop until the 70s, and then didn’t really drop all that dramatically until the 80s, nearly 20 years later.
Why? The industry fought back. Afterward, the tobacco industry poured more money than ever into its PR machine and its advertising, trying to counteract the influence of the report. Advertising was aimed at women with a series of new cigarettes marketed specifically for women. Then, came Joe Camel, enticing what the industry called “new smokers” (The industry’s euphemism for teen smokers) by making smoking look more cool than ever. And for a time, they were successful.
The smoking rate was about 43 percent in 1964 (and more than 50 percent for men). After the Surgeon General’s report came out, the smoking rate for women and teenagers actually went up for several years, but finally started to drop in the 70s. Around this time, cigarette ads were banned from TV and vending machines disappeared (They were finally banned by the FDA in 2010.). The dramatic drop-off was between 1970 and 1980, with a second, less dramatic drop-off after 2000. From 1990 to 2000, the smoking rate remained stubbornly persistent, dropping only from 25.5 percent to 23.3 percent (the result of a higher teen smoking rate than the 60s and 70s … thanks Joe Camel). Today, the smoking rate is about 19 percent.
What’s more. The attitudes toward smoking changed — dramatically. Smoking is no longer seen by society as “cool” or “hip.” Now, it’s seen as a dirty habit, something to be embarrassed about. Smokes are assigned to the alleys outside bars, in all kinds of weather. It’s no longer “fun” to smoke.
It took about 40 years to cut the smoking rate in half, in other words. Today, it is roughly about 44 percent of what it was in 1964. Just as importantly, but not talked about enough, is the amount of smoking has gone down because very few workplaces allow smoking any longer. There are very few 2- and 3-pack-a-day smokers today, compared to 50 years ago.
Jan. 11, 1964. The date the tide began to turn against the tobacco industry. It was the first major victory against the industry.