Tag: tobacco

Africa Vs. Big Tobacco

Lowering tobacco use has been one of the great successes of public health in the past 50 years, and continues to be a focus of research and intervention. This was achieved through policy and health communication. This journey has shown us that it is possible to change the culture and narrative around behavior, despite steady corporate influence. While tobacco is still a significant public health hurdle in the U.S., there is confidence in the direction we’re headed given what we’ve accomplished.

Unfortunately, tobacco companies are infiltrating other countries with less developed infrastructure for tackling this issue. Currently, low and middle income countries represent 80% of the world’s smokers, as well as smoking-related deaths. Africa in particular is falling victim to extremely powerful tobacco marketing campaigns – smoking prevalence in Lesotho rose from 15% to 52% just between 2004 and 2015, and the industry even manipulated public health policy in Nigeria. Big tobacco is no stranger to targeting advertising strategies to vulnerable groups.

In order to reverse this, we need to support strategies that African countries have already begun to administer. Ghana and Madagascar have implemented tobacco advertising bans; several nations have introduced graphic labels on cigarette packs; South Africa has increased tax on tobacco products; and Kenya has implemented a system for tracking and tracing illicit tobacco product sales.

Already having the knowledge of the danger of tobacco will hopefully help other countries prevent the industry’s hold from strengthening. We must support their efforts before it’s too late.










Smoking Rates Down, E-Cigarette Rates Up

Earlier last month, the FDA announced a new rule that would extend the authority given to them in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to include all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco.

If you’re not familiar with the original act, you may be wondering, what does this mean? 

Well, prior to this new rule taking place, there were no federal regulations on e-cigarettes, which meant e-cigarette companies had the ability to sell to minors under the age of 18 without restriction. Given the rising rate of e-cigarettes over the last few years, especially among youth, this lack of regulation caused reason for public health concern.

The CDC’s most recent Youth Risk Youth Behavior Survey revealed that among high schoolers, while cigarette use decreased significantly from 28 percent in 1991 to 11 percent in 2015, 24 percent of students reported using e-cigarettes during the past 30 days. Even though cigarette use is at an all time low for this population, many health experts fear that e-cigarettes may serve as a gateway to smoking. More importantly, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has been shown to have a negative impact on adolescent brain development.

The new rule is a foundational step for the FDA in protecting people from the dangers of tobacco use. Not only does it allow the FDA to restrict sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but also allows them to regulate the marketing and distribution of these products. This means the FDA will help to prevent misleading claims made by manufacturers, evaluate ingredients, and communicate risks of these new tobacco products.

Photo: http://vaping360.com/what-is-vaping/

Is smoking bad? Yes, but it is even worse.

A recently published research mentioned in the New York Times adds at least five diseases to the existed list of consequences caused by tobacco. According to Brian D. Carter, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease, and heart and lung ailments were attributed to tobacco, in addition to the well-known diseases caused by smoking, namely, lung cancer, artery disease, heart attacks, chronic lung disease and stroke.

Although Carter’s new study was observational, the information from observing is valuable to be discussed and further studied. Dr. Graham A. Colditz, an epidemiologist and public health expert in Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, also argued that the smoking epidemic is still ongoing. He believed the effect of smoking presented in Carter’s study was substantially underestimated by previous studies in the United States. More importantly, a new but important finding in this study suggested several diseases might be the products of smoking. It is found that smokers were twice as likely to die because of infections, kidney disease, respiratory ailments, and hypertensive heart disease.

Therefore, although there is no sufficient evidence to back the causal relationships, the findings of this study is suggestive and deserves further studying. This study directed researchers to a new perspective to analyze the consequences brought by tobacco. Subsequently, with new findings health promoters can better persuade general public to stop smoking.

Photo credit from: http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/KRAKYTA/

“The public needs more facts, not more fiction”

“There are myths and misinformation about e-cigarettes and many people do not know that they pose many of the same health risks as traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products. The public needs more facts, not more fiction.” Dr. Ron Chapman, State Health Officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, said that California health officials issued a public health advisory to warn Californians the health risks brought by e-cigarette.

Why has California declared e-cigarette a health threat? Firstly, e-cigarettes (e-cigs) are not a safe alternative to help smokers give up smoking according to an article published by NBC NEWS. It encourages people to smoke indirectly by “re-normalizing smoking behavior” instead. What’s worse, e-cigs are luring younger generation into nicotine addiction. Secondly, components of e-cigs are not as healthy as what general public may be led to believe. “E-cigarette emits ‘a toxic aerosol’ gas when heated,” Chapman said. The emitted aerosol contains at least 10 harmful chemicals, including benzene, formaldehyde, lead and nickel.

E-cigarettes are not safe or healthy, we need to find another way to help smokers quit.


Photo credit: http://wkyufm.org/post/kentuckys-public-health-chief-wants-e-cigs-statewide-smoke-free-law

Are E-Cigarettes Effective for Quitters?

The debate has been growing alongside e-cigarette sales over the past few years, and the potential harm of e-cigarettes on society was discussed in a recent post on Upstream.  But each set of study results brings back the same question:

Are e-cigarettes (the battery-powered devices which simulates tobacco smoking by producing a vapor that resembles smoke) good or bad for individuals and society?

On the one hand, e-cigarettes could cause smoking to become normalized again in society, catapulting us back to before the 1970s, when most people were unaware of how bad smoking is for your health.

On the other hand, e-cigarettes could be a great way to protect people from the harms of tobacco smoking by providing a safer substitute, without making smokers completely cut out what, for many, has become a relaxing and enjoyable habit.

A recent study in the UK surveyed 5,863 smokers between 2009 and 2014 who had made at least 1 serious attempt to quit smoking in the past year, using either e-cigarettes or an over-the-counter cessation aid, or nothing at all.

The study found that a fifth of the smokers had quit with the aid of e-cigarettes.  This was 60% higher than those who did not use e-cigarettes.

Experts are still doing research on the safety of long-term use of e-cigarettes, though it’s currently accepted that the inhalation of e-cigarette vapors is less harmful than smoking.  And other recent studies have found that, in the more general smoker population (vs. smokers trying to quit), e-cigarettes are no more effective than other methods.

The American Lung Association makes it clear that they do not endorse nor has the FDA approved the use of e-cigarettes, and thinks there should be far more regulation and oversight to make sure they’re safe to consume.

And is it possible e-cigarettes are making smoking cool and okay again, especially for kids and teenagers?  Is there some way to ensure e-cigarettes are used as a quitting tool and not as a gateway into tobacco cigarette smoking and even more harmful habits?

Will history see e-cigarettes as a good or bad influence on the public health of society?


Photo credit: Michael Coghlan

Subtle and Sinister: How Secondhand Smoke is Hurting Kids

Many parents who smoke know the potential damage to their own bodies.  But are they aware of the potential damage to their children’s bodies?

A recent study published in the European Heart Journal found that secondhand smoke can cause permanent damage to children’s arteries, prematurely aging their blood vessels by more than three years.

Smoke thickens blood vessel walls and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes later in life.

The study, done by researchers in Finland and Australia, looked at more than 2,000 children ages 3-18, and found that this damage occurred if both parents smoked.

A few important, and sometimes unknown, facts about passive or secondhand smoke:

  • Smoke can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours even with a window open
  • It may still be there even if you can’t see it or smell it
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer
  • Children who breathe in secondhand smoke have an increased risk of asthma and coughs and colds, as well as cot death, meningitis and ear infections
  • (Source: BBC News)

Experts assert that there is no “safe” amount of exposure to secondhand smoke.

In a separate study done in 2012, research found that smoking in the car, even if the windows or open or the air conditioning is on, creates a level of pollution that is higher than the official World Health Organization “safe” limits.

The second study determined that secondhand smoke causes more than 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection and 200 cases of bacterial meningitis in children, as well as 40 sudden infant deaths each year in the United Kingdom.

Critics of the research say there are many other factors that could come into play in causing this damage, including poor diet and other forms of air pollution.

But study author Seanna Gull defends the findings and asserts that “passive smoke in childhood causes a direct and irreversible damage to the structure of the arteries.”

She said, “Parents, or even those thinking about becoming parents, should quit smoking. This will not only restore their own health but also protect the health of their children into the future.”


Photo Credit: Navarr on Flickr

Tanning Bed

Which Causes More Cancer, Tanning Beds or Cigarettes?

If you predicted cigarettes, guess what? – You’re wrong!! That’s right ladies and gentlemen, tanning beds cause more cancer than cigarettes!!

According to a recent study conducted at the University of California San Francisco that reviewed the stats of 88 major studies from over the past 20 years, every year indoor tanning causes more skin cancer than cigarettes cause lung cancer. This means that the cancer-causing habit of indoor tanning, which is known to cause somewhere between 3 and 22% of all skin cancer cases, leads to more cancer cases than smoking cigarettes, which is known to cause about 90% of all lung cancer cases!

Based on the study’s findings, the researchers determined that every year there are an estimated 450,000 cases of skin cancer that result from indoor tanning, while there are an estimated 360,000 cases of lung cancer that result from smoking cigarettes. But how can this be?!

According to the researchers, indoor tanning is incredibly common and it seems to be increasing. In the last year alone, 14% of adults, 19% of adolescents, and 43% of college students have visited a tanning bed. In complete contrast, however, is the rate of smoking – evidence shows that while indoor tanning is rising cigarette use is declining. In addition to this, the research shows that people are aware of the dangers associated with smoking cigarettes, but they are unaware of the dangers associated with indoor tanning. Heck, even some doctors prescribe indoor tanning as a treatment to certain ailments!

So what are we to do? The best advice the researchers have for us is to: 1.) Don’t indoor tan (and if you are, please stop) and 2.) Spread the word to others to stop indoor tanning (and not to smoke, of course). There’s no better tag line than “tanning beds cause more cancer than cigarettes” so go ahead and Tweet it, Facebook post it, and anything else you can do to pass along the message.

To our readers: Did this information come as a shock to you? Particularly to those of you who indoor tan does this information make you want to stop your trips to the tanning bed?


Post source: “Whoa: Tanning beds cause more cancer than cigarettes!” by Anna Maltby, retrieved from: http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/whoa-tanning-beds-cause-more-cancer-than-cigarettes#tscptme)’ on February 18, 2014.

Your Forever Valentine: A Healthy Heart

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone.

Whether you were wrapped in the arms of a loved one or curled up with your favorite chick flick and chocolate, you probably thought about the holiday at least once (likely during your weekly errands when you walked by the massacre of red and pink candy that filled Target and grocery store aisles since a few days after Christmas.)

Valentine’s Day is all about the heart, and February is the official American Heart Month.  So this year, give your heart a break, and follow these 5 tips to make 2014 healthy for your heart.

  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke – Remind yourself why smoking is harmful, and make an(other) attempt to quit
  • Maintain a healthy weight – It will lowers health risks, raise self-esteem, and give you energy

Whether you hate or love the idea of Valentine’s Day, your heart deserves some love this year.

How will you improve your heart health this month?

CVS and Tobacco are Breaking Up!

Ok, so maybe the end of this relationship is not as “hot” as some of the other big break-ups we hear about, but there is going to be some serious damage in the splitting of this lucrative relationship…

On Wednesday of last week, CVS Caremark, the country’s largest drug store chain in overall sales, announced that it will stop selling tobacco products by October of this year. According company executives, the ending of this relationship between CVS and tobacco is a result of the company’s move to becoming more of health care provider rather a retail business.

But this move is not to happen without the company taking a hit. The current estimates say the company will lose nearly $2 billion in sales, part of which includes the sales of other items, such as drinks or snacks that tobacco-using customers would purchase in addition to their cigarettes or other tobacco products. In addition, the company recognizes the risk it is taking because this change puts CVS at risk of pushing some of its customers into competitors’ stores.

But regardless of this financial hit CVS is staying firm on its choice to stop selling tobacco. According to chief executive of CVS, Larry J. Merlo, there are 26,000 nurse practitioners and pharmacists in CVS that are working to help patients deal with chronic problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, all of which tobacco use contributes to. Thus, it seems hypocritical for a company so focused on improving our health and well-being to be selling such a harmful product.

Thankfully CVS is not alone in its efforts to decrease tobacco use. Cities in California and Massachusetts have passed laws banning tobacco sales in stores with a pharmacy to help combat the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products. But the word is still out on other big name drug stores, like Walgreens and Right Aid, as to whether or not they will join CVS in the decision to stop selling tobacco.

Overall, a lot is still to come of this monumental move by CVS. Between big hits to its bottom line and the loss of customers, CVS is really going through a break-up – it had to confront the tobacco companies to break-up, it’s losing some friends as a result of the relationship ending, and it’s going to take some time for it to recover from the loss.

To our readers: What do you think of CVS’s decision to stop selling tobacco products? Do you think other companies like Walgreens and Rite Aid should make the same move? What are your thoughts?


Post Source: “CVS Vows to Quit Selling Tobacco Products” By Stephanie Strom of The New York Times, published on Feb. 5, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/06/business/cvs-plans-to-end-sales-of-tobacco-products-by-october.html

Will Raising the Cigarette Purchase Age Lower Smoking?

Last week, New York City decided that young people will have to wait until they’re 21 to legally purchase cigarettes (including e-cigarettes).

NYC’s former minimum age and the US federal minimum age to buy is 18, although a few states have already raised the limit to 19 and a handful of other towns have raised it to 21.  If the bill becomes law, NYC would be the most populous place to mandate the higher age.

The bill’s sponsor, City Councilman James Gennaro, said that this measure would “literally save many, many lives”.

Supporters of the bill claim that by increasing the age to 21, young people will be prevented from ever starting to smoke, and that it will reduce the total number of deaths, disease, and health care costs caused by tobacco use.  It will also help to keep cigarettes out of high schools, where many seniors are 18 or 19 years old.

But does raising the minimum sales age actually mean less young people will be smoking?

Though the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids praises NYC’s new bill, one of their most recent reports says that more than half of twelfth graders who are current smokers had tried smoking by the end of ninth grade, and that the peak years for first trying to smoke are between the ages of 11 to 13.

If most kids are starting to smoke at such early ages (when they are not able to legally buy cigarettes), will changing the minimum age of purchase actually make a huge difference in how many are smoking?  Could there potentially be negative consequences to such a measure?  Some critics say that young people may turn to the black market for cigarettes once it is illegal for them to buy elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong.  This bill is likely to help far more than hurt, and policies like this might be a good start. It’s most certainly better than doing nothing.  But, it seems that much more effort should be focused on understanding and confronting the deeper issues of why young people are experimenting with and then habitually using cigarettes, and attacking the roots of the societal issue, such as family and cultural issues, peer pressure, and depression, among others.  And in the case of someone who was able, as a 13 year-old, to start and sustain a smoking habit, raising the sales cigarette age will probably not make any difference.

Any efforts to decrease future tobacco use levels among young people should absolutely include a focus on reducing experimentation and regular tobacco use among teenagers and preteens.  And hoping that, some day, through behavior change, and ultimately a common desire and ability to be healthy, tobacco use and abuse will not be nearly as prevalent, and will lose its status as the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.

Is policy the right approach?  And, if not, what is?


Photo courtesy of: James Alby

Sources: NYTimes.com, BBC.com, CDC