Archive for the ‘Smoking & Tobacco’ Category

The FDA should immediately introduce new graphic warning labels on tobacco products

March 12, 2017

Graphic warning labels on tobacco products have been proven to deter individuals from smoking. In the United States, cigarettes and other tobacco products are required to contain text warning labels. However, tobacco labeling in the U.S. has not been updated for over 30 years. Currently, the size, location, and content of warning labels on tobacco packaging are inadequate, particularly when compared to the evidence on effective tobacco labeling and the warning labels used in other countries.

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Photo credit: turbosquid.com and tobaccocontrol.bmj.com

In 2009 the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was passed, which required the FDA to establish and enforce new regulations for graphic warning labels on all tobacco products. However, tobacco companies succeeded in halting the FDA from implementing the new rule requiring graphic warning labels in 2012 by winning lawsuits, claiming that it violated their First Amendment rights. These legal cases left the FDA to come up with new rules for graphic warning labels, but no action has been taken for the four years since this court ruling. After waiting more than seven years since the legislation of the Tobacco Control Act, eight public health and professional organizations filed a lawsuit requesting the court to compel the FDA to comply with the agency’s statutory duty to propose lawful graphic warning labels. They claimed that over three million Americans, including minors, have begun to smoke during that time.

Given the high stakes for the health of the American public and the abundant evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of graphic warning labels in reducing smoking, the FDA cannot afford to delay graphic warning label requirements any longer. The FDA must do everything in its power to immediately design and require pictorial warning labels on tobacco product that meet federal and international standards.

Full Implementation of FCTC Article 13- Prohibiting Tobacco Marketing at the Point of Sale in Brazil

March 9, 2017
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Credit: Tobaccofreenys.org

 

Other Group Members: Yasthil Jaganath, Angela Silverira

In Latin America alone, more than 370,000 people die every year from diseases caused by tobacco use. Tobacco companies use deceptive and predatory marketing practices to increase consumption of their products. This is most evident through their use of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) initiatives at the point-of-sale (POS). Article 13 of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) calls for a comprehensive ban on all forms of TAPS, including the retail display of tobacco products. However, some countries implement only partial bans. Numerous studies have demonstrated that exposure to TAPS increases the likelihood that youth will begin smoking.

In Brazil, tobacco POS advertising and promotion are prohibited, except for product displays (Law No. 9.294; Law No. 12.546). The law currently prohibits “commercial advertising” of tobacco products, with the sole exception of the display of tobacco products at POS.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) needs to fight for a comprehensive ban of all tobacco marketing at the POS, including display of products. Instituto Nacional De Cancer Jose Alencar Gomes Da Silva (INCA), within the MOH coordinates National Tobacco Control programs and supports the full implementation of article 13. However, the Tobacco Industry (including major tobacco manufactures in Brazil like Souza Cruz), continue to publicly state that their marketing is not aimed at youth and a comprehensive ban is not necessary. Nonetheless, there is substantial evidence that youth targeted marketing schemes still occur (i.e. placement of tobacco products near toys/candy, cartoons on cigarette packs, etc.).

To continue to discredit and block the tobacco industry’s harmful marketing tactics, the MOH should fully implement article 13. There should be increased efforts targeted toward enforcing the current ban and ensure that retailers not heeding to the policy are reprimanded through fines or an equally alternative penalty.

Introducing Plain Cigarette Packaging in the U.S.

August 19, 2016

Despite the numerous and well-documented health risks associated with smoking tobacco, smoking rates in the U.S. continue to be unacceptably high. Tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of mortality and morbidity in the U.S., taking the life of one in every two smokers. Smoking is responsible for $170 billion per year in health care costs, almost two thirds of which are borne by taxpayers through public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

http://www.cancer.org/research/infographicgallery/tobacco-related-healthcare-costs

Some of the many well-documented health risks associated with smoking tobacco. Source: The American Cancer Society

In 2005, the WHO enacted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a treaty aimed at combating the global tobacco addiction epidemic. The convention aims to control the tobacco industry through international regulations, including on tobacco product advertising and restrictions on packaging. Plain cigarette packaging is one solution to minimize people purchasing cigarettes, particularly first-time smokers. In 2011, Australia implemented the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act and has since seen a significant decline in smoking prevalence. Similarly, the UK has just passed regulations for plain packaging despite a high court challenge from the major tobacco companies.

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Australian cigarette packaging before and after implementation of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act. Source: RCI (Radio Canada International)

Over fifty years has passed since the first Surgeon General’s report on tobacco use, and yet the U.S. still copes with high rates of tobacco consumption. The FDA continues to battle against ‘Big Tobacco’ in legal proceedings in an attempt to regulate the manufacture and advertising of tobacco products. Although the U.S. has been a signatory to the FCTC since 2004, it is yet to submit to the Senate the convention for ratification and therefore has not implemented the framework to date. The burden of tobacco addiction in the U.S is too high. The U.S. should ratify the FCTC immediately and pass legislation mandating the prompt implementation of plain packaging for all cigarettes sold in the U.S.

Candy Flavored E-Cigarettes: Just Say No and Protect Our Children

August 19, 2016

Over the past decade, e-cigarettes have gained tremendous popularity in the U.S.  These products, which have been sold by both large and small tobacco companies, were only loosely regulated for years resulting in increased sales amongst adults and teenagers. The American Lung Association previously issued a statement against the sale of e-cigarettes, and specifically noted that flavored e-cigarettes glamorized their use. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cautioned against exposing children and adolescents to e-cigarettes and e-cigarette commercials.  In contrast, proponents of e-cigarettes, such as the American Vaping Association, argue that e-cigarettes are safer and offer a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes as well as an innovative approach to smoking cessation.

In May, the FDA passed new, sweeping regulations placing e-cigarettes in the same family as cigarettes and subject to nearly all of the same legislation.  However, these new regulations do not extend to the production and sale of flavored nicotine products for e-cigarettes. This is in contrast to regulations for standard cigarettes, which restrict flavors to only regular and menthol. Research has clearly demonstrated the appeal of candy-like flavors to children and opponents of flavored e-cigarette products believe that tobacco companies will take advantage of this regulation loophole to target minors.  Whereas restrictions on e-cigarette flavors have not been put forth by the FDA, it is possible for them to be instituted in individual states.

Maryland is one such state that currently does NOT restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. To take action, please contact your representative in the Maryland General Assembly and let them know that you support new regulations in the state of Maryland that would prohibit the production and sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

Protecting minors in Texas from the potential dangers of electronic cigarettes

August 19, 2016

teen smokingElectronic cigarettes (aka “e-cigs” or “vape” devices) have steadily grown in popularity throughout the nation since their introduction into the market in 2007, and Texas is no exception. More alarming are the increased rates of e-cigarette use by youths, especially when one considers the known adverse effects nicotine and potentially other substances in these devices may have on a child’s health.

Furthermore, not only have studies suggested that smoking e-cigarettes encourages minors to start smoking more hazardous tobacco products, but this vulnerable population is also more prone to adverse reactions from these devices. Both local and national studies have shown that calls to poison control centers for liquid nicotine exposures have been on a steady rise for the past several years, with a large proportion of those affected being younger children.

washington post 2013 2014 ecig useGiven their prevalent use and potential harm to children, there is no question that regulation to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors is needed, a notion even “pro-vape” organizations can get behind. Recent legislation limiting the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes is a commendable start, but by itself may not be completely effective. So, what else should be done?

The American Academy of Pediatrics and other prominent healthcare organizations have suggested increasing taxes on e-cigarette sales as a means to curb use—an intervention that should seriously be considered as this was quite effective at reducing tobacco use in minors when implemented in the past. As a more moderate intervention when compared to others (e.g., banning e-cigarette use altogether), it also may have a better chance of being accepted by the “pro-vape” contingent.

Our next step then, is to contact our state legislature and encourage them to pass such policy—it’s the least we can do to try and ensure the health and safety of our children.

** Pictures courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk and the Washington Post **

Tobacco 21 in California

August 19, 2016

According to the CDC, tobacco use and secondhand smoke causes over 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S. This accounts for 1 in every 5 deaths annually, making tobacco-related mortality the leading cause of preventable deaths. Reducing and eliminating tobacco use and exposure, especially in adolescents, has become a top priority to decrease premature death from this dangerous addiction.

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In May 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill, Tobacco 21, which raised the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 in California. Raising the age of purchase is a relatively new strategy, but there is significant evidence that this decision is a vital part of the tobacco industry’s plan to recruit “replacement smokers”; the Big Tobacco industry has even admitted that if new users are not captured by their early twenties, the likelihood of addiction is low. Consequently, Big Tobacco spends not millions, but billions of dollars in recruitment efforts targeting this younger, more experimental crowd. Thus, raising the age of purchasing tobacco to 21 is a bold, and much needed move to protect the health of youth in the U.S.

To further combat Big Tobacco’s efforts to recruit from this vulnerable population, established organizations and smaller, newer ones are joining the fight to create a tobacco-free generation. The California Department of Public Health will work to implement and enforce regulations outlined by the bill, including requiring businesses to post proper signage if selling tobacco-related products.

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Source: California Department of Public Health

The Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation will continue youth smoking prevention programs that consist of high-impact mass media campaigns, comprehensive smoke-free laws (like Tobacco 21), and CDC-recommended prevention and control activities.

Through a unified effort by stakeholders at multiple levels to enforce and implement Tobacco 21, we look forward to tobacco no longer being a leading cause of preventable death in future generations.

Electronic cigarettes – more than just mist

March 2, 2016

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The sale of electronic cigarettes is currently unregulated in the USHowever, e-cigarettes contain nicotine and should be considered a tobacco product, regulated by the FDA and subject to the same regulations as cigarettes in terms of usage (no sales under the age of 18), marketing (no advertising to minors), as well as “smoke free” regulations.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine derived from tobacco leaves, just like regular cigarettes. The amount of nicotine actually delivered to an individual e-cigarette user depends on both the concentration of nicotine in the vial as well as the battery size of the cigarettes – more powerful batteries create a larger amount of vapor and therefor deliver more nicotine. Furthermore, when some of the carrier and flavoring agents found in e cigarettes are heated, they may generate carcinogens. Indeed, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde have been found in e-cigarette vapors.   circ.ahajournals.org/…nt/130/16/1418.full  There is also some evidence to suggest that indirect exposure to e-cigarette vapors may cause harm as well.  archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx

 

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It is interesting to note that the three major tobacco companies share 75% of the profits from the sale of e-cigarettes.  Yet unlike traditional cigarettes, the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes are currently unregulated because they are not considered a tobacco product. Consequentially, e-cigarettes are gaining wider acceptance, in part due to the perception that they are less harmful than cigarettes.  Indeed, Wells Fargo predicts that the sales for e-cigarettes to $10 billion dollars by 2017, surpassing those of regular cigarettes.circ.ahajournals.org/…nt/130/16/1418.full

 

However, the scope and nature of adverse effects from these e-cigarettes are currently unknown.    Forty-eight states are not waiting for federal legislation and have already banned the sale of this product to minors within the past two years.  ncsl.org/…/alternative-nicotine-products-e-cigarettes.aspx

More needs to be done on a federal level to protect the US population at large.  BlogecgChicago_NOSMOKING_smallNo data exist presently that confirm the safety of e-cigarettes. Until the research is done providing such data, one should assume that e-cigarettes carry some of the same risks as traditional cigarettes, and should be subject to the same rules and regulations as cigarettes.

**pictures courtesy of website:  no-smoke.org/getthefacts.php

Let’s Tackle the Cost of Tobacco in California

August 14, 2015

These days everyone is aware of the health dangers of smoking, but how much do we really think about what it costs?  Tobacco use is still the leading preventable cause of death and tobacco-related healthcare costs in the US total an astronomical $289 billion.

Society pays infographic

Source: American Cancer Society (2015)

With this overwhelming cost, what can we do to reduce both the physical and monetary harm that accompany smoking?  Studies have suggested that increased taxes can be especially effective in reducing smoking initiation rates among youth preventing their development into lifelong smokers and also reduce consumption and increase cessation among existing smokers.  Plus, revenue raised through taxes can help pay for needed health care.

California Senate Bill 591 (CA SB591) would increase California state taxes on tobacco packs by $2, bringing taxes on a pack of cigarettes from $0.87 to $2.87.  The current tax rate of $0.87 was set in 1998 and has not been raised since.  Further, in rank-ordering states by cigarette tax value from highest to lowest, California only ranks 32nd.  In addition to raising the dollar value of the tax, the bill allocates the tax revenues to help the tobacco purchasers most affected by the tax by paying the healthcare costs of tobacco-related illness and supporting tobacco prevention and education programs.

Smokers and non-smokers alike can agree that we need to address the human and healthcare system costs of smoking.  Let’s make a start by getting CA SB591 passed.  Contact your California assemblyman and urge their support today!

Romanian Lawmakers Indecisive When 100% Smoke Free Environments Are Urgently Needed

August 13, 2015

The European Union member states committed to good, clear, simple smoke free legislation and adequate reinforcement as recommended in the in the 2009 Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments and in the Guidelines to Article 8 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Romania is one of the few countries in Europe offering little or no protection from second-hand smoke due to weak or unenforced regulations.

Romania's smokefree legislation is weak and unenforced

Romania’s smokefree legislation is weak and unenforced

There is an urgent need to significantly improve the smoke free legislation if Romania is to protect the health of the public and honor its international commitments.The existing smoke free legislation is weak and not enforced, the most telling anecdotal evidence being recent videos with senators and representatives smoking on the hallways of the Parliament and using ashtrays positioned below “No Smoking” signs.

In March 2015, the Romanian Senate passed amendments to the smoke free legislation that would ban smoking in all enclosed public places. The amendments are now waiting to be approved by the Romanian House of Representatives. This legislation generated significant press and activity on both sides of the issue in 2015. The amendments were not put to vote in the House before the summer 2015 parliamentary vacation and there is the fear that they will be further postponed.

There is strong support from the public to expand the comprehensive smoke-free legislation. The opinion and the health of the Romanian public cannot be ignored anymore. The Representatives need to approve the legislation banning smoking in all enclosed public places now.

Beyond the regulation by the FDA: Is the tobacco use effectively controlled in the United States?

March 6, 2015

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the first international treaty adopted by the World Health Assembly in Public Health field in 2003 with the aim of decreasing in the global tobacco consumption and exposure. This treaty provides some frameworks to help countries in regulating the tobacco use by policies including a prohibition of tobacco advertising, compulsory indication of the harmful effect of tobacco on its packaging, and heavy taxation on cigarettes.

Although the effectiveness of policies was proven in many countries where the FCTC was adopted earlier, the U.S. has not ratified the FCTC yet. There might be several factors that have delayed ratification, but the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) could be the main reason, which actually complies with the FCTC. The FSPTCA authorized the FDA to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products. However, this act was criticized because “the law offers the tobacco industry an opportunity to rehabilitate its image and products as they are now FDA regulated.

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Stephen F. Sener, MD, national volunteer president at the American Cancer Society said that the U.S has a critical role in ratifying the FCTC, especially for low-income countries. Rationale of his critiques is mainly based on the fact that the U.S., as the fourth biggest tobacco producer in the world, has an huge international impact since it is the home country of multinational tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris.

Although President Obama promised his strong commitment for FCTC before he was elected, he has not shown his presence in this field. In order to promote more effective domestic tobacco control as well as international norms in the U.S., understanding the discrepancies between the FSPTCA and the FCTC is essential. Therefore, we strongly urge senators to set the agenda again so that Obama addresses this gap as the first step to ratify FCTC.