Category Archives: Tobacco
“Getting cigarettes out of our stores is a first step to making pharmacies a place where health happens,” said Troy Brennan, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark Corporation, of the company’s decision earlier this year to stop selling tobacco products in its stores. In a Spotlight: Health session at the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, Brennan and other business CEOs discussed how making health a priority can lead to better business outcomes.
By decreasing the number of places that consumers are exposed to cigarettes and eliminating the convenience of tobacco, he said that CVS is actively trying to reduce smoking rates in the areas it serves. However, the healthy decision is also good for the company’s bottom line—already the decision has had positive business results that it didn’t anticipate, including an increase in the company’s stock price following the announcement.
“Companies that make health a priority—consumers gravitate toward that,” he said. “That’s the business incentive.”
Joining Brennan in the conversation, Vitality Institute Executive Director Derek Yach added that the private sector needs to complement public efforts when it comes to health and prevention. For example, taxes and increased prices must work in concert to discourage consumers from unhealthy products or behaviors.
“There may be an economic hit in the short term,” said Yach of companies that make healthy choices easier. “But in the long term, businesses are going to get an inflow of customers who know that their values are aligned.”
Yach also encouraged using County Health Rankings data to understand the underlying risks in each local area, as businesses are uniquely positioned to tailor their interventions to what the surrounding community needs.
HUD Releases Progress Report on Rebuilding After Hurricane Sandy
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Sandy Program Management Office has issued its first report tracking progress on the Sandy Rebuilding Strategy. “While this report shows we are following through on [our rebuilding commitment] we also recognize that many families and business are still on the road to recovery and delays in connecting them to the services and support they need are often too long,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Although more work needs to be done, HUD and the federal government will continue coordinating with local officials until the region has recovered and we meet all the goals of the Sandy Rebuilding Strategy.”
The report tracks progress on several goals set by HUD, including:
- Promoting resilient rebuilding
- Restoring and strengthening homes and providing families with safe, affordable housing options
- Supporting small businesses and revitalizing local economies
- Addressing insurance challenges and affordability
- Building state and local capacity to plan for and implement long-term recovery and rebuilding
- Improving data sharing between federal, state and local officials
Read more on Hurricane Sandy.
New Report Finds Tobacco Companies Have Made Cigarettes Even More Addictive and Deadly
Design changes and chemical additives introduced by tobacco companies in recent decades have made cigarettes more addictive, more attractive to kids and even more deadly, according to a new report, Designed for Addiction, released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The report finds that tobacco companies have:
- Made cigarettes more addictive by controlling and increasing nicotine levels and enhancing the impact of nicotine.
- Made cigarettes more attractive to kids by adding flavorings such as licorice and chocolate that mask the harshness of the smoke, menthol that makes the smoke feel smoother and other chemicals that expand the lungs’ airways and make it easier to inhale.
- Added ingredients that make cigarettes even more deadly, according to a Surgeon General's report on tobacco and health, released in January which found that smokers today have a much higher risk of lung cancer than smokers in 1964, when the first Surgeon General's report disclosed the harms caused by smoking.
Read more on tobacco.
CDC to Launch Fourth ‘Tips From Former Smokers’ Series
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be launching its next “Tips from Former Smokers” series on July 7. The ads will run nationwide for nine weeks on television, radio and billboards, as well as online, in theaters, in magazines and in newspapers. According to the CDC, the Tips national tobacco education campaign has helped hundreds of thousands of smokers quit since it began in 2012.
“These new ads are powerful. They highlight illnesses and suffering caused by smoking that people don’t commonly associate with cigarette use,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Smokers have told us these ads help them quit by showing what it’s like to live every day with disability and disfigurement from smoking.”
Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, according to the CDC, and kills about 480,000 Americans each year. More than 16 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease. For every person who dies from a smoking-related disease, about 30 more people suffer at least one serious illness from smoking.
The most recent “Tips” campaign resulted in more than 100,000 additional calls made to 800-QUIT-NOW. On average, weekly quitline calls were up 80 percent while the ads were on the air, compared to the week before they began running. Read more on tobacco.
NIH Releases Tools to Help Older Adults Quit Smoking
While overall U.S. smoking rates are dropping, approximately 10 percent of adults over the age of 65 still smoke. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created a new online resource with videos, worksheets, interactive tools, strategies, quizzes and more to help older smokers who are thinking about quitting. “Most older adults know that smoking is harmful, and many have tried unsuccessfully to quit, often a number of times. But stopping smoking is a difficult goal that still eludes many older smokers,” said Erik Augustson, program director of the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which developed the topic for NIHSeniorHealth. “This new topic, which offers a mix of tips and tools geared to the needs and experiences of older smokers, is an important, easy-to-use resource that can benefit those trying to quit for the first time as well as those who have tried before.” Read more on tobacco.
AHA: Only One-third of Cancer Patients with Heart Problems Seek Proper Treatment
Approximately 12 percent of older breast cancer patients go on to develop heart failure within three years—often as a result of their cancer treatment—but only one-third of those patients sought the help of a cardiologist within 90 days of experiencing heart problems, according to the American Heart Association. Patients who do not see a cardiologist are less likely to receive the standard therapy for heart failure, putting them at risk of lower quality of care and demonstrating an important area where oncologists and cardiologists can collaborate, according to Jersey Chen, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and a research scientist and cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente. “The bottom line is, if you have breast cancer and you’re treated with anthracyclines or trastuzumab, you should know they have side effects,” said Chen in a release. “And if you have symptoms of heart problems like shortness of breath or swelling in the feet or legs, seek attention quickly, preferably with doctors familiar and comfortable with treating heart failure after cancer therapy.” Read more on heart health.
Long Hours Spent Sitting Linked to Higher Risk for Colon, Endometrial Cancers
Previous studies have linked extended time spent sitting to health problems such as heart disease, blood clots, higher blood sugar and even early death. According to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, you can now add increased risk for colon and endometrial cancers to the list. Researchers analyzed the findings of 43 studies covering 70,000 cases of cancer, determining that:
- People who spent the most time sitting during the day had a 24 percent increased risk of getting colon cancer
- People who spent the most time sitting in front of a television has a 54 percent increased risk for colon cancer
- There was a 32 percent increased risk for endometrial—or uterine—cancer for women who spent the most time seated and a 66 percent increased risk for those who watched the most television
- Every two-hour increase in sitting time was linked to an 8 percent increased risk of colon cancer and a 10 percent increased risk of endometrial cancer
Read more on cancer.
CDC Study Finds No Significant Change in Use of Smokeless Tobacco
From 2005 to 2010 there was no significant change in the percentage of U.S. working adults who used smokeless tobacco, according to the new National Health Interview Survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2005, approximately 2.7 percent of workers reported using smokeless tobacco, with the percentage climbing slightly to 3.0 percent in 2010; males (5.6 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (4.0 percent) reported the highest usage, followed by adults ages 25-44 years, people with no more than a high school education and people living in the South (all 3.9 percent). By industry, smokeless tobacco use was most common in mining (18.8 percent), and by occupation it was most common in construction and extraction (10.8 percent). According to the CDC, these findings indicate opportunities to engage workers with tobacco cessation efforts, such as providing employee health insurance coverage for proven cessation treatments; offering help for those who want to quit; and establishing and enforcing tobacco-free workplace policies. Read more on tobacco.
6,000 Steps Per Day May Improve Knee Arthritis, Reduce Future Disability Risk
Walking 6,000 steps a day—or about one hour at the average person’s pace—may both help improve knee arthritis and prevent further disability, according to a new study in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. In a study of approximately 1,800 adults who either had knee arthritis or were at risk, researchers found that for every 1,000 steps a person took a day, their functional limitations were reduced by 16-18 percent. The study also pegged 6,000 steps as the target to reach to ensure the healthiest results. Approximately 27 million Americans age 25 and older live with osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis and often referred to as “wear-and-tear arthritis,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Read more on physical activity.
Study: Great Recession Contributed to Additional 10,000 Suicides in North America, Europe
Stress and other health issues resulting from the Great Recession were associated with more than 10,000 additional economic suicides—suicides in response to financial hardship—between 2008 and 2010 in North America and Europe, according to a new study in The British Journal of Psychiatry. While job loss, debt and foreclosure can increase the risk of suicidal thinking, researchers determined that many such suicides could have been avoided. They recommend upstream return-to-work programs, antidepressant prescriptions and other interventions as ways to mitigate the risk of economic suicides if and when another economic downturn strikes. Read more on the prevention.
FDA Initiative Gives Developers Easy Access to Public Health Data
A new online initiative from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), openFDA, will give mobile application creators, web developers, data visualization artists and researchers access to the agency’s vast public health datasets in order to streamline the creation of their own applications. The structured, computer-readable format allows researchers to determine what types of data they want to search and how they want to present that data to end-users. “The openFDA initiative leverages new technologies and methods to unlock the tremendous public data and resources available from the FDA in a user-friendly way,” said Walter S. Harris, the FDA’s chief operating officer and acting chief information officer. “OpenFDA is a valuable resource that will help those in the private and public sectors use FDA public data to spur innovation, advance academic research, educate the public, and protect public health.” Read more on technology.
Study: 24 Million U.S. Youth Exposed to E-cigarette Advertisements
Unlike with traditional cigarettes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the marketing of e-cigarettes unless they are advertised as a smoking cessation aid. As a result, e-cigarette companies currently market their products to an audience that includes 24 million youth, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers determined that, from 2011 to 2013, youth exposure to e-cigarette advertisements climbed 256 percent and young adult exposure climbed 321 percent. They also determined that approximately 76 percent of the youth exposure came from advertisements on cable networks. Read more on tobacco.
Study: Global Investment in Midwives Needed to Save the Lives of Mothers, Newborns
Investments in midwifery could save the lives of millions of mothers and newborns, according to a new report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The report determined that 73 African, Asian and Latin American countries experienced 96 percent of the world’s maternal deaths, 91 percent of stillbirths and 93 percent of newborn deaths, with lack of access to midwives a significant contributing factor. Those countries have only 42 percent of the world’s midwives, nurses and doctors.
- Among the report’s recommendations:
- Increased access to preventive and supportive care from a collaborative midwifery team
- Immediate access to emergency services when needed
- Completing post-secondary education
- And, from a broader perspective, women should delay marriage, have access to healthy nutrition and receive four pre-birth care visits
"Midwives make enormous contributions to the health of mothers and newborns and the well-being of entire communities. Access to quality health care is a basic human right. Greater investment in midwifery is key to making this right a reality for women everywhere," said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, in a release. Read more on maternal and infant health.
Citylab—formerly Atlantic Cities—reported recently on an architectural award bestowed by Residential Architect on the Corinthian Gardens Smokers Shelter, a 275-square-foot structure in Des Moines, Iowa. It was created by local architectural firm ASK Studio for smokers who live in a nearby apartment building. “This project serves as a reminder that smokers aren’t extinct by quietly celebrating an activity that has gone from banal to banned,” reads the description on the publication’s online portal.
“It’s the sort of structure that has the feel of a private clubhouse for the tobacco-initiated,” according to award juror Cary Bernstein, whose comments were published by Residential Architect. “It makes you want to smoke so you can be in it.”
Wisely, the materials used to construct the shelter are nonflammable. Smokers get benches to sit on while they smoke and lighting for security after dark.
Corinthian Gardens is hardly the only such smoking shelter in the United States. An online search finds several companies that make the shelters, although none seem as glitzy as the one in Des Moines. And late last year a judge in Great Falls, Montana, ruled that smoking shelters that also house gambling machines don’t violate the city’s Clean Indoor Air Act.
So far, it seems, the shelters are legal so long as they adhere to rules governing smoking in the state or city they’re in, such as being built the requisite distance away from a building to avoid blowing second hand smoke at non-smokers. But tobacco- control advocates worry that the shelters, especially the recent award winner, can hurt the goals of completely eradicating smoking as a social norm—especially when 19 percent of U.S. adults still smoke.
“The fact that people are being protected from the elements is fine, we support the design perspective, but we worry about anything that normalizes or glamorizes smoking,” said Robin Koval, president and CEO of tobacco control advocacy group Legacy.
“We don’t’ hate smokers, we love smokers, what we hate is tobacco,” said Koval, “and so you have to call the structure what it is: a waiting room for the cancer ward because one out of two people who use it will die of tobacco-related diseases. To us that’s really the issue.”
CDC: Man Previously Reported Having MERS Does Not Harbor the Virus
After completing additional and more definitive laboratory tests, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has retracted a report made last week that an Illinois man contracted the potentially deadly MERS virus from a patient who was diagnosed with MERS in the United States after spending time as a health care worker in Saudi Arabia. The confusion over the diagnosis came from earlier tests that indicated antibodies to a coronavirus, the class of virus MERS belongs to. However, more definitive tests found that he did not harbor the MERS virus. There are six known versions of the coronavirus; four cause mild illness and two cause the much more serious MERS and SARS viruses. Read more on infectious disease.
Study: 30 Percent of the World’s Population is Obese
A new analysis of global obesity trends finds that approximately 2.1 billion people—or nearly 30 percent of the world population—are obese, according to a new study in The Lancet. Researchers found that rates of being obese or overweight climbed 20 percent in adults and 47 percent in children during the 33 years analyzed. The study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, determined that while obesity was once more common in wealthier nations, approximately two-thirds of the world’s obese population lives in developing countries. In addition, the statistics for the United States were especially troubling; while only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States, the country is home to approximately 13 percent of the world’s obese population. Read more on obesity.
Study: Lung Cancer Screening Can Scare People into Quitting Smoking
In addition to early detection and treatment of lung cancer, early screening can also scare people into quitting smoking before they even develop the disease, according to a new study in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers based their findings on an analysis of 14,621 current smokers, 55-70 years old, with a 30 or more pack-year smoking history and who had smoked during the last 15 years. The data was taken from the Lung Screening Study component of the U.S. National Lung Screening Trial. The study found that "...abnormal screening results may present a 'teachable moment'" and that "[f]uture lung cancer screening programs should take advantage of this opportunity to apply effective smoking cessation programs." Read more on tobacco.
Study: Family Stress Can Impact Mortality Risk
Stressful family situations can significantly increase the risk of death, according to a new study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Using health data on 9,875 men and women aged 36-52 years from The Danish Longitudinal Study on Work, Unemployment and Health, researchers determined that frequent worries and/or demands from a partner or children were linked to a 50-100 percent increase in mortality risk, and that frequent conflicts with any type of social relation were linked to a 2-3 times increase in mortality risk. Researchers also concluded that people outside the labor force were at higher risk of exposure to stress family situations. Read more on mortality.
National Task Force Recommends Regular Hep B Screening for People at Highest Risk
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending regular screening for all people at high risk for contracting hepatitis B virus. If left untreated, the chronic illness can lead to liver cancer. Among the groups that the national panel says should be screened are:
- People born in countries with a high rate of infection, mainly in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
- Those who share risk factors similar to those for HIV, including injection drug users, men who have sex with men, and people living with or having sex with someone with a hepatitis B infection.
- Patients with a weakened immune system or who are undergoing treatment for kidney failure.
"We have treatments that are effective at suppressing the virus and at improving abnormalities in the liver, so we can prevent some of the damage that occurs due to chronic hepatitis B," said Roger Chou, MD, an assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and director of the Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center, as well as lead author for the evidence review that formed the basis of the task force's recommendation. Read more on infectious disease.
Fewer Smokers See E-cigarettes as a Safer Smoking Alternative
While the national profile of e-cigarettes continues to increase, smokers are also increasingly less likely to view them as safer than traditional cigarettes, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Using data collected from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), researchers determined that awareness of e-cigarettes rose to 77.1 percent in 2013 from 16.4 percent in 2009. However, while 84.7 percent of smokers in 2010 viewed e-cigarettes as less harmful than traditional cigarettes, that number was down to 65 percent in 2013. Current estimates are that c-cigarette sales will soon reach $1.7 billion annually, or approximately 1 percent of all U.S. cigarette sales. Read more on tobacco.
Data on thirdhand smoke—tobacco smoke left on surfaces, walls and floors—was first published in 2009. The data has raised significant concerns that the smoke can linger for months or longer, as well as combine with indoor air compounds to possibly form new carcinogens. In the last few months researchers from the California Thirdhand Smoke Consortium, funded by the University of California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TDRP), have been presenting and publishing data that indicates that thirdhand smoke is linked to serious health risks in animals and humans—though more research is needed to better measure thirdhand smoke constituents and their health impact.
Consortium researchers published the first animal study on thirdhand smoke in January in the journal PLOS One, finding that mice exposed to thirdhand smoke developed a range of medical conditions, including liver damage and hyperactivity. Research published last year, as well as presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society a few weeks ago, finds that thirdhand smoke likely causes damage to human DNA.
And last month several of the Consortium scholars presented their findings at a tobacco conference n California.
“The potential health risks of what we call thirdhand smoke are only now being studied. This is a new frontier,” said Georg Matt, a Consortium member and psychology professor of at San Diego State University who focuses on policies to protect nonsmokers. “We don’t yet know the degree of risk, but we are already finding that indoor smoking leaves a nearly indelible imprint. We need to find out what risk this pollution poses.”
Census: Bicycle Commuting Up 60 Percent in Past Decade
U.S. cities across the country are seeing increases in bicycle commuters, according to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The report found that the total number of people who use a bike to get to work jumped by approximately 60 percent in the past decade, to about 786,000 during the 2008-2012 period, making the largest percentage increase of all commuting modes tracked by the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey. Portland, Ore. had the highest bicycle-commuting rate at 6.1 percent; the overall national rate was 0.6 percent. "In recent years, many communities have taken steps to support more transportation options, such as bicycling and walking," said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau sociologist and the report's author, in a release. "For example, many cities have invested in bike share programs, bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets." Read more on physical activity.
May 19 is ‘Hepatitis Testing Day’
Approximately 5.3 million Americans live with chronic viral hepatitis, although many don’t even realize they’re infected, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Today, May 19, marks the third national Hepatitis Testing Day, founded to work to increase the number of people who know their hepatitis B and hepatitis C status; what severe—or even fatal—complications they may face if they’re infected; and their risk of spreading it to others. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers an online Hepatitis Risk Assessment, which utilizes brief questions to determine risk, and then prints out recommendations based on CDC’s testing and vaccination guidelines to discuss with their health care provider. Read more on prevention.
Current, Former Smokers May Have Harder Time Becoming Pregnant
Current and former smokers may face more difficulty when trying to become pregnant, according to a new study in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) analyzed the chances of getting pregnant among 686 current smokers, 741 former smokers and 2,346 women who never smoked, finding that among the former smokers with the highest level of exposure, the chance of getting pregnant was reduced on average by 26 percent per menstrual cycle. “Pregnant women are already encouraged to quit smoking because of the risks to the mother and baby. Some women might not be aware that current regular smoking also harms female fertility, as concluded by the U.S. Surgeon General based on observational studies and animal studies,” said Rose Radin, a doctoral student in the BUSPH Department of Epidemiology and the lead author of the study, in a release. “Our study also found that current regular smokers take longer to get pregnant than never smokers.” Read more on tobacco.