Category Archives: Tobacco control
New York’s high cigarette tax—the highest in the country, at $4.35 per pack—has helped the state cut smoking levels dramatically for both adults and high school students, according to a new study in PLoS One.
The state’s rate of adult smoking dropped by 28 percent from 2003 to 2010, while the national rate for the same period dropped only 11 percent. The rate for New York high school students dropped 38 percent from 2003 to 2011, compared to a national drop of 17 percent. There are approximately 664,000 adult smokers in New York.
While a clear contributor, a high cigarette tax is just one of the tactics that’s helped improve the state’s health, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. New York also has a comprehensive smoke-free air law, as well as prevention and cessation programs. Overall, these public health strategies have helped prevent more than 300,000 kids from smoking and saved approximately $11.6 billion in health care costs.
Despite the clear public health successes, Tobacco-Free Kids says more still needs to be done to help low-income New Yorkers quit smoking. While the study determined their smoking rate is also well below the national rate, 24.3 percent of New Yorkers earning less than $30,000 annually are smokers.
>> Read more on the study from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
>> Read more on how tobacco taxes can help cut health care costs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will require tobacco companies to report on a range of toxic chemical ingredients, as well as back up any claims for "safer" tobacco products.
Both actions will have a public comment period, ending June 4, 2012, before the rules become final.
Under the proposed regulations, tobacco companies will be required to report quantities of 20 different ingredients associated with cancer, lung disease and other health problems on consumer-friendly packaging by the end of the year, and the agency plans to make the information available to the public in a consumer-friendly format by April 2013.
Tobacco manufacturers will also have to substantiate claims if they want to market a tobacco product as "less risky" to health.
>>Read a statement from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids on the new rules.
>>Read more about modified risk tobacco products.
>>Read more about potentially harmful chemicals in tobacco products.
Can fear of the ill effects of smoking push people to break their cigarette addiction? That’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is banking on with its first ever national paid media campaign, “Tips From Former Smokers,” which shows smokers who quit, but not before losing a great deal, including legs, fingers, a larynx and the opportunity to shoot hoops with their kids.
>>Read an UPDATE on the impact of the Tips From Former Smokers campaign in a dramatic uptick in calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
The idea behind the new campaign is that the danger of smoking is usually talked about in terms of deaths of thousands or more. The new ads, according to the CDC, provide a perspective on real people who used to smoke and became ill as a result. Most of the people in the ads—none are actors—were diagnosed with smoking-related illnesses in their 30s and 40s; one was only 18.
The CDC is also counting on the campaign to counter promotion efforts by cigarette companies. “The tobacco industry spends $10.5 million a year—more than one million dollars every hour—to entice kids, keep smokers hooked and glamorize their deadly and addictive products,” says Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The CDC’s campaign will tell the harsh truth about how devastating and unglamorous cigarette smoking truly is.”
What if kids and teens never started smoking? They’d likely never start as adults and be extraordinarily less likely to die of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and other conditions associated with smoking. That’s the gist of a report released today by the Surgeon General, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults. It’s the 31st such report by a U.S. Surgeon General, and the first since 1994 to give detailed information on smoking—and the related health consequences—by children and young adults ages 12 to 25.
“We have made progress in reducing tobacco use among youth; however, far too many young people are still using tobacco,” says Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD. “Today, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. Rates of decline for cigarette smoking have slowed in the last decade and rates of decline for smokeless tobacco use have stalled completely.”
The key driver for increases, according to the report, is ubiquitous marketing by tobacco companies, specifically targeted at children and young adults. “Messages and images that make tobacco use appealing to [young adults] are everywhere,” says Dr. Benjamin.
A new report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, released this morning, is the 31st report from the Office of the Surgeon General focused on tobacco use in the U.S. NewPublichHealth talked about the new report with Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
>>NewPublicHealth was on the ground as the report was released. Read more on the new Surgeon General's report on youth tobacco use.
NewPublicHealth: What does the Surgeon General’s report tell us about progress in the fight to reduce youth smoking?
Danny McGoldrick: Well, unfortunately, it tells us that we’re not making nearly the progress that we need to. While smoking rates declined dramatically between 1997 and 2003—by almost 40 percent—between 2003 and 2009 they declined by just over 10 percent, and we still have almost 4,000 kids trying their first cigarette every day. So while we’ve made some progress, we’re not making nearly as much as we need to.
A new film, Addiction Incorporated, gives viewers a look at the tobacco industry and nicotine addiction from the perspective of Victor DeNoble, a former industry scientist turned whistle-blower. DeNoble testified before Congress in 1994 that his research proved nicotine was addictive, contradicting the sworn testimony otherwise of the industry’s chief executives. His testimony helped fuel lawsuits against the industry and contributed to eventual enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This 2009 law gave the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products and marketing.
Watch the trailer for Addiction Incorporated:
NewPublicHealth spoke with DeNoble and the documentary’s filmmaker, Charles Evans, Jr., about their story.
NewPublicHealth: Charles, how long was the film in development and what prompted you to do the story in this way?
Charles Evans: I saw Victor on C-SPAN and was greatly interested in his cloak and dagger life at Philip Morris and I wanted to know more. I’m a film producer and thought it would make a good movie and actively sought him out, got to know more about him and about the work that he went on to do afterwards. In the late ‘90s he essentially just started talking to kids and to me that became the story. The story became a man who was determined to do good with science and the tobacco industry.
NPH: Victor, can you summarize the findings of your research at Philip Morris?
Victor DeNoble: When I went to work at Philip Morris, my job was to find a substitute drug for nicotine because nicotine causes cardiovascular problems. They wanted to find a drug that was equally addictive but something that wouldn’t cause heart problems, but in order to do that we had to determine how addictive nicotine was. So we used classical rat models that determined drug addictions because rat brains are very similar to people brains, and we determined that nicotine was an addictive drug and that rats would work for it and it was not much different than other drugs of abuse like morphine, cocaine and heroin.
And then in a very surprising finding, around 1982 we discovered that there was a second drug in tobacco smoke that also was addictive and interactive with nicotine—and that drug is called acetaldehyde. What was interesting was that when you mixed acetaldehyde with nicotine, nicotine became more addictive.
NPH: Cigarettes have been called a finely tuned drug delivery device. Can you talk about what that means and how cigarettes are manufactured to maximize the delivery and impact of nicotine?
Evidence is mounting to support the idea that proven prevention programs, especially those that help keep kids from smoking and help smokers quit, pay big returns by reducing health care costs:
- A newly published study shows that Massachusetts saved more than $3 for every $1 it spent on services to help beneficiaries in the state’s Medicaid program quit smoking. (Also: read a related editorial.)
- Tobacco prevention programs could save an astonishing 14 to 20 times the cost of implementing them, according to a recent study in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy.
- A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) found that from 2000 to 2009, Washington State’s tobacco prevention and cessation program saved more than $5 for every $1 spent by reducing hospitalizations for heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and cancer caused by tobacco use. Over the 10-year period, the program prevented nearly 36,000 hospitalizations, saving $1.5 billion compared to $260 million spent on the program.
“These studies send a powerful message to the nation's elected officials that disease prevention initiatives, including programs that prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, are essential to improving health and reducing health care costs in the United States," says Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
NewPublicHealth spoke recently with Julia Dilley, PhD, and officer with the Program Design and Evaluation Services Department in the Multnomah County (Oregon) Health Department and the lead author of the study published in AJPH about the findings.
NewPublicHealth: What were the key findings of the Washington State study?
Julia Dilley: The main thing we learned is that within a pretty short period of time the state [tobacco prevention] programs saved money.
NPH: Who should be looking at these studies?
Julia Dilley: Legislators and people who make state budgets. In Washington, for example, policymakers are making tough budget decisions, and they are not easy decisions to make. And I see them saying, well, we can do smoke-free policies and taxes, which are positive things to do, but programs cost us money. What we’re showing is that you need all three to be effective. The investment will be a benefit in the short- and long-term. In Washington State, policymakers defunded the tobacco control programs for the coming year, but may be reconsidering them for the coming fiscal year, in part because of the study and because some state leaders did not want to cut the funding. Right now Washington is the only state without a state-wide quit line.
NPH: Given the economic realities of the moment, what is the best way to leverage tobacco control program funds?
Julia Dilley: There is always good work to be done in leveraging funds. One example is that the graphic warning labels for cigarette packs designed by the Food and Drug Administration have a referral number for the national quit line. That’s a good example of a state not having to put as much of its resources in promoting state quit lines, if the authority of the FDA to require the graphic warning is upheld.
Weigh In: Has your state cut or added tobacco control programs recently?
A new report, “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 13 Years Later,”on annual state use of tobacco company settlement funds shows another plummet in spending on tobacco control. This year’s report, released by a coalition of groups including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, shows that states have slashed funding for programs to reduce tobacco use by 12 percent in the past year and by 36 percent over the past four years.
“Those cuts threaten the nation’s progress against tobacco," says Danny McGoldrick, Vice President for Research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
According to the report, in fiscal year 2012, states will collect a near-record $25.6 billion in revenue from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 1.8 percent of it—$456.7 million—on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Both the total amounts states are spending on tobacco prevention programs and the percentage of tobacco revenue spent on these programs are the lowest since 1999, when the states first received significant tobacco settlement funds.
>>Read more on the value of investing in prevention.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Danny McGoldrick about the new report.
NewPublicHealth: What are the major findings in the new report?
Danny McGoldrick: Our annual report on how states are doing funding tobacco prevention with their tobacco settlement dollars doesn’t paint a very pretty picture this year. At a time when states are bringing in as much revenue as ever from their tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, they’re spending less than ever on proven programs that we know prevent kids from starting to smoke and help smokers quit. And when we don’t fund these programs or when we cut funding as we have over the past several years, what that means is that we are going to have more kids starting to smoke and fewer adults quitting, which obviously leads to more disease and deaths from tobacco and more health care costs, which we’re all going to pay for.
NPH: What specific impact does reduced state spending on tobacco control have on smoking cessation efforts in the U.S.?
Passing smoke-free measures is almost always harder than you might think, according to a new blog post from the Public Health Law Network. The post describes the recent efforts in Bullitt County, Kentucky, where a regulation drafted by the board of health requiring all public places and worksites to be smoke-free has been challenged repeatedly in the courts. The challenges are based on grounds that the regulation exceeds the authority of the board of health. The post offers important information on the variability of the legal and regulatory authority of boards of health across the country and opportunities for those boards to prevail.
Read the post here.
Bonus: Weigh in on what your community is doing to promote smoke-free air, and read comments on what others are doing in their communities. For example, Minnesota is working on smoke-free public housing and tobacco-free college campuses.
The CDC has identified reducing tobacco use as a winnable battle, given that it is a major cause of preventable death and we know what works to prevent it. Giving everyone the opportunity to breathe smoke-free air – through smoke-free workplaces, bars and restaurants – is a key strategy. If some of the 52 percent of Americans currently living in areas with no smoke-free indoor air laws or partial smoke-free laws find themselves with more places to breathe freely this year, they may want to thank the 150 advocates, researchers and funders meeting this week at “Clearing the Air: An Institute for Policy Advocacy VII,” a tobacco control policy advocacy retreat held by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
Smoke-free air advocates are critical to moving evidence into action around policy, influencing policy-makers and community leaders, and driving toward better community health. The Clearing the Air retreat brings together seasoned and new advocates, funders, researchers and other experts to create a movement for smoke-free air. Cynthia Hallett, M.P.H., executive director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, says the institute is designed to bring these individuals together to “share, learn, float new ideas and talk about challenges that people face in a safe space on how we can move forward.” For example, recent studies on the cardiovascular impacts of smoking came out of talks between researchers and local advocates, who knew that emergency room doctors had such data, and were able to link researchers with potential data sources.
Hallett commented on the benefits of the exchanges that happen at these meetings. “Often researchers and national advocates don’t hear what’s happening at the local level,” said Hallett. “Electronic cigarettes is another topic a previous institute focused on, and by giving local advocates help on crafting language to include in ordinances, the devices were included in legislation on restricting tobacco in some locales following the meeting.”