Category Archives: Tobacco control
Idea Gallery is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth in which guest authors provide their perspective on issues affecting public health. Today, the Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A. writes about the new FDA cigarette health warnings.
It’s simple: Smoking kills.
Sending this message to smokers — or to those who are thinking of starting smoking — just got a lot easier. Earlier today, the federal government released nine new graphic health warnings that will appear on everything from cigarette packs to in-store tobacco displays.
Stark images and bold messaging will now graphically illustrate — on every ad and every pack of cigarettes — the painful and deadly reality of tobacco use: A diseased lung. A baby surrounded by secondhand smoke. A man who needs an oxygen mask to breathe.
Beginning September 2012, each pack of cigarettes will serve as a vivid reminder of the real public health effects of smoking.
Smoking is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States, killing 443,000 people each year. The next cigarette could be the one that triggers a heart attack, a stroke or cancer. And it is not just smokers who are affected: There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Any exposure to tobacco — even if secondhand — is harmful.
The new U.S. Food and Drug Administration warnings are a major component of the Department of Health and Human Services’ new comprehensive strategy to prevent children from starting to use tobacco and to help current tobacco users quit. In fact, each new warning label carries the government-funded 1-800-QUIT-NOW cessation resource phone number.
The new labels illustrate the message — that tobacco use is harmful. The graphic warning labels will bring us one step closer to ending this completely preventable epidemic.
For more information and to see the final images, visit www.fda.gov/cigarettewarnings.
Residents in 25 states and the District of Columbia are breathing a little easier these days.
Since 2000, their governments have enacted smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars, according to a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The new report underscores the strong momentum across the country to pass smoke-free workplace laws that protect all workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke,” says Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The report projects that, at the current rate of progress, the entire nation could have laws banning smoking in all indoor areas of private sector worksites, restaurants and bars by 2020. These places are major sources of secondhand smoke exposure.
“As the U.S. Surgeon General and numerous scientific studies have found, smoke-free laws protect health without harming business,” said Myers.
In addition, polls and ballot initiatives repeatedly have shown that the public strongly supports smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air. (RELATED: See our interactive tobacco control map.)
“Every state should enact such a law,” Myers said.
For additional perspective on the CDC report, NewPublicHealth spoke with Maggie Mahoney, Deputy Director of the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium. The Consortium is a partner of the Public Health Law Network and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
NewPublicHealth: Are all the laws that have been enacted the best they can be, or could some be strengthened?
Maggie Mahoney: As the CDC's report notes, the U.S. Surgeon General found in 2006 that no level of exposure to secondhand smoke is safe. It is for this reason that the public health community strives to pass smoke-free laws that — at a minimum — prohibit smoking in enclosed public places and in enclosed places of employment. A number of jurisdictions have gone beyond this minimum level of protection and have passed laws that prohibit smoking in certain outdoor areas where people gather or work, due to evidence that secondhand smoke does not necessarily dissipate quickly in outdoor areas where people are smoking.
A number of the existing laws were passed before the 2006 Surgeon General's Report [on secondhand smoke] was released, and could be strengthened to reflect the current science on this issue.
NPH: How hopeful are you that states that have not yet passed smoke-free laws will do so, and soon?
Mahoney: The public health community is dedicated to reducing tobacco use — the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States — as well as reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, which causes 3,000 nonsmoking Americans to die of lung cancer and 46,000 to die of heart disease each year. Those facts alone should compel all — and have caused many — lawmakers to pass strong smoke-free laws. Other lawmakers have been persuaded by data showing that tobacco use results in medical costs of $96 billion per year and lost productivity costs of $97 billion per year; that smoke-free laws do not negatively impact business revenues; and that courts have found that passing smoke-free laws is an appropriate use of the government's police power. In some jurisdictions where lawmakers have hesitated to act, the public has gone to the ballot to demand to be free of exposure to secondhand smoke. There has been tremendous progress in passing smoke-free laws, especially in recent years. This turning of the tide shows that it is only a matter of time before the remainder of the United States population is protected from exposure to secondhand smoke.
NPH: And are there any concerns that states with smoke-free laws could weaken or repeal them?
Mahoney: Any law that is passed has the threat of being repealed. Additionally, weak laws are still being passed in some jurisdictions — and some strong laws currently are facing the threat of being watered down — due to misperceptions by legislative bodies about the dangers of secondhand smoke; the desire of their constituents to breathe smoke-free air in their workplaces and in places they visit; or the potential effects on business revenues.
We've seen a couple of instances at the local level where smoke-free ordinances were repealed before they went into effect, and a few attempts at the state level to put repeal measures on the ballot. For example, in Campbell County, Ky., the ordinance was passed shortly after an election, but before the new county officials took office. The new county officials repealed the ordinance before it went into effect. And in South Dakota a smoke-free law was scheduled to go into effect in 2009, but implementation was put on hold after opponents put a repeal measure on the ballot. In November 2010, the citizens of South Dakota voted against the repeal attempt and decided to keep the smoke-free law. These situations are rare. It is more typical to see attempts to reopen smoke-free laws to add language allowing smoking in certain types of venues.
NPH: What are the sorts of questions you’ve been fielding on smoke-free laws recently?
Mahoney: Just in the last two weeks, we've reviewed draft amendment language that is being considered by a state legislature and discussed the ramifications of those possible amendments with public health advocates; researched penalty provisions in a draft local ordinance, to see whether they are consistent with state law; and conducted research to help a governmental attorney prepare her brief in a court case where a bar owner is arguing that a smoke-free law should be overturned.
Earlier today, in our inaugural Idea Gallery Post, Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Cheryl Healton, President & Chief Executive Officer of Legacy, shared their perspective on why Major League Baseball should ban smokeless tobacco. But they're not the only ones talking about this issue. Read on for other takes:
Bobby Valentine, a former major league player and manager of the New York Mets, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled "Take the Dip Out of the Ball Game."
Everyone in baseball knows someone who chews — it’s estimated that a third of players use some form of smokeless tobacco. Even I chewed during games when I was really bored. For many of us, it is simply part of the sport. It wasn’t until I had chewed for years that I realized what a bad example I was setting and quit.
Sports writer Rob Neyer took a stance as well in this SBNation.com post.
I can't for the life of me understand why ballplayers aren't allowed to smoke tobacco in the ballpark, but are allowed to chew it.
And late today in a report from the Boston Globe, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has indicated he personally believes that "smokeless tobacco should be banned at the Major League level, but that is a subject that we are required to bargain over with the Major League Players Association."
WEIGH IN: What are your thoughts on smokeless tobacco in MLB? Should professional athletes be held to a higher standard as role models?
Idea Gallery is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth in which guest authors provide their perspective on issues affecting public health. Today's contributors are Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Cheryl Healton, President & Chief Executive Officer of Legacy.
Every summer, millions of American children go to baseball stadiums across the country to watch their heroes play the national pastime. And even more kids watch the games on TV.
That means millions of kids see Major League Baseball players chewing and spitting out harmful tobacco products – creating the false impression that smokeless tobacco use is cool and athletic. About one-third of current Major League Baseball players use smokeless tobacco.
To protect the health of ballplayers and the kids who look up to them, we urge Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to ban tobacco use by players, managers, coaches and other team personnel at ballparks. The current talks on a new collective bargaining agreement give baseball a unique opportunity to make a powerful national statement about health.
Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Public health experts have concluded that smokeless tobacco is very addictive and causes cancer and other serious illnesses. And smokeless tobacco use among high school boys is spiking – it’s increased 36 percent since 2003 and an alarming 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless products.
In spite of these disturbing statistics, the tobacco industry still spends huge sums – more than $350 million per year at last count – to market smokeless products and often promotes them as a substitute for smoking. Tobacco companies continue to advertise these products in magazines that appeal to youth.
Baseball banned tobacco use in the minor leagues 18 years ago. The NCAA and the National Hockey League also prohibit tobacco use. Ending tobacco use in Major League Baseball would be another important step to help teach kids that tobacco use — in any form — is dangerous and can lead to serious diseases. It will also help keep our kids’ heroes healthy.
NewPublicHealth invites you to join and advance this conversation. Please share your comments below. We look forward to hearing from you.