May 31, 2010

Young Indian women falling victim to tobacco?

Did you know that 8.3 percent of Indian girls between 13-15 years of age consume some form of tobacco? The statistic acquires significance as World No Tobacco Day is observed Monday with an emphasis on the marketing of tobacco to women.

“Adolescent girls are a major target of opportunity for the tobacco industry, they are trying to hook young girls through advertisements,” Bhavna Mukhopadhayay, executive director of the NGO Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), told IANS.

“Some advertisements on TV bring back well known cigarette brands and certain advertisements in magazines inform that girls who smoke can become slim and glamourous.”

May 31 is marked by the World Health Organisation as World No Tobacco Day and this year’s theme is “Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women”.

In India, the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to youngsters below 18 is banned. But the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) 2009 for India found that 8.3 percent of girls in the 13-15 age group consume some form of tobacco. Around 2.4 percent of the girls consume cigarettes and 7.2 percent consume other tobacco products.

A new WHO report, “Women and Health: Today’s Evidence, Tomorrow’s Agenda”, says tobacco advertising is increasingly targeting girls.

Data from 151 countries reveals that around seven percent of adolescent girls smoke cigarettes as opposed to 12 percent adolescent boys. In some countries, the number of girls who smoke cigarettes equals that of boys.

Many girls in Indian cities who smoke consider it “cool”. Working women cite peer pressure, stress at home and workplace and odd working hours as reasons. Several girls aged between 15 and 20 frequent hookah bars for fun and “relaxation”.

Although owners of hookah bars vehemently deny breaking the law, youngsters can be seen puffing away inside.

“Around 10 popular hookah bars function in Delhi alone and many ask their customers for age proof,” said Ashok Srivatsav, a hookah manufacturer.

But Komal Sharma, 15, a frequent visitor to hookah bars in Delhi, said: “I often go with friends to a hookah bar in Vasant Vihar but no one asks me for any ID proof.”

Gynaecologists point out that diseases such as chronic bronchitis and even cancer of urinary bladder or stomach can be caused by smoking hookahs.

Admits a staffer at a hookah bar, “Flavoured hookahs definitely contain nicotine and many youngsters initiate the smoking habit with it. Schoolchildren, particularly girls, frequent these places.”

As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), over 54 million women use some form of tobacco. Apart from smoking, women in India, particularly from rural areas, use smokeless tobacco like gutka, paan masala with tobacco, mishri and gul.

Many unwittingly become tobacco victims.

“While many girls use tobacco as a fad or for relaxation, many rural women work as beedi rollers for hours and suffer from tobacco related diseases,” said Ms. Mukhopadhayay.

“Approximately, there are over four million women beedi rollers and two million tendu leaf pluckers in India. Handling and inhaling tobacco dust and volatile components of tobacco puts them at a high risk of cancer, chronic lung diseases, tuberculosis, asthma and adverse gynaecological problems,” she added.

Margaret Chan, director general of WHO, commenting on the report, said: “Protecting and promoting the health of women is crucial to health and development - not only for the citizens of today but also for those of future generations.”

May 26, 2010

Smoking Amongst Teenagers

Teenage smoking is a big cause for concern today. The majority of adult smokers are said to start smoking as teenagers. Eventually they get hooked to smoking for life. Smoking is said to be the leading cause of preventable deaths. Every year millions of people die across the world because of a smoking related condition such as heart disease, lung ailment or cancer caused by smoking. Health experts want to curb smoking amongst teenagers but are finding it tough to do so. In spite of imposing bans on tobacco advertising and applying a ban on smoking in public places, there is no significant decrease in the number of teenagers who smoke.

Peer pressure is said to be the biggest reasons why teenagers get attracted towards smoking. Just because their friends are able to hold a cigarette and smoke like adults do, they too take up the habit. Initially, things appear to be in their control. They enjoy the thrill of participating in a forbidden activity. However, it soon becomes a habit and they find it difficult to get over their addiction.

The other factor that attracts teenagers towards smoking is the fact that media has glamorized cigarette smoking. Teenagers want to emulate their favorite stars and smoke in their style. Besides, children who see their parents and elder siblings smoking are more likely to start smoking early.

Health experts believe that strong steps should be taken to curtail the habit of smoking amongst teenagers. Parents and teachers must inform young boys and girls about the harmful effects of cigarettes. Children must be informed that smoking may initially appear to be pleasurable and glamorous but it is actually not so. If you notice a tendency for smoking amongst your teenage kids or siblings, you can even take them to a counselor so that they are able to better understand the repercussions of smoking at an early age.

For those who have unfortunately become addicted to smoking need not feel defeated. Though not so easy, smoking cessation is very much possible in spite of the number of years you have been smoking and the number of cigarettes you have been smoking in a day. Thanks to the advancements in medical science, there are effective smoking cessation aids available today.

May 25, 2010

Study Finds New Hazard in Third-Hand Smoke

Most people take the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke seriously, but a study published in the January 2009 edition of Pediatrics shows this is not enough. A newly discovered hazard, labeled "third-hand smoke," poses considerable risk, even more so because it is not always obvious.

A cigarette in the hand or a room full of smoke is conspicuous and easy to avoid. But what about after the cigarette's been put out and the smoke disappears? Doctors from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston say the dangerous toxins are still present, even if they are no longer visible. Smoke from tobacco products leaves a residue behind which exposes you to carcinogens, heavy metals and radioactive materials.

Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, explains: "Third-hand smoke is the tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette is extinguished. It's the toxic layer that is deposited on every surface indoors where a smoker lights up: in cars, on smokers' clothing and hair."

In the study, researchers surveyed 1,500 households in the United States to determine if people were aware of the hazards of third-hand smoke. Most smokers and nonsmokers agreed that second-hand smoke was an obvious danger. However, only 65 percent of nonsmokers and 43 percent of smokers thought third-hand smoke was hazardous to children. Most people, and especially those who smoke, simply aren't aware of the risks of third-hand smoke.

"When their kids are out of the house, they might smoke," says Dr. Winickoff. "Or they smoke in the car. Or they strap the kid in the car seat in the back and crack the window and smoke, and they think it's okay because the second-hand smoke isn't getting to their kids."

He points out you can smell tobacco smoke on someone after they've been smoking or in a room where people have smoked. "Your nose isn't lying," he said. "The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you, 'Get away.'"Dr. Philip Landrigan is a pediatrician who heads the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He thinks the term "third-hand smoke" is right on the money.

"The central message here is that simply closing the kitchen door to take a smoke is not protecting the kids from the effects of that smoke," he said. "There are carcinogens in this third-hand smoke, and they are a cancer risk for anybody of any age who comes into contact with them."

Of course, if you're an adult you can choose to remove yourself from any situation which exposes you to third-hand smoke. For children, whose developing brains and bodies are highly susceptible to the harmful toxins in smoking tobacco, the choice is not always in their hands. It's up to adults to take responsibility for our children's health by preventing them from being exposed to these toxic substances.

May 24, 2010

Youth group goes downtown to discourage smoking

Willie Pappas doesn’t smoke and he doesn’t want anyone else to use tobacco. Pappas is a member of the Local Youth Leadership Club, whose members were on Adamson Square in Carrollton Wednesday afternoon trying to get their message out.

“A lot of these cigarette companies are trying to get the kids smoking cigarettes, so we’re out here trying to tell people what’s in cigarettes,” said Pappas as he and other club members held anti-smoking signs and passed out pamphlets to passersby describing the harmful chemicals in cigarettes. “People need to know what the kids are smoking and what their kids are smoking, and maybe then they won’t smoke. They think it’s a minor drug, that it won’t do much harm to them, but they don’t realize all the chemicals that are in it. We’re just trying to make them aware.”

The club is in partnership with the Carrollton Housing Authority and is funded by a grant through District 4 Public Health. The group is in favor of a $1 tax increase on packs of cigarettes for a simple reason that could save lives, said Brandolynn Marenco, abstinence education coordinator with the Housing Authority.

“If taxes are increased on tobacco products then people are going to be less likely to buy them and more likely to quit if the price is going up,” Marenco said.

House Bill 39, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, who represents portions of Bryan, Chatham and Liberty counties in southeast Georgia, would raise the state taxes on each pack of cigarettes by $1, increasing the per-pack tax from 37 cents to $1.37.

Stephens said the state is in a major revenue crisis, with the Georgia General Assembly needing to plug a $1.1 billion in the state budget before the session ends sometime in late April or early May. An additional $1 on cigarettes would not only provide $350 million in new revenue, Stephens said, but it would also put the ever increasing burden of paying for health care for tobacco-related illnesses on the smokers themselves.

Under the current tax structure, Georgia’s cigarette tax generates about $237 million a year, but the state spends $537 million a year treating smoking-related illnesses in Medicaid patients alone.

Marenco said the problem is that cigarette companies target the younger generation in the hopes of getting them hooked an early age and then making them a customer for life. “They call our teens their future customers,” she said.The dangers in cigarettes are very much what’s not seen, in that they contain chemicals that are commonly understood to be harmful, Pappas said.

“I think that they [tobacco users] know that it’s not good for them, but most of them don’t know all the chemical things that are what makes them bad,” said club member Brandon Rowe. “But they are really bad.”

May 21, 2010

Camel No. 9 Campaign a Favorite Among Teen Girls

Disturbing New Data Reveal Teens More Likely to Smoke as a Result Washington, D.C. – A new study by the University of California at San Diego and Legacy shows that the 2007 R.J. Reynolds’ cigarette campaign, Camel No. 9, may have been effective in encouraging young girls to start smoking.

The study, being released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, looked at teens’ responsiveness to different tobacco marketing campaigns over the past five years and concluded that even after legal restrictions in the Master Settlement Agreement prohibited the targeting of teens through advertising, teens continued to be responsive to tobacco marketing and those who were receptive to it were 50 percent more likely to start smoking as a result.

“R.J. Reynolds is the same company that brought the American people Joe Camel, which at one time was recognizable to 90 percent of six year olds,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy. The release of this new research coincides with Women’s History Month and underscores the fact that the tobacco industry first began to aggressively market to women in the 1920s and continues to do so today. “While tobacco marketing campaigns have been targeting young women for 90 years, this research shows that sadly, despite all we know about the deadly toll of smoking, tobacco companies continue to successfully find ‘replacement smokers’ among our nation’s young girls,” said Healton.

The study enrolled more than one thousand 10-13 year olds in 2003 and followed them 5 times through 2008, asking participants to report a brand of “favorite” cigarettes. Specifically, teens who reported having a favorite cigarette ad at baseline were 50 percent more likely to have smoked by the fifth interview. The proportion of boys who reported having a favorite ad remained stable across all five surveys; however, it was found that after the launch of Camel No. 9, the percentage of teen girls who reported having a favorite cigarette ad increased by 10 percentage points, with Camel accounting for nearly all of this increase.

Camel No. 9 has been featured in top fashion and entertainment magazines geared for women, using stylish packaging and advertising featuring black, bright pink and teal colors and a name evocative of women’s fashion icons. In 2007, Legacy spearheaded a diverse group of public health and women’s public interest organizations calling for Camel No. 9 cigarettes to be taken off store shelves. In addition, more than 40 members of Congress called on women’s magazines to refuse advertising for this product, because the members saw such ads as direct attempts to attract girls and young women to smoking.

“This study provides the evidence that the Camel #9 campaign was clearly very attractive to underaged adolescent girls, effectively encouraging them to start smoking” said John P. Pierce, Professor of Cancer Prevention at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center in San Diego, “With 44 percent of underaged adolescents having a favorite cigarette advertisement in 2007, clearly the commitment that the tobacco industry made in 1998 that they would not target teens is far from being met.”

These results underscore the importance of our efforts to stop these types of campaigns and counter-market to youth who are so susceptible to them,” Healton added. Research shows that nearly 80 percent of current smokers started before the age of 18. And despite the knowledge of tobacco’s deadly toll, in the United States, nearly 20 percent of women still smoke and each year 174,000 women lose their lives to tobacco-related disease. In fact, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of women in the United States, surpassing breast cancer.

Camel No. 9 Cigarette-Marketing Campaign Targeted Young Teenage Girls was funded by grants from Legacy, the National Cancer Institute, the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program and the University of California – San Diego.

May 20, 2010

Belarus Inhales Russian Cigarettes

Beginning from April 1, Belarusian market opened for unlimited import of Cigarettes produced in Russia. Canceling the quotas on cigarette import to Belarus is one of the conditions of Moscow-Minsk bilateral agreement which might be signed already on March 1. However, import quotas is just one of the barriers preventing the sales of Russian Cigarettes in Belarus from rising.

Belarus has had quotas on cigarette import since 1997. Since 2001, it has been allowed to import only Cigarettes costing over $0.26 per pack. In 2002, 4.103 billion Cigarettes were imported to Belarus, in 2003 – 3 billion, in 2004 – 3.6 billion, in 2005 – 3.07 billion. Setting the quota for 2006, Belarusian government said it will be 1.5 billion Cigarettes, with the total amount of market being 18 billion.

Beginning from April 1, import quotas might be canceled within the implementation of the agreement between Russian and Belarusian prime ministers Mikhail Fradkov and Sergei Sidorsky. If the agreement is signed on March 1 as planned, then the cigarette quotas will be cancelled already by April 1.

Tobacco companies say the lifting of quotas will be good for the business. However, it does not guarantee the free import of Cigarettes to Belarus, since there exist other restrictions. For instance, every importer of Cigarettes has to obtain a license in the cou8ntry’s trade ministry. Yet, Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade said that it “regards such licenses as administrative obstacles for trade” and promised to “insist that they are cancelled”.

ALA Refuses to Support Legislation Prohibiting Electronic Cigarette Sales to Minors

The American Lung Association (ALA) has been actively encouraging state bans on the sale of electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”), despite the growing body of evidence indicating that they are a safer alternative to traditional smoking. These actions are contrary to their stated goals of preventing lung disease.

The American Lung Association (ALA) has been actively encouraging state bans on the sale of electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”), despite the growing body of evidence indicating that they are a safer alternative to traditional smoking.

According to Spike Babaian, president of National Vapers Club, “We believe the American Lung Association has lost track of its mission by waging a war on a product that has produced nearly a million former smokers.”

In a memorandum in support of proposed legislation (S7234) in New York which would ban all sales of electronic cigarettes, the ALA focuses primarily on concerns that electronic cigarettes are marketed to children. “For this reason,” said Babaian, “it is particularly disturbing that ALA deliberately refuses to support legislation aimed at preventing the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.”

In February of this year, at a Utah House Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Rep. Phil Riesen of Utah, said “I've been sitting here contemplating whether or not we should propose banning electronic cigarettes, and I'm hearing a lot of testimony from folks who say that it's helping them stop smoking,” and he went on to say, “I don't think we ought to ban them anymore than we should ban Nicorette or patches or anything that is helping people to quit.”

May 19, 2010

Are Kids More Likely To Smoke Menthol Cigarettes?

The regulation of tobacco is now a reality. Today marks the first public meeting of the Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel set up to deal with complex scientific issues involving tobacco. Last year, legislation was enacted that for the first time authorized the FDA to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products. One of its first charges is to answer the question – does menthol make cigarettes more harmful?

The overwhelming weight of highly credible and reliable science suggests that the answer is no. The use of menthol in cigarettes is an area in which extensive scientific studies have actually taken place. At least a dozen epidemiology studies, as well as several large smoke exposure biomarker studies have been conducted. Menthol in cigarettes has no meaningful effect on public health.

Advocates of a ban on menthol focus on two main topics – initiation and cessation. They claim that youth start smoking with menthol over non-menthol cigarettes. And, they allege that quitting smoking is far more difficult for those who smoke menthols.

Let's start with cessation. Quitting smoking can be difficult for all smokers. Several large national studies have shown no differences in dependence or cessation for menthol cigarettes. These studies are broadly representative of the total smoking population. Further, the overwhelming weight of epidemiology shows that menthol and non-menthol cigarettes are the same in terms of disease occurrence across races and sexes, and is strongly consistent with the conclusion that menthol cigarettes are no more difficult to quit.

No one wants kids to smoke. Through positive steps that public health advocates and tobacco companies like mine have made resulting from the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, youth smoking is at an all time low.

The majority of underage smokers report that their usual brand is not menthol. In fact, when you take a close look at the impact of menthol cigarettes on youth smoking rates, the data show that the use of menthol cigarettes may actually have a slight inverse relationship to the rate of youth smoking. Twenty-one states have a menthol market share that is higher than the national average. Of these, twenty have a youth smoking rate lower than the national average.

Based on these measurable outcomes, menthol cigarettes are clearly not associated with higher youth smoking rates.

Lorillard is dedicated to doing everything within our power to follow the new rules and regulations. Implicit in our commitment is an expectation that the FDA will likewise follow its rules and regulations, providing a fair hearing and assuring its actions are based on legitimate and objective scientific data.

Legitimate, objective scientific data should be a critically important component in this regulatory proceeding, just as it should be in any other FDA proceeding that deals with drugs or medical devices. Our nation is built on the foundation that regulatory agencies must base their decisions on the best science available. Good science should not become "science that supports what we want to do."

Good science should seek to apply rigorous empiricism to marshal relevant facts. That type of science should be paramount in the FDA's process, not anecdotal or behavioral surveys that are subject to bias and cannot be replicated.

It is critically important that menthol be evaluated without emotion or invective. This can only be accomplished if the FDA and its scientific advisory committee follow a course of meticulous objectivity in examining the conclusions reached by various scientific studies and the design and integrity of these studies – and, importantly, the motivations of those authors.

The challenge to adhere to the science must be met successfully by the FDA. Doing otherwise would undermine the integrity of this important regulatory agency. And it could well lead to unfair and unnecessary regulation of other legal products or industries, depriving citizens of their right to choose products that may be controversial or unpopular.

May 10, 2010

Private club aims to keep cigar smoking sociable

David Meyer leaned back in a leather-upholstered chair and smoked a Davidoff Aniversario No. 3. Seated nearby, Kelly Morrison savored a Davidoff 1000 and Rich Carney a Davidoff Puro D'Oro.

The three lounged and puffed in the members-only Commonwealth Cigar Club one floor above David and Renee Meyer's Milan Tobacconists retail store in Roanoke.

An annual fee of $1,000 and a biometric lock that reads fingerprints offer entry into the not-for-profit club, which formally opened April 16. Cigar aficionados living outside a 50-mile radius pay $500.

"The club is something Renee and I have always wanted to do," David Meyer said. "We just always envisioned a nice place for people to come and enjoy a cigar."

A dress code forbids hats and sandals and calls for collared shirts.

"There is a board that reviews all applications," he said.

Citing privacy, Meyer would not disclose members' names.

He said the club is intended to serve "like-minded people" but emphasized that demographics vary among the 30 people who have joined to date.

"Believe it or not, our members have all kinds of income levels," Meyer said.

So far, three women, including Renee, are members.

"We would like to get 50 members," Meyer said. "If we get 50, the club will be self-sufficient."

The Commonwealth Cigar Club occupies the second floor of the historic three-story building owned by the Meyers at 309 S. Jefferson St. The couple live on the third floor.

He would not say how much the club's limited liability company has invested to create the handsomely appointed club, which is a separate entity from Milan Tobacconists.

"People do not have to buy their cigars from us," Meyer said.

Membership provides access to private lockers in a room where the humidity is held to about 70 percent to retain cigars' ideal characteristics.

Pipe smokers can join, too. Two filtration systems serve smoke duty.

The Commonwealth Cigar Club has an ABC license that allows members to bring their own spirits, which are stored in individual lockers. Meyer said the club is the first of its kind in Virginia and that its unique setup prolonged the process of applying for and receiving the alcoholic beverage license. As a private club, it is exempt from Virginia's new law that prohibits smoking in restaurants.

Carney said he enjoys the taste and relaxation associated with a fine stogie, which he said typically requires an hour to smoke.

His favorite cigar is a Padron 2000, which features tobacco grown in Nicaragua.

"It's a very high-end taste for a very affordable cigar," Carney said.

Meyer said good, hand-rolled cigars generally range from $3 to $30 each.

Many cigar growers fled Cuba after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro and left with the seeds for the tobacco famed for quality and taste. Some growers ended up in Honduras, Nicaragua and elsewhere -- including the Dominican Republic, which has achieved renown for tobacco used in prestigious brands such as the Davidoffs smoked by Meyer, Carney and Morrison.

One review of the Davidoff Aniversario line describes the cigars as "velvety to the touch" with notes of "pepper, grass and a touch of earth."

Carney is not a member of the Commonwealth Cigar Club.

"It's a tremendous luxury and a luxury I cannot share with my family," he said. "I come up here as a visitor."

In 2000, David and Renee Meyer purchased Milan Tobacconists from her father, Don Roy, and stepmother, Myriam, who had acquired the longtime downtown business, known as Milan Brothers, from brothers Joe, Herb and Ellis Milan in 1994. Milan Bros. was long famous in the Roanoke Valley for its tobacco products and as a place to discreetly peruse and purchase "girlie magazines." The Meyers accentuated and enhanced the former and deep-sixed the latter.

In 2008, the Meyers moved the business down South Jefferson Street after they purchased the three-story building at 309, which once housed Lee & Edwards Wine Merchants, for $600,000 in July 2008.

Like other tobacco products, cigars are linked to cancer. And even though most cigar smokers do not inhale, the risks remain.

Stogies have fans and foes. One recent Internet search for the phrase "cigar stink" pulled up about 1.4 million entries.

But cigar connoisseurs, men and women, celebrate the aroma and taste of fine, hand-rolled cigars and the relaxation of savoring their slow, steady burn.

May 3, 2010

Arabic ad has smokes under fire

A SOCIAL marketing campaign targeting Arabic-speaking smokers in southwest Sydney has recorded a significant drop in tobacco use.

The “Ma’feesh cigara men gheir Khosara” (There is no cigarette without loss) campaign saw smoking rates drop by more than 5 per cent.

The tobacco control project focused on Arabic communities in Liverpool, Canterbury, Bankstown and Campbelltown.

Promotions on Arabic radio stations, billboards, bus advertisements and in Arabic language newspapers emphasised the health risks of smoking.

Following the campaign, bilingual interviewers surveyed more than 1000 participants to determine smoking rates.

Associate professor Chris Rissel from Sydney South West Area Health Service said the impact on tobacco use was significant.

“We focused on how smoking harms the family household. That was quite powerful,” Dr Rissel said.

“We had an overall drop in the prevalence of smoking from 26 per cent to 20 per cent.”

The study, published in the journal Health Promotion International, also reported a decline in the number of smoke-free homes of almost 8 per cent.

The marketing campaign had the biggest impact on married men over the age of 40 and the highest socio-economic groups, as well as the unemployed.

Researchers will continue to work with cafes and retailers to show the health impacts of inhaling smoke through water pipes.

Dr Rissel said the health effects of flavoured water pipes can be worse than cigarettes.