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Tobacco News Archive

So What WAS in the News?

Substance abuse, whether legal or illegal, is so widespread in modern society that there are many stories about it in the news everyday.

This page contains stories about smoking tobacco which were, originally, placed on the Substance Abuse News page but which can no longer be called 'News'.

In addition to items specifically about this substance there are many items related to substance use and misuse in general where they are relevant to tobacco and smoking. These general items can be found in the 'All Substances News Archive'.

Please go to the 'Phantastica' page to access stories related to specific substances.

US District Court judge rules against more effective warnings on cigarette packs
8th November 2011

A US District Court judge has allowed an injunction preventing the FDA was requiring more graphic warnings on tobacco packaging because he thinks it could harm their commercial interests.

Read more in today's blog

Small Trial Suggest 'Tabex' Could be an Effective Smoking Cessation Aid
9th October 2011

A small randomised placebo-controlled trial suggests 'Tabex' might be as effective as much more expensive smoking cessation aids.

Read more in today's blog.

England Brings in Vending Machine Ban for Tobacco
1st October 2011

A ban on selling tobacco from automatic vending machines came into force in England, today.

Read more in today's blog.

Smoking in Movies and its Influence on Children
24th September 2011

Should films that depict smoking be classified as '18' because children may try smoking after seeing it on screen?

Read more in today's blog.

Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act Starts to Bite

Using powers granted to it under the 2009 FSPTCA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced rules, effective 22nd June 2010, to outlaw the use of words which have been shown to create the impression that a particular brand is safer. Thus terms like 'light', "mild" and "low tar" are no longer permitted to be used in any way. As a result Marlboro Lights, the most popular brand of cigarettes in the USA, are now Marlboro Gold.

At the same time other rules have been introduced specifically aimed at youth smoking. It is now illegal to sell cigarettes in packs or less than 20 or to split packs to sell a few at a time.

New York Plans Big Increase in Tobacco Taxes.

New York state is to impose an additional $1.60 per pack tax on cigarettes together with increases on other tobacco products. In addition, the rules on monitoring sales by Native Americans to outsiders are to be tightened so that this is not a means of evading the taxes.

'World No Tobacco Day' to Focus on Women

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that its 2010 'World No Tobacco Day' (31st May) will focus on tobacco use by women, especially in the developing world. This follows reports that tobacco companies are focussing marketing efforts in this area which they see as their "largest unexploited market".

Figures from Bangladesh, for example, suggest that the increase in adult tobacco use from 37% in 2004 to 43% now is due to more women starting to smoke because of marketing messages about tobacco making women more attractive, energetic and smarter.

Officially, tobacco advertising is banned in Bangladesh so the messages are spread by fly-posting, especially in rural areas, and the tobacco companies dent involvement.

It is even reported that the low birth weights associated with smoking during pregnancy are being  positively promoted as resulting in less painful childbirth.

More information on World No Tobacco Day can be found on the WHO website. (opens new window)

Tobacco - In and Out of Control

As expected with any new legislation, the value of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act will depend on the willingness of its regulator, in this case the FDA, to pursue enforcement and the success of those who wish to challenge it.

On both these points, the early news is good.

On 7th November 2009, the FDA wrote to a number of companies insisting that they discontinue the online sale of flavoured cigarettes and requiring them to write to the FDA within fifteen days to confirm that they have acted. The agency has been proactively seeking out websites selling these products which it banned as soon as the new law was signed.

A number of legal challenges to the act are to be expected but the first of these, an application to the Federal District Court in Kentucky asking for a ruling that the act's introduction of controls on how tobacco can be marketed was a First Amendment violation, has failed.

Less encouraging on the tobacco front, however, is the news that a new report from the Global Smokefree Partnership and the American Cancer Society (ACS) believes that tobacco use in large parts of Africa could double in the next twelve years unless more is done to restrict smoking in public places and other actions which, in other continents, have reduced the prevalence of smoking.

USA Bans Some Cigarette Flavours

In the first move under the recently passed Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the USA's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of fruit, candy and clove flavours in cigarettes.

These flavours are said to make young people more likely to try smoking.

Anti-smoking campaigners have said that menthol should have been included on the banned list.

USA Law will Regulate Tobacco

More than forty years after the US surgeon general said smoking was a health hazard, the USA is, finally, about to have a law allowing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to control the tobacco industry.

The US Senate has passed 'The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act' and it is expected that the House of Representatives will approve it, possibly within days. President Obama has already said he will sign the bill into law as soon as it is presented to him.

The new law would give the FDA the power to control the nicotine content of tobacco products as well as enabling it to ban ingredients added to tobacco. It is thought that flavourings added to make tobacco more attractive to young people will be the first to be banned. The law also gives powers to limit advertising especially close to schools.

Interestingly, the law does not permit the FDA to ban tobacco outright or require the removal of all nicotine. It was felt that such measures would lead to the establishment of a criminal market for tobacco products. It's good to see American legislators recognising that prohibition is not an effective strategy.

At the same time that the USA is taking a step forward in harm reduction arising from smoking and tobacco use, the Indian government appears to be soft-pedalling. The Indian Supreme Court set a 31st May deadline for tobacco packaging to carry graphic warnings but, so far, no action has been taken against the industry. The government is said to be concerned about the impact on the 45 million people said to be dependent, directly and indirectly, on income from the tobacco industry.

300 million Indians are believed to smoke with some estimates saying over 20 million people start smoking each year. It is said that the estimated $20 billion in tobacco taxes falls far short of the healthcare costs which are thought to be over $70 billion.

Schoolchildren Want Tobacco Out of Sight

According to a survey conducted by Cancer Research UK, nearly two thirds of 11 to 16 year olds, in the UK, think cigarettes should not be on open display in shops.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the figure for non-smokers is higher than for smokers, both occasional and regular, with 72% of non-smokers versus 55% of smokers stating their support for proposals being discussed in the House of Lords which, if implemented would make tobacco an 'under the counter' product.

It is known that over 80% of smokers start before the age of nineteen and a variety of measures are being considered in the hope of reducing the likelihood of children being tempted to try smoking.

Scare or Disgust but Don't Try Both Together

Researchers from the University of Missouri say that people respond to anti-tobacco messages which scare them and they respond to those which disgust them but when the two are combined the message is ignored.

The researchers tested the reaction of people to anti-smoking ads which contained messages about the diseases which could result from smoking, intended to promote fear, ads intended to disgust by showing diseased organs and ads which combined disgusting images with fear provoking messages.

By measuring both immediate reaction as a sign of the attention being paid and later recognition using one second clips from the ads to test memory, the researchers say they found that people switch off if a message is too intense.

The full paper is to be published shortly but a detailed press release about the work can be found at the University of Missouri website. (Opens a new window.)

USA had 2.4 million Tobacco Related Cancer Cases in Five Years

It seems that a figure of five million deaths a year, worldwide, isn't enough to stop all current smokers in their tracks. So, the Centers for Disease Control has analysed cancer cases from 1999 to 2004 and concluded that 2.4 million of them were tobacco related.

The research looks at this figure in more detail and breaks out the highest risk parts of the population. Not surprisingly, the highest rates are in tobacco growing states with the vehemently anti-smoking west coast being the lowest.

The study also points out that 438,000 people a year die prematurely because of tobacco, 38,000 of them as a result of passive smoking.

Teens Tell Teens About Smoking

Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 have run a project, funded by the Department of Health, called BREATHE which offered young people the chance to produce short films aimed at their peers about smoking.

From an initial 1500 proposals, 10 were short-listed and developed into full movie scripts and three were produced. In one, a young woman coughs up her own lung after a heavy night's smoking. Another has an attractive teen turn into an old hag as she puffs at a cigarette. The third, which is both the longest and most striking, has the manager of a human slaughterhouse explaining how they take money from people who wish to die and, even though they all change their mind about dying, the contract is enforced.

Research in the USA, published earlier this year, showed that young people responded better to anti-substance abuse messages if they came from people of their own age.

The films can be viewed on the Channel 4 website (opens a new window).

Young Smokers Find Quitting Harder

Researchers from Utah, Wisconsin and Minnesota have found that nicotine addiction in later life is stronger for those who start smoking before the age of 16.

By studying nicotine dependence using a standard test and examining genetic variations, the researchers showed that someone who starts smoking in the early teens will find it harder to quit in later life than someone who is over sixteen when they first smoke.

The paper, available from the open access journal PLoS, (opens in new window) concludes that increased effort to postpone the start of smoking could have a major impact on attempts to quit in adulthood and, hence, on public health.

Smoking Ban Reaches the Netherlands

Long after most of the EU, the Netherlands has outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants. The new law, effective from July 1 2008, only applies to tobacco but that means users smoking joints made of cannabis and tobacco in one of the country's 500 'coffee shops' will be breaking the law. Twice, actually.

You see, smoking cannabis isn't, contrary to many people's beliefs, legal in the Netherlands. It is simply tolerated in particular circumstances, that is in 'coffee shops' who can have a limited quantity in stock and not be prosecuted.

It is too early to know whether police will use the new legislation to target cannabis users but some shops are already looking at items like vaporisers which enable the consumption of cannabis without tobacco.

What makes this story interesting, though, is that in putting it into context some reports have pointed out that the tolerance of the use of cannabis in the Netherlands has not led to an explosion of consumption. In international terms, Holland ranks somewhere in the middle. Cannabis use is higher than in Germany but lower than in France, England and the USA.

As in Australia, where those provinces which do not pursue small personal growers and users have similar rates of cannabis use to those where prohibition is enforced, the Netherlands has found that the legal status of cannabis makes little difference to its prevalence.

The UNODC 2008 'World Drugs Report', see the news archive page, also shows that opiate use in the Netherlands is one third of the rate for England and Wales and cocaine use is less than one quarter. The claim that availability of cannabis leads to increases in 'hard' drug use is not supported by these statistics.

The Smoking Ban in England - One Year On

Smoking in public places became illegal in England on 1st July 2007 and initial evidence suggests that there has been a six fold increase in the number of people quitting smoking since then.

What can not be determined is whether these quitters have done so out of respect for the law or because the absence of other smokers in social settings has reduced the peer pressure which can make giving up difficult. Only time will show whether this increased rate of giving up can be sustained or if it represents a one off tranche of less committed smokers.