Thursday, July 30, 2009

Orbs: Smokeless tobacco for adults or another ploy by Big Tobacco to hook kids?

As states continue to go smoke-free, tobacco companies continue to find ways to sell their products. One way is developing smokeless tobacco products that are appealing to more people than just baseball players. What they have developed, however, are tablets or strips that dissolve in one's mouth, and look eerily like breath mints.

An example is Orbs, (pictured left) which is the latest Big Tobacco product, and is only available in a few areas of the country.

They look like breath mints, and with clever packaging, they could blend in well with convenience store candy and gum.

Not surprisingly, lawmakers are hoping to regulate the Orbs using the FDA's new authority to regulate tobacco. Tobacco companies claim that they are just an alternative to cigarettes, and are only marketed toward adults.

One lawmaker said he doesn't buy that excuse from Big Tobacco.

"Tobacco candies are clearly designed to appeal to children through both packaging and taste," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. "This is not a safe product. This is not safe tobacco. It is a product that, like cigarettes, causes cancer and kills."

For more information on Orbs check out a USA Today article about it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Tobacco Company raking in profits

The manufacturer of Newport cigarettes, Lorillard, Inc., increased it's profits this year, despite a decrease in cigarette imports into the United States.

Many tobacco retailers reduced orders at the beginning of the year because they had to pay a 62-cent one-time "floor tax" on all on-hand inventory before April 1, when the federal tax-per-pack went up.

Analysts expected tobacco profits to drop as well. However, Lorillard and it's two largest competitors, Altria and Reynolds American, also did better than expected in second quarter results.

Lorillard increased its market share in the second quarter even amid a reduction in cigarette imports. The company credited cutting costs and acquiring a smokeless tobacco manufacturer for the healthy financial returns.

Big Tobacco making profits amid economic turmoil

While other companies have been struggling through the recession, the world's two largest Tobacco companies, Phillip Morris International and Reynolds American, did better than expectations in the second quarter of the year.

According to a article Phillip Morris earned 83 cents per share, which was more than the average estimate of 77 cents. Reynolds exceed expectations by 13 cents per share, with a profit of $1.29.

Phillip Morris' shares have risen by 5.8 percent this year.

The Wall Street Journal also did a story about Tobacco's "resilience" amidst the global downturn.

Tobacco companies are certainly surviving the movement to go smoke-free, and developing new ways to hook kids with smokeless tobacco products... the topic of our next blog post

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

U.S. military considering a smoking ban in the future

A panel on tobacco use in the military suggested banning smoking on bases as a method to reduce tobacco use in the military.

If Defense Secretary Robert Gates accepts the suggestion, it would be a far cry from times past when soldiers received a few cigarettes along with their ration of food and supplies.

Many people are skeptical that a ban on smoking would work, with the prevalence of smokers in the military. Twenty-two percent of VA patients are smokers, as are 33 percent of active duty troops.

However, the advisory panel chairman Stuart Bondurant said the military could gradually reduce smoking over about 20 years by not allowing smokers into the military.

"If the services take the full 20 years, practically everyone now in the military would be retired," Bondurant said.

According to the report, as detailed in a Chicago Tribune article, the military is stuck with a $846 million annual bill for tobacco related medical care and lost productivity.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Las Vegas blackjack dealer sues Caesars over secondhand smoke

A former Las Vegas dealer and other plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against Caesars Palace and Harrah's Entertainment Inc. on Wednesday for not doing enough to protect their workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

The lead plaintiff, Tomo Stephens, quit her job as a blackjack dealer on June 16 after 20 years, at the advice of her doctor. Stephens' doctor found precancerous cells in her stomach, and the lawsuit said she has suffered from several other health problems over the years because of secondhand smoke.

The suit says that Caesars has not done enough to protect its workers from secondhand smoke (other than a few smoke-free poker rooms), and even encourages its customers to smoke by selling cigarettes and cigars on the gaming floor.

The plaintiffs are not seeking monetary damages. Instead, they want Caesars to take "reasonable measures" to protect its employees from secondhand smoke and require Harrah's to provide pamphlets in their wellness center about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

(Check out the Las Vegas Sun story about it.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

FDA tests indicate that e-cigarettes pose a health risk

In the latest sign that e-cigarettes may not be safe, testing results released by the FDA on Wednesday indicate that e-cigarettes may pose many of the risks of conventional smoking.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine-filled cartridges, often flavored, and rely on a battery to turn the nicotine into a vapor, which is inhaled by the user. Manufactured almost exclusively overseas, e-cigarettes are shipped to the United States and sold in shopping malls and online. Companies like NJOY and Smoking Anywhere market their products as alternative sources of nicotine in smoke-free environments and as a "safer" alternative to conventional tobacco use.

But e-cigarettes have raised serious red flags for the FDA.

"It looks like a cigarette, and it's used like a cigarette," Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' tobacco consortium, said during an FDA-sponsored news conference. "It's marketed as a cigarette, and thus has the potential to normalize and cue smoking behavior."

Concerns from health officials are twofold:

First, officials worry that e-cigarettes, which do not give off the smell or smoke of a conventional cigarette, may still pose many of the same serious health risks of cigarettes. The FDA analysis found carcinogens and an antifreeze component in e-cigarette vapors.

Second, the FDA has echoed the worries of the World Health Organization that the use of e-cigarettes may lead non-smokers, and especially young people, to eventually use conventional cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which remains highly-addictive in vapor form. The majority of e-cigarettes also include flavoring (including chocolate, mint, and bubblegum), which FDA officials believe to be aimed at young people.

"Past experience suggests that these products may be particularly appealing to young people," Winickoff said. "E-cigarettes might encourage children, preteens and young adults to take their first step toward smoking cigarettes."

For more information on the FDA's testing, see the related U.S. News article.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

FACT loves smoke-free air

Fighting Against Corporate Tobacco (FACT) is busy promoting Wisconsin's smoke-free implementation date next year!

Franklin, Wis. FACT members celebrated America's independence with a celebration of clean air on the way on July 5, 2010. As FACT passed through the streets of their hometown, residents cheered for their float and signs celebrating smoke-free air. They carried signs saying, "Get Ready for a Healthier You" and "We love Smoke-free."

Ellsworth, Wis. FACT demonstrated their enthusiasm for smoke-free air at the Cheese Curd Festival Parade on June 28th. The group paraded through the route showing off a sign, "Counting down to clean air."

Milwaukee, Wis. LGBT FACT showed their pride for smoke-free air at the annual PrideFest event. The kids created a giant "Stop Secondhand Smoke" chalking, and encouraged people to snuff out their cigarettes. FACT members also educated people about Big Tobacco's targeting of LGBT populations, sprayed designs on T-shirts, and created FACT building blocks.

Thanks FACT for promoting smoke-free air, and reminding everyone of Big Tobacco's ploys to hook youth!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Help out SmokeFree Wisconsin

Hello SmokeFree Wisconsin blog readers!

SmokeFree Wisconsin is considering revamping its Web site(, and we need your help.

If you use (or visit) our web site, blog, or social media applications, please help us by taking this short survey.

Our online presence is designed to be useful—to coordinators, state partners, the press, volunteers and activists, and others. This 5-10 minute survey will help us decide where to concentrate our efforts, where our Web site does a good job, and where you think SmokeFree’s online efforts need work.

Our survey will be available for two weeks—ending Friday, July 17th. Please take a few minutes out of your day to submit your answers. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Austin Hetrick and Lavilla Capener

Policy Interns

SmokeFree Wisconsin