Friday, January 23, 2009

In honor of the national inauguration...

I caught this story on NPR (there's an audio option near the top of the article).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Smoke Free Milwaukee Project Exposes Hazardous Air Quality in Bars and Restaurants

According to a study released today by the Smoke Free Milwaukee Project, secondhand smoke in Brew City's eating and drinking establishments exposes workers and customers to hazardous air quality. The report, which covers 32 Milwaukee bars and restaurants, finds 69% of the establishments tested had hazardous air quality. In fact, two workplaces had air quality more than two times the hazardous level! The only three workplaces that measured good air quality were smoke-free ones. Sheri Johnson, PhD- an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin who presented the study's results- called for a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free workplaces law to protect public health.

Members of the medical community came together with public health officials, the Black Health Coalition, and other Milwaukee residents to draw attention to these striking numbers. "Eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke is one of the most important steps we can take to reduce the incidence of lung cancer, emphysema, and other life threatening diseases," said Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Medical Director, Dr. Michael Jaeger.

Jack Grassel, a musician, told his story of working in the smoky bars and restaurants for decades. He was joined by Cheri Modrow, a singer in Milwaukee bands, who recently had to stop performing because of asthma and other health consequences from secondhand smoke exposure. "I had to choose between a job I love and my health," she said.

No one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck! Thank you to the Smoke Free Milwaukee Project for bringing our attention to the effects of workplace smoking in our largest community.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Air quality in Indiana casinos

The Indiana Academy of Family Physicians and researchers from Purdue University, along with partners from the Indiana Campaign for Smokefree Air released its first ever study of indoor air quality and secondhand smoke exposure in the area casinos. Workers in casinos have significant and harmful levels of exposure to secondhand smoke, despite measures to reduce harm via ventilation systems. Casino workers should not have to choose between their health and a paycheck.
This study is significant in a number of ways. First, casinos are the fifth largest employer in Indiana, employing nearly 16,000 workers. Secondly, these workers are a much greater risk for lung and heart disease and various cancers simply based on their exposure to secondhand smoke. Finally there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and this study shows that casino workers are exposed at deadly rates.

Another interesting fact about casinos and tobacco issues comes from a 17,000 participant Las Vegas gamblers study which showed that four out of five gamblers do not smoke! It's time to clear the air in the casinos of Indiana.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Altria Closes the deal on UST

Big Tobacco amidst the worst economic times our country has seen since the Great Depression is well positioned to be making large purchases. Altria Group, the parent company of Phillip Morris (PM), the United States' largest tobacco company has finalized their purchase of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (UST), the largest smokeless tobacco company in the US. For the full article link here.
During a time when most other stocks are losing ground and our financial markets are unstable, the tobacco industry is still making gains. PM USA increased its net revenue by 2.1% to $5.1 billion in the third quarter in 2008. Of course businesses want to grow and show their stock holders a return on their investment. However, the difference between Big Tobacco and other companies is that the tobacco industry profits off of the sale of a lethal addictive product, specially marketed to vulnerable populations. But why you might ask would Phillip Morris move into the spit tobacco market? Quite simply, Tobacco Control has been so successful in enacting smoke-free laws, Phillip Morris needs to find a way to maintain its profitability. Smokeless tobacco is the key to preserving their profits. What we are seeing is that industry wide tobacco sales are decreasing 3 to 4% annually, but smokeless tobacco is increasing 6 to 7% (according to a Wall Street Journal article mentioned in this article about the merger: Seeking Alpha). The fight for smoke-free air is leading to increased use of smokeless tobacco. Altria group under the names of Phillip Morris, Marlboro, Copenhagen, Skol, and many others will ensure its share of profits by moving into new markets and ensuring their addictive, deadly substances are still killing people at home and abroad.