Friday, April 23, 2010

Assembly Concurs with Senate Amendment 1

In case you haven't heard the big news yet, the Assembly decided to take up Senate Amendment 1 late last night. The amendment was made to what is called a "reviser bill." This is a bill that is a catch all for any re-numbering, minor errors, or other edits to legislation passed throughout the legislative session. AB 720 fixed plenty of errors in other laws but also sought to make a significant policy change to the statewide smoke-free air law. This amendment did one positive thing-- which was define a solid wall as substantial. However it created more confusion about the definition of enclosed place.

Enclosed place is defined as "a structure with a roof and  two or more substantial walls."

A substantial wall is defined as "a wall with no opening or with an opening that either does not allow air in from the outside or is less than 25 percent of the wall's surface area." 

This definition does not clarify what can and cannot be considered inside or outside. 

Common sense must prevail in the face of so-called "legislative fixes."

The public is smart enough to know what is inside and what is outside. The vast majority of Wisconsinites support this law (69%) and know that all Wisconsin workplaces including bars and restaurants will be going smoke-free on July 5th 2010. 

To read coverage from various news sources click the links below:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sinus and nasal problems increase with secondhand smoke exposure

It's a familiar scene- a couple of friends invite you over for some drinks at their house. Or maybe its a house warming, or graduation party, or even better a Halloween party.... Its a cheap alternative to the bar and would allow for a better conversation. The only catch here is that your friend smokes in their apartment. This type of exposure to secondhand smoke could place you at risk for sinus issues among other health issues.

A new study released this week shows that secondhand smoke (SHS) may be to blame in people's nose and sinus issues. Exposure to SHS was linked to an increased likelihood of suffering from sinusitis. Just in case you needed one more reason to support smoke-free public places here it is!

The study found that exposure to secondhand smoke at work tripled the risk for sinus issues, while risk was double for those who are exposed at private social functions. This research did delve into new territory in the sense that it examined SHS exposure in private social settings. Previous studies have examined sites of exposure like at work or in your own home.

While legislation has addressed the vast majority of workplaces, public places, and entertainment venues that people frequent-- a friend's private resident is clearly not covered under these laws. While there has been some progress made at multi-unit housing, single family homes remain unregulated. If you weren't totally convinced on the importance of smoke-free housing perhaps you are now.

To read the REUTERS article click here. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The paradox between tobacco and cannabis regulation

Earlier this week CNBC posted an article (part of  a special report on "Marijuana & Money") debating the business models of Big Tobacco and Big Pharma when it comes to the marketing and sale of legal cannabis. This article points to the larger debate about the legality and medical uses of cannabis. Here in Wisconsin a so-called "medical marijuana" bill was offered up but did not pass either house of the legislature.

Wisconsin's bill sought to provide for a registry of medical cannabis users and to de-criminalize the act of purchasing, possessing, growing, and using cannabis. There are very specific illnesses called out in the law such as Chrohn's Disease, AIDS, cancer, and other debilitating illnesses. 
With today being April 20th, a day of demonstrations across the globe asking for two things, first, the right to access medical cannabis; and second, to legalize cannabis for recreational use. There are really two segments of the pro-cannabis movement medical and recreational users. However one approaches the issue of legalization there is an interesting debate that rests a between regulation of tobacco and the potential for regulation of legal cannabis. What does tobacco control have to teach the medical marijuana movement?

Should cannabis be legal? Only in cases of medical use? Should it be taxed and regulated like tobacco? Should it be treated like a pharmaceutical drug? A recent AP-CNBC survey  showed that public opinion is swaying towards medical use. Should marijuana become legal it could be taxed like cigarettes, prohibited from being smoked in public places like tobacco, and people could even be prevented from driving under the influence like alcohol. The question remains- how would legal cannabis fit within the framework of tobacco control? Treated the same or differently? Drug delivery device or more like tobacco? What are your thoughts? Comments welcomed!

The CNBC article debated who is a better fit to market cannabis- Big Tobacco or Big Pharma? With Big Tobacco clearly having the one up on distribution-- Big Pharma has the ability to make the product safer for use. To read more about this debate check out the CNBC Article

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tobacco candy a new poison

A new study was released today from the peer-reviewed journal, Pediatrics. Data from poison control centers in 2006 and 2008 showed that over 10,000 kids under six are poisoned by tobacco products each year. That number could rise with the new products that Camel has been test marketing. 

Small amounts of nicotine are very hazardous to young children. One milligram is enough nicotine to cause illness in a small child. This new study pulls together data that examines the issue of accidental poisoning by tobacco products. This research is rather timely in that the market for smokeless products is certainly growing. 

These products modeled after candy or breath mints could be attractive to small children. While Big Tobacco claims their products are not marketed at children or that they resemble Tic-Tac's; I think the public will see things differently. 

Harvard researchers including Greg Connolly studied the contents of the orbs and found that they have a higher amount of free nicotine in them than cigarettes or other smokeless products would. 

For more information on Big Tobacco's Lies on these new products visit MELTDOWN (website out of Virginia). 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chew on this

A hearing was held on Wednesday at the congressional level to discuss a prohibition of spit tobacco by Major League Baseball players. Currently, the use of smokeless or spit tobacco is prohibited in the Minor League. The Major League does prohibit players from smoking in public and while in uniform. Recent years there has been a rise in the use of smokeless products according to the CDC's Terry Pechacek. He was quoted in a Rueters article saying that the downward trend in smokeless use has been gradually rising in recent years. The increase is primarily among white and Latino males. 

The risks of smokeless tobacco are perhaps not as well known or in the public eye in the same way that the risks of smoking are. Spit tobacco is a cancer causing product with devastating, disfiguring effects. 
At the hearing the issue of banning spit tobacco in the Major League brought people from all sides of the issue to discuss the issue. Health advocates made the case that youth are influenced by their role models. Athletes are held in a particularly high position in our society and young children are highly influenced by their behaviors. Some players spoke in support of eliminating spit tobacco from the league. 

According to Greg Connolly, a Harvard Professor, about 1/3 of MLB players use chew. This high of a number definitely role-models the behavior and addiction to fans of all ages. Connolly also brought to light some of the social networking that young people are doing around baseball and spit tobacco. He read off the types of messages that Facebook users write to other users and the content was disturbing. One quote was "The bigger the dip, the better he plays!!" in reference to this young person's favorite player. Another interesting quote was " Baseball and Skoal... God Bless America!" A quick visit over to YouTube will also shed some light on how users influence other users all while protecting Big Tobacco's bottom-line and perpetuating addiction. 

Gruen Von Behrens (see pictures of before and after) also testified before the committee on the issue. For those who don't know Gruen, he is public speaker in schools who shares his story of cancer and spit tobacco. He started at age 13 and by 17 he was diagnosed with throat cancer. A video of his story can be seen here. 

To read the Reuters article click here.

To read the ABC article click here. 

As for the hearing, no decision has been made. Hopefully the Majors will join the Minors in saying NO! to spit tobacco.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The 2010 Burden of Tobacco Report

Last week the 2010 Burden of Tobacco Report was released. The financial and human costs associated with tobacco in Wisconsin are huge. 15% of all deaths in Wisconsin are attributable to smoking, with the largest portion of deaths being from lung cancer. Nearly 7,717 people die in Wisconsin annually due to smoking.

While Wisconsin has made great strides in terms of passing policies like smoke-free air and increasing the cigarette tax- still the burden of smoking is immense.

This report also estimated that the economic impact of smoking in Wisconsin is about $4.5 billion. They break down that number into nearly $3 billion in health care costs and another billion in lost productivity.

Our work is far from over in tobacco control. More to the point, with the new threats from Big Tobacco, it is unclear what the burden of smokeless products are. It is also unclear how that burden might grow as new products, dual users, and other factors change the face of the burden of tobacco in the future.

Visit this site to download the full PDF of the 2010 report:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poll: Souix Falls, South Dakota loves smoke-free air

The Argus Leader just published their poll on the opinions of voters regarding a smoke-free air law. 66% of respondents said they vote for a comprehensive smoke-free air law that includes all workplaces, restaurants, and bars. While only 32% of respondents said they would like to see smoking in public places continue. These are  typical numbers of polling data of smoke-free air laws. Roughly 2/3 of the population supports smoke-free air, regardless of factors such as gender or political party.

With a small yet vocal minority of detractors of smoke-free air laws, its clear that South Dakota will be going smoke-free following a vote in the fall.

A little history on South Dakota's efforts to go smoke-free. The legislature passed a law which was signed by the Governor in March, 2009. South Dakota would have gone smoke-free on July 1, 2009. A petition was circulated to place the smoke-free issue on the ballot for November 2010.  The supporters of the referendum have both gaming and tobacco industry ties. While many signatures were invalidated, the petition garnered enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

South Dakota does have certain casinos and video lottery establishments including in their law. This means that  the influence of the gaming industry is at play. The gaming industry is powerful and not unlike Big Tobacco. Best of luck to the advocates in South Dakota in their efforts to create a healthier state!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Forward! Wisconsin's Tobacco Prevention and Control Conference

Starting today Wednesday April 7th tobacco control advocates from all across the state will gather to build new skills, continue their education, and network. This two day conference will feature speakers from the national organization Americans for Non-Smokers' Rights (ANR) and a selection of Wisconsin's own experts in public health. New to the conference this year are four sessions which will help participants harness the power of technology. While most of the conference will focus on the immense success our movement has had in the last year, new trends and tools for action will also be provided. Conference attendees will leave invigorated with the ability to implement the new smoke-free law and a clear vision that our work is far from over.

For those readers who are joining us  I look forward to seeing you at Monona Terrace. For those readers who are not joining us I will post a conference summary on Friday.

Here's to a healthier future!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Smoke-Free Laws Map

To view the map larger click here.

Reminder: Don't sell tobacco to youth

A recent article from Fond du Lac is a little reminder that despite wide spread knowledge of the law that selling youth to minors is a crime- sales are still occurring. With three businesses out of 16 selling to minors in FdL, the odds are that tobacco products are landing in the hands of youth across the state. That first cigarette or chew can lead to a lifetime of addiction. Despite education and prevention efforts, if youth can easily access tobacco products, the burden of tobacco will remain the same.
Check out this article for more details. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

60 Minutes: Going smokeless

Watch CBS News Videos Online

I was pleased to see that the issue of smokeless tobacco is making national news in the form of a segment on 60 Minutes last night. They featured people from a variety of viewpoints from users to public health advocates. One important note is that the science presented from Sweden on Swedish Snus product is not valid or applicable when it comes to making claims about U.S. Snus. As the story indicates snus in the Sweden is regulated heavily by the government. Toxics are assessed and reduced to "safer" levels. The U.S. does not regulate snus in the same manner. Claims of harm reduction should be taken with great caution as there is not a scrap of scientific evidence proving snus has a reduced risk in the U.S., unless that is, you believe Big Tobacco's science. Big Tobacco makes claims of harm reduction with regards to these products- not exactly a reliable source of information. Another important point that the story makes is that Big Tobacco is working hard to protect its bottom line by moving into new markets.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Going Smoke-Free Early

Businesses all across the state are getting ready to go smoke-free. Some took the expression "I can't wait for a smoke-free Wisconsin," to heart and went smoke-free early.

This video from La Crosse:

This video from Milwaukee:


These articles from Milwaukee:

Business can get help going smoke-free early by visiting our website and clicking on the link to the left.