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Potential help for unborn in Vitamin C

| May 13, 2013

Vitamin C might help prevent lung problems in babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy, according to a small new study reported by HealthDay.

Pregnant women are advised not to smoke because it can harm their babies’ lungs and lead to problems such as wheezing and asthma. But if a pregnant woman can’t quit smoking, taking vitamin C might help protect her baby’s lungs.

“The study included 159 women who were less than 22 weeks pregnant and unable to quit smoking,” the story reported. “They were randomly assigned to take either one 500-milligram capsule of vitamin C or a placebo each day for the remainder of their pregnancy.

“Forty-eight hours after birth, babies born to women who took vitamin C had significantly better lung function than those whose mothers took the placebo. During their first year, wheezing was reported in 21 percent of infants whose mothers took vitamin C and in 40 percent of infants whose mothers took the placebo. The rate among infants born to non-smokers was 27 percent.”

The preliminary study, which showed an association between vitamin C use and better lung function in infants but did not prove a cause-and-effect link, was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in Washington, DC.

“Vitamin C is a simple, safe and inexpensive treatment that may decrease the impact of smoking during pregnancy on childhood respiratory health,” said lead author Dr. Cynthia McEvoy, an associate professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University Children’s Hospital.

Meanwhile, study co-author, Dr. Eliot Spindel, a senior scientist at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University, said that getting women to quit smoking during pregnancy had to be priority one. “… but this finding provides a way to potentially help the infants born of the roughly 50 percent of pregnant smokers who won’t or can’t quit smoking no matter what is tried,” he added.

Smoking goes airside at Aberdeen airport

| May 10, 2013

The establishment of an airside smoking shelter at Aberdeen International Airport in Scotland is expected to help reduce the number of full terminal evacuations caused by people smoking in areas where smoking is banned, according to a story by The Scotsman.

The shelter, which is adjacent to the main departure lounge, will provide passengers who have been processed through security and are waiting for their flights with somewhere to have a cigarette before takeoff.

The smoking shelter was erected after more than 400 people who took part in a survey last year said they would like to see an airside facility installed at the airport.

“It is designed to reduce the number of full terminal evacuations,” an airport spokeswoman was quoted as saying.

Many such evacuations, which cost thousands of pounds, were caused by passengers lighting up in prohibited areas, activating smoke alarms and causing major disruption and delays, she said.

“Interestingly, even 61 percent of non-smokers who took part in the survey said they supported an airside smoking shelter,” the spokeswoman added.

Despite EU weakness, German smokers stay strong

| May 1, 2013

Alison Cooper, CEO of Imperial Tobacco, said cigarette and tobacco sales in Germany were “excellent,” despite the EU’s economic weakness, which hit the British multinational’s half-year profits.

“We are growing cigarette share, we are growing fine-cut share, and not just at the value end of the market. We have seen growth at the top-end in brands such as Davidoff and Gauloises,” Cooper told CNBC.

“We have seen excellent performance in that market,” she added.

However, Imperial Tobacco, the world’s fourth-largest cigarette company, said volumes were hit by difficult trading conditions in the broader EU, from where it makes two-thirds of its earnings.

Revenue in the six months leading to March 31 stood at £13.4 billion ($20.8 billion), down 4.2 percent on the previous year’s £14.0 billion. Operating profit was down 9.7 percent at £1.2 billion.

“The performance reflects the weak consumer environment across Europe, challenging competitive situation in the U.S. and the need to step up investment behind its key brands,” said Damian McNeela and Graham Jones, analysts at Panmure Gordon, in a research note released after the earnings announcement.

Cooper said revenues from key strategic brands, fine-cut tobaccos and snus (similar to American dipping tobacco) had increased, with improved volumes, and the company achieved revenue growth in the UK and Germany, plus Africa and a number of other emerging markets.

“Excise-driven market dynamics in Russia, and our transition to a new pricing strategy in the U.S. slowed our revenue and profit momentum in non-EU territories, masking the good growth we’re generating in Asia-Pacific and Africa and the Middle East,” Cooper said in a press release issued after the results.

Despite the weak economic environment, Cooper said consumers are not reducing their tobacco consumption.

She added that the EU market would remain tough for at least another 12-to-18 months.

Smoke signals towards higher prices in Pacific Islands

| May 1, 2013

Expext a hike in the price of cigarettes if local authorities support moves to increase taxation on cigarettes in the Pacific Islands, where a high percentage of deaths are related to diseases caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The proposed increase in tax, which is supported by the World Health Organization, is aimed at discouraging smoking. The addisional funds would be used to bolster the public health systems, according to a story in the Fiji Times.

One in every three adults in Fiji is at risk of premature death from heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases caused by NCDs and WHO director for the prevention of NCD Dr. Douglas Bettcher said increasing taxation on cigarettes in Pacific Islands could reduce deaths from NCDs.

“This is really important for the Pacific because there is a crisis in NCDs — heart diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, which are caused by smoking, tobacco use, obesity, lack of physical activity and harmful use of alcohol,” Bettcher said. “NCDs are the biggest killers in the world today, they’ve taken over from communicable diseases.

“Of the 63 percent of all deaths in the world due to NCDs, over 80 percent of those deaths are in developing countries like the Pacific Islands and of these, 36 million deaths from NCDs every year, about 14 million of those are premature, meaning people dying under the age of 70.”

Bettcher said when viewed in the context of global trends, the statistics in the Pacific were alarming.

“The world average is 20 percent and many high-income countries are achieving 10 percent. In the Pacific, the crisis has reached epidemic proportions.

“In countries like the Marshall Islands, the risk is 60 percent and in Fiji, the rate is 30 percent. This means that three in every 10 adults have a very high risk of prematurely dying from a NCD.”

Easy street: smoke smugglers net nearly $2 million a truckload

| April 19, 2013

Wanna make a quick $1,944,000? Buy a truckload of cigarettes in Virginia and sell them in New York.

Yeah, it’s illegal. But that’s how much can be made from selling a tractor trailer’s worth (that’s 800 cases, each holding 600 packs of cigarettes) of low-tax Virginia cigarettes in high-tax New York, based on estimates from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

And that’s exactly what criminals are doing, according to a story posted on CNN.com

In 2011, more than 60 percent of all cigarettes sold in New York were smuggled in from another state, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank. That’s up from about 36 percent in 2006.

It’s not just happening in New York. Mackinac says 15 states have smuggling rates that top 20 percent. Add in counterfeit cigarettes from overseas, and ATF estimates the lost government revenue at more than $5 billion a year.

Mackinac and others pin the blame on rising state taxes, and say things could get even worse if President Obama’s proposed 94-cent-a-pack cigarette tax hike goes through. Anti-smoking groups say the smuggling numbers are inflated, and that the public health benefits of fewer smokers – the ones dissuaded by pricey packs – far outweigh any lost revenue or other effects of smuggling.

California lawmakers kill bill to ban smoking inside homes

| April 18, 2013

A bill to bar millions of Californians from smoking inside their own homes was rejected Wednesday by an Assembly committee.

Assembly Bill 746 would have made California the first state to venture into personal bedrooms and living rooms with smoking restrictions. It targeted condominiums, duplexes and apartments, according to a story published in The Sacramento Bee.

Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, proposed the measure to ensure that people who live in structures that share walls, ceilings, floors or ventilation systems with neighboring units are not subject to secondhand smoke.

The bill was rejected 5-2 by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee despite several amendments, including one that would have delayed fines from being issued until 2015.

Landlords already can prohibit smoking in their rental units, through a law enacted last year, but Levine’s bill would have imposed a mandatory ban statewide.

AB 746 would have permitted outdoor smoking near apartments or condos, but only in an area at least 20 feet from any housing unit and 100 feet from a playground, school or pool. The bill’s critics questioned who would enforce it, how, and what impact the bill would have on habitual smokers or on people with disabilities who could not easily leave their residences to smoke.