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Study recommends raising tobacco purchase age

| March 16, 2015

A study presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 12 supports the theory that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18 will substantially reduce the number of 15- to 17-year-olds who start smoking and decrease the number of early deaths and low birth weights due to smoking.

Conducted by an Institute of Medicine committee, the study—titled “Public health implications of raising the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products”—reviewed existing information about tobacco use initiation as well as developmental biology and psychology.

Results of the study indicated that, if the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products were increased to 19, smoking prevalence would decrease by an estimated 3 percent by the time today’s teenage users become adults. Additionally, the study found that a 12 percent decrease would occur if the minimum age of legal access were raised to 21, and a decrease of 16 percent would take place should the minimum age be raised to 25.

The committee that conducted the study was chaired by Richard Bonnie, a law professor at the University of Virginia, and researchers used the SimSmoke and CisNet cigarette smoking models to gather information. Researchers also concluded that increasing the minimum age of legal access to 21 would result in 45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, 249,000 fewer premature deaths, 438,000 fewer babies born with a low birth weight, 286,000 fewer pre-term births, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost among those born between 2000 and 2019.

New study reveals vapor health concerns

| March 12, 2015

RTI International, a leading nonprofit U.S. research institute, has released a study exploring the potential public health concerns associated with vapor emitted from e-cigarettes. The organization’s research paper—titled “Exhaled electronic cigarette emissions: What’s your secondhand exposure?”—examines the toxins in e-cigarette vapors and the impact they could have on people exposed to secondhand “smoke.”

Although the long-term impact of exposure to e-cigarette vapor is still unknown, the study—which was authored by Jonathan Thornburg, Ph.D., director of Exposure and Aerosol Technology at RTI—found that emissions from e-cigarettes contain enough nicotine and other chemicals to cause concern.

Nonusers who are exposed to secondhand vapor are potentially breathing in aerosol particles similar in size to those found in diesel-engine smoke and smoke produced by traditional cigarettes. Because e-cigarettes lack regulation, the type and amount of chemicals and potential toxins they may contain could vary greatly depending on the device being used.

RTI is particularly concerned with the lack of regulation regarding e-cigarettes and the surge in marketing and sales that has occurred as a result. The e-cigarette category experienced annual sales that doubled yearly to $1 billion in 2013, according to RTI.

Sticky story: 3rd-hand smoke gives guests gooey fingers

| May 14, 2013

Anyone who has ever walked into a “non-smoking” hotel room and caught the distinct odor of cigarette smoke will not be surprised by the findings of a new study: When a hotel allows smoking in any of its rooms, the smoke gets into all of its rooms, the study suggests, according to a story in USA Today.

Nicotine residues and other chemical traces “don’t stay in the smoking rooms,” says Georg Matt, a psychologist from San Diego State University who led the study, published Monday in the journal Tobacco Control. “They end up in the hallways and in other rooms, including non-smoking rooms.”

The study found smoke residue on surfaces and in the air of both smoking and non-smoking rooms in 30 California hotels where smoking was allowed. Levels were highest in the smoking rooms, but levels in non-smoking rooms were much higher than those found at 10 smoke-free hotels.

Volunteers who stayed overnight in the smoking hotels also ended up with sticky nicotine residues on their fingers, whether they stayed in smoking rooms or not. Urine tests found additional evidence of nicotine exposure in those who stayed in smoking rooms, but not those who stayed in the non-smoking rooms.

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.

UK campaigners condemn ‘sexist’ study on plain packaging

| April 25, 2013

Campaigners in the U.K. opposed to plain packaging of tobacco have described as “sexist” a study that says young female smokers get less satisfaction and less enjoyment from smoking cigarettes that come in plain, standardized packs.

Hands Off Our Packs campaigner Angela Harbutt, a smoker, said, “The idea that plain packaging will have a greater impact on young women suggests that women are more easily influenced than men. This is not only an outdated view of women, it’s also incredibly sexist.

“Women can think for themselves and if they enjoy smoking, as many do, the packaging will make no difference. It may influence which brand they buy, but not their habit.”

According to researchers at Stirling University, women in the study said they were more embarrassed about smoking from plain packs and felt more negative about smoking from the plain packs, even though they were smoking their regular cigarettes.

The same women allegedly reported smoking fewer cigarettes, stubbing out cigarettes early, smoking less around others and thinking more about quitting when using the plain packs.

Harbutt added, “This is perfectly normal behavior but it doesn’t last.”

Prison doesn’t work, not for quitters

| April 10, 2013

A new study has found that behavioral intervention provided to U.S. prison inmates who smoked before going to jail substantially increased their ability to remain smoke-free after release, according to a report by MedPage Today.

Most prisons in the U.S. are tobacco-free, with about 60 percent having total tobacco bans for staff and inmates, so most people entering the prison system are forced into abstinence.

Despite this, about 97 percent of prisoners who were smokers on being sent to prison return to smoking almost immediately upon release.

But three weeks after release, participants assigned to the behavioral intervention, known as Working Inside for Smoking Elimination (WISE), were 4.4 times more likely to refrain from smoking than those in a control group, according to Jennifer G. Clarke, MD, and colleagues at the Brown University Center for Primary Care and Prevention in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

In addition, in a multivariate analysis that controlled for factors such as age, ethnicity, and duration of smoking, the WISE participants were 6.6 times more likely to be smoke-free at three weeks, the researchers reported in their study, which was published online by JAMA Internal Medicine on April 8, that “forced smoking abstinence [was] not enough for smoking cessation.”