United States of Smokers

About one in five American adults smokes, according to the 2009 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being survey.
The smoking rate is highest in Kentucky and West Virginia, where nearly a third of adults (31 percent) smoke, and lowest in Utah, where just 13 percent of adults smoke. Click on the interactive map below to see smoking rates for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
As you can see, the 10 states with the highest smoking rates — where a quarter or more of the population smokes — are in the South or Midwest.
Education and tobacco tax policies appear to be closely related to smoking rates, too. States whose populations have higher levels of educational attainment have lower smoking rates, and residents of states with high cigarette taxes are also less likely to smoke than their counterparts in states with low cigarette taxes.

State Percent of adults who say they smoke
Alabama 25%
Alaska 22%
Arizona 19%
Arkansas 26%
California 16%
Colorado 20%
Connecticut 20%
Delaware 22%
District of Columbia 18%
Florida 21%
Georgia 22%
Hawaii 19%
Idaho 18%
Illinois 22%
Indiana 27%
Iowa 21%
Kansas 22%
Kentucky 31%
Louisiana 26%
Maine 20%
Maryland 19%
Massachusetts 19%
Michigan 23%
Minnesota 19%
Mississippi 24%
Missouri 26%
Montana 18%
Nebraska 21%
Nevada 24%
New Hampshire 21%
New Jersey 18%
New Mexico 22%
New York 20%
North Carolina 24%
North Dakota 23%
Ohio 26%
Oklahoma 28%
Oregon 20%
Pennsylvania 23%
Rhode Island 22%
South Carolina 26%
South Dakota 20%
Tennessee 28%
Texas 21%
Utah 13%
Vermont 22%
Virginia 20%
Washington 20%
West Virginia 31%
Wisconsin 22%
Wyoming 24%

Roll-Your-Own Cigarette Machines Help Evade Steep Tax

WOOD DALE, Ill.—Scores of tobacco retailers in the U.S. are taking advantage of a federal tax loophole to offer deep discounts on roll-your-own cigarettes. But the practice is attracting scrutiny from regulators and cigarette manufacturers.
At Smoke Zone, a store in this Chicago suburb, customers one recent afternoon flocked to two high-speed rolling machines that produce a carton of cigarettes in eight minutes. The price: $21—less than half the cost of a carton of Marlboro cigarettes.
“People have waited an hour for these some days,” said Taren DeNicolo, the store’s manager.
About 150 tobacco outlets in some 20 states are deploying the novel roll-your-own machines to tempt recession-weary smokers, according to an estimate by one maker of the devices. But some regulators say the stores may be violating U.S. and state laws that govern cigarette manufacturing.
“These machines raise a number of questions,” said David Rienzo, an assistant attorney general in New Hampshire, which has sued several retailers alleging they are acting as cigarette manufacturers and should pay applicable fees.
Here’s where the tax loophole comes into play: At Smoke Zone and other retailers, The Wall Street Journal found, store employees or customers insert into the machines tobacco labeled “pipe tobacco.” This substantially reduces the stores’ and smokers’ costs because the federal excise tax on pipe tobacco is $2.83 a pound—compared with $24.78 a pound for the rolling tobacco traditionally used to make hand-rolled cigarettes.
Congress in 2009 sharply raised the federal excise tax on rolling tobacco to help finance the expansion of a children’s health-insurance program backed by President Barack Obama.
New Hampshire’s Mr. Rienzo said that after the tax increase took effect, “numerous manufacturers that sold roll-your-own [tobacco] said, ‘Why not just put a pipe-tobacco label on it, and you won’t have to pay the increased federal excise tax?'”
Other companies created new brands they call pipe tobacco but essentially contain the same tobacco as in their roll-your-own products, said Kevin Altman, an independent tobacco-industry consultant in Richmond, Va.
Shargio Patel, president of Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. in Mount Prospect, Ill., confirmed his company began offering pipe tobacco under its OHM brand that is similar to its rolling tobacco due to the tax increase. “We’re just following what other companies are doing,” he said.
Some cigarette makers decry the loophole that has created new low-priced competition. “We are complying with the law, but some companies are not doing so in order to gain an unfair advantage,” said Ron Bernstein, chief executive of Liggett Vector Brands Inc., a unit of Vector Group Ltd. that is the fifth-largest U.S. cigarette maker by sales.
In the 14 months since the tax increase, the volume of pipe tobacco sold in the U.S. more than tripled to about 21 million pounds, according to data from the U.S. Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Rolling-tobacco sales volumes, in contrast, fell about 60%.
The tax loophole cost the U.S. government more than $345 million in the first 15 months since the tax increase, estimated Daniel Morris, who tracks tobacco production data for the Oregon Public Health Division.
Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations, cigarette makers must place health-warning labels on packaging and can’t use terms such as “light” in describing cigarettes—a term being used by some retailers selling the roll-your-own cartons, the Journal found. The FDA “is gathering more information about practices related to these machines to determine the appropriate regulatory response,” an agency spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, the Treasury’s tobacco-tax bureau is soliciting industry input to help write new rules to clearly differentiate pipe tobacco from rolling tobacco. The process could take months, said an agency spokesman.
Some loose-tobacco makers and retailers say they are doing nothing wrong and that Congress created the problem by raising the excise tax on rolling tobacco—typically used by smokers with lower incomes—by more than 2,000%. “I don’t think the founding fathers of this country meant for taxes that could put companies out of business,” said Jeff Martin, general manager of Rouseco Inc., a pipe and rolling tobacco maker in Kinston, N.C.
Phil Accordino, co-owner of RYO Machine Rental LLC of Girard, Ohio, says his company has sold or leased about 200 of the rolling machines. He said his company, which is about two years old, simply has improved on gadgets some consumers use to roll their own cigarettes.
Jerry Kunz, 39 years old, left a store in Addison, Ill., recently with five cartons of cigarettes made by the machines. “They’re not as good as Marlboro,” he said, but “it’s saving you money.”

E-Cigarettes Spark New Smoking War

ELMHURST, Ill.—Victoria Vasconcellos, the petite founder of an Internet retailer in this Chicago suburb, is in the thick of a regulatory battle that could affect millions of American cigarette smokers.
Ms. Vasconcellos imports electronic cigarettes from a Chinese manufacturer and sells them on her website, Cignot.com, to 14,000 customers. The 48-year-old is part of a growing legion of e-cigarette purveyors who are defying the Food and Drug Administration, which contends the nascent nicotine products are drug devices that require pre-market approval and may pose their own health risks. The FDA began intercepting shipments of the products from China two years ago.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered tubes that turn nicotine-laced liquid into a vapor mist. Sellers say they are potentially less harmful than cigarettes because they don’t have the toxins of burning tobacco. A growing number of people who use them say they are an effective way to quit smoking.
The future of the fledgling industry—estimated at $100 million in annual sales and rising—may hinge on the outcome of a case scheduled for oral arguments before a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., next month. The FDA is fighting to regulate the products as drug-delivery devices, similar to nicotine gums, patches or other nicotine-replacement products. Such a classification would subject e-cigarettes to lengthy and expensive trials to prove they are safe and effective.
But many e-cigarette companies argue that their products are designed to be recreational alternatives to cigarettes, not devices to wean people off nicotine. They say they couldn’t afford the high cost of clinical trials, and that any such mandate would drive many of them out of business or force the industry to go underground.
The standoff underscores a growing rift in the public health community about how to solve one of the country’s most vexing health problems. About 400,000 Americans die each year of smoking-related disease. Many public-health advocates, including the FDA, say e-cigarettes are unproven as a quit-smoking tool and could prompt nonsmokers to take up the nicotine habit.
But a number of public-health advocates, including the American Association of Public Health Physicians, argue that conventional policies for getting people off cigarettes have fallen short. These groups argue that encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes and other smokeless tobacco products could sharply reduce tobacco-related disease in the U.S.
Dr. Joel Nitzkin, chairman of a tobacco control task force of the public physicians group, says e-cigarettes may prove to be the most promising smoking cessation product currently on the market. He thinks they should be regulated to ensure manufacturing standards are met. But he thinks the FDA’s tobacco regulations, rather than the more demanding drug device rules, provide the best framework.
Indeed, the FDA could regulate e-cigarettes under the landmark 2009 law that gave the agency broad power to regulate tobacco products. Under these rules, e-cigarette makers wouldn’t be required to go through lengthy and costly pre-market approvals, in most cases. But the FDA maintains that e-cigarettes are actually drug-delivery devices that aren’t subject to the tobacco regulations.
While the federal case is pending, sellers of e-cigarettes and “juice”—the nicotine-laced liquid that goes into the devices—continue to pop up online and in malls. 7-Eleven Inc. stores in California, New York, Texas and a handful of other states recently began selling an e-cigarette brand. Costco Wholesale Corp. in April stopped selling a version on its website because of concerns about the FDA’s stance. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. also briefly offered a product on its website this year but discontinued it because it didn’t attract much demand and the company was concerned about the FDA’s position, a spokesman said.
E-cigarettes have caught fire in part because they mimic the experience of smoking. When a user sucks on an e-cigarette, an atomizer turns the liquid inside into a vapor—which is why the practice is called “vaping” instead of smoking. Consumers typically pay $40 to $120 for a starter kit, and then pay smaller amounts for liquid refills.
E-cigarettes typically contain a solution of propylene glycol—a chemical used to make artificial smoke in theatrical productions—water, nicotine and flavorings such as “espresso” and “simply strawberry.” The amount of nicotine varies to accommodate different consumers’ preferences. Some e-cigarettes contain no nicotine.
Some scientists say e-cigarettes are probably less harmful than cigarettes because they don’t involve the burning of tobacco, which produces most of the toxins that cause cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.
However, no published, peer-reviewed studies have examined the long-term health risks of e-cigarettes. Some scientists are concerned that prolonged exposure to vaporized forms of propylene glycol—generally recognized by the FDA as safe for use in foods such as salad dressings, cake mixes and sodas—might cause harm.
“There are a lot of reasons to believe logically that e-cigarettes offer a safer profile, but I want data that demonstrates safety,” says Thomas Eissenberg, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies nicotine addiction.
In a report released last year, the FDA said it conducted a preliminary review of a few e-cigarettes and found poor quality control. Some cartridges that claimed not to contain nicotine actually did, and one of the 18 samples had trace amounts of diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze that is toxic to humans. The FDA says the amount of nicotine delivered varies and isn’t standardized, which also raises safety concerns.
E-cigarettes were introduced in China in the mid-2000s and hit the U.S. in 2007, industry executives say. Some countries, such as Canada and Australia, effectively ban their sale, saying they have yet to be fully evaluated for safety and effectiveness. New Jersey and New York’s Suffolk County bar use of the product wherever regular cigarettes are prohibited.
The National Vapers Club, an advocacy group for e-cigarette users in Valley Stream, N.Y., estimates that at least 1 million people in the U.S. use the products. The group’s president, Spike Babaian, says the number of U.S. e-cigarette companies has ballooned to about 300 from roughly a dozen two years ago.
The FDA began detaining some shipments from China in June 2008 on the grounds that the products were unapproved drug devices aimed at treating nicotine addiction. Smoking Everywhere Inc., a Florida distributor of e-cigarettes, sued the agency in April 2009, claiming that the FDA had no jurisdiction over the products. Another purveyor, Sottera Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., later joined the case as a plaintiff.
While the case was pending, Congress, in an unrelated move, passed landmark legislation that gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products, which lawmakers broadly defined as “any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption.” But the agency continued to maintain that e-cigarettes were drug devices, not a tobacco product like a pack of cigarettes or can of snuff.
Richard J. Leon, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, issued a preliminary injunction against the FDA in January, ruling that Smoking Everywhere and Sottera generally marketed their e-cigarettes as recreational alternatives to cigarettes, rather than as quit-smoking aids. The judge called the FDA’s approach a “tenacious drive to maximize its regulatory power.” He noted that e-cigarettes contained nicotine derived from tobacco and said they appeared to fall under the provisions of the new tobacco law.
The FDA won a stay of Judge Leon’s ruling, pending an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The agency is still detaining and refusing entry of e-cigarettes, a spokeswoman says.
Several former cigarette smokers say they were able to kick their habit in a matter of days by switching to e-cigarettes. “My breathing is better, my sleeping is better,” says Greg Hester, 42, an information-systems worker in Atlanta who had smoked cigarettes for more than 20 years.
Ms. Vasconcellos, the Illinois entrepreneur, says she began smoking at 14 and eventually smoked two packs per day. She tried unsuccessfully to quit using nicotine patches and other products. In early 2009, she tried an e-cigarette and has been using them since.
Ms. Vasconcellos, who previously worked as a computer consultant, found e-cigarettes “so life-changing that I had to let other people know about it.” She began Cignot Inc. last year and says it has generated about $1.5 million in sales. Her company’s website makes no specific health claims, but calls e-cigarettes a “marvelous alternative to tobacco cigarettes.”
Ms. Vasconcellos says that she has lost tens of thousands of dollars on shipments from China that were blocked by the FDA and that the agency’s actions make it tough to do business. The FDA has refused to allow e-cigarette battery chargers and other products Ms. Vasconcellos has ordered from China and other countries, according to FDA documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. To try to stay under the radar, Ms. Vasconcellos orders shipments in smaller packages and has them sent to friends’ homes around the U.S.
The FDA spokeswoman says the agency has refused the entry of more than 700 shipments of e-cigarettes nationally since it began detaining and reviewing the products two years ago.
Steve McVey, owner of PureSmoker.com in Goodlettsville, Tenn., near Nashville, had $59,000 in shipments from China seized last year and has faced lengthy delays on other shipments as federal inspectors scrutinized them.
“We’ve almost closed up shop three or four times,” Mr. McVey says.
Nevertheless, Mr. McVey says his company, Pure Enterprises Inc., collected $1.3 million in revenue last year.
To counteract pressure from the FDA, the company has begun producing some products in the U.S. Mr. McVey hired 28-year-old Jeff Hildebrand, a biomedical sciences graduate from Texas A&M University, to brew e-cigarette juice in a small laboratory.
Several other companies are producing e-cigarette liquids in the U.S., partly because of the concern the FDA raised last year about quality control in Chinese factories.
Johnson Creek Enterprises LLC, a Wisconsin firm that makes its own “smoke juice,” says it lists all the ingredients on its packaging and uses childproof caps. (Nicotine, the main addictive ingredient in tobacco products, can be poisonous in high doses. It generally is thought to be noncarcinogenic, though it has been linked to high blood pressure.)
Christian Berkey, a former Apple Inc. assistant store manager who founded Johnson Creek Enterprises, says he would prefer to have the industry regulated as a tobacco product to create standards for quality and establish a level playing field.
Johnson Creek sells its juice for e-cigarettes to blu Cigs, one of the industry’s largest players. Jason Healy, president of blu Cigs, says the Charlotte, N.C., company’s sales are on pace to reach $30 million this year.
The FDA spokeswoman says the agency is aware that some companies are manufacturing e-cigarette liquids and other equipment in the U.S. but has taken no enforcement actions against them to date. She declines to elaborate on why.
Several advocates for tobacco control, including the American Lung Association and the American Legacy Foundation, say e-cigarettes require deeper study. These advocates are concerned the products could appeal to nonsmokers, especially youth, and encourage them to smoke regular cigarettes. Some tobacco-control advocates also worry that e-cigarettes are often sold online, where it is difficult to verify that a buyer is at least 18 years old.
Owners of U.S. e-cigarette companies say that any federal-court ruling allowing the FDA to treat the products as drug devices and require pre-market approval would drive many of them out of business and create a black market.
“If the government tries to suppress this, it will go underground,” says David Dettloff, 48, owner of FreedomSmokeUSA, a Tucson, Ariz., seller of e-cigarette juices. “Ninety percent of everyone who vapes is so glad to be off cigarettes that they would buy it in the drug market.”
By David Kesmodel

Oneidas moving cigarette plant to city of Oneida

The Oneida Indian Nation is moving its cigarette-manufacturing plant from Western New York to Nation land in the city of Oneida – bringing 15 jobs and continued controversy along with it.
The decision is largely in response to a state law taking effect Sept. 1 that aims to collect taxes from cigarettes sold by Indian enterprises to non-Indians, said Peter Carmen, chief operating officer for Oneida Nation Enterprises.
Carmen said the move probably would have eventually happened anyway, but it is being done now because the Nation believes federal law makes it clear that taxes can’t be collected on cigarettes that are both manufactured and sold on Nation land.
If distributors use the state law to try to imbed taxes on other cigarette brands, the Nation will not be selling those brands, Carmen said.
“The Oneida Nation views that as an affront to its sovereignty,” he said.
When Sept. 1 arrives, the Nation’s SavOn stores will still be selling an inventory of brand-name cigarettes on which the Nation believes state taxes would not apply because they’ve already been purchased from distributors, Carmen said. But once the inventory runs out, it’s unclear what the Nation will do other than sell its own cigarettes, he said.
Gov. David Paterson’s office issued an e-mailed statement Wednesday in response to questions about the Nation’s decision.
“Today’s announcement does not in any way affect our intention to proceed with the implementation of the law on Sept. 1st,” Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook said. “Gov. Paterson will continue with his stated policy of negotiation, litigation and implementation of the laws of New York when it comes to all dealings with New York’s sovereign Indian nations.”
The state Department of Taxation and Finance has no comment on the Nation’s announcement, department spokesman Brad Maione said Wednesday.
City of Oneida Mayor Leo Matzke could not be reached Wednesday and Madison County attorney S. John Campanie said he has no comment because he wants to first look further into the issue.
The state law
The law taking effect Sept. 1 will charge cigarette taxes to distributors – resulting in the distributors placing tax stamps on the cigarettes – and offer the distributors the ability to apply for reimbursement from the state, Maoine said. The businesses selling the cigarettes will then be required to charge taxes on the cigarettes, he said.
Indian tribes will receive a set number of non-taxed cigarettes based on population and typical consumption statistics, Maione said. State statistics show that there are 1,473 members of the Oneida Indian Nation, and that more than 31,000 packs of cigarettes will be provided to the Nation per quarter, he said.
The rest of the cigarettes sold in the state will require the tax stamps, he said.
The Nation’s decision to move its manufacturing facility is just one way Indian tribes are responding to the state law. The Seneca Indian Nation recently filed litigation attempting to block the state from collecting the tax, and the six Iroquois nations decided to formally ask President Barack Obama to intervene.
Carmen said the Oneidas are still keeping all options on the table including joining the Seneca Indian Nation lawsuit, filing their own litigation or joining in the request for Obama to intervene.
The transition
The 15 jobs at the Sovereign Tobacco plant currently located in Angola, near Buffalo, will move to the new location on Territory Road off of state Route 46 in the Madison County city of Oneida, where the Nation once operated a bingo hall.
A transition to the Oneida facility is currently taking place, and production will begin at the new location by the end of September, officials said Wednesday. An inventory was built up at the Angola factory to avoid a lag in supply, Carmen said.
Sovereign Tobacco manufactures Niagara’s and Bishop discount cigarette brands that sell at Indian-owned stores for about half the cost of taxed, name-brand cigarettes sold in non-Indian outlets.
When the Nation’s $6.6 million purchase of the Angola manufacturing facility was officially announced nearly a year ago, officials said it would be completed by October of this year. Carmen said Tuesday that the purchase has been finalized.
The American Cancer Society last year was critical of the Oneida Nation’s entry into the cigarette-manufacturing business, saying that by making and selling cigarettes on tribal land, the Nation would be evading the sales-tax law.
Indian reservations have become a growing source of sales of cigarettes, which the government determined nearly 50 years ago can cause cancer.
The Nation already runs Turning Stone Resort and Casino, a dozen SavOn gas station-convenience stores, a gaming software company and five golf courses.
It sells about $34 million of untaxed cigarettes a year at its stores.

YouTube used to sell tobacco

Tobacco companies have turned to video-sharing website YouTube to market their products, new research from Otago University has revealed.
This is despite the obligation in 168 countries to ban all mainstream tobacco advertising, under a World Health Organisation (WHO) agreement which went into effect in 2005.
The study looked at the video results for a YouTube search for five leading cigarette brands and found at least 71 per cent of these videos had content which was supportive of smoking.
These videos included content and themes that would appeal to youth, including the use of celebrities, movies, sports and music.
The videos also normalised smoking.
Researcher Dr George Thomson said the problem was not YouTube users deliberately seeking out tobacco advertisements, but rather users “wandering” through the site, and finding pro-tobacco material related to videos they were interested in.
“They go looking for Harley Davidsons, and they will find Marlboro, right up there.”
Some videos had been viewed by up to two million people, he said.
Lead researcher Lucy Elkin said that while tobacco companies denied advertising on the internet, the significant brand presence on YouTube was consistent with indirect marketing activity by tobacco companies or their proxies.
“The internet is ideal for tobacco marketing, being largely unregulated and viewed by millions of people world-wide every day,” she said.
The study also found that while YouTube provides for the removal of material it defines as offensive, it does not currently consider pro-tobacco content as grounds for removal of specific video clips.
However, public and health organisations could request that YouTube removes pro-tobacco videos containing material considered offensive under present rules, Elkin said.
Governments could also implement the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requirements on controlling tobacco marketing on the internet.
But Thomson said in New Zealand, the government had shown it was not willing to put the legal resources to deal with examples of indirect tobacco marketing.
There was evidence that tobacco companies in New Zealand had been using dance party events to promote their products, but the government had not acted, Thomson said.
“If it’s hard, then the government is often hesitant about investing in enforcing the law,” he said.
The study was supported by funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand,

Native Americans call New York City Mayor Bloomberg's 'cowboy hat' remark racist

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s advice to Gov. David Paterson on how to collect sales tax on cigarettes sold on Indian reservations was simple: “Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun” and enforce the law.
That comment on his weekly radio show has sparked outrage from Native Americans in Central New York and across the country. They charge the comment was racially insensitive and offensive.
Twenty-five Oneida Nation members and other Native Americans who work at the Oneida Nation protested Monday on the steps of City Hall in New York.
The Seneca Nation has called on the mayor to resign.
National Congress of American Indians wants him to apologize.
Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said the imagery of the governor “wearing a cowboy hat and holding a shotgun” to confront Native Americans is offensive and hurtful. He compared the plight of Native Americans to American Jews in a letter to Bloomberg.
“You can similarly imagine how members of the Jewish community would react if a politician urged the governor to ‘wear a red armband and hold a shotgun’ to confront Jewish people who defend their lands as we defend ours,” Halbritter wrote in a letter to Bloomberg. “While you claim to be calling just for the law to be enforced, surely as a Jewish leader you would recognize the tragic history of laws being used to suppress ethnic minorities.”
During the broadcast on Aug. 13, Bloomberg said, “I’ve said this to David Paterson, I said, you know, ‘Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips — the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce the law.'”
Bloomberg’s comments come at time when the state is preparing to tax reservation cigarette sales. The law is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1.
Under the plan, the state would collect $4.35 per pack sales tax on cigarettes sold by Native American retailers to non-Native customers. The tax is expected to generate about $200 million a year, according to the Associated Press.
The Seneca Nation, however, has filed a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court to try to block the state from enforcing new tax laws.
The Seneca Nation of Indians passed a Tribal Council Resolution on Aug. 14 condemning Bloomberg’s comment as derogatory against the nation and its membership.
The resolution demands that Bloomberg resign his post as mayor of New York City and provide a formal written apology to the Seneca Nation and its members. The resolution also asks Paterson to publicly condemn Bloomberg’s comments and authorizes Seneca President Barry Snyder to file human rights and hate crime violations with the state of New York, Justice Department and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People.
The National Congress of American Indians demanded an apology from the mayor.
“We understand that the State of New York and the Senecas are having a disagreement about tax policy, but legal disagreements between governments require responsible leadership and diplomacy and not reckless calls for violence,” said Jefferson Keel, the group’s president.
“It is insulting that a tribal government defending its legal rights today is threatened with the brutalities of the past,” he said. “I have asked Mayor Bloomberg to apologize for his choice of words and to return the discourse to the level of civility that we all deserve.”
Bloomberg’s office did not have a comment on Monday’s protest or the call for an apology, according to spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti. Scaperotti released the following statement regarding the taxation issue.
“The Supreme Court has ruled several times that tribes simply have no right to hurt competing small businesses and taxpayers by ignoring taxes owed on cigarettes sold to others,” she said. “In fact, just today we announced that a federal appeals court denied the latest set of requests to allow such sales.”
Tribal leaders say reservations are sovereign nations that are not subject to paying state taxes on sales by their vendors, whether purchasers are Native Americans or non-Natives.
Former Gov. George Pataki’s efforts to collect taxes in the mid- to late-1990s resulted in Native Americans blocking the Thruway by setting tires on fire.
By Sarah Moses

New smokeless tobacco products ignite debate

As states make it tougher to light up in public, tobacco manufacturers are rolling out new smokeless tobacco lines — some flavored, some spitless, prompting worries from public health officials about potentially unknown risks of these new products and their appeal to underage users.
Among the new offerings in Michigan is Snus — tiny tea-bag-like pouches of tobacco that don’t require spitting.
Other products, such as tablets that look like small breath mints or dissolvable strips and sticks made of finely milled tobacco, are being test-marketed elsewhere, and, if profitable, also could arrive in Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Community Health has asked tobacco advocates to begin collecting information on who is selling the items.
“The more you can make a drug easier and cheaper to get, the more kids will use it,” said Jeanne Knopf DeRoche, whose Plymouth-based company receives state funding to do prevention campaigns and help monitor retail outlets in much of Wayne and Monroe counties.
“It’s not just about cigarettes,” said David Howard, spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. “It’s about offering adult tobacco consumers options.”
Where there’s no smokes, there could be new danger
Nahla Khobeir stands in front of rows of new smokeless tobacco products — and smack dab in the middle of another public health debate.
An old lollipop container holds hundreds of coupons that customers have brought to her for their free packets of Snus, small tea-bag-like packets of spitless tobacco that come in flavors like spearmint and peppermint.
“Honest to God, when you open these” — Khobeir, a nonsmoker, said as she peeled back the packaging of some loose tobacco and took a deep whiff — “you want to eat it.”
That’s just one of the reasons public health officials worry youths would be intrigued by the new products. Others worry that a battered economy has made it even tougher to keep the products away from underage consumers.
On the lookout
Even with new federal laws on how products can be labeled and displayed, retailers may be more willing to take risks in order to make a sale, and police departments have a tougher time finding the manpower to enforce the law, said Knopf, whose Plymouth-based company receives state funding for prevention campaigns and monitoring retail outlets in Wayne and Monroe counties.
Knopf sent in minors to try to buy tobacco products in 75 stores this summer and found just 67% of the store clerks refused to sell tobacco to youths. That’s down from a usual 85% compliance rate, she said.
Last week, the Michigan Department of Community Health held an online meeting with more than 50 tobacco-control advocates, explaining the new products and asking them to begin monitoring gas stations and retail outlets to find out who is selling what.
The goal is not for enforcement. In fact, the names of the shops aren’t included on the forms monitors are to fill out, said Teri Wilson, consultant and researcher for the Tobacco Section of Community Health.
Rather, it’s to give information to the Food and Drug Administration, with a focus on how products are marketed and what teens can get their hands on, she said.
A concern in the new products, she said, is that teens can use them discreetly rather than lighting up a cigarette or spitting wads of chewing tobacco.
For adults only
Tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds and Altria stress that their tobacco products are legal and marketed to and intended only for adults making informed choices. Smokeless and spitless products especially allow adults to make those choices with no offending secondhand smoke or spitting, they said.
“The Snus proposition is designed for adult smokers … who are looking for a tobacco alternative to cigarettes,” said David Sutton, spokesman for Altria, which introduced its smokeless tobacco pouches, Camel Snus, in Michigan this spring — just before a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.
The Snus lines, though a sliver of the tobacco offerings, are becoming more popular, according to both companies.
From her Ida store, Khobeir said she has turned away countless youths from illegally buying tobacco products, especially those she describes as expanding lines of scented and flavored cigarellos, or small cigars. And she sells plenty to older teens and young adults — possibly hooked, she said, while they were underage and around young adults who would buy the products for them.
Even her son, Alexander, an 18-year-old who will attend the University of Michigan this year, said he and many of his friends have used them, and he tried them several times, even after being repulsed by them.
“It’s like a psychological thing. You’re a teen and you just want to try anything, anything you can get your hands on. You do it because someone tells you no,” he said.
More smokeless tobacco
Youth smoking has been on the decline for a decade now, but smokeless tobacco is another matter, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every two years.
From 1999, while smoking rates continued to drop among young people, the survey found an uptick in the number of youths who had used smokeless tobacco at least one day in the month before being questioned — from 7.8 in the spring of 1999 to 8.9 — 10 years later.
That brings up a debate in so many discussions on public health, said Kenneth Warner, dean of the University of Michigan’s public health school and a founding member of the board of directors of the American Legacy Foundation, the group assigned to divvy up the multistate tobacco settlement.
Some wonder whether the new products might reduce the overall risk to smokers by making them light up less often or quit altogether — even though those products might increase the risk to the overall population by hooking new users.
But such discussions dilute the message about the harm of tobacco and nicotine and other ingredients, said Terry Pechacek, associate director for science at the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.
There’s something else that worries Pechacek and others.
Many of the new items are variations on products that have been around for years in varying forms and in different markets, but consolidation within the tobacco industry means that many of these items now carry major names — Marlboro and Camel, for example — reinforcing the segue for youths between cigarettes and other tobacco products.
“The only proven way to avoid health risk is to never start using any tobacco in any form in any case,” he said.
BY ROBIN ERB

Crackdown on teenage smokers

A TOTAL of 15 students under the age of 18 had been caught smoking in public this year and ordered to undergo mandatory treatment at a smoking cessation clinic.
This was disclosed during yesterday’s briefing on the hazards of smoking for Department of Youth and Sports officers, who routinely deal with youth and young athletes.
Dk Nurzafiftah Pg Asmadi, a senior nurse at the Health Promotion Centre, said that research showed that students who smoke are three times more likely to consume alcohol, eight times more likely to smoke marijuana and 22 times more likely to abuse cocaine.
It is illegal for people under the age of 18 to smoke in Brunei and the Ministry of Health (MoH) has also implemented a smoking ban in public places, including restaurants, schools, government buildings, bus stations and sidewalks.
People who flout the ban will be issued an on-the-spot fine of $150. However, underage offenders are given a reprieve and sent to counselling first. If they are caught smoking in public a second time, they will be fined.
Dk Nurzafiftah also debunked the myth that shisha tobacco, a popular pastime among youth, is safer than cigarettes smoking.
“Smoking shisha for 45 minutes is equal to smoking 50 cigarettes,” she noted. “It exposes a person to twice the volume of carbon monoxide and three times the level of nicotine.”
The senior nurse added that sharing a shisha pipe is a risky habit that can lead to dangerous infections such as tuberculosis, herpes and hepatitis.
According to MoH statistics, one in nine Bruneians aged 15 and above are smokers.
The first smoking cessation clinic in Brunei opened at the Berakas ‘A’ Health Centre in 2005, followed by three more clinics in Sengkurong, Tutong and Seria.
On average, the clinics have had a success rate of 36 per cent over the last five years and have treated 729 to date.
“A success rate of over 30 per cent is very high,” said Dr Ernina Nasdzarinah Hj Abdul Rani, officer in charge of the Berakas ‘A’ smoking cessation clinic.
Deputy Director of Youth and Sports II Hj Muhd Zamri Dato Paduka Hj Hamadi said that smoking is widely accepted in Bruneian society and the effects of cigarette smoke is also felt by non-smokers.
“The purpose of this briefing is to enhance the understanding of the officers and employees of the Department of Youth and Sports of the dangers of cigarettes and tobacco to themselves and those around them” he said.
He added: “In sports, athletes who smoke are likely to feel its negative effects despite having a organised and systematic training programme.”
Newly-registered clients at the smoking cessation clinic first fill out the Fagerstrom questionnaire to determine their level of nicotine addiction as well as undergoing a physical examination and a consultation with a doctor to determine whether they need nicotine replacement therapy.
The nicotine skin patches contain only purified nicotine without harmful substances such as ammonia, arsenic and carbon monoxide commonly found in cigarettes.
Dr Ernina Nasdzarinah said that the patches are only a temporary aid for moderately to highly addicted smokers and are applied in conjunction with counselling for better success rates. Over 12 weeks, the dosage of nicotine will become smaller, weaning the body off tobacco.
Patients attend group counselling once a week for the first month and once every fortnight for the next two months. The programme last for six months total, with patients attending sessions once a month for the last three months of treatment.
As many as 50 officers and staff of the Department of Youth and Sports attended the briefing which covered multiple aspects of the dangers of smoking and highlights the steps a smoker can take to stop smoking.
Anyone who seeks to quit smoking can contact the Health Promotion Centre at 2385800 or any one of the four smoking cessation clinics at Berakas A, Sengkurong, Seria and Tutong .

Corporations, profits, and public health

Shortly after taking over as CEO of British Petroleum (BP), Tony Haywood said, “We have too many people [at BP] who want to save the world…we need to concentrate on our primary goal: creating value for our shareholders.” Similarly, a well known anti-tobacco advert features an actor playing a tobacco company executive saying to its customers: “We’re not in business for your health.” Tobacco and oil companies are easy targets, the first causing completely preventable disease and death, the latter consistently befouling the environment and killing endangered species as an integral cost of doing business. Public health, by contrast, is in business “for your health” and in the context of global health, “to save the world”. Are these two enterprises totally incompatible, as editor William Wiist suggests in the title to this collection, or is it possible that the energy of corporations can be directed and managed in ways that can protect and promote the health of the public in a meaningful way?
Public health is a pretty self-defining term that describes government action to protect the health of populations and prevent disease. One such government action is to regulate corporations whose activities affect health. Under threat of global recession, most governments decided that there are corporations that are “too big to fail” and when their collapse threatens the economy, they will be “bailed out” by government. Indeed, relations between government and corporations have always been complex, as President Eisenhower observed more than a half century ago in describing the “military-industrial complex”. Health-related corporations are no exception. The pharmaceutical industry is regulated in the USA by a government agency, the Food and Drug Administration, which must certify its products as “safe and effective” prior to marketing. Yet the government has never challenged monopolistic pricing by pharmaceutical companies and Congress has even prohibited the federal government itself from bargaining for lower prices for drugs prescribed for patients on government health insurance programmes (Medicare and Medicaid).
Corporations also have the power to create their own baby corporations (subsidiaries) for their own purposes, even to escape accountability for criminal acts. For example, Pfizer was fined US$1·2 billion for fraudulently marketing valdecoxib. Federal law requires that any company found guilty of such a crime be automatically excluded from Medicare and Medicaid. But government prosecutors decided that this exclusion would lead to the collapse of “too big to fail” Pfizer. Accordingly, they approved a plan in which a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co Inc, would plead guilty to this crime. The subsidiary, which had never sold a drug, paid the fine, and was excluded from Medicare and Medicaid. The parent company, Pfizer, went on doing business with Medicare and Medicaid as usual.
In The Bottom Line or Public Health, Wiist accepts the view that making money for its shareholders is the sole purpose of the corporation. Although a common belief, this is simply not true. And treating it as true makes meaningful government regulation more difficult and lets the managers and boards of directors off the public health hook in terms of their responsibilities. As John Kenneth Galbraith and others have accurately noted, corporations have many more stakeholders than their shareholders, including their customers, managers, employees, suppliers, and even society at large. Many corporations may act as if the only value they care about is their stock price, but there is nothing in the law or the theory of corporations that mandates this obsession with stock price and short-term financial gains. A private-public dichotomy that places corporations in the private sphere also cannot adequately account for the activities of corporations that are entirely owned by governments, such as global Chinese corporations and almost all oil companies, or transnational corporations that are largely owned by government-run investment funds.
There are also general characteristics of corporations that make them both especially powerful and potentially troublesome. First is our tendency to treat these entities like real people. In the USA this has most recently led to the Supreme Court affording corporations almost the same free speech rights as individual citizens. Second is the reason corporations were created in the first place: to provide investors with a place to invest money without risking everything they own. But even more important are the characteristics that make corporations different from people, specifically, potential immortality, and the ability to create an unlimited number of children (subsidiaries) and siblings (joint ventures). These characteristics turn out to be most important in the global sphere where transnational corporations can dictate to the governments that should regulate their activities. Although inanimate, corporations have paradoxically become the dominant life form on the planet. And this is why they are important to public health—not only to the health of global populations, but to the health of their customers, employees, suppliers, and the people living in areas affected by their activities.
So Wiist is especially persuasive in arguing that “externalization of costs is a major corporate activity with a direct effect on human health and the natural environment” from effects as diverse as air and water pollution, to causing specific diseases, to avoidance of taxes and corruption of government officials. The book’s contributors focus on five major corporate sectors that seem to have been especially damaging to the public’s health: tobacco, alcohol, agribusiness, automobiles, and the pharmaceutical industry.
Protecting and promoting the public’s health is predominantly a function of governments, but governments have been joined by others, especially non-governmental organisations (NGOs), in this activity. So it should not be surprising that corporations themselves have tried to co-opt NGOs and use them, and their “halo effect”, for their own purposes. BP, for example, gave millions to the Nature Conservancy over the years, many of whose members now express horror at these gifts in the wake of the Gulf oil spill. Private-public-NGO cooperation can make sense; but such cooperation is not necessarily consistent with public health goals, and each joint project should be judged on its own merits. The working assumption should probably be that corporations are much more likely to corrupt NGOs than NGOs are likely to get corporations to engage in meaningful public health activities.
Seeing the corporate world as inherently evil, and public health as universally good, however, leads Wiits and many of his contributors to some rather extreme suggestions, such as eliminating or reducing limited liability for shareholders; removing corporations’ right to sue; making voluntary codes legally enforceable; establishing an alternative organisation to the World Trade Organization; and disentangling universities from corporate influence. Nonetheless, four of the suggestions in this book seem reasonable to me, albeit not easily accomplished: banning all corporate political activity; strengthening government regulatory agencies; enforcing corporate adherence to the UN Global Compact on Human Rights; and finally, as suggested by corporate lawyer Robert Hinkley, adding these words to the purpose in all corporate charters: “…but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, public health and safety, dignity of employees, and the welfare of the communities in which the company operates”.

New York Indian Tribes Balking At Cigarette-Tax Collection

ALBANY – In less than two weeks, the state plans to collect revenue from cigarettes sold to non-tribal members on Indian reservations.
But as the Sept. 1 enforcement date approaches, the proposal is becoming an increasingly contentious one for Indian and New York officials.
Tribes from across the state are mobilizing an effort to stymie the plan, a long-sought revenue source for the state that is expected to generate about $150 million this fiscal year.
Tribal officials say they are not backing down and are convinced the state won’t follow through. The Seneca Nation on Friday filed an injunction in federal court to delay the collection of cigarette-tax revenue on reservations. Earlier in the week, the tribe filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the state’s plan.
“We had hoped to come to an understanding where the parties would have an orderly and agreed upon processing of the merits of our claims,” said Barry Snyder, the president of the Seneca Nation in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Nation now finds itself in the position of needing emergency relief from the federal courts to keep the State from implementing this illegal tax scheme.”
The flurry of legal activity came as the opposition to the state’s plan to collect tax cigarette-tax revenue from the reservations is hardening among the tribes. In what was called a “historic” meeting, members of the Iroquois Confederacy gathered in Rochester on Wednesday to express their disapproval with the state’s plan.
The confederacy is made up of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora tribes.
“This was kind of unusual for them to come together,” said Sharon Linstedt, a spokeswoman for the Seneca Nation. “But this seemed to be a unifying umbrella issue for them to stand together. They didn’t have a specific plan of action, but they just pledged solidarity.”
If successful, the state’s enforcement would end a decades-long struggle of state officials to collect the revenue. The last attempt, in 1997, resulted in Seneca tribe members in Cattaraugus County occupying Thruway overpasses in protest. Fourteen people were arrested and two state troopers were injured during the protests.
State officials say they are ready to collect the tax and are moving forward with enforcement, despite the growing unease of the tribes. “We’re moving ahead in terms of our enforcement strategy with the agents,” said Department of Taxation and Finance spokesman Brad Maione. “That’s the focus right now.”
The state approved a plan in June to collect the revenue by taxing the wholesalers who sell cigarettes on the reservations, which would lead to higher prices there. Members of the tribe would not be taxed for buying cigarettes on the reservations and could opt into a coupon program.
The proposal was coupled with a $1.60 hike in the per-pack price on cigarettes to $4.35 in an effort to balance the state’s budget, a plan that is expected to generate $300 million. As a result, cigarette sales have taken a nosedive in July.
Department of Taxation and Finance data indicates that tax stamp sales declined from May to July by about 28 percent. There was, however, a spike in June as smokers loaded up on cigarettes prior to the increase. They sold 1,603 stamp rolls in June, up from 1,318 in May. In July, 955 rolls were sold.
New York retailers, particularly stores located on border, have taken a hit in their cigarette and tobacco sales, they reported. But the industry is hopeful the state will follow through on its collection plan this time in order to offset sagging sales.
James Calvin, president of the state Association of Convenience Stores, said the state has long had the right to collect taxes on Indian reservations, but it hasn’t had the political will to do so. “There isn’t any reason why the state cannot collect these taxes. It’s always come to a matter of political will,” he said, adding he’s hopeful but skeptical this time.
Mark Emery, a spokesman for the Oneida Nation, went further in his skepticism. “None of New York’s previous efforts to impose taxes on sovereign Indian nations have ever succeeded, and there is no reason to believe this latest effort will succeed either,” Emery said.
He added that the tribe is willing to sit down and resolve the issue outside of the court system. “When New York is ready to engage with the Oneida Nation on a government-to-government basis in which the parties respect each other’s interests, we’ll be ready to negotiate a final resolution that is fair and legal,” he said.
E.J. McMahon, the director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, said the state is on solid legal ground if it came to a court battle. Still, the state’s windfall from collecting the tax will probably not be immediate, he said.
“I think they need to recognize that they’re not likely to get the whole amount as soon as they hope,” McMahon said.
Gannett ContentOne – Albany, NY