Is New York City’s Outdoor Smoking Ban Going To Be Successful?

If you’re looking to light up in New York City, your chances of finding a place to do it just went up in smoke.
Starting last week, the Big Apple placed a ban on smoking in most public places, including public parks, beaches and, most notably, “pedestrian plazas” like Times Square. Those found smoking in any of these areas will be subject to a $50 fine. The thought behind the ban on smoking in New York City is that it will help eliminate second-hand smoke and force smokers to limit their smoking to their own private property or areas where they will not pollute the air other people have to breathe in.
They’re not the first major city to impose a ban like this—Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City also have bans on smoking in public places—but they are certainly the most high-profile city to put a ban like this into place. Just a couple of decades ago, smoking was the least of the Big Apple’s worries. But as the dangers of second-hand smoke have increased—about 50,000 people die from it every year—the city has taken a strong stance of smoking moving forward. However, will this smoking ban actually work? We don’t think so. Here are a few reasons why the new ban won’t end NYC’s smoking problem.
As of right now, the law essentially has to be enforced by those who want it to be enforced.
There are a lot of people who smoke in New York City. So officials already know it will be difficult to ticket everyone who lights up in a public place where smoking is banned. Therefore, they’re counting on regular people to tell others to put out their cigarettes in banned zones. We’re not sure if you’ve ever tried to tell someone from New York City to do, well, anything, but guess what? It’s usually not met with an “Okay!” and a smile. So, how long ’til the first fight stemming from the smoking ban winds up on WorldStar?
Cigarettes cost a fortune in NYC—and NYC smokers feel a certain sense of entitlement because of it.
When you’re paying 10 bucks or more for a pack of cigarettes, you’re probably not going to let anyone tell you where you can or can’t smoke. Especially if you’re standing outside. That high price alone means that smokers aren’t going to be quick to put out their smokes if they’re standing in a banned area.
There are plenty of groups against this law that are already speaking out.
Anyone who doesn’t smoke probably wants this law on the books. But unlike a few years ago when they pushed hard to get smoking banned in restaurants and other indoor spaces—and rightfully so—they’re not likely to push as hard as they did back then for this new law. On the flip side, smokers understood the complaints about smoking in indoor spaces to a degree and didn’t fight that law extra hard, but they’re much more likely to be upset about this new one. To them, it’s a violation of their rights—and represents a misstep by the local government. So expect groups like the newly-formed C.L.A.S.H. (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment)—which is already staging a “smoke in the park” event—to fight hard to have their voices heard.
The ban doesn’t yet extend to many of the outdoor places that really bother non-smokers.
You’re not allowed to smoke in the airways or anywhere near the airways of most buildings in New York City, but smokers still manage to congregate as close to them as possible. And under this new ban, that’s still okay (there are some exceptions!). The sidewalks of New York City are actually where smoke bothers non-smokers the most, so until the ban blankets the entire city, we don’t see it making a huge difference for non-smokers yet.
There just aren’t enough ways to enforce a law like this.
This law reminds us a lot of the seatbelt tickets that were imposed on drivers in most states a few years back. In theory, the law makes sense and is designed to protect people. But it’s going to be tough to impose it unless NYC takes a tough approach with it and makes it a priority to bust people smoking in banned areas. And even if they do do that, it seems like a big waste of manpower when you consider all of the other things that law officers could be doing. We get it—smoking is bad! But we don’t see this ban doing a whole lot to change that for anyone.

RFID Makes Matches for E-Cigarette Smokers

Smokers of Blu Cigs electronic cigarettes already use technology to update an ancient practice. Rather than inhaling the smoke of e-cigarettes matchburning tobacco, they breathe in water vapor that delivers the same dose of nicotine provided by a traditional cigarette. But there is a social aspect to using the company’s e-cigarettes. Every time that a Blu pack is opened to retrieve or put away an e-cigarette, a blue LED light on the pack’s front is illuminated. According to the company, a blue light shining on the pack is a conversation starter that pleases users. With that in mind, Blu Cigs is adding a new component—RFID—to help its customers connect with each other, as well as start conversations between them. With an active RFID tag in each pack, one pack of Blu Cigs can detect the presence of another from the same manufacturer, and the packs will then light up and vibrate to indicate that someone in the vicinity also uses that brand. The system, expected to be made commercially available in August 2011, is known as BluBand.
A Blu pack holds five cartridges (also known as e-cigarettes), which look much like traditional cigarettes, powered by small batteries charged by a rechargeable battery in the pack itself, causing the blue light to pulsate. About the size of a traditional pack of cigarettes, the Blu pack can be plugged into a wall outlet or a computer to recharge its own battery. Each e-cigarette contains a sensor, a heater and a water-based mixture containing nicotine and other flavoring products (the company also offers a non-nicotine version of the mix), says Ramon Alarcon, Blu Cigs’ principal product-development engineer. When an individual sucks on the end of one of the e-cigarettes, its sensor detects that action and activates its heater. As heat is applied to the mix, the e-cigarette produces a mist that provides the physical sensation, appearance and flavor of smoke inhaled from a traditional cigarette.
The Blu pack has a light that illuminates each time it is opened.
The company has sold 500,000 packs to date, and based on feedback from its customers, it found that the electronic pack with its glowing blue light was a conversation starter. Smokers reported that in public places, such as restaurants, nightclubs or bars, other people often asked them about the packs. Blu Cigs has since developed technology that it hopes will further encourage conversations. The solution includes a transceiver that both sends and receives RFID transmissions. The transceiver, embedded in the center of the pack, includes a battery, a chip and an antenna. The chip stores the transceiver’s unique ID number, which can be transmitted several times per second, Alarcon says. He declines to provide the specific RF frequency or air-interface protocol that the system will employ, but notes that it will transmit within an industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) RF band that can operate in both Europe and North America.
As the transceiver beacons, in the event that another RFID-enabled Blu pack comes within range (approximately 10 meters, or 33 feet) the second pack’s transceiver responds to the transmission by sending its own unique ID—which, in turn, is captured by the first Blu pack. At that time, both packs illuminate their own blue LED screens, and also vibrate. The users must then look around the room to determine with whom they have connected. The company envisions a user holding up a pack in order to try to catch the attention of another user in the room or immediate area. When BluBand is launched commercially in August, it will provide only the light and vibration alert, but future versions are expected to also include software options that could help smokers link up with each other after heading home.
Once the software option becomes available, a user would first sign into the system via Blu Cigs’ Web site, where he would be invited to provide such personal data as a name and contact information, that could include an e-mail address or Facebook page. The pack can be plugged into a PC via a USB cord, allowing access to Blu Cigs’ server software, and enabling a user to charge the pack’s battery. Once the pack is plugged in, and if the user opts to input personal details, the pack’s ID is linked to that person’s name and contact information. As the smoker then uses the pack in public places, if another pack captures the ID number of that individual’s pack, it will store that information, and the pack user can then go back to his own account by plugging his pack into his PC, and then determine whether the other Blu pack user provided his or her name and contact information. When this functionality will be available has yet to be determined, Alarcon says.
“We began developing the RFID function a little under a year ago,” Alarcon states, “The pack and its features, including the social-networking feature, was all user-driven.” He adds that users claimed they enjoyed the social aspect of meeting people because of their unique cigarette brand. “It’s designed to be both informative and entertaining in social situations one might encounter in places such as restaurants, night clubs and parties.”
The cost of the RFID-enabled Blu pack will be slightly higher than the price for the standard version, Alarcon says, though he declines to reveal the exact amount of increase. The cartridges themselves are not expected to be higher priced than those used in the standard packs.

Philip Morris International Buys Nicotine Aerosol Technology

NEW YORK -Philip Morris International Inc. (PM) bought the global rights to technology that creates nicotine in the form of an aerosol as the company seeks smokeless and potentially less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes.
The world’s biggest tobacco company by revenue, which and outside the U.S., bought the patent from inventors including Jed Rose, director of Duke University’s Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
It’s too early to say what form a product might eventually take or whether it will contain tobacco, Philip Morris spokesman Peter Nixon said. He said translating the technology into a product could take “a few years.”
Nicotine itself isn’t believed to cause many common smoking-related diseases. Explaining that the ailments are often linked instead to combustion, Philip Morris said the new, non-burning technology “has the potential to reduce the harm of smoking.”
A number of companies have expanded their smokeless tobacco offerings in recent years amid increasing bans on indoor smoking and continued concerns over the harmful effects of cigarettes. Philip Morris is in a partnership with Swedish Match AB (SWMA.SK), which makes moist snuff products called snus, for international marketing of smokeless tobacco. British American Tobacco PLC (BATS.LN, BTI), one of Philip Morris’s major competitors, launched a startup in April to develop new nicotine-based, non-tobacco products.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Altria Group Inc. (MO) recently began testing spit-free, tobacco-coated sticks that resemble toothpicks and Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) launched an advertising campaign this week for its Camel Snus product to coincide with an expanded smoking ban in New York City.
By Melissa Korn,
Dow Jones Newswires

British American Tobacco – collaborative effort sees more responsible growing

A landmark rural community project builds on work to identify and address the risks posed by British American Tobacco’s leaf-growing Best-Practice-tobaccooperations and to look at improvements beyond day-to-day business.
Tobacco leaf farming in Lombok, Indonesia, was not only contributing to deforestation but also to declining water supply on the island.
But a landmark restoration project is being developed which will benefit the whole rural community, thanks to a partnership between British American Tobacco (BAT), the Earthwatch Institute, Fauna & Flora International and the Tropical Biology Association.
This is one example of how the four-member British American Tobacco biodiversity partnership is working with stakeholders and communities across the world to study ecosystems and sustainability risks.
In 2007, the partnership developed a tool to identify, assess and address risks posed by BAT’s leaf-growing operations.
Called Broa (Biodiversity Risk and Opportunity Assessment), the tool encourages BAT staff to work with local experts to look carefully at supply chain operations from a much wider perspective than a simple day-to-day business viewpoint.
Following trials in Indonesia and Uganda in 2008, it was decided to make Broa mandatory across BAT’s global leaf-growing locations and by 2010 all 19 had completed assessments and agreed actions plans.
As far as the tobacco giant is aware, it is the only international company to have assessed biodiversity risks across all operations and so built a strategy to tackle key issues worldwide.
And those issues are wide-ranging – both business-specific in terms of the supply chain, and more generic in terms of agriculture and sustainability.
Tobacco is often grown alongside other crops and it soon became apparent that Broa would reveal just how dependent tobacco growing is on other systems – such as water supply.
Specific issues included reduced irrigation flow resulting from deforestation, reduced water quality, lower ground water tables, unsustainably-sourced fuel wood and problems of over-farming.
BAT describes Broa’s aims as “open-ended”, with an agenda for change and better engagement with a range of stakeholders, both global and local.
At a local level, working with stakeholders and conservation experts enables the company to carry out rigorous assessments. Equally, it helps build confidence among communities and encourages partnerships to work together on solutions.
In some cases, Broa is raising awareness of wider sustainability issues and stimulating projects that go far beyond the supply chain concerns of BAT.
Examples include a “green corridor” project in the Araucaria forest of southern Brazil; sustainable forest management and freshwater protection in Uganda; and research on returning eucalyptus plantations to native forests in Sri Lanka and Chile.
Another important outcome has been the raised awareness and understanding within BAT, involving Earthwatch employee fellowships and online training for managers.
The biodiversity partnership is working on a second version of Broa in 2011, having gained valuable feedback from external reviewers such as the World Wildlife Fund.
It has participated in the natural value initiative and was recognised in the Economics of ecosystems and biodiversity study in 2010. The next stage is to share Broa with all BAT tobacco suppliers and other agriculture-based businesses facing similar challenges.
By Lynn Beavis

State dodges bullet on tobacco payments

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A recent sharper-than-expected decline in smoking has caused payments to West Virginia from a national tobacco settlement to plunge by more than $10 million a year.
However, the state sold its rights to the payments in an $807 million bond issue in 2007. So the dropping payments are an issue for the bondholders, not the state.
“We’re not liable, is the bottom line,” said Administration Secretary Robert Ferguson, who is chairman of the state Tobacco Settlement Finance Authority.
As part of a 1998 settlement of a multi-state lawsuit against major cigarette manufacturers, West Virginia gets annual settlement payments from the companies, based on U.S. sales figures for their major brands of cigarettes.
At its peak, West Virginia was getting close to $80 million a year in payments from the cigarette companies.
But for the 2009-10 budget year, the payments dropped to about $66 million — and for the current budget year, which ends June 30, the payments are just over $62 million, state Director of Finance Ross Taylor told the panel on Thursday.
The authority’s financial advisor, Paul Creedon of Citigroup, said national smoking rates are declining much faster than had been projected when the settlement agreement was adopted.
At the time, experts projected about a 3 percent annual decline in cigarette sales, anticipating that smoking prevention/cessation programs and the deaths of smokers due to tobacco-related illnesses would gradually reduce demand.
The agreement also imposed severe restrictions on cigarette advertising, including banning ads and promotional materials aimed at young people.
However, instead of the slow gradual decline, Creedon said cigarette consumption nationally has nose-dived, beginning in 2009.
“In 2009 and 2010, the two more recent years available, it declined much more precipitously,” he said.
He said cigarette sales dropped 9.3 percent in 2009, and fell another 6.5 percent in 2010.
Creedon said two factors are driving the sharp decline: steep increases in federal, state, and local tobacco excise taxes, and the rapid proliferation of strict smoking bans nationwide.
In 2009, the federal excise tax on cigarettes increased 62 cents a pack to $1.01 a pack, while many states and localities also hiked cigarette taxes.
“Today, a pack of cigarettes is nearly $11 in New York City,” Creedon noted.
Meanwhile, he said that at the time of the tobacco settlement, strict smoking bans were primarily limited to large cities on the East and West coasts, with lesser restrictions elsewhere, such as designated no-smoking areas in restaurants in some localities.
“It’s now become a much more national phenomenon, with much more rapid implementation, and it has become much more severe,” Creedon said of smoking bans.
In many localities, smoking bans are now extending beyond public areas of buildings to exterior locations, including parks, sidewalks, and other public areas, as well as bans around the perimeters of building entrances.
In the peak consumption year of 1981, 640 billion cigarettes were sold in the U.S., Creedon said. When the master settlement agreement was signed in 1998, that figure had dropped to 442 billion.
In 2009, 329 billion cigarettes were sold, and sales dropped to 304 billion in 2010, he said.
Creedon said experts are unsure whether the steep decline in smoking in 2009 and 2010 was an anomaly, caused by the one-two punch of increased taxes and implementation of strict smoking bans, or is the start of a long-term trend.
“The question is, will consumption return to the core decline of 3 percent a year?” he noted.
From the state’s perspective, the only impact from a sharp drop in tobacco settlements payments is that it could take longer than originally projected to pay off the tobacco securitization bonds. The bonds were originally slated to be retired in 2029.
Once the bonds are retired, any future tobacco settlement payments will go back into state coffers.
Proceeds from the $807 million bond sale were used to shore up the severely under-funded Teachers’ Retirement System.
Critics of the bond sale argued that the state was taking a lesser amount of cash right away, and giving up the possibility of much larger payouts in the future. Even with the recent drop in tobacco settlement payments, the payments would still be more than the state gained by selling the bonds.
Created in 2007 to oversee the bond sale, the Tobacco Settlement Finance Authority meets annually to update the status of the settlement funds and the bond issue.
By Reach Phil Kabler

Farmers who took buyout still active in tobacco

LONDON, Ont. — Some Ontario tobacco farmers who raked in an estimated $50 million in federal money to stop growing the crop are still actively involved in the business three years later, a health watchdog says.
Announced in 2008, the $286- million Tobacco Transition Program (TTP) came under fire for loopholes some farmers used to stay in the beleaguered industry, even after they collected buyout money.
Now, Ottawa-based Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada says it’s laid its hands on documents suggesting more than $50 million went to about 200 tobacco producers still involved in the industry.
The organization also says the $286-million transition program had the hidden objective of “improved viability of remaining and future tobacco producers.”
The group’s statements are based on documents obtained under federal access-to-information law by activist Ken Rubin.
“Taxpayers were never clearly informed by the government that over $50 million of their money would end up in 2011 subsidizing about 200 TTP recipients who continue to be involved in tobacco growing,” said Neil Collishaw, the group’s research director.
Collishaw said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and department officials repeatedly said the TTTP program was about winding down the tobacco industry.
“We have allocated some $286 million to start to move them (growers) out of the tobacco industry and transition into other great crops,” Ritz told Parliament in 2009.
One document obtained is a letter Ontario Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchel sent to Ritz in April 2010.
In the letter, Mitchell, the Huron- Bruce MPP, says “our understanding was that the program was intended to help tobacco producers exit the industry … However, there is a perception that the program is not having the intended effect.”
In his reply, Ritz added an additional objective to the program –to “transition the remaining (tobacco) farmers to operating in a market environment.”
Ritz issued a statement about the issue after being contacted by QMI Agency.
“The goal of the program has always been to remove the federal government’s quota system and move to a provincially-licensed industry and we have succeeded,” he said.
Ritz said it’s up to the provincial government to “reduce or eliminate tobacco production” through the new licensing system.
“We initiated, and continue to operate, a comprehensive audit program to ensure the rules are followed,” he said in the statement.
Tobacco was once a huge industry in southwestern Ontario, but nosedived amid the growing health push to stamp out smoking.
The TTP program wound up the 50-year-old tobacco board marketing system and bought out tobacco quota holders with an average payout of $272,000.
Farmers who took the buyout for their quota weren’t allowed to be licensed in the new system, in which tobacco is grown under direct contract with manufacturers.
But allegations quickly emerged the license system had loopholes allowing farmers who took the buyout to strike a deal with a licensee who could be a friend or relative.
An audit of the program completed for the department of agriculture showed 118 tobacco- growing licenses were issued in 2009. The audit also showed 133 people who had received quota buyouts were employed by licence holders and/or rented their land, buildings or equipment to them.
This year, 193 tobacco-growing licences were issued. Based on the 2009 audit, Collishaw said each licensee likely employed or rented land from at least one farmer who took the buyout.
Based on the average payout of $272,000, that would represent a total of about $50 million paid to farmers still involved in the industry.
Tobacco production has rebounded since hitting a low of 10 million kg in 2009.
Growing the crop is more profitable now, since the cost of quota has been eliminated, Collinshaw said.
He noted the $50 million figure is close to the $60-million “top-up premium” once paid annually by tobacco manufacturers for Canadian tobacco used for the domestic market.
The top-up payments were paid on top of the world price and helped subsidize Canadian farmers, he said.
But he said tobacco companies told analysts back in 2004 they wanted to stop paying the top-up and bypass the tobacco marketing board to deal directly with farmers. He said the federal TTP program helped compensate farmers for the loss of the manufacturers’ top-up payments.
“In effect, private subsidies for tobacco growing in Canada have been replaced by public subsidies,” he said.
Collishaw contends Ottawa has played a role in helping tobacco companies reshape the industry to their advantage.
“The quota system would be shut down, just like the tobacco industry wanted, and no more make-up payments would be made, just like the industry wanted.”

Pictorial warnings on chewing tobacco soon

The Centre will soon notify new pictorial warnings on tobacco products, which will be “harsher” for chewing tobacco, as it has been found more harmful than smoking.
“The pictorial warnings are in the process of notification and can be notified any day. There will be two types of warnings — for cigarettes and for smokeless tobacco,” Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference to highlight two years of achievements of the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, he said the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), India, carried out in 2009-2010 found out that 35 per cent of adults use tobacco in some form or the other.
“Among them, 26 per cent adults use smokeless tobacco and nine per cent are smokers. Smokeless tobacco is responsible for 80 per cent of mouth cancer while 20 per cent of mouth cancers are occurring due to smoking,” he said.
Based on the results which show that smokeless tobacco products like gutka are more widely used and are causing more mouth cancers, the government is bringing a “new policy”, Mr. Azad said, adding that “harsher” pictorial warnings will be brought in for chewing tobacco.
There are two existing pictorial warnings like scorpion and damaged lungs for cigarette, while a new and stricter one — a cancer-affected mouth — was to be depicted from December one last year. Such warnings are to be rotated every year.
Tobacco companies have requested the Ministry to increase the number of years for implementing particular programmes from the existing one year to two to three years at least.
Otherwise, they cannot sell the existing cigarette stock with the retailers, and this would cause huge loss to them.

Antismoking Bill May Mean the End of Hookah Houses

California’s last governor was so committed to lighting up that he kept a cigar tent outside his office, vetoed the state-park beach smoking-bansmoking ban, and even went out of his way to demonstrate that the occasional Cuban won’t impair a man’s ability to procreate.
Fred Noland
The election of smoke-averse Jerry Brown might be the end of days for area puffers — especially those who don’t favor cigarettes.
The state Senate passed SB332, allowing landlords to ban smoking on their properties. (The bill has moved to the state Assembly.) More pressingly, the state Senate has taken up SB575, a bill hatched by state Sen. Paul DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek) to close “loopholes” in the 1994 workplace smoking ban.
In the name of protecting employees from secondhand smoke, the bill would eliminate smoking in places we didn’t know still allowed it: breakrooms, hotel lobbies, and banquet rooms. It also targets tobacco shops and hookah lounges.
As you might expect, tobacco shops and hookah lounges are upset. “As a business owner, I’m sympathetic,” Senator DeSaulnier tells SF Weekly. “We’re just trying for a fair playing field.”
But how fair? Many Democratic state senators (including San Francisco’s Leland Yee) have promised to support the bill if it is amended to make an exception for cigar bars that don’t serve food or drink. DeSaulnier says that such an amendment is forthcoming — but that it is unlikely to exempt hookah lounges. “There’s an argument that says they’re not in compliance with current law,” he says.
Smoking is currently permissible at independently owned businesses that (among other lawyerly factors) can demonstrate that their “main purpose” is the sale of tobacco. Some of the hookah cafes that have proliferated in California insist that they sell more hookah than food or drink, which makes them legal.
DeSaulnier disagrees: “If you’re going to run a restaurant, that’s one thing. But if it’s a cafe or lounge with secondhand smoke, employees need to be protected. In this kind of labor market, workers should have the right to know what kind of business people are running.”
Unlike cigar retailers, hookah houses don’t enjoy the lobbying efforts of trade groups and tobacco companies.
This inspired SF Weekly to troll local hookah joints and ask employees: “Did you know there’s smoking going on here?”
They did. The manager of one popular spot says, “Of course everyone here knows. If my employees could sign and say they accept this environment, they would all sign!” He adds that regulators have little understanding of hookah: “Even the health department, when they came in, I had to show them what to look for. I showed them the plastic tips and how the water vapor works. I explained to them that it’s dried fruit, not tobacco.”
He added, “Make sure you put that in! It’s apples! It’s fruit!”
By Alan Scherstuhl

Is tobacco control no longer a federal priority?

When he announced the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy in the spring of 2001, Allan Rock, then the health minister, called smoking the single smoking-publicmost pressing public-health issue in the country.
A decade later, it remains so. Smoking claims an estimated 37,000 lives a year in Canada. Almost five million Canadians are still regular smokers.
“What’s the plan to end this scourge of preventable deaths?” you may ask.
Well, currently there is no plan. The 10-year, $480-million strategy (the FTCS for the cognoscenti) expired on March 31. It has been extended for one year so that Health Canada can conduct a “review,” but the future is, at best, uncertain.
The silence of the current Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, on this issue is, frankly, puzzling.
The most significant achievement of the Conservative government on the health front has been investing in strategies – a cancer strategy, a mental-health strategy, along with targeted funding for brain research, to name just the high-profile initiatives.
Strategic investment of public money makes good business sense: Done properly, it is a way of stating priorities, setting goals and measuring results.
Is the implied message in the current foot-dragging that tobacco control is no longer a priority? Hopefully, the Conservatives are not abandoning this strategy because it was a Liberal initiative. Smoking is a massive public-health problem, not a matter for petty partisanship.
Over the past decade, there has been a lot of progress on tobacco control at the federal, provincial and municipal level (regardless of party affiliations), as well as in private industry:

  • Smoking bans in public spaces and workplaces are now the norm, even in hard-core smoking spots such as bingo parlours and prisons.
  • Tobacco smuggling is down markedly.
  • A number of restrictions have been placed on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, including removing tobacco from display in many retail settings.
  • There has been a crackdown on tobacco sales to minors.
  • The issue of second-hand smoke is now being taken seriously, leading to initiatives such as banning smoking in cars where children are present.
  • All provinces have created legislation that will allow lawsuits to recover damages from the tobacco industry.
  • Smoking-cessation measures such as nicotine patches are now funded in some jurisdictions.
  • Graphic warnings are featured on all cigarette packages and those warnings are being bolstered.
  • Canada has become a signatory of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a massive international effort.
  • Canada has developed one of the most comprehensive tobacco monitoring systems in the world.

But that monitoring tells us this: In the past decade, the smoking rate has fallen to 18 per cent from 25 per cent. That falls well short of the target of 12 per cent established in the FTCS. And, worse yet, the smoking rate has held steady for several years now, which tells us that new smokers are replacing those who die.
Big Tobacco is still winning, which means that public health needs to step up the battle.
Changing a profoundly culturally ingrained habit and getting millions to kick an addiction is no small challenge.
But, by any objective measure, the FTCS is a failure, at least in recent years. But before we abandon it, let’s understand why the plan has faltered.
A recent letter to the Health Minister from the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control provides some good insight into the problems. Here are some of the problems the group highlights:

  • Health Canada is simply not investing adequately in tobacco control. Over the past five years, it has routinely underspent its program budget by $9-million to $15-million annually.
  • Investment in mass-media campaigns has dried up; the initial plan was to spend $50-million a year on social marketing, but Health Canada spent $27-million in 2001, falling to $9-million by 2004, then nothing in recent years.
  • Smoking rates are highest in aboriginal communities, yet Ottawa inexplicably canceled the first nations and Inuit tobacco control strategy and replaced it with a few small projects.
  • Health Canada’s tobacco control directorate has been markedly downsized.
  • Ottawa has spent hundreds of millions on tobacco-crop buyouts, an approach deemed counterproductive as tobacco production has actually increased.
  • The federal government has settled lawsuits with tobacco companies for paltry amounts, and no criminal charges have been laid.
  • * There is a burdensome bureaucracy that makes it difficult for non-profit groups working in tobacco control to get funding. In fact, many anti-tobacco initiatives have ground to a halt because groups have lost their funding – at least temporarily – with the expiry of the strategy.
  • The highly praised move to ban flavoured cigarillos is being openly circumvented; companies have simply increased the weight of products so that they are listed as cigars.

In far too many instances, government has announced wonderful initiatives but they are not backed up with on-the-ground implementation and enforcement.
The Federal Tobacco Control Strategy should be more than a series of photo opportunities; it should be a living, breathing program that systematically addresses the many challenges posed by smoking.
In 2001, Allan Rock said this while announcing the strategy: “We all know there’s no single, simple answer that’s going to cure all this tomorrow. The best evidence, however, shows that the most effective public policy is for governments to join hands with communities in a broad integrated and sustained strategy to change attitudes and influence behaviour.”
In 2011, the evidence remains. Only the action is lacking.
By André Picard

Tobacco Free Florida Statement On Electronic Cigarettes

Tobacco Free Florida about the issue of electronic cigarettes

“Recently, consumers have been led to believe electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to normal tobacco cigarettes, and even an effective way to quit smoking. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to support that electronic cigarettes will help people quit smoking and preliminary research from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveals that e-cigarettes contain toxic substances and carcinogens.
“On April 25, 2011, the FDA announced that it would regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products and not as a drug or device. In 2009, the FDA gained authority to oversee tobacco products and this decision allows the agency to provide regulations including requiring ingredient listings for electronic cigarettes, which until now, have not been subject to government oversight.
“Tobacco Free Florida also has concerns about electronic cigarettes utilizing candy flavors and the unique appeal those products might have to young people.
“The most effective way to quit smoking is to talk to your healthcare provider or seek help from a qualified quit coach to help you make a personalized plan. Prescription medication and nicotine replacement therapies like the patch, gum and lozenges have also been proven effective as part of a comprehensive quit plan. Florida’s smokers have access to free and convenient help in quitting through the Florida Quitline. (877-U-CAN-NOW)
“According to Kim Berfield, Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Quitline provides Floridians with the necessary support needed for quitting:
“‘Those looking to quit using tobacco should focus on what we know works according to the data. The Department of Health and Tobacco Free Florida encourage Florida’s smokers to call the Florida Quitline. It is a great resource providing free counseling and free nicotine replacement therapies for those who wish to quit.'”