Humans worsen 'trash travels'

Next time you toss that cigarette butt out the window, consider it probably will make its way to a storm drains.
From there, to rivers and bays, to the Atlantic Ocean, where a sea creature could mistake it for lunch. The message? Trash travels.
And while smoking-related garbage tops the list, it’s only one category of many for an outreach group that collected 6.8 million pounds of debris from oceans, rivers and lakes -all from a single day of pickup last September.
What began in 1986 with a single Texas woman in her own town has become the International Coastal Cleanup, a day orchestrated by the environmental advocacy group, Ocean Conservancy. Last year, nearly 400,000 volunteers in 100 countries participated at 6,500 sites. Throughout the years they’ve taken 123 million pounds of rubbish out of waterways, from coffee stirrers to diapers to appliances.
Vicki Spruill, president of Ocean Conservancy, said marine debris is the most widespread problem the ocean faces today, more than overfishing, coastal development, habitat destruction or climate change.
“I like to say that the ocean is really the life support system for our whole planet, and every single thing we do on land,” she said. “But unfortunately, all you have to do is look around, and look at this report, see how much data we’ve gathered, and you’ll see that our ocean is sick and it’s our actions that have made it so. We’re the ones contributing to this rising tide of ocean trash.”
The 64-page report said marine debris comes from shoreline and recreational activities, ocean and waterway activities, smoking-related activities, dumping and medical/personal hygiene. The major debris categories – plastic bags, food wrappers and containers, caps and lids, and plastic beverage bottles – have not changed in the recent past, though cigarettes and smoking-related materials still top the list. Last year’s cleanup day yielded 8,000 cartons worth of discarded butts.
Spruill stressed that solving the problem of marine debris starts with prevention. For example, people should recycle everything they can and support companies that use less product packaging.

Swedish Women Get Hooked on Snus

Louise Lennersten wasn’t going to let pregnancy make her kick a snuff habit.
The 26-year-old Swede switched to Onico, a nicotine-free brand that uses flavored vegetable fibers to imitate the taste of tobacco. Following the birth of her son Wilmer last month, she intends to return to real snuff, called snus in Sweden.
“I was a smoker but switched to snus when my job didn’t allow smoke breaks,” Lennersten said. “This way I could get my nicotine fix without going outside.”
Women are breaking into a smokeless bastion of male tobacco culture in Sweden, one of the few places where more women smoke than men. A public smoking ban, unpleasantly cold outdoor cigarette breaks in winter, and marketing by industry leader Swedish Match AB have led more women to try sucking on packets of snus for a nicotine fix.
Daily snus use among women rose to 4 percent of the total in 2007 from 0.6 percent in 1988 and 1989, national statistics show. One fifth of Sweden’s 1.2 million snus users are female, Swedish Match says. The company estimates the Scandinavian market in 2008 was about 240 million cans of snus, with a retail value of more than 8 billion kronor ($870 million).
Snus is pasteurized tobacco that usually comes in a pouch resembling a small teabag placed under the upper lip, seeping nicotine and flavors such as licorice or whiskey into the gums.
Discarded snus bags litter Stockholm’s bars and streets. A can of snus pouches retails for 35 kronor to 39 kronor, while loose snus may cost about 49 kronor, the same as a pack of cigarettes in Sweden.
Cigarette Substitute
“We’re seeing more and more women using snus as a substitute for cigarettes,” Lars Rutqvist, head of Stockholm- based Swedish Match’s scientific affairs, said in an interview. “We’re seeing the same phenomenon as we saw for men in the 1970s. It’s mainly among young women. Parallel to that, we see a decrease in smoking prevalence rates.”
The European Union bans snus in most of its member states for health reasons, such as the risk that the product may be an easier gateway than cigarettes for young people to get hooked on tobacco products. Sweden got an exemption from the ban when it joined the bloc in 1995. The only other legal market in western Europe for the product is Norway.
Heavy use of snus can cause teeth to stain. Worse, an EU report last year found snus is addictive and may cause pancreatic cancer, though it said that unlike other types of snuff, a link to oral cancer hasn’t been proven.
Blue Collar
For decades, snus was the stuff of blue-collar Swedes, who appreciated being able to keep their hands free at work and still get a nicotine buzz. Swedes started grinding tobacco and mixing it with water, salt and spices in the 1800s.
Sweden doubled the tax on snus in January 2007, levying about 8 kronor on a can of snus that retails for 35 kronor. That helped push down demand. Swedish Match sold 12 percent fewer cans of snus in Scandinavia in the fourth quarter.
Still, at an operating margin of 44.1 percent last year, snus was more than twice as profitable for Swedish Match as cigars, the company’s second-largest business line by sales.
Nordic taxes and the EU ban mean Swedish Match and snuff rivals including British American Tobacco Plc need new markets. The search for potential consumers has prompted Swedish Match to announce a venture with Philip Morris International Inc., the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company and the maker of famous Marlboro cigarettes. PMI was spun off from former parent Altria Group last year, following pressure from investors who wanted faster, non-U.S. growth.
Cancer Rates
Swedish Match contends that its home nation’s cancer rate has fallen because of snus, and has won some support from local politicians. The ban on snuff exports to other EU nations is “absurd” and should be abolished, Trade Minister Ewa Bjoerling said in an opinion piece on Nov. 28 in newspaper Aftonbladet.
Snus is at least 50 percent less likely to lead to heart disease than cigarettes, and unlikely to lead to lung cancer, the EU committee report found. However, the World Health Organization has said all forms of tobacco products are “addictive, harmful and can cause death,” and it would need more studies on health implications of snus before making new recommendations on its use, according to spokesman Tim O’Leary.
With a 16 percent smoking rate, Sweden has the lowest percentage of people consuming cigarettes in western Europe, according to WHO statistics. About a quarter of all men in Sweden consume snus daily, the Swedish Institute of Public Health estimated in a study in 2005.
“It’s more of a manly product,” Rutqvist said. “If you use the traditional products, you get this bulge on the upper lip, which is not considered attractive by women.”
Bulging Lips
Swedish Match has addressed the bulge with smaller snus pouches marketed toward women, packaged in more feminine colors than the traditional black, brown and silver containers favored by men. Snus is sold at convenience stores, bars, and supermarkets, and the legal consumption age in Sweden is 18.
“When the trend started, women bought the smaller portions, but now most everyone uses the regular size,” said Lina Hellgren, 25, proprietor of a 7-Eleven store in Stockholm, who has consumed snus for nine years. The number of women buying snus has been “tremendous” in the last two years, she said.
Not all of Swedish Match’s attempts to market snus to women have been successful. Vertigo snus, which came in deep red, hourglass-shaped cans, flopped with buyers and was discontinued.
“This is a long-term trend,” said Martin Sikorski, an analyst at Credit Agricole Cheuvreux. “It took Swedish Match a decade to convince about 5 percent of Swedish women to switch from cigarettes to snus.”
Among the converted, Lennersten said one major advantage of snus is that it doesn’t make clothes smell of smoke.
“Just remember to brush your teeth a lot, otherwise you’ll look like an old hag,” she said.

Cigarette consumption decreases in Turkey after ban

Turkish authorities said on Sunday cigarette consumption decreased in Turkey after a ban.
Cigarette consumption was down 1.1 percent in the second half of 2008 over the same period of 2007, Mehmet Kucuk, the deputy chairman of Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulation Agency (TAPDK), told AA correspondent.
“Cigarette sales were down 1.1 percent in the second half of 2008 after the cigarette ban entered into force,” he said.
Last year, a wide smoking ban was introduced in Turkey which was said to be challenging the cliche of “smoking like a Turk.”
Under the new law passed in January 2008, smoking will be banned in all enclosed public places including restaurants and bars as of July 19, 2009.

Cigarette prices rise ahead of looming taxes

Though a federal cigarette tax hike remains weeks away, at least two U.S. cigarette makers already have upped prices and another is cutting some wholesaler discounts as demand drops.
Both Altria Group Inc., which owns Philip Morris USA, and Lorillard Inc., which makes Newport cigarettes, increased their carton and pack prices in recent days.
Neither company would say what prompted the increases. But the federal tax on cigarettes will rise from 39 cents a pack to almost $1.01 on April 1. . . .
Arkansas’ proposed 56-cent increase, which already passed the state House, would pay for a statewide trauma system and a host of expanded health programs. Lindblom dismissed Mathe’s claim that the increase “unfairly burdens a small group.”
“They are killing those people and making them suffer and live horribly sick and disabled lives,” Lindblom said. “For them to have this kind of sympathy for them on a monetary level when they don’t care they are harming people enormously by their aggressive marketing of their product is two-faced and shameful.”