понедельник, 23 января 2012 г.

Cutting tobacco tax wrong on two fronts

An update of my $10 bet with Sen. Gary Lambert, R-Nashua, regarding the cigarette tax.
I was troubled by the Republicans in our state lowering the cigarette tax, claiming it would increase revenue by getting more people to come here for cigarettes.
New Hampshire already had the lowest cigarette tax in New England; to lower it seemed, to me, foolhardy. I believed this would cost the state needed revenue and encourage people to smoke.
When I couldn’t get Lambert to agree, I bet him $10 this would be the case, which it is. New Hampshire has lost $6 million.
I found out that Gary is a stand-up guy. When I saw him at the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce breakfast this month, he came up to me and paid that $10.
I continue to disagree with Gary on issues, but he is willing to admit when he is wrong. That’s a classy guy, and I’m sorry to see him leave the Senate.
In Time magazine’s medical section, a report said the most effective tactic to get people to quit smoking is tax increases. Lowering a tax on cigarettes seems crazy.
Think about this quote by N.R. Kleinfield and substitute cancer for disease: “There is an underappreciated truth about disease (cancer): it will harm you even if you never get it. Disease (cancer) reverberates outward, and if the illness gets big enough, it brushes everyone.”

Zimbabwe: Tobacco Floors Ready for 2012 Season

Premier Tobacco

PREPARATIONS for this year's tobacco season, which starts on February 16, are almost complete at the four floors licensed to handle tobacco sales this season.

The floors include Tobacco Sales Floor, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, Millennium Tobacco Floors and a new player Premier Tobacco Auction Floors.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa was upbeat about their preparedness for the season.
She told journalists last week they were geared to deal with all the challenges that affected the last season, especially congestion.

"As you are aware, we started with one auction floor at the beginning of last season which caused a lot of congestion before two more floors came on board," she said. "But this time we are more prepared than before and there should be no congestion as farmers have a wider choice of auction floors.

"We hope that growers are going to spread themselves out as much as possible and I hope that we are going to enjoy this season. We don't want to see any discomfort. For now, we believe that the four floors are convenient and the situation will be reviewed if we surpass the 200 million kg mark."

A visit to all four floors on Thursday showed they were in an advanced state of readiness.

BTAF chief executive Ms Rudo Boka said they had invested US$2,5 million in upgrading their facilities.

The money went towards the purchase and installation of new incoming conveyors that have been installed at three points where tobacco will be received.

The conveyors are adjustable to accommodate offloading of tobacco from different types of vehicles.

In addition, the company has also established a 150-metre conveyor belt to facilitate the quick movement of bales to dispatch in order to free space within the floors.
Ms Boka said they were planning to sell about 8 000 to 9 000 bales of tobacco every day.

The company also established new ablution facilities, including showers, security systems in the form of CCTVs, new canteen facilities and a waiting room for farmers collecting their cheques.

The company has also made provision for two big tents to be pitched up within the vicinity of the floors to accommodate farmers.

"We have made significant improvements at our floors to ensure that we have a successful season," she said.

On the administrative side, Ms Boka said they were planning to cut down on the time for the processing of farmers' cheques from two hours during the last season to about one hour.

In addition, the floor has already concluded agreements with nine banks that would be encashing farmers' cheques.

These include BancABC, CBZ, Trust, NMB, FBC, Kingdom, Agribank, Interfin and Metbank. Premier Tobacco Floors managing directors Mr Philemon Mangena said they had invested US$1,2 million in preparing their facilities.

These include the provision of banking halls, a canteen and waiting room facilities, provision of a tent, ablution facilities and construction of a covered receiving and dispatch ramp.

The company has engaged four banks to serve their clients. These are Kingdom, Metbank and CABS. Mr Mangena said that as new entrants, they were looking at selling at least 3 000 bales a day.

"We do not want to put pressure on ourselves; we want to start small and increase our capacity as we go," he said.

Tobacco sales to teens drop drastically

Tobacco Retailer Inspection

Inspections by Indiana State Excise Police show that few Indiana businesses are willing to sell tobacco products to teenagers.

The Tobacco Retailer Inspection Program, a joint venture of the Indiana State Excise Police and Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University Bloomington, revealed that only 4.97% of stores inspected last year sold tobacco products to teens employed by the program.

In Indiana it is illegal for a clerk or a retail store to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.

When TRIP was launched in 2000, more than 40% of stores sold tobacco to the program's teenagers.

During TRIP inspections, trained teenagers enter stores under the observation of a plainclothes police officer and attempt to buy a tobacco product. The program does not allow the teenagers to have any ID or lie to the clerk. If asked their age, the youth simply give their true age.

If a clerk sells tobacco to the teenager, the police officer will issue a Notice of Violation to both the clerk and the store. Fines for stores with violations range from $200 for a first-time offense, then escalate for subsequent offenses, up to $1,000.

"The success of the TRIP program at reducing the number of establishments willing to sell tobacco products to youth will improve the health and quality of their lives in the years to come," Superintendent Matt Strittmatter said. "Moreover, the primary mission of the State Excise Police is to reduce minors access to and use of alcohol and tobacco products - which will likely encourage our state's youth to live healthier lives in the long-term."

Officials: Failing tobacco grade not full story

lack of tobacco

A lack of tobacco control policies has earned Napa County an F on its yearly report card from the American Lung Association. This is the fourth year the county has received a failing grade.
The association’s annual State of Tobacco Control report measures cities and counties for the number of ordinances that regulate smoke-free outdoor environments, smoke-free housing and reduce the sale of tobacco products to minors.
Napa County has only a few local anti-smoking ordinances — bans on smoking in parks in Napa, American Canyon and St. Helena.
Pam Granger, a tobacco programs manager for the lung association, blamed elected officials for not passing more laws restricting secondhand smoke and tobacco sales.
“Elected officials have done very little to ensure clean and healthy air for their visitors and residents,” Granger said, adding that she hoped clean and healthy air would become a priority for the county in 2012.
“Tobacco policies are a really cheap way to improve the lives of thousands of people,” she said.
Peggy Klick, director of Community Action Napa Valley’s Tobacco Education and Quit Smoking programs, said she was not surprised by the lung association’s report.
Policies take time to develop, and elected officials are not to blame, Klick said. She faulted the report for not taking Napa’s voluntary efforts into account.
“The intention of the American Lung Association in publishing these grades is to motivate communities and elected leaders to take action. But when the community sees an F grade, they associate that with overall failure,” Klick said. “We want to make it clear to the Napa community that the Tobacco Education Program continues to make effective progress to decrease secondhand smoke exposure in Napa County by collaborating with partner organizations and engaging the support of city councils and the Board of Supervisors.”
Beginning in 2001, the Tobacco Education Program developed a campaign to increase the number of voluntary smoke-free outdoor dining areas. By the end of 2004, 25 restaurants established formal, written policies related to non-smoking outdoor areas, Klick said. The latest numbers show that a total of 30 restaurants have smoke-free outdoor dining policies, she said.
Napa County also has reduced its tobacco sales rate to minors. Through a local merchant education campaign, the rate was reduced from 60 percent in the early 2000s to 5 percent by 2007.
It was agreed, with the consultation of the California Tobacco Control Program, that such strong merchant compliance made it unnecessary to develop an ordinance, Klick said. Napa’s tobacco education program will be looking into tobacco retail licensing operations again in 2013, she said.
From 2007 to 2010, seven apartment complexes in Napa County developed smoke-free policies for all units and common outdoor areas, Klick said.
Senate Bill 332, which went into effect earlier this month, may lead to even more apartment complexes developing smoke-free policies. The bill gives landlords the specific power to ban smoking not only inside rental housing, but from the surrounding grounds.
In 2010, Napa County parks became smoke-free, with the exception of an overnight camping area at Lake Berryessa, which has a designated smoking area. In 2009, the city of Napa adopted an ordinance making all parks within city limits completely smoke-free.
American Canyon and St. Helena have policies that ban smoking in play and sport areas, but the parks are not completely smoke-free. Klick said the local tobacco program has been working with the St. Helena Parks and Recreation Commission and will request approval for a smoke-free park and recreation ordinance from the St. Helena City Council in February.
All of these voluntary efforts have been recognized by the California Department of Health Tobacco Control Section, which also grades the county. In 2011, the state program gave Napa an A for its efforts to reduce secondhand smoke and tobacco sales.
The American Lung Association’s county report was issued the same day as its national report, which evaluates federal and state policies. In 2011, a total of 45 California cities and counties adopted new tobacco control policies.
But another 355 cities and counties — 66 percent of all jurisdictions in the state — received an F.
“Once a national leader in tobacco control policies, California’s efforts are now lagging,” according to the lung association.
The state earned failing grades for inadequately funding tobacco prevention and control programs and for its low cigarette tax. California currently ranks 33rd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for its 87-cents-per-pack tax, far below the national average of $1.46.
In June, voters will have the choice of whether or not to pass the California Cancer Research Act, which would increase the state’s tobacco tax by $1 per pack and dedicate revenues to the treatment and prevention of lung disease, heart disease and stroke, cancer and other tobacco-related illnesses. The measure also would triple state funding to more than $855 million for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts, said Jane Warner, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in California.
“Now is the time for California to raise the grade,” Warner said.

пятница, 13 января 2012 г.

Quit smoking: A new case for going cold turkey

smokers who quit

A new study suggests cigarette smokers who quit after using over-the-counter medication such as nicotine patches are just as likely to relapse as smokers who go "cold turkey," casting fresh doubt on the effectiveness of such products.
The finding, from a survey of several hundred smokers, could heighten U.S. smoking-policy debates at a time when the federal health-care overhaul is widening eligibility for cessation medication but states are slashing funding for public-service announcements and telephone quit lines.
The study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and University of Massachusetts Boston also coincides with slowing progress to get Americans to kick the cigarette habit, which the U.S. government says is linked to 443,000 deaths and $96 billion in medical costs each year. An estimated 19.3 percent of adults still smoked cigarettes in 2010, little changed from 20.9 percent in 2004.
In research published Monday in the online edition of Tobacco Control, a peer-reviewed journal, the authors said they surveyed 787 smokers in 2001-2002 who had recently quit in Massachusetts. Nearly one-third who participated in a follow-up interview in 2003-2004 reported having relapsed and almost one-third again reported relapsing in a third interview in 2005-2006.
The study found that smokers who used nicotine-replacement therapy in the form of patches, gum, inhalers or nasal sprays relapsed at the same rate as smokers who tried to quit without such aids. Nicotine-replacement therapy, or NRT, is designed to wean smokers from cigarettes by easing withdrawal and has been available over the counter in the U.S. since 1996.
The research paper reinforces the results of several other population-based studies in recent years indicating quit rates to be no higher—and sometimes lower—among smokers who use nicotine-replacement therapy than smokers who try quitting unassisted.
Gregory Connolly, one of the authors of the study, likened such smoking-cessation aids to a tricycle and cigarettes to a Mercedes-Benz, with cigarettes exerting a much more powerful pull.

Smoking Ban battle moves to Court of Appeals

statewide smoking ban

The battle continues. Should smokers be allowed to light-up at a bar? Bar owners in Greenville have been fighting the local health department on the issue since lawmakers passed the statewide smoking ban two years ago. Thursday, the case made its way into the Court of Appeals.

One fiery issue, two different takes. The Court of Appeals is now forming its opinion on the state smoking ban after hearing arguments from the Pitt County Health Department and a group of Greenville bars.

Club Live, 5th Street Distillery, Club 519 and Mac Billiards ignored the statewide smoking ban when it took effect in January 2010, claiming their private club status exempted them from the law.

A few months later in June, after getting complaints from the public, the Pitt County Health Department stepped in.

"I don't think anyone can argue with the science that's out there about the dangers of secondhand smoke any more,” said dr. John Morrow, Pitt County Health Dept. Dir.

Morrow told WNCT he issued each bar two warnings and then charged a $200 fine every day the bars didn't comply with the smoking ban.

Attorneys for the bars fought back and that November, a district court judge overturned the health board's decision to fine the establishments, citing it was unfair for the law to allow smoking in non-profit operations and country clubs, but not in for-profit clubs like these. It's the same argument Mark Owens took to the Court of Appeals. "And if you're not fortunate enough or financially well-off enough to join that, that you can only go to your private club and the working man is out of luck,” said Mark W. Owens III, who represents the Greenville bars. “He can't smoke his cigarette with his beer."

He argues the law denies these Greenville bars their right to equal protection. But the health department says it's constitutional because banning smoking in for-profit bars and clubs protects the greatest number of people from secondhand smoke- something the law set out to do in the first place.

Lawyers for both the Pitt County Health Department and Greenville bar owners were in court Thursday morning and could not be reached for comment. Once the Court of Appeals has heard a case, judges can take several months to form an opinion.

Record number of Plymouth smokers stub out habit in a year

smoking service

City health chiefs have urged more people to take advantage of free support available this year.

Deb Lapthorne, NHS Plymouth director of public health, said: "Our stop smoking service continues to help thousands of people rid themselves of a habit that is danger to them and their loved ones.

"Research shows that people are up to four times more likely to stop smoking if they get local NHS support so I'd urge all smokers who want to quit to get in touch with NHS Plymouth's stop smoking service.

"The stop smoking adviser will not judge people or their reasons for smoking but instead will help them to look at why and when they smoke and examine what went wrong with their previous attempts at quitting."

Advisers also help people develop an action plan for quitting and identify a quit date, usually in a week.

"The use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and non-nicotine products with them, including Champix, will be discussed as an option," said Prof Lapthorne.

"All of these therapies will more or less double people's chances of stopping for good - when used according to the instructions.

"But it is important to remember though – these products are not a magic cure and people still have to put a lot of effort into stopping."

Russ Moody, Plymouth NHS Stop Smoking Service manager, said the latest record follows year-on-year rises in the number of local quitters.

He praised The Herald's loveLIFE campaign as another 'string in the bow' in initiatives aimed at helping people give up cigarettes.

He added: "The figures tend to go up every year. As a calendar year, 2011 was the best we've had so far.

"The whole package really helps. I'm fully invested in the loveLIFE campaign. It's absolutely fantastic and another string to our bow which is helping people find out about our service."

The NHS Plymouth stop smoking service has a network of advisers, based across the city who run free advice sessions and can offer practical support and guidance on the best methods for each individual to quit smoking.

Sessions are held in more than 50 locations in Plymouth such as local health centres, GP surgeries, workplaces, libraries and supermarkets.

четверг, 5 января 2012 г.

Poll shows Washington voters split on legalizing marijuana

legalizing marijuana

Washington voters appear split on the prospect of marijuana legalization as the issue heads to the state Legislature next week.

A new Elway Research poll released Wednesday shows the softest support yet for Initiative 502, which would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana sales, with 48 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. The margin of error is 5 percentage points.

Other polls, both statewide and nationwide, have shown rising enthusiasm for legalization. A KING-TV/Survey USA poll in November, asking about specific provisions in I-502, found 57 percent approval and strong support among baby boomers.

The recent Elway poll, asking more general questions about legalization, found the strongest support among younger and more educated voters. But pollster Stuart Elway said he found support had weakened since his poll in July, when 54 percent endorsed legalization.

"If you're a supporter, it's going the wrong way," he said.

The I-502 campaign, called New Approach Washington, turned in more than 341,000 signatures last month — far more than the number of valid signatures required to send the initiative to the Legislature in January. If lawmakers balk, the initiative would head to the November general-election ballot, giving Washington voters their first chance to vote on legalization.

The initiative would raise an estimated $215 million from heavily taxed and regulated sales at privately owned, state-licensed marijuana stores. The state Liquor Control Board would gain authority to license grow farms and cannabis food processors.

Legalization is also likely to be on the 2012 presidential ballot in Colorado, and campaigns are under way in California, Oregon, Missouri and other states.

Alison Holcomb, campaign director for New Approach, noted the Elway poll question was broadly worded, without mentioning provisions in I-502 that are popular with voters — including restricting sales to people at least 21 years old and earmarking marijuana-tax revenue for health and drug-abuse-prevention programs.

"Our research over the years has shown us that voters really care about what the details are," she said.

22 states endorse cigarette labels

cigarette pack

A group of 22 states — not including North Carolina — have stated their support of graphic cigarette warning labels and their stance against a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the labels.

The states filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington that backs the Food and Drug Administration's attempt to introduce graphic labels that would cover half of a cigarette pack.

The FDA has claimed that the labels are the most significant change to cigarette packaging in 25 years. The nine labels — including images of a cadaver with a sewn-up chest, diseased lungs and gums, and cigarette smoke drifting around an infant — were chosen by the FDA in June. They were slated to debut on Sept. 22, 2012.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Inc. were among five tobacco manufacturers filing a lawsuit against the FDA in August challenging the constitutionality of the mandated labels, which also would cover the top 20 percent of advertisements. Also joining the lawsuit were Reynolds American Inc. subsidiary Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Inc., Commonwealth Brands Inc., and Liggett Group LLC.

On Nov. 7, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted the manufacturers' request for a preliminary injunction in a strongly worded rebuttal of the FDA's initiative. The preliminary injunction moves the effective date of the regulations until 15 months after the final resolution of the litigation, which could take several years.

Leon said the labels would treat "every single pack of cigarettes in our country as a mini-billboard" for the FDA's "obvious anti-smoking agenda." Leon said the plaintiffs "have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits."

The FDA has said the public interest in conveying the dangers of smoking outweighs the companies' free-speech rights.

The 22 attorneys general stated a similar opinion in their filing, saying the First Amendment does not prevent the government from requiring that "lethal and addictive products carry warning labels that effectively inform consumers of the risks those products entail."

The brief was filed by attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, Washington and West Virginia.

President Barack Obama — who recently became tobacco-free, according to his medical checkup — has weighed in on the label issue since Leon's ruling, saying cigarette manufacturers "don't want to be honest about the consequences."

In January 2010, Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky ruled that tobacco manufacturers could continue to use color and graphics in marketing their products. He also ruled that manufacturers can claim a product is safer if it gains approval from the FDA.

However, McKinley upheld the majority of the provisions in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which became law in June 2010, including requiring large health warnings on cigarette packs.

Tobacco users need not apply

Tobacco users

Geisinger Medical Center of Danville, Montour County, announced last week that it will no longer hire applicants who use cigarettes, cigars or chewing or smokeless tobacco.

The policy falls in line with that of some other health-care facilities across the state, including in Williamsport and Bethlehem.

According to The Daily Item – a sister newspaper of The Tribune-Democrat

– the policy takes effect Feb. 1, and doesn’t apply to the nearly 15,000 employees currently working at the Danville medical facility or its satellite locations.

It’s a major step, and obviously a bold one.

While we understand and applaud the health-care provider’s reasoning, we, too, wonder about any future ramifications it might encounter.

We long have encouraged our readers, for their own well-being, to refrain from smoking or using smokeless tobacco. However, we also long have supported their right to do so as long as it does not affect the health or comfort level of others.

The motivation for the Geisinger policy isn’t cost but better employee health and a healthful patient environment, said Amy Brayford of its human resources department.

“In the long run, we certainly hope this will have (a) positive impact on benefit costs,” she said in The Daily Item’s report. “In the short run, we will be increasing screenings and that will add some expense.”

But, she added, “This is really for a healthy environment for our employees and patients.”

As in the case of the 4,000-employee Conemaugh Health System, Geisinger has been a smoke-free campus for a few years now. Smokers at Conemaugh’s facilities must leave health system properties before lighting up, or face disciplinary action if caught.

Geisinger officials say their hiring process includes a routine drug screening, which now will include a test that detects only active nicotine users, not those exposed to secondhand smoke.

Any substance that contains nicotine – including patches and chewing gum often used in cessation routines – will produce a positive result.

Applicants who fail the test can re-apply after six months, officials said.

Geisinger doesn’t plan to police new hires, making sure they remain tobacco-free upon going to work there, Brayford said, but believes they will follow the policy themselves.

“You have to have a trust relationship with your employees,” said Lynn Miller, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Geisinger.

“That’s very important to us.”

According to a spokesman at the American Lung Association’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania is one of 20 states that legally allows employers to consider tobacco use in hiring decisions.

Laws in 29 states and the District of Columbia prevent public or private businesses from considering whether a person smokes when hiring, he said.

While we are unaware of how many companies in Pennsylvania might already have hiring practices banning tobacco users, Geisinger’s move is noteworthy considering its size and its mission.

We certainly would expect that others will fall in line, especially considering the commonwealth’s already-strict rules involving smoking in public establishments.