Tag Archives: tobacco

Milwaukee alderman proposes ban on smokeless tobacco at sports venues

Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy has proposed an ordinance that would eliminate the use of smokeless tobacco products at Miller Park and other sports venues in the city.

An announcement from Murphy’s office said public health advocates would  join him at a Milwaukee Common Council hearing on the ordinance Nov. 10.

His proposal applies to all sports facilities at all levels — professional, collegiate, high school and amateur — within city limits and would cover everyone in the venues, including on the playing field, benches, vendor areas, spectator stands, parking lots and tailgating locations.

Murphy said Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco have enacted similar prohibitions. And a measure awaits the  mayor’s signature in Washington, D.C.

Also, next year, a law in California will take effect that would make 11 of the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums will be tobacco-free.

Public health experts, including at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization, have concluded smokeless tobacco use is dangerous, containing at least 28 known carcinogens and causes oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer.

The product also causes nicotine addiction and other serious health problems like gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions. 

“For too long tobacco has been a stain on the great game of baseball and it’s time to get tobacco out of baseball once and for all to set the right example for the millions of kids who watch the sport and emulate their favorite players,” Murphy said in a statement. “When they are on the job, major league players have a responsibility to set the right example. Let’s make Milwaukee a shining example for the rest of the game.”

The CDC has reported that high school athletes use smokeless tobacco at nearly twice the rate of non-athletes and smokeless tobacco use among athletes increased more than 11 percent from 2001 to 2013, even as smoking rates dropped significantly.

Among male high school athletes, smokeless tobacco use is at 17.4 percent in 2013.

“Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Milwaukee is sending the right message that baseball players are role models for our nation’s youth and that chewing tobacco is dangerous and should not be an accepted part of sports culture.”

In 2013, manufacturers of smokeless tobacco spent more than $500 million on marketing.

On the Web

For information on the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign go to tobaccofreebaseball.org.

Walker climbs over corpses of mass shooting victims to grab a little attention

Scott Walker has squandered hundreds of hours along with untold sums of money and other state resources pursuing futile legal battles against the White House. With much fanfare, he’s joined in unwinnable cases against same-sex marriage and Obamacare, as well as lawsuits over executive orders on immigration and EPA regulations.

Undaunted by his failure to achieve any measure of success in those legal battles, Walker now wants to drag state taxpayers into a legal fray to thwart the president’s minor executive orders aimed at curbing the nation’s off-the-charts level of gun violence. In fact, Walker was apparently first out of the gate on this one, asking Attorney General Brad Schimel to review the plan as soon as it’s released and take any and all legal measures to challenge it.

Other states have joined one or more of the anti-Obama lawsuits. But, “I think Wisconsin is probably one of a select few states that has joined every single one of these lawsuits against the Obama administration,” said Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. 

The governor’s grandstanding made sense when he fancied himself a presidential contender, but it’s hard to understand this latest attention-grabbing gambit. There’s no demand for such action coming from the voters. The state was more or less evenly divided on gun control the last time the Wisconsin Professional Police Association conducted a survey on the issue in 2013 (there will be another  survey later this year).

Republicans ridiculed Obama for shedding tears while announcing his gun control plan. They’re so hardened by political money that they fail to realize it’s their mechanical, self-serving reaction to the nation’s 372 mass shootings last year alone that deserves scorn. We can’t recall a single instance in which Walker has expressed sorrow or empathy for the hundreds of innocent bystanders slain while he’s raked in the dough from gun manufacturers and the NRA.

In contrast, Walker has shown a lot of compassion for law-abiding citizens who might be inconvenienced by background checks. He’s signed several Republican-backed laws relaxing firearm regulations in Wisconsin — two of them last June just after a racist gunman shot nine African-Americans attending Bible study in a South Carolina church.

Our state might rank toward the bottom on income growth and job losses, but thanks to Walker and state Republicans it’s risen to No. 25 on Guns & Ammo’s “best states for gun owners 2015.”

Obama’s proposals were so modest that filing a lawsuit against them is ridiculous. The president seeks primarily to step up enforcement of laws already on the books in order to curb the unregulated buying and selling of weapons at gun shows and flea markets, as well as over the Internet. Licensed gun dealers would not be affected.

Obama’s plan includes hiring 230 FBI staffers to improve and expedite background checks. He also said that he’ll seek funding for an additional 200 agents and investigators in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and that he’ll ask Congress for $500 million to improve mental health services.

Congressional Republicans quickly scoffed at the notion they’d fulfill his requests. The NRA spent nearly $30 million, the vast majority of it on Republicans, in 2014 to ensure our nation will never adopt meaningful gun control.

Ever since the Obama took office, right-wing conspiracy spinners have warned that he’d take away citizens’ guns and establish some sort of liberal dictatorship (an oxymoron if there ever was one). Of course, that hasn’t happened.

But now, after a year of seemingly ceaseless mass shootings, the president has finally stepped forward over congressional refusal to consider the problem, and the NRA and their Republican puppets are reacting as if the wing nuts’ delusions have come true.

And leave it to Walker to climb on top of all the slaughtered innocents and exploit the situation.

California to big-league ballplayers: Stop chewing tobacco

California lawmakers have taken the first step toward accomplishing something Major League Baseball could never do: Stop players from stuffing those big wads of chewing tobacco into their mouths during games.

With Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill banning the use of smokeless tobacco in all California ballparks, a practice dating to the days of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb now seems headed toward the sport’s endangered species list.

Although California is only one state, it is home to five of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams and team owners themselves have been pressing for a ban for years. Last May they got one in San Francisco, home of the reigning World Series champion Giants. In August they got another in Boston, site of fabled Fenway Park, and when Brown signed Assembly Bill 768 one was already in the works for Los Angeles.

“Major League Baseball has long supported a ban of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level and the Los Angeles Dodgers fully support the Los Angeles City Tobacco ordinance and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,” the Dodgers said in a statement last month.

Major League Baseball still needs buy-in from the players, however, because the statewide ban that takes effect before next season has no provision for enforcement.

“The question we’ve been asked is are we going to have police officers walking around checking lips, and no, that’s not the case,” said  Opio Dupree, chief of staff to Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, who introduced the bill. “It’s going to be left to the team and the league.”

Interviews with players in recent years indicate that many are ready to quit — if they could.

“I grew up with it,” pitcher Jake Peavy told the Boston Globe last year when the newspaper polled 58 players the Boston Red Sox had invited to spring training and found 21 were users.

“It was big with my family,” said Peavy who is now with the San Francisco Giants. “Next thing you know, you’re buying cans and you’re addicted to nicotine.”

He added he would like to quit to set a better example for his sons.

Last year’s World Series MVP, San Francisco Giant’s pitching ace Madison Bumgarner, also chews tobacco but told The Associated Press earlier this year he planned to quit after San Francisco became the first city in the nation to adopt a ban. That one, like the statewide provision, also takes effect next year.

“I’ll be all right. I can quit,” Bumgarner said in August. “I quit every once in a while for a little while to make sure I can do it.”

All the players should, said Christian Zwicky, a former Southern California Babe Ruth League most valuable player who grew up watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play and says he never cared for seeing all that tobacco chewing and the spitting of tobacco juice that follows.

It didn’t influence him to take up the practice, the 22-year-old college student says, but he can see how it might have affected others.

“I understand the sentiment there,” said Zwicky who adds he’s not a big fan of government regulation but supports this law. “You don’t want these people that kids look up to using these products that could influence children in a negative way.”

Moves to adopt a comprehensive ban have been gaining support in recent years, fueled by such things as last year’s death of popular Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres, who blamed his fatal mouth cancer on years of chewing tobacco. Former pitcher Curt Schilling, a cancer survivor, has also taken up the cause.

Use of smokeless tobacco has been banned in the minor leagues for more than 20 years, but Major League Baseball and its players union haven’t been able to reach agreement on a similar restriction. Players and coaches are prohibited from chewing tobacco during television interviews and can’t been seen carrying tobacco products when fans are in the ballparks. But the chewing during the game continues.

“It’s a tough deal for some of these players who have grown up playing with it and there are so many triggers in the game,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the AP earlier this year.

“I certainly don’t endorse it,” said Bochy, an on-and-off-again user for decades. “With my two sons, the one thing I asked them is don’t ever start dipping.”

Adult smoking rate dips below 18 percent

A government report says the smoking rate for U.S. adults dipped below 18 percent for the first time last year.

That’s still about the same rate found in 2012, and translates to about 42 million smokers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the findings earlier this week.

The nation’s smoking rate had stalled at around 20 to 21 percent, until it started dropping a bit a few years ago. In last year’s survey, 17.8 percent of adults described themselves as smokers.

Smoking is the nation’s leading cause of preventable illness. It’s responsible for the majority of lung cancer deaths and is a factor in heart attacks and a variety of other illnesses.

On the Web…

CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr

Wacky weed: Getting into the cannabis business

Legal or not, the business of selling weed in the U.S. is as wacky as ever.

The tangle of rules and regulations that govern whether and how it can be grown, bought and sold create complexity and ambiguity that cause major headaches for marijuana businesses — and enticing opportunities for those who want to exploit it.

“It’s a gray market industry, that’s just how it is,” says Kayvan Khalatbari, who owns a marijuana dispensary and a chain of pizza restaurants in Denver.

The big issue: the nation hasn’t decided whether marijuana is a dangerous illegal drug or not much worse than tobacco or alcohol. According to federal law, it is an illegal narcotic like heroin, with “no currently accepted medical use.” But recent legalization pushes have made it legal – for medical use – in 23 states and Washington D.C. In Colorado and Washington State, it can be bought just for fun.

Entrepreneurs and investors have to navigate laws that are different from state to state and sometimes from county to county. That has given rise to a bumper crop of consultants promising to show the way to success, while shady public companies spin visions of fat profits. Consumers now have an array of new pot-related products to choose from, many of far higher quality than what’s offered on the corner. But they must also discern truth from hope in the many claims about all the supposedly wonderful things pot can do.

ENTREPRENEURS

Khalatbari started his first pizza restaurant with a small business loan from a bank. To raise money to build a marijuana-growing facility, a bank loan wasn’t an option.

Almost all banks avoid working with pot businesses because pot is illegal federally, and banks want to avoid running afoul of anti-trafficking laws. Also, residency restrictions in Colorado prevent raising money from out-of-state investors in exchange for a share of the company, which is exactly what most investors want.

So, to build a 40,000 square-foot growing facility, Khalatbari teamed with an out-of-state investor who paid for construction while trying to establish residency in Colorado. When that comes through, the investor could get an ownership stake in the facility.

Khalatbari says there’s plenty of investor money sloshing around, looking to fund marijuana businesses, but the terms are expensive because of the risk and the restrictions.

“It’s almost impossible not to get funding,” he says, “but it’s not going to be on the terms you want.”

Once up and running, entrepreneurs face more twists. Khalatbari kept his bank account in the name of a management company instead of his marijuana dispensary, called Denver Relief. He was careful not to pay pot-related vendors out of the account, instead using cash, which is common in the pot business. And he didn’t make cash deposits over $10,000 in order to avoid triggering suspicious activity inquiries. Still, three successive banks dropped him after learning the management company had ties to pot.

“We can’t be honest and open about where we can put our legal money,” he says. “They are pushing us underground.”

He has recently found an unidentified bank that will work with him and a few other pot businesses.

Khalatbari can’t write off certain expenses the way most businesses can. The Internal Revenue Service prohibits deductions for expenses incurred while selling what the federal government considers to be an illegal drug. That makes his profit lower than it otherwise would be. It also encourages him and other sellers to designate, for tax purposes, only a small portion of their stores as having anything to do with selling pot.

These conditions can help a business flourish once it’s open, however. Would-be competitors face the same hurdles to getting started – local zoning rules, state regulations, financing complexity or a slow bureaucracy – so it can often be some time before the established business faces a real challenge.

California rules are relatively lax, and there are believed to be at least 500 dispensaries just in Los Angeles. But Connecticut has approved only six dispensaries. The first opened last month – without pot – two years after getting approval. Illinois growing facilities must put up a $2 million surety bond to get approval. Washington has awarded 43 licenses to sell marijuana for recreational use – and just one in Seattle, called Cannabis City.

Khalatbari has plenty of competition, but the profit margin at his marijuana dispensary is 60 percent higher than at the pizza restaurants. Even after the legal headaches, it’s easier to make a profit selling the bud of a plant for $200 an ounce than it is selling a meat lover’s pizza (pepperoni, spicy sausage, Canadian bacon and mozzarella) for $19.99.

“It’s much higher-risk,” he says of the marijuana business. “But the reward is much greater.”

CONSULTANTS

“Everyone wants to be in the weed business,” says Adam Bierman, managing partner at a marijuana consulting company based in Culver City, California, called the Med Men.

That suits Bierman just fine. Dozens if not hundreds of consultants like Bierman have popped up, feeding off the complexity of the marijuana business and the desire of so many to make it big in pot. Some act as matchmakers, promising to connect investors with entrepreneurs looking for money. Others sell help navigating the licensing process, tips on how best to grow marijuana, or advice about how to manage a startup that must operate outside of the banking system.

But many of these “consultants” have little or no experience in the business. Bierman acknowledges he didn’t when he started six years ago. “We got our teeth kicked in,” he says.

Now his firm knows the ropes, he says, but the industry is crawling with people who don’t.

“There are a lot of opportunistic people coming into this industry from every angle,” he says. “And unfortunately we are part of that. We are one of the companies I’m blasting, and I hate that.”

In February, PetroTech Oil and Gas – a drilling services company – announced it was establishing a management company in Colorado and Washington to help pot growers. Trading volume in the tiny company’s stock rose 13-fold and the penny stock rose to 7 cents per share over three weeks. The Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading in the stock in March over questions about the accuracy of the information about the company’s operations.

INVESTORS

Investing in the pot business seems like it should be as easy as printing money. The product’s millions of users are so dedicated that they’ve been willing to risk arrest to get it. To reach them, all businesses have to do is grow a weed and sell the flowers.

Pot investing is treacherous, though, even for professionals.

“There are a lot of large egos and puffery in this industry,” says Brendan Kennedy, a former Silicon Valley banker who helped found Privateer Holdings, a marijuana-focused private equity firm. “It takes a lot of time and energy to sort through the hyperbole and find the right, legitimate opportunities.”

Every new pot company thinks it has the best growing technique or marijuana strain, Kennedy says, but few have worked out a long-term business plan that coldly assesses the market and the risks. Growing plants for profit isn’t quite so simple.

“Ultimately it’s a crop, it’s a commodity, not very different from a lot of agricultural products that are out there,” Kennedy says. “Would you invest in a winery? Or a strawberry grower?”

Investing in pot stocks is even scarier, because nearly all of them are so-called penny stocks, like PetroTech, that trade outside of major exchanges. There are now a couple dozen of these companies, often with names that play on marijuana’s scientific name, cannabis sativa, such as Advanced Cannabis Solutions or Cannabusiness Group. But many have tenuous ties to the marijuana industry, regulators say.

Canadian regulators issued a warning about marijuana-related stocks in June, following similar alerts from the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority last year and one from the SEC in May. Five times this year the SEC has suspended trading in shares of companies claiming to be in the marijuana business.

Kennedy says the penny stock companies “are full of charlatans and hucksters,” who are “purely playing on the desire of Main Street investors to get into the industry.”

One of the companies targeted by the SEC, called GrowLife, makes urban gardening equipment and trades under the ticker symbol PHOT. An October report designed to look like it was issued by a Wall Street firm suggested the company’s stock was poised to rise nearly 300 percent. But that “research” was actually paid for by GrowLife – a detail found only in the report’s fine print.

GrowLife’s shares soared 900 percent, to 60 cents from 6 cents, between October and early April, when trading was halted by the SEC. In June the company revealed that the $37 million loss it reported for the first quarter was actually double that, $74 million. GrowLife shares have since fallen back to 7 cents.

GrowLife CEO Marco Hegyi says the report “was never intended to boost the stock” and that legalization efforts boosted shares of GrowLife and other marijuana companies. Hegyi, who became CEO in March, says the company is working to improve its financial reporting. “We’re more on top of our business,” he says.

CONSUMERS

A decade ago, pot consumers risked jail time by buying pot of uncertain origin and quality in back-alley deals. Now, in many states, they can shop openly for a wide variety of strains with different levels of potency. Pot can be bought in lotions, foods and drinks with precise doses.

But buyers still need to beware. Companies are using pot’s new legitimacy to try to equate getting high with taking care of your body or curing any number of ailments, making extraordinary health claims about pot to push their products.

“Because it’s a drug that makes people feel good, marketers want to put medical claims on it,” says Bill London, a professor of public health at California State University in Los Angeles and a health claim watchdog. London has no problem with legalization, but says many medical claims for marijuana “are false or exaggerated” and “should not be tolerated.”

The website Cannabis.org, started by GrowLife and carries the tagline “Cannabis is Medicine,” lists 17 major diseases that cannabis can treat, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes.

Some of the chemicals in marijuana have been tested thoroughly and found to effectively treat some conditions, such as reducing nausea and stimulating appetite in patients undergoing chemotherapy. These or other chemicals in pot may someday be found to be effective in treating other diseases – or they could be found to be dangerous in ways not yet understood. Scientists simply don’t know yet.

A Colorado company called Dixie Elixirs sells pot in pill form called “scrips” – short for “prescription.” These pills allow users to manage both their ups and downs, despite the same amount of pot in each pill, with additives like ashwagandha root. “Awakening Scrips” are said to provide a “stimulating sensation,” while “Relaxing Scrips” are said to “reduce mental and physical stress and promote relaxation.”

Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer at Dixie Elixirs, says the company is careful to not make specific medical claims about its products. “It’s the regulatory framework that forces businesses to sell (marijuana) as medicine because that’s the only way it’s legal (in most states),” he says.

In a marketing pitch for one pot-based product, called Foria, a woman identified as “Anna, 29” says: “Foria is potent medicine and the most healing way I have ever used cannabis.” It’s not clear that Anna had a medical problem, though. The product is a pot-based lubricant for women, designed to increase sexual pleasure by delivering a high through their private parts.

Historic smoking report marks 50th anniversary

Fifty years ago, ashtrays seemed to be on every table and desk. Athletes and even Fred Flintstone endorsed cigarettes in TV commercials. Smoke hung in the air in restaurants, offices and airplane cabins. More than 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked, and there was a good chance your doctor was among them.

The turning point came on Jan. 11, 1964. It was on that Saturday morning that U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released an emphatic and authoritative report that said smoking causes illness and death — and the government should do something about it.

In the decades that followed, warning labels were put on cigarette packs, cigarette commercials were banned, taxes were raised and new restrictions were placed on where people could light up.

“It was the beginning,” said Kenneth Warner, a University of Michigan public health professor who is a leading authority on smoking and health.

It was not the end. While the U.S. smoking rate has fallen by more than half to 18 percent, that still translates to more than 43 million smokers. Smoking is still far and away the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Some experts predict large numbers of Americans will puff away for decades to come.

Nevertheless, the Terry report has been called one of the most important documents in U.S. public health history, and on its 50th anniversary, officials are not only rolling out new anti-smoking campaigns but reflecting on what the nation did right that day.

The report’s bottom-line message was hardly revolutionary. Since 1950, head-turning studies that found higher rates of lung cancer in heavy smokers had been appearing in medical journals. A widely read article in Reader’s Digest in 1952, “Cancer by the Carton,” contributed to the largest drop in cigarette consumption since the Depression. In 1954, the American Cancer Society announced that smokers had a higher cancer risk.

But the tobacco industry fought back. Manufacturers came out with cigarettes with filters that they claimed would trap toxins before they settled into smokers’ lungs. And in 1954, they placed a full-page ad in hundreds of newspapers in which they argued that research linking their products and cancer was inconclusive.

It was a brilliant counter-offensive that left physicians and the public unsure how dangerous smoking really was. Cigarette sales rebounded.

In 1957 and 1959, Surgeon General Leroy Burney issued statements that heavy smoking causes lung cancer. But they had little impact.

Amid pressure from health advocates, President John F. Kennedy’s surgeon general, Dr. Luther Terry, announced in 1962 that he was convening an expert panel to examine all the evidence and issue a comprehensive, debate-settling report. To ensure the panel was unimpeachable, he let the tobacco industry veto any proposed members it regarded as biased.

Surveys indicated a third to a half of all physicians smoked tobacco products at the time, and the committee reflected the culture: Half its 10 members were smokers, who puffed away during committee meetings. Terry himself was a cigarette smoker.

Dr. Eugene Guthrie, an assistant surgeon general, helped persuade Terry to kick the habit a few months before the press conference releasing the report.

“I told him, ‘You gotta quit that. I think you can get away with a pipe — if you don’t do it openly.’ He said, ‘You gotta be kidding!’ I said, ‘No, I’m not. It just wouldn’t do. If you smoke any cigarettes, you better do it in a closet,”” Guthrie recalled in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

The press conference was held on a Saturday partly out of concern about its effect on the stock market. About 200 reporters attended.

The committee said cigarette smoking clearly did cause lung cancer and was responsible for the nation’s escalating male cancer death rate. It also said there was no valid evidence filters were reducing the danger. The committee also said — more vaguely — that the government should address the problem.

“This was front-page news, and every American knew it,” said Robin Koval, president of Legacy, an anti-smoking organization.

Cigarette consumption dropped a whopping 15 percent over the next three months but then began to rebound. Health officials realized it would take more than one report.

In 1965, Congress required cigarette packs to carry warning labels. Two years later, the Federal Communications Commission ordered TV and radio stations to provide free air time for anti-smoking public service announcements. Cigarette commercials were banned in 1971.

Still, progress was slow. Warner recalled teaching at the University of Michigan in 1972, when nearly half the faculty members at the school of public health were smokers. He was one of them.

“I felt like a hypocrite and an idiot,” he said. But smoking was still the norm, and it was difficult to quit, he said.

The 1970s also saw the birth of a movement to protect nonsmokers from cigarette fumes, with no-smoking sections on airplanes, in restaurants and in other places. Those eventually gave way to complete smoking bans. Cigarette machines disappeared, cigarette taxes rose, and restrictions on the sale of cigarettes to minors got tougher.

Tobacco companies also came under increasing legal attack. In the biggest case of them all, more than 40 states brought lawsuits demanding compensation for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. Big Tobacco settled in 1998 by agreeing to pay about $200 billion and curtail marketing of cigarettes to youths.

In 1998, while the settlement was being completed, tobacco executives appeared before Congress and publicly acknowledged for the first time that their products can cause lung cancer and be addictive.

Experts agree that the Terry report clearly triggered decades of changes that whittled the smoking rate down. But it was based on data that was already out there. Why, then, did it make such a difference?

For one thing, the drumbeat about the dangers of smoking was getting louder in 1964, experts said. But the way the committee was assembled and the carefully neutral manner in which it reached its conclusion were at least as important, said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same time, he and others said any celebration of the anniversary must be tempered by the size of the problem that still exists.

Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking, according to the CDC.

Donald Shopland finds that depressing.

Fifty years ago, he was a 19-year-old who smoked two packs a day while working as a clerk for the surgeon general’s committee. He quit cigarettes right after the 1964 report came out, and went on to a long and distinguished public health career in which he wrote or edited scores of books and reports on smoking’s effects.

“We should be much further along than we are,” the Georgia retiree lamented.

Key dates in tobacco fight since smoking report

Some key events in the fight over tobacco during the last 50 years: 

1964: U.S. surgeon general report concludes smoking causes lung cancer.

1965: Warning labels required on cigarette packs.

1971: TV and radio commercials for cigarettes banned.

1972: Airlines told to provide no-smoking sections.

1987: Aspen, Colo., becomes first U.S. city to ban smoking in restaurants.

1988: Smoking banned on short domestic airline flights.

1998: Forty-six states reach $206 billion settlement with cigarette makers.

2000: Smoking prohibited on international flights.

2009: Food and Drug Administration authorized to regulate tobacco products.

Groups seek to free LGBT smokers from tobacco trap

Anti-tobacco groups have released a new report exploring efforts to crush tobacco use in the LGBT community and highlighting the reasons LGBT people fall into the tobacco trap.

The analysis emphasizes Big Tobacco’s efforts to promote cigarette smoking among LGBT people, such as R.J. Reynold’s Project SCUM campaign that launched in 1995 and marketed smokes to gays.

On Dec. 11, the Legacy Foundation, an anti-tobacco group, released a report, “Tobacco Control in LGBT Communities,” which explores the reasons behind continued disparities in tobacco use among LGBT people versus the general population, explains Legacy’s role in addressing tobacco use in the community and provides case studies in reducing smoking in the community.

“It’s very likely that smoking is the single greatest health issue stealing years off the lives of LGBT people,” said Dr. Scout, director of the Network for LGBT Health Equity, one of six CDC-funded tobacco disparity networks and a project of The Fenway Institute in Boston. “Why do LGBT people smoke so much? We’ve been targeted by the tobacco industry, we’re extremely vulnerable for social acceptance as we come out and the pressures of stigma can nudge anyone towards unhealthy behaviors.”

Scout added, “More LGBT civil rights leaders’ voices have been silenced by tobacco disparities than any other single thing. For me, tobacco is one of the biggest social justice issues.”

A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health found that LGBT people smoke cigarettes at rates that are nearly 70 percent higher than the general population. It is estimated that LGBT adults are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to smoke than heterosexual adults.

Twelve years ago, Legacy, at a forum in Atlanta, announced a program aimed at understanding and controlling tobacco use in the community. A focus was on the:

• Lack of LGBT community representation in mainstream tobacco control efforts.

• Targeted marketing of LGBT communities by tobacco companies.

• Reliance on tobacco company funding by LGBT organizations.

• Lack of knowledge among community members in recognizing the public health threat that tobacco poses.

“For more than a decade, Legacy has worked hard with grassroots groups across the country to help combat the direct targeting that the industry has had on this community in an effort to reduce tobacco use and encourage cessation,” said Legacy CEO Cheryl Heaton. “Through funding and research, it has been our charge to help the LGBT community fight back and educate others on the dangers of tobacco use and nicotine addiction.”

Heaton and Scout agreed there have been advances, but more needs to be done.

“People in the community want and need help, but it is difficult to provide them with knowledge and training when there is a lack of support for the LGBT population,” said Scout. “With the help of others, people from within and even outside of the community can continue to improve tobacco education among a population that needs and deserves help.”

On the Web…

http://www.multivu.com/mnr/53121-legacy-report-tobacco-control-in-lgbt-communities