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Tobacco & Marijuana

Chinese ‘herbal’ cigarettes no healthier than regular cigarettes

Tobacco & MarijuanaDec 03 09

Despite popular belief and some marketing claims, researchers have found that Chinese “herbal” cigarettes that combine medicinal herbs with tobacco are just as addictive and no safer than regular cigarettes.

“The public needs to be aware that herbal cigarettes do not deliver fewer carcinogens,” said lead researcher Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine and Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco. “We hope our findings will help to dispel the myth that they are a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes; they are not.”

Results of this study are published in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, which has a special focus on tobacco.

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Philip Morris ordered to pay $300 million to smoker

Public Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaNov 20 09

A Florida jury on Thursday ordered cigarette maker Philip Morris USA to pay $300 million in damages to a 61-year-old ex-smoker named Cindy Naugle who is wheelchair-bound by emphysema.

The Broward Circuit Court jury assessed $56.6 million in past and future medical expenses against the company, part of Altria Group Inc, as well as $244 million in punitive damages.

The verdict is the largest of the so-called Engle progeny cases that have been tried so far, both sides said.

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U.S. stop-smoking efforts stalled, report shows

Public Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaNov 12 09

Efforts to help smokers kick the habit have stalled in the United States, with hardly any recent change in smoking rates, federal researchers reported on Thursday.

Just over 20 percent of the adult population smoked in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 1,000 people take up the habit every day.

“Overall smoking prevalence did not change significantly from 2007 to 2008,” CDC researchers wrote in the weekly report on death and disease.

“In 2008, an estimated 20.6 percent (46 million) of U.S. adults were current cigarette smokers; of these, 79.8 percent (36.7 million) smoked every day, and 20.2 percent (9.3 million) smoked some days.”

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Experts fear Africa “pandemic” from rise in smoking

Public Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaNov 11 09

Africa faces a surge in cancer deaths unless action is taken in the next decade to stem rising smoking levels in a continent where anti-tobacco laws remain rare, U.S. scientists said on Wednesday.

More than half the continent will double its tobacco use within 12 years if current trends continue, the American Cancer Society (ACS) said in a report which found that 90 percent of people living there have no protection from secondhand smoke.

Some African countries have introduced smoking bans but most have not and smoke-free public areas are few.

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EU ministers agree to boost tax on cigarettes

Public Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaNov 10 09

European Union states on Tuesday agreed to raise the excise tax on cigarettes by nearly 30 percent to try to reduce smoking and improve public health, a move that could hurt tobacco manufacturers.

The agreement is part of the EU’s drive to combat smoking, which British statistics show kills more than one million men and 200,000 women in Europe each year.

“The directive is intended to ensure a higher level of public health protection by raising minimum excise duties on cigarettes,” the EU said in a statement.

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Personalized Telephone Counselling Helps Teens Kick the Butt

Public Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaOct 14 09

Intervention programmes dedicated to eliminating cigarette smoking among teenagers have shown promising results with the impact rate of six-month continuous quitting, say researchers.

The trial launched by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center could successfully recruit and retain a large number of adolescent smokers from the general population.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study involved 2,151 teenage smokers. Half of the schools were randomly assigned to the experimental intervention; teens in these schools were invited to take part in confidential, personalized telephone counseling designed to help motivate them to quit.

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Contraband cigarettes account for 17 percent of all brands consumed by adolescent smokers

Tobacco & MarijuanaSep 08 09

Consumption of contraband cigarettes amongst adolescent daily smokers in Canada accounts for 17% of all cigarettes smoked by this age group, and rises to more than 25% in Ontario and Quebec. This behaviour may be undermining tobacco-prevention strategies, as they focus on taxation and minimum age restrictions to curb and prevent smoking, states an article http://www.cmaj.ca/press/cmaj090665.pdf in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca.

The study looked at data from 41 886 high school students in grades 9 to 12 from public and private elementary and secondary schools in all 10 provinces who participated in Canada’s 2006/2007 Youth Smoking Survey. From the selected schools, 61% of eligible students participated.

Among the students in grades 9 to 12, 5.2% were daily smokers and 13.1% of these reported cigarettes from First Nations reserves as their usual brand. Smokers of these cigarettes reported significantly higher smoking levels compared with other smokers – 16.8 vs. 11.9 cigarettes per day.

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Study finds US prison system falls short in treating drug addiction

Psychiatry / Psychology • • Tobacco & MarijuanaSep 08 09

Almost a quarter of a million individuals addicted to heroin are incarcerated in the United States each year. However, many prison systems across the country still do not offer medical treatment for heroin and opiate addiction, despite the demonstrated social, medical and economic benefits of opiate replacement therapy (ORT).

According to new research from The Miriam Hospital, Brown University and their affiliated Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, just half of all federal and state prison systems offer ORT with the medications methadone and buprenorphine, and only in very limited circumstances. Similarly, only twenty-three states provide referrals for some inmates to treatment upon release from prison. These policies are counter to guidelines issued by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which say prisoners should be offered ORT for treatment of opiate dependence.

The study’s findings are published online by Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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Vietnam to curb smoking, raise tobacco tax

Tobacco & MarijuanaAug 26 09

Vietnam will ban smoking in all indoor public places next year and raise tariffs on tobacco products to reduce consumption, the government said.

Starting from January 1, smoking in schools, hospitals, libraries, cinemas, factories, offices and on public transport will be prohibited, a government statement seen on Tuesday said.

The ban will extend to all indoor public spaces by the end of 2010, the statement said, adding the government also plans to apply “high tariff levels” on tobacco products next year to cut consumption.

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Growing evidence of marijuana smoke’s potential dangers

Tobacco & MarijuanaAug 05 09

In a finding that challenges the increasingly popular belief that smoking marijuana is less harmful to health than smoking tobacco, researchers in Canada are reporting that smoking marijuana, like smoking tobacco, has toxic effects on cells. Their study is scheduled for the Aug. 17 issue of ACS’ Chemical Research in Toxicology, a monthly journal.

Rebecca Maertens and colleagues note that people often view marijuana as a “natural” product and less harmful than tobacco. As public attitudes toward marijuana change and legal restrictions ease in some countries, use of marijuana is increasing. Scientists know that marijuana smoke has adverse effects on the lungs. However, there is little knowledge about marijuana’s potential to cause lung cancer due to the difficulty in identifying and studying people who have smoked only marijuana.

The new study begins to address that question by comparing marijuana smoke vs. tobacco smoke in terms of toxicity to cells and to DNA. Scientists exposed cultured animal cells and bacteria to condensed smoke samples from both marijuana and tobacco.

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Die-hard Cypriot smokers must stub out by Jan 1

Public Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaJul 08 09

Die-hard smokers in Cyprus will finally have to curb the habit when one of the last EU smoking havens imposes a Jan. 1 ban on puffing in public places.

Lawmakers are poised to pass tough new regulations banning smoking in public places, replacing an existing law which is regularly flouted.

Come Jan. 1, smoking will be prohibited in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and workplaces, with planned hefty fines for those caught having a puff.

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Allergy season: Cigarettes to the rescue?

Allergies • • Tobacco & MarijuanaMay 14 09

Everyone knows that smoking can kill you, but did you know that it may help with your allergies? A new study shows that cigarette smoke can prevent allergies by decreasing the reaction of immune cells to allergens.

Smoking can cause lung cancer, pulmonary disease, and can even affect how the body fights infections. Along with many harmful effects, smoking cigarettes has a surprising benefit: cigarettes can protect smokers from certain types of allergies. Now, a study recommended by Neil Thomson, a member of Faculty of 1000 Biology and leading expert in the field of respiratory medicine, demonstrates that cigarette smoke decreases the allergic response by inhibiting the activity of mast cells, the major players in the immune system’s response to allergens.

Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that treatment of mast cells with a cigarette smoke-infused solution prevented the release of inflammation-inducing proteins in response to allergens, without affecting other mast cell immune functions.

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Drug helps pregnant drug users to stop smoking

Drug News • • Pregnancy • • Tobacco & MarijuanaApr 30 09

Treatment with an antidepressant drug significantly improves the mood in pregnant substance-dependent women who also smoke cigarettes, according to preliminary results reported at the 2009 Joint Conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) and SNRT-Europe.

The data also suggest that the antidepressant - bupropion—helps these women curb their smoking.

“We are encouraged by the findings given that both depression and smoking are highly prevalent in pregnant, substance-dependent patients and are associated with adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes,” said Dr. Margaret S. Chisolm, assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Cancer “culprits” in tobacco smoke revealed

Cancer • • Lung Cancer • • Tobacco & MarijuanaApr 21 09

Scientists have detected two substances in tobacco smoke that directly cause lung cancer, and they said on Sunday the finding may help one day predict which smokers will develop the disease.

They said people with high concentrations in their urine of a nicotine byproduct called NNAL had double the risk of developing lung cancer compared to smokers with lower NNAL concentrations in their urine.

And smokers who had high urine levels of both NNAL and another nicotine by-product called cotinine had more than eight times the risk of lung cancer compared to smokers with the lowest concentrations of these two compounds.

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Young teens who smoke may boost MS risk

Children's Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaFeb 23 09

Smokers who pick up the habit in their early teens may nearly triple their risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later on, according to the first study to look at the relationship between early smoking and MS.

In MS, the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells, causing fatigue, movement problems, loss of coordination, and many other symptoms, which typically first appear in a person’s 20s, 30s or 40s.

Scientists first proposed in the early 1980s that the autoimmune disease could be triggered by some sort of early-life exposure, although this “mysterious factor” has not yet been identified, explained Dr. Joseph Finkelstein of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, the lead researcher on the study.

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