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Tobacco & Marijuana

Loss for cigarette maker in Florida smoker trial

Tobacco & MarijuanaFeb 14 09

A Florida jury ruled on Thursday that a smoker’s death was caused by his addiction to cigarettes, a legal setback for cigarette giant Philip Morris in the first of potentially thousands of cases to go to trial.

The jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, decided in favor of Elaine Hess, the widow of longtime smoker Stuart Hess, who died of lung cancer in 1997 at age 55. He had smoked for 40 years.

The Hess trial was the first of about 8,000 cases filed following the Florida Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 2006 to throw out a $145 billion jury award in a class-action lawsuit filed in the early 1990s by Miami Beach pediatrician Howard Engle on behalf of thousands of sick smokers.

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Do it for Fido: smokers may quit to help a pet

Tobacco & MarijuanaFeb 10 09

People unwilling to quit smoking to improve their own health may consider giving up cigarettes to spare their pets the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

Twenty-eight percent of pet owners who smoke said in a survey they would try to quit based on knowledge that second-hand smoke could harm their dogs, cats and other pets, the researchers wrote in the journal Tobacco Control.

Another 11 percent said they would think about quitting.

“It’s not necessarily that people love their pets more than they love themselves or their children, it’s just another motivational factor for people to consider quitting smoking,” Sharon Milberger of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, who led the research, said in a telephone interview.

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Bar workers who smoke also benefit from smoking ban

Tobacco & MarijuanaFeb 10 09

The health of bar workers, who actively smoke cigarettes, significantly improves after the introduction of a smoking ban, reveals research published ahead of print in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The findings are based on 371 bar workers from 72 Scottish bars, whose symptoms and lung function were assessed before the implementation of the ban on smoking in enclosed public places, and then two and 12 months afterwards.

In all, 191 workers underwent all three assessments, and the proportion reporting any respiratory symptoms fell from 69% to 57% after one year. The proportion of those with sensory symptoms (runny nose, red eyes, sore throat) also fell from 75% to 64%.

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Drop in second-hand smoke deaths predicted

Tobacco & MarijuanaDec 19 08

The number of deaths and heart attacks due to second-hand smoke exposure may fall by as much as 30 percent if current downward trends in passive smoking exposure continue, according to a new report.

“Exposure to passive smoking has been reduced by 25 percent to 40 percent, and its burden has been reduced by 25 percent and 30 percent over the last 8-10 years, but the burden remains substantial,” Dr. James M. Lightwood and colleagues write in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Lightwood of the University of California San Francisco and his team used the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model to gauge the health and cost burden of passive smoking on US residents over 35. The model is a computer simulation of the impact of heart disease caused by smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other factors.

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Right help key to quit success for women smokers

Gender: Female • • Tobacco & MarijuanaDec 17 08

Female smokers who want to kick the habit face different challenges than men, but with the right help they can be just as successful, according to experts from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“The problem is that there are specialists or interventionists who deal with everyone in the same manner,” Dr. Ivana T. Croghan, research program coordinator at the clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center, told Reuters Health.

While research suggests women may be more likely than men to relapse after quitting, Croghan added, her own analysis of 3,000 people treated at the Mayo Clinic center found no difference between men and women in the ability to stay smoke free six months later.

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Smoking’s effect on child weight may vary by race

Children's Health • • Obesity • • Tobacco & MarijuanaNov 28 08

Studies have linked prenatal smoking to a higher risk of childhood obesity, but new findings suggest that effect may vary based on race and ethnicity.

In a study of more than 155,000 preschool children, U.S. researchers found that the link between mothers’ smoking during pregnancy and their children’s risk of obesity was most clear among white families.

In contrast, only heavy prenatal smoking was tied to childhood obesity among African Americans. And there was no clear evidence that it raised the odds of obesity among children of Hispanic, Native American or Asian descent.

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US smokers increasingly hooked on nicotine

Psychiatry / Psychology • • Tobacco & MarijuanaOct 28 08

Smokers who are seeking medical treatment to give up cigarettes are more highly addicted to nicotine than smokers who sought help two decades ago, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

The researchers examined nicotine dependence levels of about 600 smokers who entered treatment programs in northern California to quit smoking during three periods starting in 1989 and ending in 2006.

Seventy-three percent of those seeking medical help to quit smoking in 2005 to 2006 were deemed highly nicotine dependent using scores from a questionnaire given to assess the severity of nicotine addiction, the researchers said.

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Nicotine replacement safe during pregnancy

Pregnancy • • Tobacco & MarijuanaOct 26 08

For women trying to quit smoking during pregnancy, using nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum does not increase the likelihood of a stillbirth, a study shows.

“Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth,” the researchers write in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. “The use of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) in pregnancy is a possible harm reduction strategy,” they add.

Using national data, Dr. K. Strandberg-Larsen, at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen, and colleagues gathered information on NRT use and smoking for 87,032 singleton pregnancies.

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International pact sought on cigarette smuggling

Tobacco & MarijuanaOct 21 08

Delegates from more than 150 countries met Monday to push for a wide-ranging pact to curb the booming trade in cigarette smuggling.

The week-long conference in Geneva is being held under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates 5 million people die each year from diseases related to smoking.

“Illicit trade in tobacco products contributes to the rise in tobacco consumption and poses a serious threat to health,” the WHO said.

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Chronic lung disease common in older adults

Respiratory Problems • • Tobacco & MarijuanaOct 09 08

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death globally, and one of every four men and one of every six women will develop COPD if they live to be 95 years old.

Those are the latest findings of the ongoing, population-based Rotterdam Study, presented here this week at the 18th Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society.

COPD is primarily cause by two principal diseases, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, both of which are strongly linked to smoking. A primary symptom is the difficulty and ultimately inability to move air through the lungs. The symptoms are severely disabling and have life-threatening complications. An estimated 12 million people in the United States have COPD.

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Study examines lung cancer among lifelong nonsmokers

Cancer • • Lung Cancer • • Tobacco & MarijuanaSep 09 08

A new American Cancer Society study sheds light on the ten to fifteen percent of lung cancers that are caused by factors other than tobacco smoking. The study analyzed data on lung cancer occurrence among lifelong nonsmokers in North America, Europe, and Asia and found that lung cancer death rates among never-smokers are highest among men, African Americans, and Asians residing in Asia. The review, the largest to date of lifelong nonsmokers, also suggests that the death rates among never-smokers have remained stable over the past several decades. It appears in the September issue of PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science.

While the great majority of lung cancers are related to smoking, approximately 16,000 to 24,000 lung cancer deaths each year are due to other factors. For comparison, if lung cancers not caused by smoking were considered a separate category, it would rank among the seven to nine most common fatal cancers in the U.S. The researchers say as the number of never-smokers in the U.S. and other developed countries is increasing, this is a subject of particular interest and importance.

To examine the issue, researchers led by Michael J. Thun, M.D. pooled data on lung cancer incidence and death rates among self-reported never-smokers from 13 large cohort studies based in North America, Europe, and Asia that spanned the time period from 1960 to 2004. The pooled data represented hundreds of thousands of individuals (over 630,000 for the incidence data and 1.8 million for the mortality data). The researchers also abstracted data for women from 22 cancer registries in 10 countries in time periods and regions where the smoking prevalence among women was known to be low.

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Health risk behaviors associated with lower prostate specific antigen awareness

Obesity • • Tobacco & Marijuana • • Urine ProblemsAug 27 08

According to a study conducted at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, health risk behaviors such as smoking and obesity are associated with lower awareness of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), which could lead to a lower likelihood of undergoing actual prostate cancer screening. Although previous studies have explored predictors of PSA test awareness, this is the first research to focus on health risk behaviors, such as smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption. The study findings were reported in the August issue of The Journal of Urology.

Awareness of PSA testing is considered an important cognitive precursor of prostate cancer screening and it was found to contribute to differences in prostate cancer screening rates. Earlier studies have suggested that persons who seek out cancer information are more likely to acquire knowledge, demonstrate healthy behaviors, and undergo cancer screening. According to the Mailman School study, a quarter of the men older than 50 years without a history of prostate cancer who were among the population of 7,000 men studied, remain unaware of the PSA test.

“Our primary findings suggested that smoking, physical inactivity and obesity are inversely associated with awareness of the PSA test. These risk behaviors are linked with higher prostate cancer morbidity and mortality,” said Firas S. Ahmed, MD, MPH, Mailman School of Public Health, and first author. This finding may be due to a general lack of concern about health maintenance or less interactions with health care providers by smokers, according to Dr. Ahmed.

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California tobacco control program saved billions in medical costs

Tobacco & MarijuanaAug 26 08

California’s state tobacco control program saved $86 billion—in 2004 dollars—in personal healthcare costs in its first 15 years, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

During the same period, the state spent only a total of $1.8 billion on the program, a 50-to-1 return on investment, according to study findings. The study is the first that has been able to quantifiably connect tobacco control to healthcare savings, say its authors.

The healthcare savings occurred because the program prevented 3.6 billion packs of cigarettes—worth $9.2 billion to the tobacco industry—from being smoked between 1989, when the state-funded California Tobacco Control Program began, and 2004, when this study ended.

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Study shows why once is enough to hook some smokers

Tobacco & MarijuanaAug 07 08

For some people, one cigarette is all it takes to become hooked on nicotine, while others are repelled by it.

Researchers in Canada have found a region in the brains of rats that may be the key to these differences.

By manipulating specific molecular doorways into brain cells called receptors, they were able to control which rats in the study enjoyed their first exposure to nicotine and which were repelled by it.

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Prizes don’t help smokers kick the habit long-term

Tobacco & MarijuanaJul 23 08

Contests that offer smokers cash and other incentives to quit don’t produce better long-term results than smoking cessation efforts that don’t reward people for kicking the habit, a new analysis of existing research demonstrates.

“While competitions may be an attractive and high-profile way of encouraging smokers to make a quit attempt, our evidence found that they don’t improve the long-term success rate,” Dr. Kate Cahill of the University of Oxford told Reuters Health in an email interview. “Many people relapse once the competition is over and the prizes stop coming.”

In the U.S., such contests are typically offered in the workplace, while the highest-profile initiatives outside the U.S. are the international “Quit & Win” contests, run every 2 years in more than 80 countries, Cahill explained.

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