no smoking
April 20, 2021

The Biden administration is considering measures that would force tobacco companies to reduce the amount of nicotine in all cigarettes to nonaddictive or minimally addictive levels, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

The administration is also weighing whether to ban menthol cigarettes, the Journal reports. Federal data shows that every year, 226 billion cigarettes are sold in the U.S., and about a third are menthol cigarettes. Menthol creates a cooling sensation in the throat, making menthol cigarettes an attractive product for young people and new smokers, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some studies have shown people who smoke menthols have a harder time quitting than those who smoke non-menthol cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health have also funded research that showed when nicotine was almost completely removed from cigarettes, smokers were more likely to quit or turn to alternatives that are less harmful, like lozenges or gum, the Journal reports. Annually, 480,000 deaths in the U.S. are linked to cigarettes.

A spokesman for Altria, the maker of Marlboro, told the Journal that any action "must be made on science and evidence and must consider the real-world consequences of such actions, including the growth of an illicit market and the impact on hundreds of thousands of jobs from the farm to local stores across the country." The Journal notes that if the Biden administration goes through with reducing nicotine and banning menthols, it will take years for the policies to go into effect and they will likely face multiple legal challenges. Catherine Garcia

February 5, 2019

Dr. Richard Creagan doesn't think that higher taxes on cigarettes and anti-smoking campaigns are doing enough to get people to kick the habit, so he's come up with a different solution.

Creagan, a former emergency room physician, is a Democratic member of Hawaii's state House of Representatives, and his new bill, HB 1509, would quickly raise the minimum smoking age over five years — to 30 in 2020, 40 in 2021, 50 in 2022, 60 in 2023, and 100 in 2024. This would effectively ban the sale of cigarettes to most people in the state.

"Basically, we essentially have a group who are heavily addicted — in my view, enslaved by a ridiculously bad industry — which has enslaved them by designing a cigarette that is highly addictive, knowing that it is highly lethal," Creagan told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Every year, roughly 500,000 people die in the United States from smoking-related conditions, and since the state is "obligated to protect the public's health," the bill doesn't go too far. "We don't allow people free access to opioids, for instance, or any prescription drugs," he said. The bill will likely be heard by the House Health Committee this week. Catherine Garcia

February 18, 2016

A Russian advertisement is warning citizens not to smoke — and taking a sharp jab at President Obama in the process. The sign, which popped up in a bus shelter in Moscow, shows a picture of the American president taking a drag, The Independent reports. "Smoking kills more people than Obama, although he kills lots and lots of people. Don't smoke, don't be like Obama," the text reads.

Dmitry Gudkov, the only liberal opposition MP in Russia's parliament, wrote on Facebook that it is "disgusting and embarrassing that this is appearing on the streets of the Russian capital."

"Soon they'll be scaring kids with Obama rather than Baba Yaga," Gudkov said.

The sign has no attribution and Moscow authorities have made no comment. Obama quit smoking in 2007. Jeva Lange

October 9, 2015

China will lose a third of its young men to smoking, according to devastating numbers reported by the British medical journal The Lancet. Researchers at Oxford University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Chinese Center for Disease Control worked on two different and geographically diverse studies 15 years apart, with hundreds of thousands of participants, to get their results. The findings revealed that smoking deaths in China are set to triple by 2050 to 3 million people a year — a population larger than the entire city of Chicago.

Smoking rates in the United States have halved in the past 50 years, and one in five deaths in the U.S. are linked to the habit. The decline in the States is in part due to aggressive anti-smoking public service campaigns that aren't as common in China, where "the belief that protective biological mechanisms specific to Asian populations make smoking less hazardous, that it is easy to quit smoking, and that tobacco use is an intrinsic and ancient part of Chinese culture" are widely accepted as true, the study reports. Half of the adults interviewed were unaware that smoking can cause strokes or heart disease; only 10 percent of Chinese smokers quit by choice.

The study additionally found that men who start smoking before age 20 had twice the mortality rate of non-smokers, and that for the two-thirds of Chinese men who take up smoking, half of them will die as a result. Women in China smoke significantly less than men, the BBC reports, with only 2.4 percent taking up the habit, as compared to more than half of Chinese men.

It will be no surprise at this point to hear that China is also the largest consumer of cigarettes in the world, with the average smoker lighting up 22 times a day. Read more about the findings in The Lancet. Jeva Lange

June 20, 2015

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed a bill Friday raising the state's legal smoking age to 21, The Associated Press reports. The law applies to buying, smoking, and possessing traditional and electronic cigarettes. Hawaii is the first state to enact a law of this kind, although some local governments already enforce similar bans.

The Hawaii governor's office said 86 percent of adults in the state began smoking before age 21. Julie Kliegman

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