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Oregon Senate approves raising the tobacco use age to 21

The state Senate has approved raising Oregon’s minimum age for tobacco use to 21.

http://ktvl.com/news/local/oregon-senate-approves-raising-the-tobacco-use-age-to-21

The bill approved 19-8 on Thursday now heads to the House. If the proposal is eventually signed by Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon would be the third state to increase the legal age for buying and possessing cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Hawaii was the first state to increase the age, followed by California. Dozens of cities and local jurisdictions have adopted the policy over the years, including Oregon’s Lane County.

The proposal would reduce Oregon’s tax revenue from tobacco by $1.76 million in the upcoming two-year budget, adding slightly to the state’s projected $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

The losses, however, could be covered from proposals to increase tax rates on tobacco.

Guam raises tobacco age to 21 come 2018

The legal smoking age in Guam will be 21 next year.

http://www.dailyprogress.com/guam-raises-tobacco-age-to-come/article_29ad8ba9-8df0-5ec5-8df2-51f052eee133.html

A measure lapsed into law this week raising the legal age to use or purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 stating Jan. 1, 2018, The Pacific Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/2nPFaIb ). Lawmakers unanimously passed the measure March 9 and the governor took no action, meaning the measure automatically became law.

Last year, the Legislature passed a similar bill to raise the legal tobacco age to 21 but Gov. Eddie Calvo vetoed it, saying was a “willful intrusion into the personal lives and choices of our citizens.”

Adelup Director of Communications Oyaol Ngirairikl said Calvo maintains his stance that residents should be free to choose, but acknowledges that the majority of senators voted in favor of the smoking-age measure, making it immune to a veto.

“Guam’s youth smoking rate is the highest in the nation,” said Speaker Benjamin Cruz on Thursday. “And at a time when tobacco kills more people than alcohol, car accidents and illicit drugs combined, how then can we ignore the fact that doing nothing would not only have protected Big Tobacco, but condemned future generations of young people to disease and death?”

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking rates on Guam have declined in recent years to 27.4 percent, but still remain higher than the national average of 17.5 percent.

Health care officials who supported the measure to raise the smoking age cited a March 2015 Institute of Medicine report that projected tobacco use in the nation to drop by 12 percent if the legal smoking age was raised to 21.

Legal tobacco age will be 21

Come Jan. 1, 2018, only adults age 21 and older will be allowed to legally purchase and use tobacco and e-cigarettes on Guam.

Lawmakers unanimously passed Bill 9-34 on March 9. Without any action from the governor, the measure lapsed into law this week, raising the legal age to use tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Tumon, issued a statement Thursday on the passage of his measure.

“Armed with facts instead of fear — young people, health care professionals and countless community advocates persisted, and, because of their work, this bill is now law,” Cruz said.

Adelup Director of Communications Oyaol Ngirairikl said while the governor maintains his stance that residents should be free to choose, he also recognizes that a majority of the senators voted in favor of the measure, making it veto-proof.

Last year the Legislature passed a similar bill to raise the legal tobacco age to 21, but Calvo vetoed it, saying the bill was a “willful intrusion into the personal lives and choices of our citizens.”

During session earlier this month, senators amended the bill to double the fines for violators who sell tobacco to those not of legal age to use tobacco products.

Businesses that sell tobacco or e-cigarette products also must update posted notices alerting customers that tobacco products cannot be sold to people under 21 years old.

“Guam’s youth smoking rate is the highest in the nation,” Cruz said. “And at a time when tobacco kills more people than alcohol, car accidents and illicit drugs combined, how then can we ignore the fact that doing nothing would not only have protected Big Tobacco, but condemned future generations of young people to disease and death?”

‘Make a difference’

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network also applauded the new law.

“We believe it will make a difference in the lives of our youths by helping to spare them a lifetime of addiction from tobacco use, and therefore tobacco-related disease and death,” said Cathy Rivera Castro, the network’s ambassador constituent team lead.

Smoking rates in the island have declined in the last few years, but remain higher than the national average, according to the American Cancer Society. The smoking rate here is 27.4 percent, higher than national average of 17.5 percent, the organization said in its statement. And one in three local high school students uses electronic cigarettes, it said.

Health care professionals who supported Bill 9-34 cited a March 2015 Institute of Medicine report that projected tobacco use in the nation to drop by 12 percent if the legal smoking age was raised to 21.

Recent Gains on Global Tobacco Taxation

http://blogs.worldbank.org/health/recent-gains-global-tobacco-taxation

The landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, issued by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry in 1964, represented the first time that a government report linked smoking and ill health, including lung cancer and heart disease. The scientific evidence accumulated over the past five decades has helped us understand how tobacco use imposes a heavy health and economic burden across countries.

Action to curb tobacco use makes solid economic sense, given the high costs of tobacco-related illnesses and premature death and disability among adults in their most productive years. Smoking harms health, incomes, earning potential, and labor productivity. Smoking also undermines human capital development —a critical factor for inclusive economic and social development.

Raising tobacco taxation commensurate with affordability levels is proven to be the most effective measure to curve consumption. Tax increases are most effective in countries where the social acceptability of smoking is reduced by curtailing smoking in public places and educating the population about its negative health impact.

Contrary to the assumption that tobacco taxes are regressive, the results of recent studies done in Chile and the United States show that the benefits of this policy measured in terms of lower medical expenses and an increase in working years outweighs any relative increase in tobacco prices, largely benefitting the poor more than the rich.

Over the past decade, the World Bank Group (WBG), in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Bloomberg Foundation, and in coordination other organizations, such as WHO, has expanded its tobacco taxation work globally to assist countries implement their public health and domestic resource mobilization efforts. Simultaneously, technical assistance is being provided to strengthen countries’ legal and regulatory capacity to control illicit tobacco trade. Support is also being provided to facilitate knowledge-sharing, building upon existing platforms such as the Joint Learning Network (JLN).

The experience of Philippines over 2012-2016 is one of the most compelling examples of ambitious national tobacco tax reform. It involved a fundamental restructuring of the country’s tobacco excise tax structure, including reduction in the number of tax tiers; indexation of tax rates to inflation; and substantial tax increases which expanded the fiscal space to fund the increase in the number of families enrolled in the health insurance scheme from 5.2 million primary members in 2012 to 15.3 million in 2015.

More recently, national governments in several countries have adopted significant tobacco tax reforms to improve public health and mobilize domestic resources, covering a total population of 200 million people. In the Ukraine, the 2017 budget includes a 40% excise tax increase on tobacco products, above the 2016 level, while maintaining a 12% ad valorem tax. It is estimated that that this measure will increase on average the excise tax burden as a share of the retail price of a pack of cigarettes from 41% in 2016 to 46% in 2017, while consumption is expected to decrease by 10%. To get a sense of the magnitude of health gains likely to result from the adoption of these tax increases, modeling work estimated that, by 2035, Ukraine’s recent tobacco tax increases will prevent 126,730 new cases of smoking-related disease; 29,172 premature deaths; and 267,098 potential years of life lost, relative to no change in tax. These reductions in disease and death are estimated to result in significant healthcare costs avoided.

As part of broad fiscal reforms approved by Colombia’s Congress, new taxes on tobacco products will nearly triple prices over 2017-2018, with annual adjustments for inflation and a mandated specific increase in subsequent years. Likewise, in Moldova, the average excise tax burden on a pack of cigarettes will increase from 39% in 2016 to 45% in 2017.

Following the introduction of the new tax regime in 2017, Armenia’s tobacco excise tax burden will double, increasing to 62% of the average retail price by 2020. In the case of Armenia and Colombia, tobacco taxation increases are part of larger tax system reforms that were included under fiscal consolidation programs.

In moving forward this agenda, we have to be clear that to be effective and sustainable, the design of tobacco tax reforms has to be grounded on a good understanding of how public policy is created and implemented in a country, including the social forces which could support or hinder the passage of strong anti-tobacco measures. We also have to be mindful that the adoption of tobacco tax reforms could be greatly facilitated if they are included as part of broad fiscal consolidation programs as shown by the recent experience in Armenia and Colombia, or as part of the formulation of annual government budgets as shown by the experience in Moldova and Ukraine.

Health groups ask FDA to ban candy-flavoured e-liquids

Candy- and fruit-flavoured tobacco products including e-cigarettes and cigars are luring youth into nicotine addiction, according to a report sponsored by leading health organisations that asks they be banned.

http://www.tobaccojournal.com/Health_groups_ask_FDA_to_ban_candy-flavoured_e-liquids.54145.0.html

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorities should ban all flavoured tobacco products, says the report issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association.

“Gummy bear, cotton candy, peanut butter cup, cookies ‘n cream and pop rocks for e-cigarettes and chocolate, wild berry, watermelon, lemonade and cherry dynamite for cigars,” are some of the flavours targeted in the report.

Curbing teen smoking ‘must go beyond raising minimum age’

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/curbing-teen-smoking-must-go-beyond-raising-minimum-age

Teens below the age of 18 have been barred from smoking legally since 1993 – but the data two decades later tells a different story.

In 2013, the average age when smokers took their first puff was just 16, according to the National Health Surveillance Survey.

Said Mr Vincent Tng, 21, a non-smoker serving full-time national service: “I have friends who started smoking as young as 14 or 15 – they just got their friends to buy cigarettes for them. There are contraband cigarettes around, so you don’t even have to go to a proper shop.”

Experts said the discrepancy shows that efforts to curb teen smoking must go beyond raising the minimum legal age. Issues such as raising awareness and enforcement cannot be sidelined.

Said Sata CommHealth chief executive and anti-smoking advocate K. Thomas Abraham: “We should have a slew of measures that go concurrently with raising the minimum age. How are these young people able to get cigarettes? How do we plug the existing loopholes?”

Last week, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it plans to raise the minimum legal smoking age from 18 to 21. In Singapore, these are the years when nearly half of smokers become regular smokers. The idea is to put cigarettes out of the reach of underage smokers, who tend to obtain them through their social circles.

A town in the United States known as Needham is often held up as a success story of how this measure can reduce smoking rates.

In 2005, it increased the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Smoking rates among under-18s dropped by nearly half within five years – from 13 per cent in 2006 to 7 per cent in 2010. At least 215 other locales in the US have followed suit in recent years, including New York City, Boston and California.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said: “I don’t think that in itself will be enough… but raising the age would help interdict further access to cigarettes amongst the young.”

To complement the move, experts suggested increasing the size of graphic health warnings on cigarette packets, introducing plain packaging to make cigarettes look as nondescript as possible and even raising the tobacco tax.

According to the World Health Organisation, increasing tobacco prices in high-income countries by 10 per cent is estimated to reduce consumption by 4 per cent, said Professor Chia Kee Seng, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.

Tobacco taxes were last raised in 2014, from $352 per kg to S$388 per kg of tobacco, or 1,000 cigarettes.(+import tax + GST) It was reported that out of the $12 (HKD66) for an average pack of cigarettes, $8.50 (HKD 47) goes to the Government as tax.

Prof Chia said tobacco taxes should be raised further if smoking remains a serious issue, even after the age limit is raised.

At the same time, said Dr Abraham, even more work needs to be done to drive home the anti-smoking message among young people, as “the long-term effects of smoking are not always immediately apparent to a young smoker”.

Nee Soon MP Louis Ng, who used to smoke, said enforcement needs to be stepped up to ensure cigarettes are not sold to underage teens, and more has to be done to change the image of smoking.

“They think it’s cool to smoke and we need to tackle that mindset with a series of public awareness campaigns,” he said.

Management executive Catherine Ruth Jeyaseelan, 34, suggested involving parents too. “Sometimes parents smoke at home and kids will get curious, they might try it when their parents are out.”

Jeff Sessions, Anti-Weed Crusader, Was a Shill For Big Tobacco

The new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is concerned about marijuana. Yesterday he said that he doesn’t want it to be “sold at every corner grocery store.” You can’t get weed at many corner stores just yet, but there is a product at those stores that kills about 400,000 Americans each year. And Sessions has vigorously defended the interests of that product. I’m talking, of course, about tobacco.

http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/jeff-sessions-anti-weed-crusader-was-a-shill-for-big-1792831457

With more states legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, the newly confirmed Attorney General says that he’s concerned about the drug. Sessions says it’s about health. But back in the 1990s and 2000s, he wasn’t so concerned about the real health epidemic of cigarettes.

“States can pass whatever laws they choose,” Sessions told a crowd at the National Association of Attorneys General meeting yesterday. “But I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.”

Oh gosh golly! Marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store! But what about all those corner stores that have a much deadlier product called cigarettes?

Funny you should ask. Because the tobacco industry helped get Jeff Sessions elected to the Senate in 1996. In fact, Session got a bit too much money from R. J. Reyonlds, the makers of Camel cigarettes, during his 1996 campaign. In October of 1997 his staff had to send money back to the company because they had donated more than was legally allowed.

Letter from the US Senate campaign for Jeff Sessions sending back money in October of 1997 that it had received in October of 1996 to get elected (UC-SF Tobacco Industry Documents archive)

Letter from the US Senate campaign for Jeff Sessions sending back money in October of 1997 that it had received in October of 1996 to get elected (UC-SF Tobacco Industry Documents archive)

Sessions would go on to rail against the lawsuits that the tobacco industry was facing in the late 1990s. During a private dinner, Sessions called the lawsuits “extortion” and said that it would lead to “shake downs” of other industries.

“If we let them get by with this extortion of the tobacco industry, then they’ll start shaking down other industries, one after the other,” Sessions said at a private dinner in July of 1997 with Bill Orzechowski, Chief Economist for the Tobacco Institute, a tobacco industry front group that tried to advocate against tobacco control policies.

How do we know Sessions said this? Thankfully, we have an archive of documents at the University of California-San Francisco that came out of a settlement with the Big Tobacco companies in the late 1990s, known as the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). The Sessions quote about shakedowns comes from an email from tobacco industry insiders that was reporting back to R. J. Reynolds about how legislators would deal with the threats to their industry.

Back in the 1990s, states were pissed that they were paying for healthcare costs from smoking related diseases, and they started suing the tobacco companies one by one. Mississippi was the first to sue in 1994, and by 1997 had won, something nobody had ever done successfully against the tobacco industry before. Other states started to sue, and pretty soon enough states were emboldened that they lumped it all up into one big settlement.

The Master Settlement Agreement included handing over decades of documents showing that the tobacco industry knew tobacco was addictive (contradicting sworn testimony by every major tobacco exec in 1994), that tobacco was harmful to health (another thing that the industry denied for decades), and that the tobacco industry was explicitly targeting kids with their advertising.

Sessions also introduced a pro-tobacco industry amendment in 1997 that would cap how much money lawyers could make from suing tobacco companies. The goal was evidently to hamper legal efforts to go after the tobacco industry, which was spending millions to fight regulation of its product. The Sessions amendment was narrowly defeated.

From a September 11, 1997 Associated Press report:

A chastened Senate voted emphatically Wednesday to undo a $50 billion tobacco-industry break that had been slipped into a tax-cut bill signed into law just last month.

Voting 95-3 to repeal the provision, senators rather contritely agreed to an amendment that unraveled what sponsor Richard Durbin, D-Ill., called a “sweetheart deal” for the industry.

But the repeal was nearly derailed by an amendment from Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who tried—and nearly succeeded—in limiting the fees that can be collected by attorneys hired by the states to press damage claims against the tobacco industry.

Sessions argued that the legal fees could amount to billions of dollars and are “too generous, too much of a windfall, and cannot be defended.”

Durbin and his allies defeated the Sessions amendment on a 50-48 vote by arguing that it would put states at a big financial disadvantage in their long and expensive legal jousting with the tobacco industry.

As late as 2004, Sessions was still opposed to FDA regulation of tobacco. And no, that’s not a typo. The tobacco industry fought regulation of its product for decades and FDA was only granted regulatory authority over it in 2009. Again, that’s not a typo.

When the Senate passed a compromise bill on regulation of tobacco by the FDA in 2004, Sessions was disgusted. He fought against regulation of tobacco as a drug using everything from free speech arguments to boilerplate pro-business language.

“One bad bill that couldn’t pass on its own attached to another bad bill that can’t be passed on its own,” Sessions said at the time, referring to the part of the proposed 2004 bill that also provided $12 billion to tobacco farmers who pledged to stop growing the product.

By 2009 he had finally come around and voted to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco as a drug—something that Philip Morris, an enormous tobacco company, was also supporting by 2009—because it was clear that the ridiculous fight against it had been lost.

The tobacco document archive (which is searchable online here) really is fascinating, and a search for “Jeff Sessions” or “Senator Sessions” gives hundreds of responsive documents about how the legislative and lobbying sausage gets made.

If we’ve learn anything about Sessions from the documents, it’s that he’s much less concerned about health than he is about maintaining the disastrous “war on drugs” of the bad old days. That is, as long as those drugs don’t include tobacco, the one that kills hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.

Business groups, once tobacco friendly, switch sides in fight

The local chamber of commerce is usually a reliable ally in battles against regulation. But when it comes to smoking rules, many business groups have decided they would rather switch than fight.

Even in states where tobacco has played an important role in the economy – including North Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri -chambers have endorsed cigarette tax hikes, raising the smoking age and other efforts to curb tobacco habits.

The shift has accelerated since 2016, driven by a growing awareness that smoking drives up healthcare costs for employers, business groups said.

Smoking restrictions often are part of broader wellness initiatives, such as promoting exercise and nutrition, aimed at improving health – and business.

“Smoking isn’t just killing us, it’s bankrupting us,” said Ashli Watts, a spokeswoman with the Chamber of Commerce for Kentucky, where one in four adults uses tobacco, the lung cancer rate is the nation’s highest and related healthcare and lost productivity costs nearly $5 billion a year.

“Companies do look at the health of a workforce,” Watts said. An unhealthy workforce “is a deterrent.”

In Kansas City, Missouri, the chamber joined the local Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurer in 2015 in launching a smoking cessation effort.

They hoped to persuade five communities to raise the legal tobacco age to 21 by 2018.

Within a month, two of the largest cities in the area had signed on, and now more than 20 communities with 1.4 million people have raised the age.

Pam Whiting, a spokeswoman for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce with members in Kansas and Missouri, said the group was “happily stunned” by the results.

“It is a real concern for our business members, for their employees and their bottom line,” she said.

In Indiana, where smoking costs an estimated $7 billion in healthcare and lost productivity, the state chamber is pushing for a $1-a-pack increase in the state cigarette tax, to raise the smoking age to 21 and for more spending on cessation.

“It’s not typical for a chamber to advocate for a tax increase,” said Kevin Brinegar, president and chief executive of the Indiana chamber. But, he added, the cost of smoking
“gives us a black eye.”

TOBACCO FIGHTS BACK

Cigarette makers are spending tens of millions to fight the efforts, according to a Reuters review of campaign spending data and interviews, healthcare groups and the
companies.

Brittany Adams, a spokeswoman for Camel cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc, said the local chambers’ efforts go against their core mission and could hurt businesses outside the tobacco industry.

“Chambers of commerce are supposed to protect the interests of businesses in their communities, and supporting these kinds of bills may negatively impact local wholesalers and retailers,” Adams said.

Last fall, the industry spent almost $100 million to fight cigarette tax ballot measures in several states. More than $70 million of that was spent in California, where voters approved Proposition 56, raising state taxes by $2 to $2.87 per pack.

Business groups in San Francisco and Los Angeles supported the measure. Tax increases failed in Colorado and North Dakota.

Although adult smoking rates in California are the second lowest in the country, its large population makes it the single biggest U.S. market with 8.5 percent of cigarette sales.

Marlboro cigarette maker Altria estimated tax hikes enacted in Pennsylvania and California would hurt industry sales volumes by about 1 percent this year.

Wall Street analysts say the bigger risk is that more states follow suit.

At least 215 states and municipalities – including Hawaii and California, as well as New York City, Chicago and Boston – have raised the age to 21, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

A spokesman said Altria wants to see the battle return to Congress, where it believes it has gotten a better hearing. With the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, Congress set a national minimum smoking age of 18.

In 2015, an Institute of Medicine study concluded that raising the national minimum to 21 would prevent about 223,000 premature deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019.

A group of Democratic senators introduced a bill to raise the age nationally to 21, but it never got a vote.

“This is a complex issue, and Congress has established a thoughtful process to better understand it,” Altria spokesman David Sutton said.

Tobacco products already “are very heavily taxed,” Sutton said. He also said sales taxes were a particular burden on the poor and created incentives “for criminals to engage in contrabrand.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has not taken a position on the bill in Congress to raise the smoking age, and, as a rule, it leaves local issues to local chambers, said chamber representative Blair Latoff Holmes.

In Kentucky, a recent survey found more than 90 percent of the state’s chamber members support bans on smoking in the workplace. But the chamber decided against pushing for a statewide ban because it believes the politics are stacked against it.

The industry has spent more than $3.7 million the last five years lobbying Kentucky state legislators, records show. And, in November, Republicans won control of the legislature with the support of many constituents who consider smoking a personal prerogative.

For now, the Kentucky chamber is putting its clout behind a doctor-sponsered bill that would ban tobacco products from schools. Currently, less than 40 percent of Kentucky school districts ban tobacco.

“Generation after generation of people in Kentucky have smoked,” said Watts, the chamber spokeswoman. “There are people who don’t know anyone who has ever quit.”

For graphic on rising taxes on tobacco products, click: bit.ly/2m0MMpr

(Reporting By Jilian Mincer; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Lisa Girion)

Business groups, once tobaccofriendly, switch sides in fight

The local chamber of commerce is usually a reliable ally in battles against regulation. But when it comes to smoking rules, many business groups have decided they would rather switch than fight.

Even in states where tobacco has played an important role in the economy – including North Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri -chambers have endorsed cigarette tax hikes, raising the smoking age and other efforts to curb tobacco habits.

The shift has accelerated since 2016, driven by a growing awareness that smoking drives up healthcare costs for employers, business groups said.

Smoking restrictions often are part of broader wellness initiatives, such as promoting exercise and nutrition, aimed at improving health – and business.

“Smoking isn’t just killing us, it’s bankrupting us,” said Ashli Watts, a spokeswoman with the Chamber of Commerce for Kentucky, where one in four adults uses tobacco, the lung cancer rate is the nation’s highest and related healthcare and lost productivity costs nearly $5 billion a year.

“Companies do look at the health of a workforce,” Watts said. An unhealthy workforce “is a deterrent.”

In Kansas City, Missouri, the chamber joined the local Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurer in 2015 in launching a smoking cessation effort.

They hoped to persuade five communities to raise the legal tobacco age to 21 by 2018.

Within a month, two of the largest cities in the area had signed on, and now more than 20 communities with 1.4 million people have raised the age.

Pam Whiting, a spokeswoman for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce with members in Kansas and Missouri, said the group was “happily stunned” by the results.

“It is a real concern for our business members, for their employees and their bottom line,” she said.

In Indiana, where smoking costs an estimated $7 billion in healthcare and lost productivity, the state chamber is pushing for a $1-a-pack increase in the state cigarette tax, to raise the smoking age to 21 and for more spending on cessation.

“It’s not typical for a chamber to advocate for a tax increase,” said Kevin Brinegar, president and chief executive of the Indiana chamber. But, he added, the cost of smoking
“gives us a black eye.”

TOBACCO FIGHTS BACK

Cigarette makers are spending tens of millions to fight the efforts, according to a Reuters review of campaign spending data and interviews, healthcare groups and the
companies.

Brittany Adams, a spokeswoman for Camel cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc (RAI.N), said the local chambers’ efforts go against their core mission and could hurt businesses outside the tobacco industry.

“Chambers of commerce are supposed to protect the interests of businesses in their communities, and supporting these kinds of bills may negatively impact local wholesalers and retailers,” Adams said.

Last fall, the industry spent almost $100 million to fight cigarette tax ballot measures in several states. More than $70 million of that was spent in California, where voters approved Proposition 56, raising state taxes by $2 to $2.87 per pack.

Business groups in San Francisco and Los Angeles supported the measure. Tax increases failed in Colorado and North Dakota.

Although adult smoking rates in California are the second lowest in the country, its large population makes it the single biggest U.S. market with 8.5 percent of cigarette sales.

Marlboro cigarette maker Altria (MO.N) estimated tax hikes enacted in Pennsylvania and California would hurt industry sales volumes by about 1 percent this year.

Wall Street analysts say the bigger risk is that more states follow suit.

At least 215 states and municipalities – including Hawaii and California, as well as New York City, Chicago and Boston – have raised the age to 21, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

A spokesman said Altria wants to see the battle return to Congress, where it believes it has gotten a better hearing. With the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, Congress set a national minimum smoking age of 18.

In 2015, an Institute of Medicine study concluded that raising the national minimum to 21 would prevent about 223,000 premature deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019.

A group of Democratic senators introduced a bill to raise the age nationally to 21, but it never got a vote.

“This is a complex issue, and Congress has established a thoughtful process to better understand it,” Altria spokesman David Sutton said.

Tobacco products already “are very heavily taxed,” Sutton said. He also said sales taxes were a particular burden on the poor and created incentives “for criminals to engage in contrabrand.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has not taken a position on the bill in Congress to raise the smoking age, and, as a rule, it leaves local issues to local chambers, said chamber representative Blair Latoff Holmes.

In Kentucky, a recent survey found more than 90 percent of the state’s chamber members support bans on smoking in the workplace. But the chamber decided against pushing for a statewide ban because it believes the politics are stacked against it.

The industry has spent more than $3.7 million the last five years lobbying Kentucky state legislators, records show. And, in November, Republicans won control of the legislature with the support of many constituents who consider smoking a personal prerogative.

For now, the Kentucky chamber is putting its clout behind a doctor-sponsered bill that would ban tobacco products from schools. Currently, less than 40 percent of Kentucky school districts ban tobacco.

“Generation after generation of people in Kentucky have smoked,” said Watts, the chamber spokeswoman. “There are people who don’t know anyone who has ever quit.”

For graphic on rising taxes on tobacco products, click: bit.ly/2m0MMpr

(Reporting By Jilian Mincer; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Lisa Girion)

Tobacco Companies Taking Over the E-Cigarette Industry

For decades, cigarettes cornered the market on nicotine.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tobacco-companies-taking-over-the-e-cigarette-industry_us_58b48e02e4b0658fc20f98d0

People who decided to take up smoking chose the cigarette over any other nicotine delivery system available, including pipes and chewing tobacco.

This trend held true for generations of smokers, but in the past 10 years the cigarette industry has seen a small but significant sea change.

Electronic cigarettes are catching fire with an entirely new generation of smokers.

And tobacco companies have taken notice.

“It’s the most disruptive change in the tobacco market,” Jeff Drope, PhD, vice president of economic and health policy research for the American Cancer Society (ACS), told Healthline. “There is no parallel.”

A smoking hot market

Electronic nicotine delivery systems are not new.

The devices have been around in some form or another for nearly 30 years.

This current iteration of e-cigarettes made its way to the United States market by way of China.

However, the recent explosion of e-cigarette popularity caught the attention of tobacco companies a few years ago.

What was once a market populated by small independent manufacturers has given way to Big Tobacco.

And this move has anti-smoking organizations concerned.

“This is part of an ongoing strategy in the Big Tobacco playbook,” Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association (ALA), told Healthline.

The popular brand VUSE, is owned by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, a subsidiary of the tobacco giant Reynolds America.

British American Tobacco (BAT), the largest tobacco company in the Europe, launched Vype around four years ago.

Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) owns MarkTen.

Lorillard paid $135 million for Blu, but when R.J. Reynolds bought that tobacco company in 2015, its e-cigarette brand was sold to Imperial Tobacco, a company in the United Kingdom.

Today, global e-cigarette sales amount to around $5 billion a year.

That compares to the $92 million cigarette market, but the e-cigarette industry is expected to grow 24 percent per year through 2018.

“Big Tobacco is now dominating in dollars in sales,” Drope said.

Firms funding e-cigarette research

The tobacco industry appears so confident in the technology that they are now funding research that looks at the health effects of e-cigarettes vs. regular cigarettes.

A recent study, funded by British American Tobacco used 3-D modeling to compare the inflammation in the lungs from e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.

The study, published in Applied In Vitro Toxicology, showed a dramatic drop in lung inflammation with e-cigarettes.

“Researchers reported changes in the expression levels of 123 genes when reconstituted lung tissue was exposed to cigarette smoke, compared to only two genes that could be confirmed following exposure to e-cigarette aerosols,” according to a press release.

These finding are similar to what initial research has uncovered about e-cigarettes. A small batch of studies do suggest that they pose less of a health threat than regular cigarettes.

“From a cancer perspective, the levels of carcinogens are lower,” Drope said.

BAT did not provide comment for this story. R.J. Reynolds also declined to be interviewed, but did provide a statement:

“We believe that vapor products and other noncombustible tobacco products may present less risk to adult tobacco consumers than smoking cigarettes. Although these products have not been used by consumers for a sufficient period of time to develop definitive scientific conclusions about their level of risk reduction, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that these products may present less risk than smoking. While some studies report that there may be health risks associated with these products, those risks appear to be lower than the risks of smoking cigarettes.”

Health concerns abound

There are many unknowns about the health hazards of e-cigarettes, and that’s what has groups such as the ALA and ACS concerned.

“Being less deadly than regular cigarettes does not make your product less safe to use,” Sward said.

First up is the use of aerosol in e-cigarettes and the impact on the body’s pulmonary and cardiovascular systems.

“We don’t know the long-term effects,” Drope said.

Aside from the health issues, the biggest concern about e-cigarettes are the users themselves.

The U.S. Surgeon General said in a report that, “among young adults 18-24 years of age, e-cigarette use more than doubled from 2013 to 2014. As of 2014, more than one-third of young adults had tried e-cigarettes.”

Sward said the trend is troubling for a number of reasons.

“There is a strong association between e-cigs, cigarettes, and other burned tobacco products by young people,” she said “There is not a safe level of nicotine use for kids until the age of 24.”

In December 2016, the FDA did establish some rules governing the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes. They can’t be sold to anyone under 18. Buyers need to show proof of identification. E-cigarettes also can’t be sold in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility), and they can’t be distributed for free.

Both the ALA and ACS would like the FDA to impose even stricter rules, such as warning labels and an advertising ban in magazines and billboards.

“Kids are very much reacting to the advertising,” Drope said.

Sward said the flavors are another big draw to kids and the FDA hasn’t done anything to regulate those.

Both say it’s hard to tell what will happen around e-cigarettes, now that there is a new administration in the White House. Drope believes a lot depends on where the e-cigarette market industry expects to be in the next few years.

“I can imagine them being a niche market. I can see them being just another product,” he said. “If tobacco industry decides to throw their might behind it, I could really see them taking off.”

By Carolyn Abate