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October, 2008:

Philip Morris’ New Look for Virginia Slims Cigarettes

Deadly in Pink: Philip Morris’ New Look for Virginia Slims Cigarettes Shows Contempt for Women’s Health

WASHINGTON, Oct 30, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — Statement by: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Medical Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Demonstrating again that it is not the changed, responsible company it claims to be, Philip Morris is launching an aggressive new campaign to market cigarettes that appeal to women and girls. The campaign is built around a new look for its Virginia Slims brand – a sleek pink “purse pack” that is compact and rectangular, with square ends, and holds “super slim” cigarettes that are very small in diameter. According to a recent story in Brandweek, Philip Morris plans to launch the repackaged Virginia Slims with a major marketing campaign by the first quarter of 2009, and it includes “Super Slims Lights” and “Super Slims Ultra Lights” varieties. The new “purse packs” are already on sale in some markets.

Philip Morris shows contempt for women and their health by putting a pink gloss on a product that causes lung cancer and heart disease, two of the leading killers of women. It is the height of cynicism that Philip Morris timed its announcement of the new pink Virginia Slims for October – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – when pink is usually associated with protecting women’s health, not harming it. It doesn’t seem to bother the nation’s largest tobacco company that lung cancer from smoking is, by far, the number one cancer killer of women.

The new pink Virginia Slims continues the tobacco industry’s long history of marketing cigarettes to women and girls. The pink “purse packs” imply that smoking cigarettes is feminine and fashionable. Names like “super slims” imply a link between cigarettes and weight loss for girls and women concerned about body image. And the use of terms such as “light” and “ultra light” imply that these cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes, despite the fact that Philip Morris and other tobacco companies have long known from their own research that this is not the case. Tobacco companies have targeted the marketing of “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes to women, who are more likely to be concerned about the health risks of smoking.

This latest attempt to market cigarettes to women and girls demonstrates the need for Congress to pass pending legislation giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products. Among other things, this legislation would ban misleading terms such as “light” and “ultra light,” give the FDA authority to strictly regulate all health claims about tobacco products and crack down on tobacco marketing to kids, including restricting tobacco advertising in stores and in youth-oriented magazines to black-and-white text only. The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved this legislation, and it is pending in the Senate, where it has 60 sponsors.

The tobacco industry has a long and harmful history of targeting women and girls. This strategy intensified in the 1968 when Philip Morris introduced Virginia Slims with its seductive “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” slogan. Six years after the introduction of Virginia Slims, the rate of smoking initiation for 12-year-old girls had increased 110 percent. In a more recent example, R.J. Reynolds last year introduced Camel No. 9 cigarettes, which come in a shiny black box with flowery hot pink or teal borders, have a name reminiscent of a famous perfume, carry the slogan “light and luscious,” and have been heavily marketed in magazines popular with women and girls, such as Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Vogue.

The consequences of these marketing campaigns have been devastating for women’s health. The latest public health data show lung cancer death rates for some women are still rising at a time when death rates for other kinds of cancer in women are declining. The risk of coronary heart disease – the overall leading cause of death among women – doubles for women who smoke. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, has become the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and now kills more women than men. In addition, smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke by pregnant women are a major cause of spontaneous abortions, stillbirths and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and increase health and developmental problems of children born to these women. Research also shows that women have a much harder time quitting than men.

The Virginia Slims pink purse pack is yet another tobacco industry slap in the face to women. Far from making a fashion statement, the pink purse pack will encourage smoking by women and girls and expose them to its lethal effects. Philip Morris should terminate this cynical marketing ploy immediately, and Congress should quickly enact the bill giving the FDA authority over tobacco products. There is nothing pretty, fashionable or healthy about a product that kills more than 178,000 women in the United States and many more around the world each year.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Mobile Smoking Cessation Programme

Effectiveness Of A Mobile Smoking Cessation Service In Reaching Elderly Smokers And Predictors Of Quitting: Report

Author: Abu Saleh M Abdullah, Tai-Hing Lam, Steve KK Chan, Gabriel M Leung, Iris Chi, Winnie WN Ho and Sophia SC Chan

Credits/Source: BMC Geriatrics 2008, 8:25

Different smoking cessation programmes have been developed in the last decade but utilization by the elderly is low. We evaluated a pilot mobile smoking cessation service for the Chinese elderly in Hong Kong and identified predictors of quitting.

Methods: The Mobile Smoking Cessation Programme (MSCP) targeted elderly smokers (aged 60 or above) and provided service in a place that was convenient to the elderly. Trained counsellors provided individual counselling and 4 week’s free supply of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

Follow up was arranged at 1 month by face-to-face and at 3 and 6 months by telephone plus urinary cotinine validation. A structured record sheet was used for data collection.

The service was evaluated in terms of process, outcome and cost.

Results: 102 governmental and non-governmental social service units and private residential homes for the elderly participated in the MSCP. We held 90 health talks with 3266 elderly (1140 smokers and 2126 non-smokers) attended.

Of the 1140 smokers, 365 (32%) received intensive smoking cessation service. By intention-to-treat, the validated 7 day point prevalence quit rate was 20.3% (95% confidence interval: 16.2%-24.8%).

Smoking less than 11 cigarettes per day and being adherent to NRT for 4 weeks or more were significant predictors of quitting. The average cost per contact was US$54 (smokers only); per smoker with counselling: US$168; per self-reported quitter: US$594; and per cotinine validated quitter: US$827.

Conclusion: This mobile smoking cessation programme was acceptable to elderly Chinese smokers, with quit rate comparable to other comprehensive programmes in the West. A mobile clinic is a promising model to reach the elderly and probably other hard to reach smokers.

Smokers Increasingly Hooked On Nicotine: Study

The National Post – Will Dunham | October 29, 2008

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.

That compares to 55 percent of those seeking such help from 1989 to 1990 and 66 percent of those seeking treatment in 1994, Dr. David Sachs of the Palo Alto Center for Pulmonary Disease Prevention in California told a meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

Sachs said the findings suggest nicotine dependence is worsening among U.S. smokers as a whole, although researchers don’t know why.

A report published by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in 2006 found that levels of nicotine in most cigarettes rose by nearly 10 percent from 1998 to 2004.

Medical treatment to help people quit smoking may include nicotine replacement therapy such as a patch that delivers nicotine through the skin and into the bloodstream, nicotine gums, nasal sprays and inhalers, and antidepressant medication that raises the level of a brain chemical called dopamine.

The new study’s findings are “important because what studies have consistently shown is that the more physically dependent a cigarette smoker is, the more intensive the treatment needs to be if the patient is going to be able to have a good treatment outcome and be able to stop smoking,” Sachs said in a telephone interview.

“If you look at all of the cigarette smokers that we have around the United States, roughly three-fourths of them are going to be highly physically nicotine dependent,” Sachs said.

An estimated 21 percent of U.S. adults — 45 million people — are smokers, including 24 percent of men and 18 percent of women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The questionnaire, used to determine the degree of a person’s of nicotine dependence, asked a smoker a number of questions such as whether they smoke their first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning.

Other questions include whether they find it difficult to refrain from smoking in places where it is forbidden, how many cigarettes they smoke daily and whether they smoke even when they are so ill that they are bed-ridden.

See conference website:

CHEST 2008…

Source: The National Post


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Nicotine’s New Appeal

ScienceNews – Laura Beil | October 27, 2008

Mimicking the addictive compound’s action in the brain could lead to new drugs for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia

First, let’s clear the air: Nicotine invites addiction, and it employs a delivery device that’s been killing people for centuries. But let’s also be honest: Nicotine has some attractive qualities. Smokers use it to calm jitters or perk themselves up. It’s a common (if ill-advised) tool for weight control. Nicotine lowers the risk and eases the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Patients with mental illness have high rates of tobacco use, partly because nicotine helps quiet the mind.

Because of these talents—along with nicotine’s intense grip on the brain—scientists have sought compounds that can deliver the good without the harm. Now, almost 20 years after the quest began, the research has come a long way, baby. A number of experimental drugs—molecules reduced to mere shadows of nicotine—show signs of being able to exploit nicotine’s power to compensate for the defects in an ailing brain.

Such drugs may offer new therapies for diseases that now have few treatment options—boosting cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, calming hyperactivity, relieving pain or treating mental illness. Similar drugs are also in early testing for Parkinson’s disease, inflammation and even obesity.

“We’re very blessed that nature gave us nicotine,” says Donald deBethizy, chief executive officer of North Carolina–based Targacept Inc., which broke off from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds in 2000. Few other compounds, deBethizy says, affect the brain at such a basic neurological level, with so much power to control chemicals that ferry signals from one brain cell to another.

Most common neurological diseases reflect problems with one of those messenger chemicals, or neurotransmitters. Drugs for such diseases usually target the activity of one neurotransmitter at a time. But nicotine is a volume knob for many at once. And that could make nicotine-mimicking drugs both potent and hazardous, affecting brain function so fundamentally as to cause worrisome side effects. In fact, the first modern drug approved that acts directly on the brain’s nicotine relay system—the smoking-cessation drug varenicline—has been tarnished by anecdotal reports of nightmares and suicidal thoughts in people taking the drug. How much those problems can be blamed on the drug’s action remains unclear, but it’s hard to find a researcher in the field who hasn’t thought long and hard about side effects.

“The issue is, as with all drugs, they have pluses and minuses,” says Allan Collins of the University of Colorado at Boulder. “Finding compounds that have more pluses than minuses has been the problem.” But, he adds, “I’m more optimistic than I have been in the past.”

Beginning with a bad reputation

In this case, the past dates back to the late 1980s, when researchers began to realize the breadth of the brain’s inventory of nicotinic receptors. Receptors are like docking stations, allowing molecules to attach to a cell and set a chain of events in motion. Usually each molecule lodges in a specific receptor on a cell, like a garage that houses only one make and model of vehicle. Once the molecular car is parked, a lot of running around occurs inside the cellular house. In the case of nicotine, one molecule pulls into lots of garages.

In a normal, tobacco-free existence, these receptors aren’t sitting around waiting for nicotine. They are made for acetylcholine, a powerful neurotransmitter associated in the brain with attention, learning and memory. Nicotine just happens to be a sometime impostor for acetylcholine in smokers. “Nicotine is a sloppy drug that acts at all these receptors,” says Martin Sarter of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Also, nicotinic receptors adapt to chronic exposure over time. The changes differ depending on the type of receptor and where it lies in the brain. Such changes are thought to explain why smokers lose sensitivity to nicotine, eventually requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect.

As they identified more and more receptor subtypes, scientists began to wonder how the brain would respond to a nicotine-like molecule that could activate just one type of acetylcholine receptor. For 15 years or so, not many people cared to know. Aside from isolated academic exploration at universities, the vast majority of commercial drug pursuit came from the R.J. Reynolds team that would become Targacept, as well as the Illinois-based firm Abbott Laboratories. It seemed that nicotinic receptors’ pedigree presented a public relations headache. Even if the research could produce great new drugs for desperate needs—consider the prediction that more than 8 million North Americans will develop Alzheimer’s by 2050—pharmaceutical executives feared that nicotinic drugs would have a questionable image. (Indeed, the corporate public affairs office at Abbott said the company would not contribute to this story.)

“It was very difficult in the beginning,” says Stephen Arneric, who worked on nicotinic drugs at Abbott during the 1990s, but has since joined the biotech startup Neuromed. “When the program was started at Abbott, the first question out of senior management was, ‘Merck isn’t doing it, why should we?’” Arneric and his colleagues even launched a quiet, so far unsuccessful, campaign to change the name of the receptors, removing the regrettable name “nicotinic” to make the research more palatable.

“The demonization of nicotine is what we’re all up against,” deBethizy says. However, unlike the lonely years of the 1990s, it’s now difficult to find a major drug company not trying to capitalize on nicotinic receptors.

Receptor by receptor

Chemists have produced molecules with selectivity for only one particular receptor type at a time. The biggest players remain Abbott and Targacept. Generally, drugs in development target two particular subtypes of nicotinic receptors, known in shorthand as alpha-4-beta-2 and alpha-7. Other types of nicotinic receptors are scattered throughout the brain, in muscle and in cardiac tissue. But in the brain these two appear to be common and best suited for disease treatment. Farthest along in testing are drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, pain and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

In 2006, Targacept researchers released the results of a study of a nicotine-like drug designed to improve cognition in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The drug is designed to bind only to the alpha-4-beta-2 receptors in the brain and boost other neurotransmitters. In collaboration with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, the company completed a randomized trial involving 193 patients with memory impairment (though not dementia) related to Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia. After taking the drug for 16 weeks, patients showed improvements on tests of attention and memory, the researchers reported during an Alzheimer’s research meeting the same year. But in September, the company issued a press release calling results of a larger study “inconclusive.”

A separate Targacept drug, this one for depression, is also working its way through the testing process. In 2007, at a meeting of the British Association for Psychopharmacology, the company described a trial involving 184 volunteers who had not responded well to first-line antidepressant drugs. The results of this study were encouraging enough to expand trials, though the true effectiveness of the drug—as with all nicotinic compounds—won’t be known until further studies are completed.

Also, a partnership of two companies, Abbott and the Denmark-based NeuroSearch, announced this year the results of tests on a drug for ADHD. That study, described in May during the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, involved 221 adults with ADHD. After taking the drug for four weeks, volunteers reported an increase in work productivity and a reduction in absenteeism. Based on these results, the companies plan to move the drug into further testing. In a twist that speaks to the broad influence of nicotinic receptors in the brain, the same drug also appears to be a candidate for pain control.

Not all testing falls under the domain of pharmaceutical corporations. In August, a research team led by scientists from the University of Colorado Denver published the results of a study testing a nicotinic compound for schizophrenia, a disease that has been the subject of a decades-long search for new treatments. Upwards of 85 percent of people with schizophrenia smoke, largely because many patients feel a greater mental clarity when they light up. Writing in the August American Journal of Psychiatry, the research team described the results of tests in 31 people who received two different doses of the experimental medication. The molecule targets the alpha-7 receptors in the brain. The results were heartening, though not dramatic, and the usefulness of the drug is still unknown.

Strong medicine

In most of these early drug trials, complaints have been similar to those felt by many a teenager sneaking his first cigarette—nausea, diarrhea, dizziness. Nonetheless, side effects are still among the biggest concerns. Everyone in the field took note in February when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hastily called a news conference to announce a public health advisory for varenicline, the antismoking drug made by Pfizer under the trade name Chantix. The FDA warned of mood changes, suicidal thoughts and suicide. “Clearly these are very concerning findings for this product which is being widely used,” the FDA’s Bob Rappaport told reporters.

Until these reports began to surface, the approval of Chantix had been a bellwether in the race for nicotinic drugs: a medicine that had entered the market and shown record success. Smokers taking Chantix have a much better track record of giving up cigarettes than those trying other methods. Animal studies suggest the drug might one day have a role in treating alcohol addiction. The side effects remain unexplained.

“They may indicate the heterogeneity of the human brain and the condition,” says Roger Papke of the University of Florida in Gainesville, who has long studied nicotinic receptors. As with other illnesses, each person may have variations in receptors that alter his or her response to the drug.

Varenicline binds to nicotinic receptors, interfering with the mechanism most strongly associated with addiction, with the idea of still allowing the brain enough reward to ease withdrawal symptoms. Whether the molecule in its current form binds too many types of acetylcholine receptors, whether it activates other neurological systems or whether suicide risk is simply elevated among people giving up cigarettes is unknown.

“I don’t think they’re going to see it in all drugs,” Arneric, the former Abbott scientist, says about these types of side effects. “If you look at nicotine itself, it doesn’t have those side effects.”

An extra dose

Developers of nicotinic drugs have had to make one other consideration: 20 percent of the adult U.S. population smokes, and will administer their own nicotine on top of whatever drug they may receive for an illness. In doing so, they will be stimulating nicotinic receptors in the blunt, old-fashioned way along with a treatment for memory or pain. No one can say with certainty what that means.

Then there’s the property of nicotine everyone knows—addiction. Can a medicine that works like nicotine, even if it isn’t really nicotine, completely rid itself of nicotine’s most notorious quality? “The exact basis for the addiction to smoking—that is more complicated than it seems,” says University of Michigan’s Sarter. “Is it possible that these selective compounds produce an addictive component? I don’t think we know at this point. Personally, I don’t think this is the case.”

DeBethizy of Targacept—who spent years as an R.J. Reynolds scientist—believes that addiction to nicotine has much to do with binding to another type of receptor, alpha-6. “We’ve decided that the best way to make nicotinic drugs is to develop selective compounds,” he says. “Steer away from a form of alpha-6, which is involved in addiction.” Though it’s still too early to draw conclusions, he says that so far the nicotinic drugs haven’t shown signs of causing cravings or dependence.

Which means, for the first time in human history, drugs may come along that have a nicotine-like relationship with the brain in a way that has nothing to do with addiction. “There will be some good new medicines,” Arneric predicts. If that’s true, a drug that has been an accomplice in millions of deaths may finally have a chance to help make some lives better.

NICOTINE FOR WHAT AILS YOU: Click below to view a comprehensive, detailed timeline on Nicotine.…

See related research:Editorial: Nicotine Addiction

Am J Psychiatry 165:1089-1092, September 2008

Wade Berrettini, M.D., Ph.D.…

Referenced Am J Psych study:
Variants in Nicotinic Receptors and Risk for Nicotine Dependence…

Initial Phase 2 Trial of a Nicotinic Agonist in Schizophrenia

Am J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr 1 [Epub ahead of print]

Freedman R, Olincy A, Buchanan RW, Harris JG, Gold JM, Johnson L, Allensworth D, Guzman-Bonilla A, Clement B, Ball MP, Kutnick J, Pender V, Martin LF, Stevens KE, Wagner BD, Zerbe GO, Soti F, Kem WR.…

Editor’s note: The PDFs of these articles are available. Please send your request to and kindly remember to include the name of the full citation (study title, journal and authors’ names) and your e-mail address in the body of your message.

Source: ScienceNews

Burden Of Chronic Diseases ‘Increasing’

Ella Lee in Beijing – SCMP | Updated on Oct 24, 2008

The burden of non-communicable diseases was getting heavier for the mainland, as they now took up almost two-thirds of national health-care expenditure and cause 80 per cent of all deaths in the country, senior health officials said yesterday.

Vice-Minister of Health Yin Li said that efforts to control chronic diseases – a key part of the coming health-care reform – would have to take into account challenges such as an ageing population, unhealthy diets and the stressful lifestyle caused by urbanisation.

“Early treatment is a kind of prevention,” Mr Yin said. “The government has made preventive care a big part of health-care reform, and it will help reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases.”

The vice-minister was speaking at a policy seminar on health and development organised in Beijing by the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation and the World Bank. The seminar discussed ways of dealing with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

Officials and experts from the WHO and World Bank called on Beijing to introduce more cost-effective prevention programmes. They also want more details about the upcoming reform.

The WHO estimates lost productivity in China due to chronic diseases between 2005 and 2015 will cost more than US$550 billion.

In 2006, chronic diseases took up 620 billion yuan (HK$705.35 billion) or 64 per cent of total health expenditure in China, and cost 3.6 billion man-work days. The WHO said about 80 per cent of heart diseases and 40 per cent of cancers could be prevented. Tobacco control remains a big challenge for the mainland, which has 320 million smokers, most of them men.

Alan Alwan, WHO’s assistant director general, said the high prevalence of smoking was a “very serious” problem in the country.

The health-care reform aims to provide medical insurance to the whole population by 2020.

Dr Alwan said Beijing must make sure that poor people had access to basic health care.

“The government has to agree on a package of selected cost-effective interventions, which can be financed through taxation, subsidies or a social insurance system. Tobacco control through taxation, inexpensive treatment for heart diseases and promotion of physical exercise are all good examples,” he said.

John Langenbrunner, lead economist for the human development sector of the World Bank, welcomed the health-care reform but said the consultation document lacked details.

“People in the street may find it hard to understand the document because it does not say how the reform relates to them,” Dr Langenbrunner said.

Lack of accessible and affordable health care means chronic diseases are a big economic burden to mainland patients.

A Ministry of Health analysis showed that a single hospital admission could cost more than half of an urban dweller’s annual income, or 150 per cent of a rural dweller’s.

Rao Keqin, director general of the ministry’s information and statistics centre, said controlling chronic diseases was important for the country, as among the 8.55 million deaths on the mainland each year, 80 per cent, or 6.85 million, were caused by such illnesses.

Dr Rao said part of the health-care reform was to introduce a basic drug system to control the prices of 400 essential medicines.

He said that in 2005, the profits of selling drugs on the mainland had reached 450 billion yuan, with 300 billion yuan going to pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, and the rest to the manufacturers.

Effective Anti-tobacco Ads Should Either Scare Or Disgust Viewers

ScienceDaily | Oct. 22, 2008

Anti-tobacco public service announcements have been around for decades, designed to encourage people to quit smoking or to refrain from starting. Often these ads try to encourage people to avoid smoking by scaring them with the harmful effects of tobacco use.

In a new study, University of Missouri researchers examined the effects of two types of content commonly used in anti-tobacco ads – tobacco health threats that evoke fear and disturbing or disgusting images. The researchers found that ads focused on either fear or disgust increased attention and memory in viewers; however, ads that included both fear and disgust decreased viewers’ attention and memory.

“When fear and disgust are combined in a single television ad, the ad might become too noxious for the viewer,” said Glenn Leshner, lead author of the study and co-director of the Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects (PRIME) Lab in the Missouri School of Journalism. “We noticed several ads in our collection of anti-tobacco public service announcements that contained very disturbing images, such as cholesterol being squeezed from a human artery, a diseased lung, or a cancer-riddled tongue. Presumably, these messages are designed to scare people so that they don’t smoke. It appears that this strategy may backfire.”

There is limited understanding of the cognitive and emotional processes associated with the effects of advertising messages, according to Paul Bolls, co-author of the study and co-director of the PRIME Lab. Bolls said the purpose of the study was to examine key characteristics of anti-tobacco ads that influence viewers’ cognitive processes engaged during message exposure, which potentially contribute to the messages’ effectiveness.

“This study provides important insight into how young adults process anti-smoking messages, and it offers practical suggestions for designing effective tobacco prevention messages,” Bolls said. “The way the human mind perceives and processes information in a persuasive message is the very foundation of any desired effect on targeted individuals. The PRIME lab at MU is dedicated to studying how very specific elements of health campaign messages engage attention and emotion so that messages can be produced that might actually help persuade individuals to adopt healthier attitudes and behaviors.”

The researchers measured the physiological responses of 58 viewers while the viewers watched a series of 30-second anti-tobacco ads. The ads included fear messages that communicated health threats resulting from tobacco use (lung cancer, heart disease, etc.) or disgust content that focused on negative graphic images (dirty insects, blood, organs, etc.) or both fear and disgust content.

Electrodes were placed on the viewers’ facial muscles to measure emotional responses. Attention, which was defined as the amount of mental effort participants expended to interpret the messages, was measured by taking participants’ heart rates. To measure recognition, the participants completed a visual recognition task that consisted of watching brief video scenes (1 second) while pressing computer keys to indicate whether or not they believed the scene was from one of the ads they viewed during the experiment.

Journal reference:

1. Scare Them or Disgust Them: the effect of graphic health promotion messages. Health Communication, (in press)

Adapted from materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia.

Police Bust Cigarette Smugglers In South China | 2008-10-22

GUANGZHOU, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) — Chinese police seized three people involved in a four-million yuan (585,265 U.S. dollar) cigarette smuggling operation on Tuesday.

A frontier police brigade at Yantian of Shenzhen, southern Guangdong Province, was tipped off Tuesday morning that two trucks loaded with smuggled cigarettes were heading for Hong Kong.

They pulled over two trucks, matching the description from the tipsters, on the Pinghu section of a highway around 10:00 a.m.. Three people tried to escape the scene but were caught.

The trucks were loaded with 1,000 boxes of brand-name cigarettes labeled as biscuits and toys. The drivers failed to provide required export documents.

An investigation is underway.

Obesity, Smoking All Time Bombs

Reuters in Hong Kong | Oct 20, 2008

Chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart and respiratory diseases are ticking time bombs in the mainland, and Chinese must cut their intake of fatty foods and salt, stop smoking and start exercising, health experts said.

Increasingly affluent mainlanders in urban and rural areas consumed between 25 and 100 per cent more fat each day in 2002 compared with 1982, sharply raising the risk of heart disease and cancer, the experts wrote in The Lancet medical journal.

The report, by researchers in China and the United States, is part of a special series on the country’s health reforms.

While the country was plagued by infectious diseases before 1990, chronic illnesses are now its main health problem and they accounted for 74.1 per cent of all deaths in 2005, up from 47.1 per cent in 1973, the researchers wrote.

While these chronic illnesses have to do with people living longer, several high-risk factors are also involved.

Apart from a fatty diet, many mainlanders consume a relatively high 12-gram dosage of salt daily, which the paper said accounted for hypertension in some 177 million adults.

Based on mainland definitions, 22.8 per cent of Chinese were overweight in 2002, up 39 per cent from 1992. Some 7.1 per cent in the population were obese in 2002.

The paper also drew attention to the country’s smoking habit.

“One in every three smokers in the world is a Chinese man… consumption of cigarettes increased to 2,022 billion in 2006, 17.4 per cent higher than in 2002,” they wrote.

The average mainland male smoker smoked 15 cigarettes a day in 2002, up from 13 in 1984.

The costs of the mainland’s disease burden from smoking were likely to be vast, and China will suffer reduced productivity and more premature deaths, the researchers warned.

Hypertension and tobacco can be targeted health priorities. Reduction of salt intake should become a national campaign,” wrote the team, led by Yang Gonghuan of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing.

In another paper, also in the Lancet series, a team led by Yuanli Liu of the Harvard School of Public Health said only 12 per cent of hypertension patients in urban areas and seven per cent in the countryside were covered by treatment.

While 45 and 50 per cent of men in urban and rural areas were regular smokers in 2003, only 5-6 per cent of them tried to quit.

In an accompanying comment, Xiao Shuiyuan of China’s Central South University and Matthew Korman of Stanford University in the United States warned of dire consequences.

“If present smoking trends continue, 100 million Chinese men will die (of smoking-related causes) between 2000 and 2050, with many of their family members squandering life savings in desperate attempts at treatment,” the two scientists wrote.

Croatia Bans Smoking In Most Public Places

Associated Press | 17 October 08 ZAGREB, Croatia – Smoking in most indoor public places in Croatia will soon be prohibited.

Croatia’s parliament approved a government bill Friday prohibiting smoking in offices, bars, restaurants, schools, hospitals and cafes. The ban has one exemption – psychiatric clinics. The government did not provide a reason why it gave them an exemption.

The Health minister is reported as saying smokers are all nuts anyway.

The ban will be enforced in schools and hospitals later this month, while restaurants and bars will be given time to adapt until April.

About 30 percent of Croatia’s 4.5 million people are believed to be smokers.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press