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July, 2016:

Tripling of tobacco sellers’ licence fee in Tasmania reasonable, retailers say

A planned tripling of the tobacco sellers licence fee in Tasmania is a “reasonable compromise”, a retail industry group says.

On Saturday, the Tasmanian Government detailed its $6.4 million Healthy Tasmania plan, which includes raising the licence fee to $731 next year and then about $1,100 by January 2018.

The Australian Retailers Association’s executive director, Russell Zimmerman, said retailers would have to factor in increased costs.

“We like to see people live healthy, good lifestyles and we don’t encourage things that would deter that,” he said.

“Having said that we would also say that the tripling of the licence fees will hit small, independent retailers.”

But Mr Zimmerman said increasing the licence fee was a better option compared to the Government’s original plan to increase the minimum smoking age.

“With all the tourism happening in Tasmania we think it would have been very hard to police,” he said.

“This is probably a reasonable compromise.”

Last week, the State Government said it would shelve its controversial plan to lift the legal smoking age from 18 to as high as 25, saying that after consultation it was clear it was not an appropriate course of action.

Funding labelled a joke

Greens party spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff was critical of the $6.4 million Healthy Tasmania plan, labelling the amount a joke.

“It is nothing like the serious investment, the strong plan that the Minister has been talking about for a year now,” she said.

“We’ve got soaring rates of chronic diseases in Tasmania and the Government’s prevention health strategy is a paltry amount of money to deal with what’s ahead of us.”

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Government was already spending $70 million on preventative healthcare in addition to the $6.4 million.

He said $2 million from the Healthy Tasmania plan would be spent on improving student health and wellbeing, including updated drug education programs.

“Alongside the investment of resources education plays such a key role when it comes to cultural and intergenerational change,” he said.

Smokefree Coalition closes its doors

Smokefree Coalition closes its doors with celebration and sadness

The organisation that provided a platform for unity and collaboration in New Zealand tobacco control is no more.

At a Wellington celebration tinged with sadness members of the Smokefree Coalition gathered tonight to commemorate 20 years of achievement in reducing smoking in New Zealand while lamenting the loss of government funding that has forced it to close down operations.

“The Smokefree Coalition helped provide a united voice for the various tobacco control organisations in New Zealand,” said Chair Dr Jan Pearson.

“And it was that unity that made us able to achieve plain packaging; the ban on retail tobacco displays; reduced duty free allowances, smokefree bars, restaurants, workplaces and prisons; and annual tax increases.

“These are all measures that have saved countless lives and helped avoid untold suffering by creating a national environment where smoking is no longer cool or even normal – and making it much harder for tobacco companies to convince New Zealanders and their children that it is.”

The Smokefree Coalition is also willing to take much of the credit for the Government’s commitment to becoming a smokefree nation by 2025.

“It was our original Vision 2020 document, produced with the help of our members, that got the ball rolling for that commitment and it was our Smokefree Roadmap 2025 that laid out the pathway to achieve it,” Dr Pearson said.

The Government announced last year it would cease all existing contracts in tobacco control and the Smokefree Coalition contract was not renewed under the new funding strategy. Dr Pearson does not believe this was the right decision but says it is time to pass the mantle to the organisations that remain and wish them well.

“There is still much to be done in New Zealand tobacco control including better support for people to quit, more services for Maori and Pasifika and better policing of retailers – too many of whom are still willing to sell to minors who subsequently become addicted.”

Dr Pearson said the sector relied heavily on the energetic leadership of Dr Prudence Stone and said she would be sadly missed.

“Dr Stone will start her new role as Children’s Rights Advocate for UNICEF on Monday 1 August, and we hope there is room in the new position for her to remain a champion for the prevention of smoking uptake among children.

“She has been tireless in smokefree cars advocacy, which is absolutely a children’s rights issue. The public support it overwhelmingly so its only barrier is lack of political will and leadership. I am sure she will continue to remind our politicians about this and the many other rights to good health children have.”

Tobacco tax blazes to 90 percent, blank packs with health warning

A proposal to raise taxes on import of tobacco to 90 percent from the existing 72 percent will be taken up by the Cabinet tomorrow. The Cabinet paper will be submitted jointly by President Maithripala Sirisena and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne. Dr. Senaratne said the additional revenue would be used to offset losses resulting from the suspension of the Value Added Taxes on some private health services and to meet part of the expenditure to treat patients affected by smoking-related illnesses. An estimated 20,000 tobacco-related deaths are reported annually, according to the Health Ministry.

The Minister said another Cabinet proposal would be introduced for the health warning to remain on the cigarette packet while no advertising would be allowed except for a small brand name. Dr. Senaratne said Sri Lanka would be the first South Asian country to have such cigarette packets.

Govt. to cut ties with alcohol industry; sponsorships, CSR projects to be stopped

A national alcohol control policy intended to cut direct or indirect ties between the alcohol industry and both government and non-governments sectors is to be introduced soon.

Abolishing of the duty free import and sale of alcohol products is also among the far reaching changes advocated by the national policy which seeks to cut down the high prevalence of alcoholism in the country and reduce the social economic problems associated with it. The draft has been gazetted.

When implemented, the researchers and funders with direct or indirect links with the alcohol industry or its front-organisations, in the past or present, will be excluded from any initiatives related to this policy.

Also steps will be taken to phase out all Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects by the alcohol industry. This is because such CSR projects allowed access to and influencing of Government and Non-Government sectors.

There will also be a curb on sponsorship or support from the alcohol industry for development or implementation of public health, fiscal, education, trade, a youth, sports and other government policies and programmes. The policy also envisages new legislation and regulations to stop all forms of promotion of alcohol use through locally and internationally produced publications and entertainment programmes including television, dramas and cinema. Directors, translators, sponsors and the media organisations transmitting such programmes would be held liable for violations.

The policy also seeks to improve transparency of alcohol taxation to ensure that the the tax that the government receives from each price increase is made public. The data will also be made publicly accessible with steps taken to ensure that production volumes are not underestimated when computing the taxes due to the Government.

Tax concessions such as Board of Investment (BOI) status are also to be withdrawn for production, distribution and sale of alcohol within Sri Lanka.

Big hikes in tobacco seller’s licence fee and fines for selling to underage smokers

PLANS to increase tobacco lic­ence fees in Tasmania will disadvantage small retailers and could lead to a growth in black market sales, a business community advocate has warned.

Operators caught selling cigarettes to children will face the equal highest penalties in the nation and shopkeepers will have the cost of licence fees tripled under a State Government plan.

But Tasmania’s Small Business Council has warned the measures could drive tobacco sales underground.

Under the proposal, an increase in licence fees for retail workers will help to pay for a anti-smoking awareness campaign. The fee increase will be phased in over a two-year period, rising to $731.34 on January 1 next year and to about $1090 from January 1, 2018.

Anybody selling tobacco products must have a tobacco seller’s licence or be an employee of someone who holds a tobacco seller’s licence.

Business council executive director Robert Mallett supports an increase in the licence fee but says the Government has gone too far.

“To triple the fee is ridiculous and will kill a significant number of businesses,” he said.

“Government is addicted to tobacco taxes and sales. But, if the Government are going to be half-way serious, they need to fund the education campaigns out of the millions of dollars in taxes people pay on tobacco products.”

Mr Mallett said the fees would not hit major players such as a grocery giants Coles and Woolies but would have a significant impact on small businesses. “The chop-chop and black market will grow,” he said.

Mr Mallett also warned of an increase in thefts of tobacco.

Tasmania Health Minister Michael Ferguson said a $6.4 million preventive health plan would focus more Quit advertising and at pregnant women who smoked, and match the highest penalties in the nation for those supplying tobacco products to children — presently $18,120.

“As part of our bold plan, we will invest $1.8 million over four years to increase smoking control, education and targeted interventions,” he said.

“The government has set a bold target to reduce the number of Tasmanians smoking to 10 per cent by 2020, and down to 5 per cent by 2025.”

Mr Ferguson announced last week the Government would not pursue a proposal to increase the smoking age to 21 or 25.

Mr Ferguson said the largest investment the government will make is to provide $3.5 million “to support and incentivise communities and individuals to make positive health changes in their life through better nutrition and more physical activity”.

“A key focus of this will be children and students, with schools set to be supported through the Student Health Initiative,” he said.

“Through this, $2 million will be spent over four years on ensuring our youngest citizens learn healthy habits which will put them on a trajectory for a longer, healthier life.

“This initiative will help us achieve generational change.”

Tobacco retailers slugged under new Tasmanian plan to curb smoking

The Tasmanian Government will triple the licence fee charged to tobacco retailers in a bid to tackle high smoking rates.

The Government has released its final Healthy Tasmania five-year strategic plan, which was put out for public consultation in December last year.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the $6.4 million plan contained 24 actions, mainly targeting smoking and obesity.

“We will be tripling the cost of tobacco seller licence fees, increasing compliance and enforcement, we will be providing options for more information to help people make the decision to quit even at the point of sale and we will be regulating the sale of e-cigarettes,” he said.

It is estimated $1.8 million will be raised over four years by increasing the licence fee to $731 next year and about $1,100 by January 2018.

The funds will go towards a social media quit campaign, and employing more education and compliance officers.

Mr Ferguson said he was not worried about a backlash from tobacco retailers.

“Along with the sale of tobacco it comes with the responsibility to fully fund the enforcement of tobacco legislation in this state,” he said.

“We will also be increasing the maximum penalty for providing tobacco to a young person.”

On Thursday, the Government backed away from its controversial move to lift the legal smoking age to at least 21,

“We believe at this point in time this is the appropriate balance,” Mr Ferguson said.

Anti-smoking groups welcome strategy

The Cancer Council’s Penny Egan has welcomed the plan.

“We’ve always said that the smoking age is just one of many strategies and so we’d rather focus on a whole range of things,” she said.

The plan has also included measures to help communities and individuals make healthier lifestyle choices.

The Heart Foundation’s Graeme Lynch said preventative health had been underfunded in Tasmania and welcomed the focus on smoking and obesity prevention.

“We hope that we can really turbo charge the activity around addressing the poor uptake of fruit and vegetables in Tasmania,” he said.

Stunning discovery: Marijuana may be harmful

Bad news, marijuana users: a new study claims that the drug isn’t as safe as you might think it is — and in one very key way is just as bad as tobacco smoke. The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, states that second hand marijuana smoke is just as harmful as tobacco smoke on blood vessels, so you might want to think twice before you toke up.

In fact, it was actually a lot worse. Scientists exposed rats to both pot and tobacco smoke for one minute. Their blood vessels narrowed and it took 90 minutes to widen again for rats exposed to tobacco smoke — it took three times as long for rats exposed to marijuana smoke, according to the study.

The researchers decided to conduct this study because of what they felt was a lack of attention on the dangers of the actual smoking of marijuana versus just the drug itself. The study showed that, just like tobacco smoke, chronic marijuana smoking can narrow and harden your arteries which can lead to potentially deadly cardiovascular complications.

Berkeley Labs study suggests ‘Vaping’ brings new kind of cancer to smokers

Vaping is seen as one of the common alternatives for smokers these days though new research claims it is still unhealthy. Harmful chemicals are induced to the body and may be cancerous.

Vaping is something that smokers are turning to these days to alleviate smoking. Initially seen as better, the chemical compositions from e-liquids are now being singled out as unhealthy.

The whole idea behind vaping is for people to find an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. It was initially seen as a good alternative for smokers to avoid lung cancer. That was until researchers stepped up to dispute that claim. In fact, they now singled out the chemicals used in e-liquids as a culprit.

A study made by researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory singled out the chemicals inhaled as being equally cancerous. Among the harmful components identified are propylene glycol and glycerin which lead to emissions of toxic chemicals like acrolein and formaldehyde, according to the Environmental Science and Technology journal.

Vaping has been a growing trend for smokers, particularly the young children. But the problem is that unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes lack the proper research and study to determine if they are truly healthy or bring some alternative form of health risk.

Berkeley Lab hopes to get to the bottom of all that and it all boils down to the liquids used when vaping. The liquids are not normal liquids and are mixed with some form of flavoring or nicotine levels. As far as the cancer-related angle, it is these components that are being categorized as cancer-causing elements.

Aside from the e-liquids, Berkeley Labs also singles out the e-cigarette coils responsible for vaporizing the liquid that is smoked. They claim that carcinogens are also present in e-cigarettes.

“They found that as the voltage increased, both the amount of e-liquid consumed per puff and the vapor temperature were higher,” according to the lab’s release. “In the case of acrolein and formaldehyde, the amount formed at the highest voltage of 4.8V was an order of magnitude higher than the amount at the lowest voltage of 3.3V.”

When lined up against people who smoke cigarettes or tobacco, vaping looks like a safer option. Unfortunately, more information is needed to support the ‘healthier’ claim.

As mentioned on, cigarettes are considered ‘super unhealthy’ while e-cigarettes are allegedly just ‘unhealthy’.

The video below covers the two harmful carcinogens tied up to e-cigarette vapors.


Investigating a toxic risk (self-inflicted)

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One minute of secondhand marijuana smoke impairs cardiovascular function

One minute of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) from marijuana diminishes blood vessel function to the same extent as tobacco, but the harmful cardiovascular effects last three times longer, according to a new study in rats led by UC San Francisco researchers.

In a healthy animal, increased blood flow prompts arteries to widen, a process known as flow-mediated dilation (FMD). When FMD is compromised, as happens during SHS exposure, blood flow is impeded, and the risks of heart attack, atherosclerosis and other heart problems increase, said UCSF’s Matthew Springer, Ph.D., professor of medicine and senior author of the new study.

“Your blood vessels can carry more blood if they sense that they need to pass more blood to the tissues,” Springer said. “They dilate to allow more blood through. But that’s inhibited by exposure to smoke.”

Previous work by Springer and others has shown that as little as one minute of exposure to tobacco SHS diminishes FMD, but the effects of marijuana SHS hadn’t been examined. In the new research, published online in the July 27, 2016, issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, a team of scientists in Springer’s laboratory measured rats’ FMD, which works similarly to FMD in humans, before and after exposure to both tobacco SHS and marijuana SHS.

The researchers found that rats exposed to marijuana SHS experienced a more than 50 percent reduction in FMD, similar to the reduction in artery function seen in both rats and humans exposed to tobacco smoke in previous studies. As with tobacco, the reduction occurred after just one minute of exposure to SHS from marijuana.

However, while rats exposed for one minute to tobacco SHS recover within 30 minutes – an observation that was reproduced in the new study – one minute of exposure to marijuana SHS still significantly affected FMD 90 minutes after the initial exposure.

Filling a void in secondhand smoke research

The research group used equipment designed to mechanically “smoke” cigarettes and fill a reservoir with the resulting smoke. In a series of experiments using marijuana ciagarettes, when the smoke in the collecting chamber was determined to be at a level roughly comparable to those found in restaurants that allow smoking, the rats were exposed to the marijuana smoke.

Using methodology that they developed for previous tobacco studies, the researchers temporarily blocked off blood flow to rats’ legs after they were exposed to SHS. They then let the blood rush back into the arteries and used ultrasound technology to measure the resulting widening of the femoral artery, a vessel similar to the human brachial artery of the arm, where FMD is typically measured in clinical studies.

The study fills a void in SHS research, as marijuana studies are difficult to undertake because of its illicit status and the numerous agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, that must approve the use of the drug in experiments.

“The biggest reason that people believe marijuana secondhand smoke is harmless is because the public health community hasn’t had direct evidence of its harmful effects like it does with tobacco,” Springer said. “We hadn’t done the experiments, so I think there is definitely an underestimation of how harmful marijuana smoke is.”

To ensure the effect on FMD wasn’t a result of smoke from the rolling paper used in marijuana cigarettes or the cannabinoid compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana), the researchers also tested marijuana not rolled in paper and with cannabinoid compounds removed. Arterial function was still impaired in those situations, leading the team to conclude that smoke from burning marijuana plant matter itself caused the decline in FMD.

‘Just avoid smoke’

The rats were likely exposed to less SHS than people at certain rock concerts, such as one Springer attended in 2010, where there were so many people smoking marijuana that there was a haze in the air. This experience prompted his curiosity about whether marijuana SHS was really as benign as people made it out to be.

“It was really interesting to me, and distressing, because all these people in the stands would not tolerate it if the person next to them started smoking a cigarette,” Springer said, “but they were fine with the marijuana.”

Springer’s preliminary findings, presented at the November 2014 American Heart Association Annual Scientific Sessions, helped inspire California Assembly Bill 2300, a proposed law working its way through the State Legislature that would allow landlords to prohibit marijuana smoking —even for medicinal purposes—if smoking is already banned in their building. The medicinal use of marijuana complicates such public policy questions, Springer said, but he believes the current study solidifies the evidence that exposure to marijuana SHS carries risks.

“At this point, we’re saying that inhaling any smoke is detrimental to your health,” Springer said. “I think that people should avoid inhaling smoke whether it’s from tobacco or marijuana cigarettes, forest fires, barbecues—just avoid smoke.”

Study co-authors from Springer’s UCSF lab are Xiaoyin Wang, M.D.; Ronak Derakhshandeh, MS; Jiangtao Liu, M.D.; Shilpa Narayan; Pooneh Nabavizadeh, M.D.; Stephenie Le; Olivia M. Danforth; Kranthi Pinnamaneni, M.D.; Hilda J. Rodriguez; Emmy Luu; and Richard E. Sievers. Other UCSF co-authors include Suzaynn F. Schick, Ph.D., assistant adjunct professor of medicine, and Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., professor of medicine.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Elfenworks Foundation.