September 2010 - |

Monthly Archives: September 2010

R.J. Reynolds snuffs out rumor of California marijuana interest

Among some determined pot market conspiracy theorists, scattered in marijuana fields of Mendocino or Humboldt or at some urban dispensaries in California cities, one rumor refuses to die:

Big tobacco is coming – and wants to take over the California weed market.

But one of America’s leading tobacco companies says it has no interest going into the pot business – regardless of whether California voters pass Proposition 19 in November to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

In an interview today, Frank Lester, spokesman for Reynolds America Inc., seemed almost apologetic for killing the speculation. But he confirmed that the parent company for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco and the American Snuff Company won’t be adding a marijuana production division.

“Even going back years, I remember hearing that same thing back in the 1970s and 1980s,” Lester said of the Big Tobacco pot business rumors. “We are paying attention to the California initiative just as a political situation. But we’re not preparing to enter into the marijuana trade at all.”

Lester added: “We’re a domestic U.S. tobacco company. We’re interested in providing the finest tobacco products to adult tobacco consumers. We’re not in the trade of selling marijuana, nor will we ever be.”

Canada freezes big anti-tobacco push

Canada has frozen long-held plans to slap graphic new warning labels on packs of cigarettes, prompting critics to attack what they see as the tobacco industry’s excessive influence on the minority Conservative government.

The federal health ministry spent six years devising the new campaign and agreeing on the details with the country’s 10 provinces, which administer the public healthcare system. Earlier this month, Ottawa told the provinces the plan was on hold.

“Health Canada continues to examine the renewal of health warning messages on tobacco packaging but is not ready to move forward at this time,” a spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday.

She also referred to recent law and order measures designed to cut the production and sale of contraband tobacco — a key demand of the industry.

Since 2001, all cigarette packs — which cannot be displayed openly in stores — have carried graphic warning labels covering half the surface of the package, aimed at telling people of the health risks of smoking and getting them to quit.

Anti-smoking campaigners say the labels are tired and need to be upgraded and increased in size.

The official opposition Liberal Party said statistics showed that since the Conservatives took office in 2006, the rate at which Canadians have quit smoking has declined.

“This government is listening to the business lobby, the tobacco lobby,” said legislator Ujjal Dosanjh, who was federal minister of health when the consultations were launched.

“The illegal tobacco traffic … is important. But you can’t take your eyes off this particular problem,” he told Reuters, saying the government could easily fight tobacco smuggling while ensuring the warning labels were more graphic.

Meghan Leslie of the left-leaning New Democrats said the the decision to freeze the anti-smoking campaign and the focus on contraband cigarettes “say to me that this is not about health … this is about industry, at the expense of people’s health, perhaps at the expense of people’s lives”.

“I would have expected that large warnings would be announced by now … the government hasn’t really given a clear reason why and I can’t conceive of a good reason why,” said Rob Cunningham of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Major producers of tobacco sold in Canada include R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co (RAI.N), Japan Tobacco’s (2914.T) JTI-Macdonald unit, Rothmans Benson & Hedges Inc, which is partly owned by Philip Morris (PM.N) and Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd, a unit of British American Tobacco (BATS.L).

Imperial Tobacco spokesman Eric Gagnon said contraband tobacco costs the industry between C$900 million ($875 million) and C$1 billion a year and undermined a host of regulations, as well as cutting into tax revenues.

Electronic cigarette to be banned in Russia

After the U.S., Russia has suggested banning electronic cigarette, which is a battery-powered device developed in Hong Kong seven years ago and looks like an ordinary cigarette or cigar but no combustion or smoke is involved in its operation. The cigarette has liquid containing nicotine and provides a flavour. These cigarettes can be freely bought in Russian shops or through the Internet. They are advertised as a healthy alternative to tobacco and the best way to get rid of smoking.

“Freedom is in your hands!” is the slogan of one of the brands of electronic cigarettes. The producers suggest that one can smoke these cigarettes in offices, at airports or in any other banned place. One can smoke as usual, but he or she will inhale or exhale vapour rather than smoke. However, this is the case of reducing resin but not nicotine. The amount of nicotine in the cartridge of the cigarette is similar to that in a cigarette, and consequently, the Food and Drug Administration of the U.S. insists that electronic cigarettes should be set equal to ordinary ones.

The producers of the electronic cigarettes have not conducted clinical studies and toxicity analysts, and consequently, the cigarettes are potentially dangerous. The World Health Organization says that they have no right to declare that the electronic cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy because all this has not been proved yet. If the cigarette is presented as a medicine, it should be studied thoroughly, says the deputy chairman of the healthcare committee of the Lower House of the Russian parliament, Sergei Kolesnikov.

“In this case, the electronic cigarette is a medicine because it contains nicotine that replaces tobacco nicotine,” says Sergei Kolesnikov. “Consequently, it should undergo pre-clinical and clinical tests. This has not been done. I believe that Russia’s federal consumer rights protection and human health control service should draw attention to this fact and ban the distribution of electronic cigarettes,” Sergei Kolesnikov said. European experts agree with their Russian counterparts. The action of the electronic cigarette is similar to that of nicotine plasters, chewing gum or other alternatives to tobacco. Once it has not undergone pharmacological expertise, and no one knows whether it is safe or whether it has side effects or not, it’s illegal to sell it.

Denmark and Israel banned electronic cigarettes in 2008. Meanwhile, electronic cigarettes are sold everywhere in Moscow. They are distributed in other large cities too. There are many offers on the Internet. Many famous people, including popular singer Alla Pugachova, got rid of cigarettes by shifting to electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are advertised as a harmless innovation. However, no one knows its affect on health in the long-term.

EU teams up with Imperial Tobacco to fight cigarette smuggling

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – The European Commission signed a co-operation agreement with Imperial Tobacco Limited on Monday (27 September) under which the tobacco company will pay some €200 million over the next 20 years to the EU and member states to help combat cigarette smuggling.

“Despite our very best efforts, the EU cannot eliminate contraband and counterfeit cigarettes on our own. We rely on the support of our international partners and we rely on co-operation with industry,” EU taxation commissioner Algirdas Semeta said at a press conference.

It is the fourth such agreement with a big tobacco company that the EU has signed.

A deal between the EU and Philip Morris was signed in 2004, with Japan Tobacco International in 2007 and British American Tobacco in July 2010. Each company agreed to partly co-finance the anti-smuggling fight.

Mr Semeta said the payments from tobacco companies to the member states are “substantial”, with the last two agreements alone counting for more than half a billion euros over the next twenty years.

“These are not penalties, not another way for manufacturers to buy their way out of any responsibility,” Mr Semeta added.

ITL has agreed to pay €207 million to fund anti-smuggling trade initiatives in the member states. The company also agreed to share its intelligence with the authorities, to strengthen its review process for selecting and monitoring customers, and to introduce tracking and tracing mechanisms on its products.

The company will have to pay in the event of future seizures – above a certain volume on the EU market – of its product to compensate the member state for lost taxes and duties and other costs.

“We initiated this co-operation agreement because we see this is an area for investment for Imperial. Illicit trade benefits nobody, it does not benefit our customers, it does not benefit governments, but it also knocks on the Imperial as well and our business,” said, Alison Cooper, Imperial Tobacco’s chief executive.

The commission has estimated that counterfeit and smuggled tobacco products cost the EU and national governments up to €10 billion annually in unpaid taxes, making the EU budget short of around 10 percent of that sum.

A British health campaigning charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said in a statement that although the top four international tobacco companies have signed anti-smuggling agreements, there remains a European wide problem with the illicit trade in other companies’ products.

According to charity, Imperial itself has in the past been severely criticised for its links to tobacco smuggling.

“Imperial Tobacco has an appalling past record in allowing its products to be smuggled into the UK, and should have been called to account for its activities long before now. At last it is being made to pay for its past scandalous behaviour,” said Deborah Arnott, director of ASH.

The EU plans to update its overall tobacco policy, which dates back to 2001, in the coming months.

Problems to be addressed include the use of new tobacco and nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes, use of pictorial warnings on packaging and use of flavours in tobacco products.

New Yorkers’ Cigarette Breaks May Go Up In Smoke

They have already been chased out of bars, offices and restaurants. Now, the city wants to ban smokers from outdoor public spaces like parks and beaches. The ban would affect some of the most crowded pedestrian spaces in the world, like Times Square.

First they came for the smokers in bars, and Jason Riley simply moved outside.

“I didn’t stop drinking,” Riley said. “If that was the object, to get me to stop drinking, it didn’t work.”

Then the New York City Health Department banned trans fat in foods.

“I’m fine with it,” Riley said.

The city then went after excess salt, required calorie counts in the menus.

Riley said: “I don’t think it makes a difference.”

But now New York City is coming for Riley. He is standing in the middle of Times Square, taking a smoke break. Under the proposed law to ban outdoor smoking, he would be a criminal.

“How do you enforce it?” he asks. “You going to give a ticket? Should we hire 500 more police officers with a good sense of smelll? Maybe the K-9 units would take care of it.”

Cigarettes Worse Than Car Exhaust Fumes

It’s easy to mock the proposed law in a place like Times Square where not too long ago a billboard for Camel cigarettes blew giant smoke rings into the air. The square is filled with car exhaust, food cart vapors and other strange smells. What harm could a few extra cigarettes do?

“Well, there’s increasing evidence that you can be exposed to smoke outdoors in a way that’s really harmful to your health,” says New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

He says studies show that if you are within 3 feet of someone smoking outdoors, your exposure to secondhand smoke can be the same as when you are indoors. And though places like Times Square are choked with exhaust-spewing traffic, cigarettes are still worse.

“You know, we’ve done measurements and the levels of particulates, those are the particles that get in your lungs, are much higher from secondhand smoke than they are from car exhaust,” Farley says. “So you can get much higher levels from sitting next to a smoker than being at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.”

Goal: To Stop Smoking

And so the New York Health Department has been pushing the city for the past year to take action. The proposed ban on smoking would affect about 1,700 parks, plazas and beaches. It still needs to pass the City Council, but the number of angry smokers ready to fight is dwindling in New York. The goal, at least among some in city government, is to keep this up until everyone in New York has quit.

“I would like people to stop smoking,” says Gail Brewer, a New York City Council member and sponsor of the anti-smoking bill. “I’m not going to say otherwise.”

While heading down to City Hall Park to talk with smokers about the proposed regulations, Brewer shared a secret: The police will not be actively hunting down smoking scofflaws.

“I’m not interested in fines or getting anyone arrested,” she said.

She just wants the law on the books for sort of moral support.

“When you are sitting on the beach with your family and somebody is smoking, you can’t grab the kids and all the stuff and move,” she says. “You can say very nicely it’s against the law to smoke on the beach and hopefully they will understand and I’m sure they will.”

Meanwhile, Edmund Kasubinski is spotted smoking. The college student says he isn’t allowed to smoke in his apartment.

“I love to sit in the park and chain smoke,” he says. “Maybe I’ll quit. I guess I’m going to smoke in the park while I can.”

If the law passes, the last public haven for smokers in New York will be the city sidewalks. And at least if they have to circle the block, they’ll be getting some exercise.

Fiji to use spies in cigarette war

The Ministry of Health will use spies to help fight the use of cigarettes by children under the age of 18.

Health spokesperson Peni Namotu says when the new Tobacco Control Act Decree is in place they will have spies to monitor it’s enforcement.

Namotu told FBC News the decree will penalize parents or adults that send children under the age of 18 to buy cigarettes.

Further – any child under the age of 18 caught smoking will be fined $50.

Selling cigarettes from homes will be illegal. Namotu says the decree directs that cigarettes will only be sold from shops.

He says the stringent measures is part of efforts to stop the selling of cigarettes to children under the age of 18.

The Solicitor Generals Office is now working on the new Tobacco Control Act Decree and this could come into effect sometime soon.

Report by : Apisalome Coka

High taxes ‘making Ireland a target’

TOBACCO SMUGGLING: IRELAND HAS the highest rate of tobacco taxation in the EU, making it a target for smugglers despite the small size of the market, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report.

Tobacco smuggling costs the exchequer at least €200 million a year in lost taxes as well as undermining health policy aims to reduce the level of smoking, the report states.

The report says Revenue should estimate the level of illicit tobacco importation and report the results in an open, transparent manner.

Revenue, which says organised crime is centrally involved in the trade, is faulted for not developing a strategy based on regular estimates of the size of the problem.

Revenue operates two X-ray scanners to check for illicit goods in containers and vehicles, one which is based in Dublin Port and the other in the southeast. It says the identification of suspect consignments has become more difficult because smugglers increasingly use the tax registration details of legitimate traders.

The report says there has been limited success in using the X-ray scanners to detect contraband cigarettes; last year, the two devices detected 22 million illicit cigarettes. It suggests a comparison with the detection rates achieved in other countries be carried out.

The total number of cigarettes seized has grown from 74 million in 2007 to 135 million in 2008 and over 218 million last year. The report says the extent of seizures does not necessarily indicate whether this is impacting on the size of the illicit trade.

Sweetening Cigar Sales

Small filtered cigarellos represent a real albeit temporary opportunity for convenience stores to rack up sales, so get going before the window of opportunity slams shut.

These diminutive cigars have gained strong appeal among smokers laboring to afford cigarettes in the wake of multiple tobacco tax hikes. The price differential between filtered cigars and cigarettes has reached a new high as the tobacco industry responded to tax hikes that took place to fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which became law in February 2009.

“Right now they are very popular in a lot of states because people are using them instead of cigarettes,” said Michael Zielinski president and CEO of Royal Buying Group Inc. in Lisle, Ill., a marketing association for convenience/gas operators and jobbers.

At the same time, however, there are certain states that looking to spoil the sales opportunity. “New taxes are catching up to the segment,” Zielinski said. “Once the taxes start coming, the opportunity for strong incremental sales growth is going to go away.”

Those companies that are in this niche now, Zielinski pointed out, are in it for one reason. “That’s to profit from it right now. As soon as they can’t profit from it anymore I’m sure they’ll get out of it, so that’s going to be a very volatile and short-term product,” he said.

When the storm settles, Zielinski predicted, the best-known brands will still remain strong, just as with any other product categories ravaged by taxation. “Right now there are a myriad of brands,” he said. “But just as taxation has created the demand and the opportunity, taxation will also eliminate demand and then eliminate the opportunity for these manufacturers.”

Zielinski’s fear that small filtered cigar sales are going to slow down considerably is based largely on the widely held belief that states are going to continue to clamp down on the tobacco segment with higher taxes. “If that does continue, then I think my prophecy is correct. But if they, for some reason, don’t enact some of these taxes for that product, then demand will definitely stay. If I’ve ever seen a product that was dependent on what the government was going to do, it’s this one right now.”

Demand Strong
Cigars in general are still showing growth, Zielinski reported. “The growth percentage-wise has slowed down, but that’s because the volume is higher. That means you won’t see the dramatic percentage increases as you have in previous years.”

That said, flavored cigars have been a big hit with convenience store customers. “These flavored products have extended the category’s presence,” Zielinski said. “I would suspect that we’re going to continue to see growth, but again the percentages will continue to go down as the pie gets bigger. It won’t be as dramatic and as volatile as we saw probably five years ago when it started its trek upward, but I think that it is still a significant category.”

Convenience stores in general have evolved from being a destination for cigarettes to a destination for tobacco products as a whole.

“The good retailers will take their back bar setups that, in the past, only included cigarettes and create a destination for tobacco in general,” Zielinski said, adding that these revised sections will include cigars and moist, and possibly alternative products, too. “The category is still in flux. Things are changing: demand is waning on some items and increasing on others. I think that retailers who always have been the best to react and move their businesses around as needed will do the same thing with this category. They will cut down space for certain pieces to get more space for those that are growing.”

Fade to Black
For some retailers, small cigars are allowing them to hold onto their customers that smoke. Retailers report that, for the most part, customers aren’t quitting tobacco, but rather turning to the black market for product.

“The way I look at these things is pretty simple,” noted Amer Hawatmeh, president and CEO of St. George Oil, which operates Coast to Coast convenience stores in Tampa, Fla. “It’s the same way as looking at fourth- and fifth-tier cigarettes: it’s a cheap way to smoke. Even in Missouri, where taxes are relatively normal in comparision to New York and Chicago, a pack of Newports is $5.”

Coast to Coast stores also sell a large amount of the Swisher Sweets varieties. Hawatmeh confessed, “I like this fourth tier, the ‘cigar-cigarettes,’ because they are generating sales from the $2-sale customer.”

The chain carries three brands of small filtered cigars: Santa Fe, Hav-a-Tampa and Muriel.

Hawatmeh said he expects the tobacco majors—if they haven’t already—to lobby legislators. “They’re going to go to Washington and say, ‘Hey, you guys are collecting less and less from us in taxes because all of our sales are going to these cigar-cigarette packages that are not being taxed at the same rate,’ so obviously they’re going to tax them. I mean, that’s the new American way. We’re going to tax it till we kill it.”

Making the most of this temporary window of opportunity, provides a short-term opportunity to generate some extra sales. “Get those sales now, before government gets their hands on them,” Hawatmeh said.

Given what many agree is only a short-term opportunity to make the most of this niche, Hawatmeh urged operators to keep pushing the category without worrying about the potential outcome.

“As long as we’ve got the governemt we have, I don’t think we’re operating in a tunnel where we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think we’re in a freefall,” Hawatmeh said. “Whether it’s taxes or healthcare, small business owners are struggling and getting no help from lawmakers. Unless somebody gets Washington in line and our representatives start representing the people instead of whatever interests they decide they want to represent, I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

“Trying to make a buck today is absolutely ridiculous. I’m making multimillion-dollar investments so I can collect taxes. I work for the government; I don’t even work for myself anymore.”

To wring out every dollar possible until it becomes impossible, Hawatmeh recommended adopting an in-your-face approach. “Since you can’t put cigarettes on the counter, put those cigars on the counter in a proper display. Don’t be afraid to earn a smaller margin, but make it so customers are buying three packs. Make them $1.39 a pack or three for $3, the way I’ve got them,” he said. “There is so much variety of flavors that customers are buying three different flavors anyway.”

Operators should be clear on one fundamental point, Hawatmeh added. “There is no loyalty here. Nobody is buying these because they like the menthol or the vanilla. They’re buying them because they’re cheaper and they can smoke them, and it fits their behavioral addiction.” CSD
By Howard Riell

Tobacco Cravings Linger, Raising Relapse Odds

Sights, sounds, smells, and other cues remind people who’ve quit smoking of their former habit and can lead to cigarette cravings. These cravings may actually increase over time, raising the odds of an eventual relapse, even after a long period of abstention, a new study finds.

Gillinder Bedi, DPsych, assistant professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University in New York, tells WebMD that she and colleagues enlisted 86 adults who smoked 10 or more cigarettes a day.

The participants were randomly placed in one of several groups. Some were paid to abstain for seven days, others 14 days, and others 35 days. Researchers verified their abstinence daily.

“For smoking cues, participants viewed 30 smoking-related photographs while holding a lit cigarette,” the authors write. “For neutral cues, participants viewed neutral pictures while holding a pencil cut to cigarette length, and a scented candle provided the neutral olfactory cue.”

After being exposed to cues of either kind, participants filled out a questionnaire to rate their degree of craving. About half of the original enrollees did not remain abstinent for the entire study period.

The smoking cues increased cravings as more time passed, Bedi tells WebMD, the same as in animal experiments.

“Humans have more choice, but it won’t break the habit,” she says. “We found that the longer people had been abstinent, the more their self-reported craving increased on standardized scales.”

Risk of Relapse

Bedi says the study indicates that “the incubation of craving phenomenon is real and robust,” a finding she says might be true for other drugs as well.

The study may surprise people who have quit and assume they are safe from relapse after time passes, she tells WebMD.

“They think everything is fine,” she says. “Then they see something that makes them crave after a prolonged period of not smoking. You remain susceptible. We know that lots of people relapse after long periods of time.”
Clinical Implications of Study

Bedi and her colleagues write that their findings “have significant clinical implications, suggesting that clinicians and users should be aware that risk of relapse precipitated by cue-induced craving may persist or increase with abstinence.”

Because a person’s environment is filled with cues that can trigger cravings, Bedi tells WebMD that the study has important implications for developing treatment strategies to help smokers understand their relapse risk and make them better able to cope with situations that make them want to smoke.

The study is published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

“People should be aware that even if they feel completely safe, some cue might trigger a craving,” she says.

New York City Law Would Extend Smoking Ban to Public Parks and Beaches

New York City would expand its ban on smoking in indoor workplaces to outdoor venues including public parks and beaches under a proposed law backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council leaders.

The mayor, joined by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and representatives from the American Cancer Society, said the bill would extend the Smoke Free Air Act, a 2002 law that banned smoking from offices, bars, restaurants and playgrounds in an effort to protect people from the harmful effects of secondhand exposure.

“The science is clear: prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke — whether you’re indoors or out — hurts your health,” Bloomberg said in remarks prepared for a City Hall news conference. “Today, we’re doing something about it.”

The mayor, 68, has targeted tobacco use as both a public official and philanthropist, with restrictive city laws, a combined $4.50-per-pack state and city tax increase, and at least $375 million in private donations to worldwide smoking cessation programs since 2005.

In 2008, a city Health Department survey found that the measures had helped reduce cigarette smoking among teenagers by half, to about one out of 12 high school students, compared with 23 percent nationally.

Smoking Drops

The mayor’s office reported in September 2009 that anti- smoking measures had helped reduce adult smoking to 15.8 percent of the city population in 2009, from 21.7 percent in the three years before he took office in 2002.

“Cigarettes kill some 7,500 New Yorkers every year, and thousands more suffer smoking-related strokes, heart attacks, lung diseases and cancers,” city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said at the news conference. “By expanding the act to cover parks and beaches, we can reduce the toll even further.”

Violators of the proposed law, which would also cover boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas such as that found near Times Square, would face a quality-of-life violation carrying a fine of about $50, said Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman for the mayor. The Parks Department will enforce the law, she said. Smokers may continue to light up on public sidewalks and in parking lots, she said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

NY court allows Indian cigarette tax

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – A New York appeals court on Tuesday lifted a temporary order blocking the state from collecting taxes on cigarettes sold by Native American stores to non-Indian customers.

On Sept. 1, a state appellate judge in Rochester restored a restraining order that barred the state from collecting the $4.35-per-pack tax. But the court’s five-judge panel, which took up the case last week, ruled that the state properly approved regulations for the levy.

A federal judge in Buffalo has already temporarily blocked tax collections from two Indian nations – the Senecas and Cayugas – and was holding a hearing Tuesday in that case.

State officials didn’t immediately comment on the decision.

Tribal leaders say the $4.35-per-pack tax would blunt their competitive edge over off-reservation sellers and devastate their economies.

State and federal judges temporarily blocked the tax collections from going forward as scheduled on Sept. 1, but state officials expect those victories for the tribes will be short-lived.

The state’s renewed efforts to tax sales to non-Native customers is viewed by the tribes as yet another attack on Native American rights dating to 1794. The 7,800-member Seneca nation in western New York, the biggest tribal cigarette seller, says its cigarette business is a $100 million-a-year industry.

The tax tussle has raised tension on reservations. The last time the state tried to collect the tax, in 1997, protesters lit tire fires and shut down a 30-mile stretch of the New York state Thruway that bisects Seneca land near the Pennsylvania line.

State lawmakers facing a $9.2 billion budget deficit in June voted to start collecting the sales tax by requiring cigarette wholesalers to prepay the sales taxes before supplying reservation stores. Wholesalers would pass along the levy to tribal retailers.

Cigarette makers sold 24 million cartons of non-native-brand cigarettes to tribes in New York in 2009, with the Senecas buying the most at 10.2 million, the state Department of Taxation and Finance said. Tribes also sell millions of cartons of American Indian brands.

Why do most smokers tolerate massive state tax increases?

State governments don’t get a lot of fiscal good news these days, so it was surprising last week when the state of Connecticut announced that a recent $1-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes raised $5 million more than the state had projected.As economists would predict, the daunting total of a $3-a-pack tax in Connecticut — the fourth-highest burden in the country — did reduce the sale of cigarettes. Some smokers reacted to the tax by quitting, with others finding ways around the tax.

But the surprising fact is that not that many quit smoking or evaded the tax — not enough, anyway, to cause the state to collect less in cigarette taxes than it would have without the increase. This experience is not unique to Connecticut. Over the past decade or so, several states and jurisdictions have experimented with massive cigarette tax increases, as much as 100 percent or more over the existing rate. California, for example, still has a relatively low state cigarette tax, but in January 1999, it ballooned to 87 cents a pack from 37 cents. In 2002, New York City raised the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 8 cents to $1.50, an astronomical increase of nearly 1,800 percent.

Yet according to anti-tobacco activists — who are backed up by economic studies — in every instance, these huge tax hikes have led to states collecting more revenue, even as many smokers swear they won’t pay the taxes. Cigarettes may not quite be what economists call “perfectly price inelastic,” but millions of American smokers are willing to pay much higher taxes than economic theory would suggest they should.

At the heart of nearly every tax debate in America is some version of the Laffer curve, a fancy way of describing a point of diminishing returns. An income tax of 0 percent produces no revenue; an income tax of 100 percent, it is presumed, causes people to change their behavior so as to avoid the tax, also producing nothing. Some ideal point in between will yield the maximum possible revenue.

In the late 1970s and the 1980s, this very old idea was applied to income tax and burst into prominence as part of the supply-side economics revolution. And since that time, many public officials have espoused the idea that cutting taxes will increase economic activity — and therefore create higher revenue — while raising taxes will have the opposite effect.

Cigarette taxes don’t seem to behave this way (or at a minimum, we’ve yet to hit the point at which even huge tax hikes lead to lower revenue). Indeed, in many states, the very notion of tax representing a portion of the underlying cost of a pack of cigarettes — the way that, say, a tip represents a portion of the cost of a restaurant meal — has ceased to have much meaning. When you’re paying, as New York City smokers now do, $12 for a pack of Marlboros, nearly all of that is tax; the product is, economically, an afterthought.

To hear some economists and cigarette-tax foes tell it, this situation should never have come about. They have long argued that higher taxes would encourage more people to find ways to evade or break the law. This could be as simple as driving to a place where the taxes are lower. A smoker living in eastern Washington state, where the state tax is well above the national average at $3.025 per pack, could save a lot of money by crossing the border into Idaho, where tax is well below the national average at 57 cents per pack. And thanks to mega-increases in cigarette taxes in recent years, the average tax difference between neighboring states is more than three times higher than it was in the early 1980s.

More people, then, have a theoretical incentive to hit the road for cheaper smokes. In reality, though, not many do. According to one Kennedy School study published in 2008, 40 percent of smokers live within 40 miles of another state, yet only 2 percent travel 40 miles or more to buy cigarettes. The authors conclude that the average smoker “is willing to travel 2.7 miles to save one dollar on a pack of cigarettes.” For most people, the savings aren’t worth more than a few minutes in the car.

Other tax evasions entail more work; bootleg cigarettes from the back of a truck, cigarettes purchased from Indian reservations, or from online outlets of varying degrees of reliability. (Evasion methods are getting more clever. The Wall Street Journal reported last week on the increasing popularity of roll-your-own machines at tobacco stores, which allow customers to create cigarettes that are taxed at the federal level as pipe tobacco — one-tenth the rate of cigarette tobacco.)

Obviously, bootlegging is real, and every few weeks there are accounts of people being busted for it. As a percentage of overall American smoking activity, however, it seems modest. Reliable statistics on the prevalence of bootlegging are hard to come by, but in the 2003 version of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, just 0.8 percent of smokers reported buying cigarettes from the Internet, Indian reservations, or foreign countries (notably Canada). Even if that number has doubled or tripled since then, it’s still not a huge portion of the 360 billion or so cigarettes consumed in this country every year.

Why do smokers tolerate tax hikes that are so out of whack with other price increases? Tax increases actually do cause some smokers (particularly younger ones) to quit and others to smoke less. Some of the taxes get paid by newly minted smokers. Secondly, rising gasoline costs in recent years have rendered useless many would-be road-trip bargain binges. Another factor, I suspect, is the self-image of many smokers. Tobacco-use surveys tell us two interesting things: A majority of smokers at any given moment are thinking about quitting, and 62 percent of smokers buy only packs, not cartons. A huge number of smokers, then, are too timid about their habit to buy enough cigarettes at a time to realize any substantial savings by going outside their normal buying outlets.

A cynical argument, frequently put forward by smokers and libertarians, is that states actually don’t want too many smokers to quit, because they need the cigarette-tax revenue. There is some evidence for this. Every cigarette tax passed in recent years has been accompanied by rhetoric about getting people to quit. Yet earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control found that of the 14 states (plus the District of Columbia) that raised cigarette taxes in 2009, none was using the additional revenue for anti-smoking efforts.

One economist (looking primarily at South Africa) has suggested that the best way to use the cost of cigarettes to get smokers to quit is to focus on affordability rather than just price. And therein, probably, lies the real answer. As punishing as recent cigarettes tax increases have been, they are not yet so high that most American smokers cannot find a way to pay for them. The question remains: How high would taxes have to go to create a far-reaching economic disincentive?

Thailand Tobacco Monopoly Officials Accused of Tacking Bribes

Thailand Tobacco Monopoly officials were accused of tacking bribes of over US$1.93 million (62 million baht) from US-based companies in order to assure that Brazilian-grown tobacco was sold locally, according to the US Justice Department.
The charge came after two American tobacco companies consented on Friday to pay almost US$30 million in order to set aside the accusation that they bribed foreign officials to gain profitable overseas tobacco contracts for the sales.
“Universal Corp of Richmond”, Virginia and “Alliance One International of Morrisville”, North Carolina will be brought to civil and criminal charges by the Commission on Securities and Exchanges and the Department of Justice.
Universal was accused of giving bribes to officials from Malawi, Mozambique and Thailand, while Alliance One was accused of giving bribes to officials from China, Greece, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan and Thailand.
Alliance One acknowledged its guilt to three counts of indictment for conspiring and violation of the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
“The accusations are related to bribes that were paid to Thailand government officials with intent to assure contracts with the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, and Thailand government agency for sale of tobacco leaf,” the Department of Justice stated.
Alliance One was established in 2005 from the merger of two companies the Standard Commercial Corporation and Dimon Incorporated and two tobacco wholesalers. This company, purchases, processes and sells tobacco to producers all over the world.
The guilty verdict is related to the behavior of employees and agents of foreign affiliated companies of both Dimon and Standard prior to the 2005 merger, the US Department of Justice stated.
The Department of Justice declared that it had also filed two stated claims against Universal Brazil for conspiring thus violating the FCPA by giving bribes to Thailand Tobacco Monopoly employees for the sale of Brazilian tobacco.
From 2000 to 2004, Dimon, Standard and Universal Brazil sold Brazilian tobacco to the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly according to the Department of Justice.
“Each of the three companies had their own sales agents in Thailand and cooperated through those agents to distribute tobacco sales to the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly among themselves, coordinate their selling prices, and give bribes to officials of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly with intent to assure that each company would partake in the Thai tobacco market.
In order to assure the sales contracts each company decided to give bribe to particular Thailand Tobacco Monopoly representatives depending on the amount of tobacco sold to the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly.
Thus Dimon gave bribes in amount of $542,590 and Standard nearly $696,160, the total sum of bribes given to the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly officials within four years constituted $1,238,750.
Universal Corp of Richmond recognized that it had paid $697,000 bribes to the monopoly officials and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

Review smoking ban to save Scottish pubs

Scotland was the first part of the UK to bring in legislation outlawing smoking in enclosed public places such as pubs, clubs and restaurants.

But new research has shown 11 per cent of pubs in Scotland have closed down since the ban was introduced in March 2006.

Simon Clark of the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign which commissioned the research, said: “Politicians can bury their heads in the sand and pretend otherwise, but there is no doubt that the smoking ban has had a devastating effect.”
The report showed that almost three years after the smoking ban was introduced, 7.1 per cent of pubs had closed, rising to 11.1 per cent after four years. In Ireland, 11 per cent of pubs had shut within four years of the smoking ban coming into effect there.

And in England and Wales, the report revealed that more than seven per cent of pubs had closed after almost three years. In Scotland there were 6,610 pubs open when the ban was brought in in 2006, with this falling to 5,873 in four years. Mr Clark also urged politicians to act, saying: “For the sake of our local communities, the Government must review the smoking ban. Options should include separate smoking rooms.”

Paul Waterson, president of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said Scotland’s pubs were “a national asset that are in peril”.

Sheila Duffy, of anti-smoking charity ASH Scotland, said: “There’s absolutely no evidence that the smoking ban is responsible for an increase in the closure of pubs but there is plenty of evidence that Scotland is a healthier nation for having smoke-free public places.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman defended the ban and said: “It was introduced to protect the health of thousands of bar workers from second-hand smoke and has been a resounding success.
“The reasons for pubs closing are complex and far more significant factors are at play.”

Save Our Pubs & Clubs is a coalition of groups, including the smokers’ rights organisation Forest, which is funded by the tobacco industry.

Cigarette sales down in 2010 after price hike

The year 2010 will apparently be worse for cigarette producers and sellers in the Czech Republic than last year because the January VAT hike followed by the February increase of excise duty on cigarettes has cut their consumption, according to Philip Morris’s half-yearly report.

The tobacco market increased by 8.5 percent in Jan to March this year, but Q2 saw a drop of almost 6 percent, CTK has learnt from the report of the biggest producer of tobacco products in the Czech Republic. Cigarette consumption is expected to be lower also during the remaining months of the year, according to the report.

Tobacco producers say that raising taxes on cigarettes aimed at regulating the consumption of these harmful products and bringing in money to the state fails to have the required effect and boosts the black cigarette market instead.

Smoking opponents, however, say that the price of cigarettes is low in the Czech Republic compared to the rest of Europe, which is the reason for their still high consumption.

Philip Morris’s estimate of cigarette sales in the Czech Republic last year is 21.7 billion units, up 35 percent on the year. Adjusted for the effect of stocking up on cigarettes, the entire market would fall by 6 percent last year.

According to data from the Czech Statistical Office, average daily consumption of cigarettes increased by around a fifth to nearly six cigarettes per person between 1989 and 2008. Statisticians started recording cigarette consumption back in 1955 and since that time it has grown by almost 60 percent.

According to a survey published recently by the EC, around 26 percent of people smoke in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, the two countries being slightly below the EU average of 29 percent.

Czech cigarette consumption per person and year (units of cigarettes):

year 1955 1989 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
consumption 1337 1776 1882 1664 1893 2192 2243 2275 2338 2345 2107

Mike Tyson: I Wish I Had Smoked Weed with Tupac

When Mike Tyson looks back on his friendship with Tupac Shakur, he thinks about the rapper’s big heart, explosive anger — and the one regret he has about their relationship.

“He always wanted me to smoke weed (marijuana) with him, and I never did it, and I wish I did,” Tyson said in a recent phone interview.

Tyson said he declined because he was a closet smoker and didn’t want it to get out that he smoked the drug. Now, when he looks back on the lost opportunity, he says: “That’s my biggest regret.”

Tyson’s friendship with Shakur is the subject of a new documentary, “One Night in Vegas: Tyson & Tupac,” which airs Tuesday on ESPN.

The 25-year-old rapper was shot after a Tyson fight in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996; he died six days later.

“He didn’t last long, but the time he did last, every minute, every tenth of a moment was explosive,” Tyson said.

The documentary chronicles their relationship, which Tyson said took hold when he was imprisoned in 1992 for rape.

“Every day, he would call me or get a chance to call me or send a message,” said Tyson. “He would get word to me in prison.”

By the time Tyson was released in 1995, Shakur would be jailed for sex abuse; he was released on bond later that year. When he got out of prison, Tyson and Shakur’s friendship deepened. Both found it difficult to find people who truly cared for them, Tyson said.

“Our problem was we always had to worry about someone betraying us, our closest friends,” Tyson said.

Friendship was so important to Shakur that he criticized Tyson when he selected a song from rapper Redman as his intro music at a fight.

“He said, ‘Don’t you ever play those (expletive) songs again, they don’t give a (expletive) about you,”‘ Tyson recalled. “When he said that, it pierced my soul. … I felt like I did something wrong.”

After that talk, Tyson decided Shakur’s raps would be his intro music for life.

It was partly because Tyson had chosen Shakur’s music as his fight music that Shakur went to Tyson’s fight in Las Vegas. He made a special rap for Tyson’s big night. After the fight, which Tyson won by knockout, Shakur was to join Tyson at a victory party. But he never made it.

“I felt extremely guilty because I felt if he didn’t come to this fight, that would have never have happened,” he said. “It’s just so crazy that we had talked every day for a week.”

Tyson, 44, said the world never understood the real Shakur.

“He was probably a misguided warrior. He had a heart as big as this planet,” Tyson said. “He had so much love and compassion, and you couldn’t even see it under his rage.”

It’s because of those qualities that he remains larger than life in death, he said.

“He’s going to last until the time this Earth comes to an end,” he said. “I’m glad to be a part of his life and to have known him.”

Bill seeks to compel cigarette firms to use 75% local tobacco in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – A senior lawmaker has filed a bill requiring cigar and cigarette manufacturers to use at least 75 percent of locally-grown tobacco in the manufacture of cigarettes in the country to help the economy grow.

Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Owen Singson Jr., author of House Bill 170, said in the past five years, cigarette manufacturers have reduced considerably the use of locally-produced tobacco and shifted to the use of imported tobacco as raw materials in the manufacture of their cigarettes.

He said for more than 30 years in the past, tobacco farmers in the North have enjoyed a certain level of economic stability and prosperity, giving them the opportunity to improve their standard of living that enabled them to send their children to school.

“Education is the key to the solution of poverty in the countryside because this equips children with the necessary qualifications for gainful employment and with the skills and talents to succeed in their chosen fields of endeavor,” Singson said.

He said many farmers could no longer sell their tobacco and eventually went bankrupt due to the decline of the tobacco industry that has brought untold hardships to Filipino farmers in the North.

“The tobacco industry is a regulated industry and there is no reason why we should not impose certain regulations to protect our own local farmers like what they did in Malaysia by enacting a law similar to what is being proposed by this representation,” Singson said.

Under the measure, the National Tobacco Administration is directed to formulate the implementing rules and regulations and shall establish a performance monitoring system to ensure compliance.

Violators face a fine of P10 million to P50 million and closure of the establishment.

Wisconsin law bans smoking in all hotel guestrooms

Unlike most other non-smoking states, Wisconsin in July passed a statewide smoking ban that bans smoking in every hotel guestroom.

smoking in all hotel guestrooms

In most states that have banned smoking in public places, such as Kansas, the legislation allows hoteliers to exempt a certain percentage of guestrooms.

But in Wisconsin, “there can be zero rooms” that allow smoking in sleeping rooms, Trisha Pugal, CEO of Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association told me in an interview.

And the new law is causing “a major culture change” for hoteliers and guests alike.

Wisconsin is the second state in the USA after Michigan to pass anti-smoking legislation that doesn’t exempt hotels, she said. The hotel association didn’t exactly embrace the legislation. In fact, the group lobbied to let hotels retain a certain percentage of smoking rooms, but the proposal was shot down.

Today, hoteliers say their biggest challenge with the smoking ban is convincing guests that it truly is the law – and that there are real consequences if they smoke in their room, according to Pugal.

“People tend not to believe,” she says. “We even created a signage guide for lodging properties to help educate the guest. In the hospitality industry, you don’t want to appear inhospitable.”

Wisconsin’s roughly 2,000 hotels post signs declaring their building a non-smoking facility. They’re also requiring guests to initial a statement promising to comply or face paying a fee. Hotels are charging penalty fees anywhere from $100 to $300, she said.

“Unfortunately, there are people choosing to smoke anyway, even with all the signage and initialing things saying they know there will be a penalty,” Pugal told me.

Hotel staffers don’t always know that a person smoked until a housekeeper gets into the room to clean it, sometimes creating “a logistical nightmare” for the hotel if someone is waiting for the same room that then must be cleaned thoroughly, she said.

Smoking guests who flout the law, however, aren’t getting away with it. Hotels are charging the fee, in hopes that it will deter people from smoking the next time.

Whether the smoking ban is costing hotels business isn’t yet clear. Pugal just yesterday sent member hotels a survey to see how the ban may be affecting their business.

Smokers: Have you ever paid a fine to your hotel for smoking?
Non-smokers: Have you ever been given a non-smoking room in which you’ve detected smoke?

Fitchburg store caters to smokers on a budget

FITCHBURG — Bill Sheldon has been a smoker for 20 years, but last year he rediscovered why he enjoyed smoking.

Fed up with paying nearly $10 for a pack of cigarettes, Mr. Sheldon began making his own cigarettes with fresh tobacco and paper tubes, and began to enjoy his cigarettes in a way that most people enjoy a glass of fine wine.

“It’s relaxing to have a cigarette I can enjoy. It’s pure tobacco,” Mr. Sheldon said. “It’s a smoother, even-burning cigarette.”

By making his own cigarettes, he was not only making a purer cigarette, but a more affordable one — costing about $21.23, including tax, a carton. Cartons of commercial brand cigarettes range from $60 to $90.

For working men like himself, Mr. Sheldon and his wife, Jennifer, have opened Rebel Smoke, a make-your-own cigarette shop at 16 John Fitch Highway. The couple understands their business opens at a time when it is not always politically correct to smoke, and considered that in naming their store Rebel Smoke.

“This is for all the people who want to continue to smoke, and enjoy doing it,” Mr. Sheldon said.

“This is a growing industry because people are tired of paying such high taxes on their cigarettes,” Mr. Sheldon said. “We are providing a premium quality cigarette at a bargain price. It takes a little more time and a lot less money.”

“Rolling your own is a lot cheaper, but it takes a little sweat equity,” Mr. Sheldon said.

Rebel Smoke provides fresh tobacco, paper tubes and the rental machine for those who prefer the more modern version of roll-your-own. They also carry rolling papers, for those who prefer the old-fashioned, hand-rolled cigarettes. The store also carries a variety of fresh tobacco — including blackberry and mint-flavored tobaccos — pipes and pipe tobacco, as well as shisha tobacco for hookas.

Customers can choose which tobacco they prefer and then choose their cigarette tubes. Mr. Sheldon said making a carton of cigarettes costs $21.23, including tax. The tobacco is $11.99, paper tubes are $3.99 and the machine rental is $4.

According to the state Department of Revenue, tobacco excise tax is 30 percent of the value of the tobacco, and then the state sales tax — 6.25 percent — is assessed on everything, including the excise tax.

The tobacco is placed in the machine, the tube is inserted and the machine injects the tobacco into the tube.

Samantha DiRusso, 19, was making her own blackberry cigarettes for the first time.

She has been smoking since she was 16, and said making her own cigarettes has saved her money. She would typically spend $100 a month on a carton of cigarettes; now she spends $26 on the same amount of cigarettes she has made herself.

“I know it’s bad, but I enjoy it (smoking),” Ms. DiRusso said. “It’s my form of relaxation.”

Smokers can still find packs of prepackaged cigarettes such as Marlboros at state minimum prices — ranging from $5.91 to $8.07 a pack.

“The resurgence of roll-your-own was fostered unknowingly by the government,” Mr. Sheldon said. “If they are raising taxes on cigarettes to force people to quit, they should just make it illegal. But people are going to smoke, just like people are going to drink. And we’ve tried prohibition and that didn’t take.”

Mr. Sheldon said those who prefer to make their own cigarettes range from college students to retirees, regardless of financial background.

In addition to being less expensive, handmade cigarettes are free from the additives found on commercial brand cigarettes. Some to those additives include ammonium hydroxide, commonly used in cleaning agents, and diammonium phosphate, used as a nicotine enhancer.

“This store is not about getting people to start smoking,” said Mrs. Sheldon, noting that making your own is an all-natural alternative. “We know it’s not a healthy choice for people to smoke, but it’s about giving them a right to make a more beneficial choice. It’s like choosing to put processed foods in your body versus home-grown garden vegetables. If you choose to smoke, this is a healthier option free from those additives. People have a right to make that choice.”

The state Department of Public Health, however, said roll-your-own cigarettes are not a safe or healthy alternative to factory-made cigarettes. Risks can include some cancers, heart disease and stroke, as well as respiratory illnesses.

The DPH said handmade cigarettes have the same health risks as factory-made cigarettes and do not carry the same health warnings that are required of all factory-made cigarettes. In addition, all factory-made cigarettes sold in Massachusetts since 2008 are required to be self-extinguishing to reduce the risk of accidental fires, but roll-your-own cigarettes do not carry the same safety mechanism.

Rebel Smoke is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The Sheldons scan all IDs and will not sell tobacco products to anyone under 18.

The store’s grand opening is at 11 a.m. this morning.

Smokers barred from renting a home

It found a strong shift in attitude against smoking tenants among landlords following the smoking ban introduced in July 2007.

Just 7 per cent of landlords allow smoking in their property while 38 per cent said they will evict lodgers who smoke indoors, according to the survey by

Jonathan Moore, the director of, said: “With smoking in pubs and restaurants off the cards, the last refuge for smoking – at home – is being eroded now, too. There’s been a strong shift in attitudes towards smoking since the ban. Smoker-friendly accommodation has been squeezed as a result.

“Since its introduction, many landlords who were a little more tolerant previously have subsequently turned their flats into smoke-free zones. All the signs show that the clamp down is only going to get worse.”

The number of smokers has fallen by a quarter in the past decade, but an estimated 200,000 young people start smoking every year.

More than 80,000 deaths are attributed to smoking ever year, costing the NHS almost £3 billion a year.

Mr Moore added: “Thousands of smokers are unable to buy their own homes to smoke in, and are reliant on private renting and flatsharing. They are finding it harder than ever to find suitable accommodation.”

E-smokes gaining steam amid calls for a ban

RICHMOND, Va. — Galen Kipe hasn’t smoked a cigarette in more than three months.

He couldn’t kick his habit of 17 years with nicotine patches or gum. He finally put away his Marlboro menthols for good by swapping them for electronic cigarettes, which look like the real thing and give him his nicotine fix but do not contain tobacco.

“It’s the closest thing to what I was doing before,” the 34-year-old steelworker from Asheboro, N.C., said. “I’m still getting the nicotine, but I don’t feel like I’m getting any kind of bad side effects. It can’t be any worse than actual cigarettes.”

As they become more popular, the battery-powered cigarettes have become the center of a fight over how risky they are compared with traditional smokes, whether they’re legal and, if they are, how they should be regulated.

E-cigarettes are made of plastic and metal and heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge, creating vapor that the “smoker” inhales. A tiny light on the tip even glows like a real cigarette.

Nearly 46 million Americans smoke traditional cigarettes. About 40 percent try to quit cold turkey or with other nicotine replacements each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But unlike patches or gums, e-smokes operate in a legal gray area.

The Food and Drug Administration and public health groups have sounded the alarm, saying they contain dangerous chemicals and are being marketed to children, and the federal agency has halted shipments of e-cigarettes at ports nationwide.

Some sellers of e-cigarettes sued the FDA last year after the agency instructed customs officials to refuse entry of shipments into the U.S. A federal judge ruled that the FDA can’t stop those shipments, saying the agency had overstepped its authority. The FDA appealed, and won a stay of that ruling, pending oral arguments that are set to begin next month.

The FDA claims it has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes as drug-delivery devices, which would require proving — probably through expensive clinical trials — that they are safe and effective as a stop-smoking aid.

E-cigarette sellers would like to see them regulated as a tobacco product, which would follow the same restrictions as traditional cigarettes and tobacco products.

Several states have tried to ban the sale of the products. A leading distributor has agreed to halt sales in Oregon following a lawsuit filed by the state. And Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., also wrote to the FDA in March asking that e-cigarettes be taken off the market until they can be proven safe by the agency.

Users and distributors say e-cigarettes address both the nicotine addiction and the behavioral aspects of smoking — the holding of the cigarette, the puffing, seeing the smoke come out and the hand motion — without the more than 4,000 chemicals found in a traditional cigarette.

“When you’re talking about a product that’s essentially Russian roulette, and the alternative is much, much better, you can imagine they’re pretty happy,” said Jason Healy, the president of Charlotte, N.C., electronic cigarette maker Blu Cigs. “Up until e-cigs, there was quit or die.”

First marketed worldwide in 2002 as an alternative to regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes didn’t become easily available in the U.S. until late 2006. Now, the industry has grown from the thousands in 2006 to several million worldwide, with estimated 20,000 to 30,000 new e-smokers every week, according to Healy, whose company is expected to have $30 million in sales this year.

A starter kit, including flavor cartridges, costs about $60. Additional cartridges, equivalent to about 150 cigarettes, are about $25. The cartridges include flavor and different levels of nicotine, or no nicotine at all.

Many e-smokers like Kipe say they have noticed they can smell and taste better and sleep more soundly, plus their clothes, car and breath don’t smell like cigarette smoke.

Still, the FDA has said its tests found the liquid in electronic cigarettes contains substances known to be toxic to humans — besides nicotine, which is itself toxic in large doses — as well as carcinogens that occur naturally in the tobacco in cigarettes. Most e-cigarettes are imported from overseas.

However, the level of those carcinogens was comparable to those found in nicotine replacement therapy like gum and patches, because the nicotine in all of the products is extracted from tobacco, said Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.

“It’s kind of deceptive to say, ‘Oh, my God, there’s carcinogens in there,'” Siegel said. “The importance is what level of carcinogens. It turns out that the levels are so low that they are 1,400 times lower than in (regular) cigarettes.”

Christian Berkey, CEO of Johnson Creek Smoke Juice, a Wisconsin company that makes the “juice” for e-cigarettes, said its products have only seven ingredients, none of which has ever been deemed unfit for human consumption.

“There’s no combustion, and that’s what it really comes down to,” said Berkey, who has asked the FDA to test its products and is awaiting results.

And Siegel said that while e-cigarettes haven’t been studied in clinical trials, the current evidence is “sufficient to conclude that these products are much safer than smoking.”

Berkey and Healy said they are fine working with the FDA to regulate the products.

“(The FDA) should be regulating it in a way that really allows the potential of the product to be realized rather than a way that just takes it off the market completely and puts an end to the possibility of what really could be a lifesaving product for many smokers,” Siegel said.

Smoking Rates Linked to Education and Cigarette Taxes

States with a highly educated populace and higher taxes on cigarettes have fewer smokers, according to a new Gallup study of poll data.

The study found that one out of five American adults smoke, a number that has held relatively steady in recent years. Utah had the fewest smokers, at just 13 percent, while Kentucky and West Virginia tied for first place at 31 percent.

The South and Midwest dominated in smoker-heavy states. Besides Kentucky and West Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama all had populations in which 25 percent or more people smoked. States that were under the national smoking average of 21 percent included: California, Idaho, Montana, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Minnesota, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Arizona and Maryland.

Higher rates of smoking correlated with lower rates of formal education, according to the Gallup organization. West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and Oklahoma, for example, are all states where fewer than 25 percent of residents have college degrees. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, all areas with high rates of education, had some of the lowest rates of smoking.

Cigarette taxes are also associated with low smoking rates, though it’s not clear whether taxes discourage smoking or whether states with fewer smokers are more likely to pass high cigarette taxes. In states where smoking was well above average, the average state cigarette tax was $0.66 a pack. In average states, it was $1.59, and in below-average states, it was $2.02.

The only exceptions to the rule were the well-below average states for smoking, Utah and California, where the average cigarette tax is on the low end — $0.78. Utah’s 13 percent smoking rate could be explained by high rates of Mormonism, which forbids smoking, Gallup suggested. The poll can’t explain California’s 16 percent rate.

States that discourage smoking with regulations against smoking in public places also had lower smoking rates, but again, pollsters can’t say whether anti-smoking policies discourage smokers or whether such laws are easier to pass in states without many smokers.

The findings, released Aug. 26, are based on Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index data from 2009. Phone interviews were conducted with a national sample of 353,849 employed adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 1 percent.

Adult Smoking Across US States

Roughly one in five adult Americans smokes, according to Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index data from 2009. At the state level, the percentage of adult smokers ranges from 13% in Utah to 31% in Kentucky and West Virginia.

There is a strong regional aspect to smoking. All 11 states where a quarter or more of the population smokes — the “well-above average” group — are in the South or Midwest. All but one of the 11 states (including the District of Columbia) where fewer than 20% of adults smoke — the “below average” and “well-below average” groups — are in the East or West, the exception being Minnesota. Utah and California have particularly low rates, at 13% and 16%, respectively.

In seven states, between 23% and 24% of the adult residents smoke, making these “above average” in smoking rates, though not well-above average. The remaining 22 states fall close to the 21% national average smoking rate.

These data are based on a question asking, “Do you smoke?” The 21% average for 2009 is similar to the 20% smoking rate Gallup found in its July 2009 Consumption Habits survey with a slightly different question asking, “Have you, yourself, smoked any cigarettes in the past week?” Both questions are based on national adults, aged 18 and older.

Education Helps Explain State Differences

Gallup research has shown that smokers generally have less formal education than nonsmokers, and this pattern is evident at the state level. States with the lowest levels of formal education — those where fewer than a quarter of adults have a college degree — tend to have above-average smoking rates. These include West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, among several other Southern states. Conversely, states with the highest average levels of formal education, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, tend to have average or below-average smoking rates.

smokers in usa

Beyond educational differences, state tobacco control policies also appear to be related to state smoking rates. Indeed, states have enacted many of these policies for the express purpose of preventing young people from starting to smoke, and encouraging current smokers to quit.

State cigarette taxes currently average $1.34 nationwide, but range from 7 cents in South Carolina to $3.46 in Rhode Island. Gallup finds the smoking rate inversely related to the state cigarette tax, meaning that adults in states with high cigarette taxes are less likely to smoke than those in states with low cigarette taxes. This relationship is generally linear, except for the well-below average group of states for smokers — composed of California and Utah — which has an average state cigarette tax of 78 cents.

While Utah’s large Mormon population, which eschews smoking for religious purposes, helps explain Utah’s 13% smoking rate, it is unclear from these data why the rate is nearly as low in California.

Another way in which the states have attempted to reduce smoking is through restrictions on smoking in public places such as government buildings, schools, workplaces, restaurants, and hotels. States have broad latitude in this area, and as a result, there is a patchwork of laws nationally, ranging from relatively minor limits in some states to highly restrictive policies in others. The American Lung Association has summarized these with a grading system of the states from A to F, for what they call “Smokefree Air Challenge.”

As with cigarette taxes, Gallup finds a fairly strong relationship between state smoking rates and the states’ Smokefree Air Challenge grades from the American Lung Association. States with smoking rates that are above average and well-above average receive an average grade of D for their enactment of laws that restrict smoking across various public venues. The average grade rises to a B for states with average smoking rates and to an A for those in the above-average categories.

The rate of adult smoking has been declining since the mid-’70s, but it has stalled at just above 20% in recent years despite the proliferation of anti-smoking policies. The variation in smoking rates seen across the states could help to pinpoint which factors could be most effective at helping to push the rate lower. Gallup data suggest that raising cigarette tax rates and enacting comprehensive public smoking bans could be effective. However, it is also possible that it is much easier to pass such taxes and laws in states where smoking rates are lower to begin with, and thus the causal relationship is not clear.

Most China smokers doubt cancer link

BEIJING, – Only a quarter of Chinese people believe that smoking tobacco increases the risk of cancer. And anti-smoking campaigns are failing to influence them, according to a government survey.

Three quarters of people in China are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, often in the workplace, in a country that puffs its way through around a third of the world’s cigarettes.

The survey, conducted by the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that barely one in four adults believes smoking increases the risks of lung cancer, strokes and heart attacks.

In a country where 301 million people smoke, only 16 percent are looking to quit in the coming year, perhaps due to a lack of understanding about the dangers.

Over half of Chinese men smoke, compared to just 2.4 percent of women, according to the China section of the “Global Adult Tobacco Survey.”

A million people die each year from smoking-related illnesses, yet China’s Ministry of Health banned smoking in hospitals only this May.

“Chronic conditions now constitute the lion’s share of the burden of disease in China, and tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death and disease,” said the World Health Organization’s China representative, Michael O’Leary.

Both anti-smoking campaigns and cigarettes ads had little impact on most people, the survey found. Only one in five remembered seeing marketing, and less than half noticed health warnings on television or radio.

Less smoking could reduce smoking-related health costs, but would also hurt government revenues, as the tobacco industry still provides a steady flow of government income.

Last year a county government in central China ordered government workers to smoke a combined minimum of 23,000 packs of cigarettes a year to boost tax income, with punishments for those who failed to light up enough. The order was revoked after it created an uproar in the media.