2014-12-21 P-D: Doonesbury’s Mr. Butts year-end cartoon

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In case any of you missed it and as a year-end treat, please find below the December 21st, 2014, Sunday Doonesbury cartoon from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, featuring Mr. Butts and his buddy, Mr. Brewski.

Who can addict and kill more people? It’s no contest!

(Please click to enlarge the strip below.)

Doonesbury Mr Butts & Mr Brewski db141221

Study Ranks Missouri as Worst State for Combating Lung Cancer

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In the following TV interview transcript, Dr. Jim Blaine is quoted as saying:

“Lung cancer, by the time we detect it, it’s usually too late.”

That was certainly the case for my older sister and only sibling, Lilian. By the time she saw a specialist complaining of a persistent cough she thought was bronchitis she got the diagnosis that it was incurable, inoperable lung cancer. She died six months later, on November 11th, 1988.

I believe the survival rate for lung cancer is only about 10% because by the time it’s detected it has usually spread to the lymph nodes and elsewhere in the body.

KOLR 10 TV, Springfield, MO, at http://www.ozarksfirst.com/
The following was a report on the above story, posted on-line 11/16/2014 06:21 PM:

This link to an interactive map on Wallethub shows the best and the worst states for combatting lung cancer, based on tobacco tax level, with Missouri being the worst:


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A new study from WalletHub ranks Missouri as the worst state in the country for combating the high cost of lung cancer.

 Jim Blaine, MD

Jim Blaine, MD

Missouri finished 51st overall, behind the 49 other states and Washington D.C. Wallethub, a social networking site dedicated to personal finance topics, pored over data from the U.S. Census Bureau, CDC and American Cancer Society to put together the rankings.
         KOLR10 spoke Sunday with Jim Blaine, a Springfield doctor who has worked on past campaigns to raise Missouri’s cigarette tax. Blaine said there are a lot of users in Missouri and few incentives for them to quit.
         “My reaction is I’m not surprised at all and yes we absolutely deserve that ranking,” Blaine said. “Missouri has as you know the lowest tobacco tax in the nation at 17 cents and even at that, we spend virtually nothing on prevention.”
         Wallethub ranks Missouri at 34th in the number of adult users, 44th when it comes to the death rate from lung cancer, 48th in the price of a cigarette pack and 45th in the estimate of new lung cancer cases per capita.
         Lung cancer has a low survival rate of 16.6 percent and Blaine said it is hard to reverse that trend.
         “Lung cancer, by the time we detect it, it’s usually too late,” Blaine said.
         Blaine said the cure for lung cancer is simple, get people to stop smoking. However, Blaine said it is possible people are not getting the message. Wallethub ranks Missouri at 39th in the percentage of people trying to quit.
         Missouri generated $184 million in tobacco revenue last year and only spent about $76,000 on tobacco prevention, much lower than the CDC’s $73 million recommendation.
         Blaine said if the state got the word out and raised cigarette taxes, the trends could be reversed.
         “You know actually just raising the price. Every 10 percent increase in the cost of cigarettes you get a 7 percent decrease in the user rate,” Blaine said.
         Missouri voters have voted down efforts to increase the state’s tobacco tax three times — the last was on the 2012 ballot. The 2012 proposal would have raised anywhere from $283-423 million a year for the state and 20 percent of the revenue would have gone to tobacco prevention efforts.

2014-11-16 PBS TV: Massachusetts town mulls nation’s first total tobacco ban

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This news story on PBS Weekend edition, which I just finished watching, is interesting. It’s about Westminster, a small Massachusetts town up in arms over a proposal by its three member Board of Health to ban the sale of all nicotine products within the city, citing public health benefits. If it does so, it will be a first in the nation.

However, at a recent Board of Health public meeting almost all the residents attending were apparently opposed, as well as local businesses who argued that jobs and consumer freedom is at stake.

It’s a typical battle of health versus wealth that we’ve seen played out here in Missouri for decades, including in St. Charles and St. Charles County where the Ameristar Casino calls the shots.

Those of you familiar with this issue will note some typical responses by opponents, such as the slippery slope argument of one retailer, who also claimed he’d lose two-thirds of what he pays his employees if sales were banned.

The very first comment in the TV broadcast from a member of the public attending the meeting was this:

You people make me sick!

You people make me sick!

That’s pretty ironic, as I suspect the reporter was all too aware.

Click here to listen to the 8 minute podcast or just watch it on-line by clicking the link: Massachusetts town mulls nation’s first total tobacco ban

Below is pasted the transcript from the above website:

NewsHour Weekend’s WILLIAM BRANGHAM reports: The town of Westminster, Massachusetts — population 7,300 — is a small, quiet community about an hour west of Boston.

When the local health board holds meetings, it usually happens here in this room, where you can get advice about things like septic tanks and mosquito control. But not on this day. This meeting Wednesday night had to be moved to the local elementary school because the town is up in arms.

MAN: You people make me sick!

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Why so mad? That Board of Health is proposing to make Westminster the first town in the entire country to completely ban the sale of tobacco.

ANDREA CRETE, WESTMINSTER BOARD OF HEALTH: It can be argued that the Board of Health permitting these establishments to sell these dangerous products that, when used as directed, kills 50 percent of its users, ethically goes against our public health mission.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The town’s proposal would make it illegal to sell any product containing nicotine within city limits. So no cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, vaporizers. You’d still be able to smoke or use tobacco in town, just not buy it.

ANDREA CRETE: If we can prevent children from having access and exposure to tobacco and nicotine products and reduce the chances of them smoking or using them, then we’ve essentially saved lives.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: While it’s already illegal for kids to buy tobacco, the health board says the tobacco industry makes products like these — shiny, fruit flavored cigars and tobacco products — in order to lure kids into a lifetime habit. The industry denies targeting kids.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The effort began when one of the three health board members suggested the tobacco ban, following the lead of other health boards in other Massachusetts towns that had limited where residents could smoke or what kind of tobacco products they could buy. Westminster’s volunteer board then consulted a specialist to examine the pros and cons of a total ban.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: They talked with D.J. Wilson is the tobacco control director for the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a policy group that advises local towns.

D.J. WILSON: We would never have guessed 10 years ago that there would’ve been 49-cent grape cigars available to kids, or that electronic cigarettes would’ve come in– that they existed at all, or come in cotton candy flavors. I don’t speak for the Board of Health, but I think their goals — they are tired of having different products pop up that are very kid friendly.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The biggest opponents of the proposal are the seven local stores in Westminster who’re licensed to sell tobacco. They’re almost all opposed.

BRIAN VINCENT: Thanks everybody for coming today–

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Store owner Brian Vincent has been one of the most vocal. He owns Vincent’s Country Store on Main Street in town. It’s a medium-sized grocery store that Vincent’s dad started and ran for 18 years. He says no store in Westminster has ever been cited for selling tobacco to kids, and banning it would cost more than just tobacco sales.

BRIAN VINCENT: Most people that buy tobacco will grab a cold drink for the road, maybe scratch tickets, a bag of chips. So it’s not just an $8 sale, it’s a $20-30 dollar sale.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Vincent points out there are several neighboring towns around Westminster full of stores that sell tobacco, so he says the ban would just drive customers — and their money — elsewhere.

BRIAN VINCENT: We’re just going to be sending all these sales 5 minutes down the road to another town where these customers will spend money on gas out of town, food out of town, and before you know it the gas stations are going under in Westminster and other businesses.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Another concern that’s been raised is the potential impact on jobs. Most mornings at the Depot General Store, you’ll find a few regulars hanging
out, having coffee before work.

WOMAN: This better be a winner, because wouldn’t that be great?

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Chris Bjurling has owned this small convenience store for 22 years. Like a lot of businesses, he supports the local police and kids’ sporting teams. He also employs seven people, several of them full time.

He’s calculated that losing the tobacco and related retail sales would cost him roughly two-thirds of the money he uses to pay those employees. And for some of them, these are crucial jobs.

CHRIS BJURLING: It becomes very personal — these people are important to me. Lisa has been with me for 18 years. Denise has been, I’d have to ask her, but I’m gonna say 12 to 13 years. For Lisa, I am her entire income. She in fact will lose her house if–

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: –if this job doesn’t exist.

CHRIS BJURLING: That’s right.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We’ve heard from several local businesses that if tobacco is not allowed to be sold here that’s gonna really hurt their business here and could jeopardize local jobs. If that’s true, do you think that that economic pain is worth the public health benefit?

D.J. WILSON: Well you know, I mean, there has been a lot of quantifying that a lot of the diseases that are caused from smoking have cost us in the state tens of millions and nationally hundreds of millions of dollars. It is a huge cost — tax burden to the American people, to the American workforce to have people on disability and having to retire earlier because they smoked for a lifetime. So, that is something that you have to weigh against the loss of profit from selling tobacco products in a retail store.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: According to the U.S. Surgeon General, tobacco-related illnesses cost an estimated 300 billion dollars a year in medical care and lost productivity, to say nothing about the lost or shortened lives.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In Westminster, while local businesses have been the main critics of this plan, it seems many local residents don’t like it either. And not just the smokers. Of the two dozen or so people we spoke with, we could find only one resident who supported the ban.

MAN: I just praise the community that’s standing up for it and making a statement for it maybe it will become more of a norm in the future.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But that was definitely the minority position.

WOMAN: They are leaving’ us no choice but to take our business out of town.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Even someone like Jim Patria — who smoked for 30 years, now has chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, can barely breathe even with an oxygen tube in his nose — even he’s against the ban.

I mean you of all people you should know why the town would want to stop smoking — you have all these health conditions from it — but you still think banning it is a bad idea.

JIM PATRIA: Yeah, yeah, I do. I don’t if I have a great explanation for my feeling but I do.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is it that you don’t want the government telling you what you can and can’t do?

JIM PATRIA: No. It’s not that so much. I wanna say i just don’t think it will work. I don’t think it’ll work, banning it.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Store owner Chris Bjurling said he thinks banning tobacco in town would just be the beginning:

CHRIS BJURLING: Is it alcohol next? Or is it the candy bar? Too much sugar. And they say “Oh no, we wouldn’t even consider something like that,” but when you crusade, once accomplish one crusade, you gotta have another one. I mean, it’s in your blood now. You want more success. And they’ll go on to something else.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: At that town hall meeting Wednesday, the Board of Health got an earful.

MAN: Whether it’s me, my children, my family, my friends, or my neighbors, is their free choice to smoke. This meeting, with all these cameras here, is a mockery of this town in front of the United States of America!

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The residents of Westminster don’t get to vote on this proposed tobacco ban. City officials don’t get to vote either. The decision will be made by the three member Board of Health. They’re supposed to decide later in December.

MAN IN CROWD: Freedom!

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: When some of the crowd got too unruly, the board cancelled the hearing after just four speakers.

ANDREA CRETE, WESTMINSTER BOARD OF HEALTH: All right, this hearing is closed. Thank you all for coming–

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The police escorted the chair of the Board of Health out the door and safely to her car, while someone tried to get the crowd to sing ‘God Bless America.’

MAN: …white with foam… God bless America, my home, sweet home!

2014-11-09 – Mr. Butts rebukes the states on spending too little on anti-smoking efforts!

Yes, folks, Mr. Butts, aka “Big Tobacco,” is rebuking the U.S. states for spending so little of the estimated whopping $256 billion tobacco settlement money they’re due to receive over 25 years on anti-smoking efforts. Cartoonist Gary Trudeau illustrates it thusly:

Doonesbury cartoon db141109 2014-11-10

Doonesbury cartoon db141109 2014-11-09 by Gary Trudeau

That’s certainly true in Missouri, where in most years virtually NONE of the tobacco settlement money has been spent on such efforts, despite Missouri having received tens of millions of dollars. I recall Republican Matt Blunt, when he was Missouri Governor, did propose a trifling $1 million effort one year, which was rejected by the legislature. (That was better than his Democratic counterpart, incidentally.)

The national group, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tracks these expenditures and the latest data for Missouri for FY2014 includes the following:

MO 2014 tobacco settlement spending on tobacco control

MO 2014 tobacco settlement spending on tobacco prevention
click to enlarge

According to this graphic, Missouri received more than $183 million from the settlement in 2014. The CDC recommended that nearly $74 million of that should be spent on tobacco prevention. Missouri actually spent a paltry $76,364, or 0.1% of the recommended amount.

Only 99.9% to go!

2014-08-26 BBC: ” ‘Ban E-cigarette use indoors,’ says WHO”

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Comic strip by Mike Peters, reproduced from St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Comic strip by Mike Peters, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 2014-08-24.
ref: http://www.grimmy.com/comics.php

The subject of e-cigarettes has surfaced again and, in addition to the WHO article below, I came across the above timely comic strip in the local newspaper recently. (Note that Mother Goose is smoking outdoors! – albeit near an open window.)

The WHO report by the BBC garnered a lot of responses. I read a few of those featured as Editor’s Picks, which unanimously favor the use of e-cigarettes as a way to either switch from smoking regular cigarettes or quit entirely.

‘Ban E-cigarette use indoors,’ says WHO
By Smitha Mundasad
BBC News Health reporter, 26 August 2014

There are more than 8,000 different flavours of e-cigarettes.

There are more than 8,000 different flavours of e-cigarettes.

The World Health Organization says there should be a ban on the use of e-cigarettes indoors and that sales to children should stop.
         In a report the health body says there must be no more claims that the devices can help smokers quit – until there is firm evidence to support this.
         WHO experts warn the products might pose a threat to adolescents and the foetuses of pregnant women.
         But campaigners say regulations must be proportionate.

Tempting flavours

According to the WHO legal steps need to be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors – both in public spaces and in work places.
         And the report focuses on the potential for products to spark wider cigarette use in children.
         The health experts call for a ban on advertisements that could encourage children and non-smokers to use the devices.
         And they say fruit, candy or alcoholic-drink style flavours should be prohibited too, while the sales of electronic cigarettes from vending machines should be heavily restricted.

1. On some e-cigarettes, inhalation activates the battery-powered atomiser. Other types are manually switched on

2. A heating coil inside the atomiser heats liquid nicotine contained in a cartridge

3. Liquid nicotine becomes vapour and is inhaled. The ‘smoke’ produced is largely water vapour. Many e-cigarettes have an LED light as a cosmetic feature to simulate traditional cigarette glow.

‘Health threats’

The WHO warns exhaled e-cigarette vapour could increase the background air levels of some toxicants and nicotine.
         Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Observing a lab test comparing traditional smoking with e-cigarettes
According to the team while e-cigarettes are likely to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes, they may pose threats to adolescents and the foetuses of pregnant women who use these devices.
         But some researchers suggest tough regulations may prevent smokers having access to products that are potentially less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
         A spokesman for the British American Tobacco company said: “We have always said that given nicotine is addictive, minimum age laws of 18 for the sale of e-cigarettes should be introduced.
         “However, if overly restrictive regulations are introduced hampering innovation or adult usage, then this could simply stifle the growth of new products and prevent smokers from being aware of and having access to them – this can only be bad thing for public health.”
         Hazel Cheeseman, at the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said there was no evidence of any harm to bystanders and warned regulation needed to be proportionate.
         She added: “Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK alone.
         “Smokers who switch to using electronic cigarettes in whole or in part are likely to substantially reduce their health risks.
         “Although we cannot be sure that electronic cigarettes are completely safe, as the WHO acknowledges, they are considerably less harmful than smoking tobacco and research suggests that they are already helping smokers to quit.”

Global guidelines

A UK Department of Health spokeswoman said: “More and more people are using e-cigarettes and we want to make sure they are properly regulated so we can be sure of their safety.
         “We have already set out our intention to change the law to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18.
         “The UK has an existing licensing system for higher strength products and those that claim to help people quit.
         “We are also bringing in new European rules to cover lower strength products which will ban most advertising, limit nicotine levels and set standards for ingredients, labelling and packaging.”
         The WHO’s recommendations were published ahead of a meeting involving all countries that have signed up to an international convention on tobacco control.
         New global guidelines could be agreed during the October meeting.

The tobacco lobby continues to influence legislation

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My thanks to Stan Cowan, who e-mailed me several interesting articles, both about the influence the tobacco industry continues to wield, as well as a recent potential setback for them.

While it may have lost a major lawsuit – we won’t know until the appeals process is complete and a final damage figure, if any, is announced – the tobacco industry is regaining clout in some states.

John Britton in State Capitol

John Britton in Missouri State Capitol

Victor Crawford during 60 Minutes interview

Victor Crawford during 60 Minutes interview

Regarding the recent obituary of former tobacco industry lobbyist John Britton, and another, Victor Crawford, who eventually exposed dirty industry secrets before his death from throat cancer in 1996 at age 63, Stan wrote:

“Victor Crawford wanted to come clean. He knew he had done wrong.

[Please see original 60 Minutes interview of Victor Crawford by reporter Lesley Stahl at tinyurl.com/qfgvjgf]

John Britton never did express regret that his actions on behalf of the Tobacco Institute and later, Brown & Williamson, may have caused countless more Missouri youth to become addicted, additional diseases to be manifested, and more premature deaths.

You may appreciate some of the recent editorial and newspaper stories regarding tobacco industry political contributions.”

California Democrats accept more from tobacco industry 8-2-14

CA tobacco money over public health OpEd 8-7-14

What if tobacco companies were treated like other drug pushers?

Why tobacco companies deserve punitive damages 08-03-14

John Britton: A lost opportunity?

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Following the death of John Britton, a good friend and smoke-free air ally, Jim Blaine, M.D., replied:

Here is his obit:


Makes me wish that I had taken the time to get to know him better. He could have been very effective if he had decided to turn State’s evidence near the end.



Interestingly, the obituary referenced above makes absolutely no mention of Britton’s highly influential and damaging work for the former Tobacco Institute. But the observation that “He could have been very effective if he had decided to turn State’s evidence near the end” is certainly valid, if unfortunately too late.

It reminds me of the late Victor Crawford, also a very effective lobbyist, who DID expose his former paymasters after contracting terminal throat cancer. He was the subject of a 60 Minutes segment and an Ann Landers column that appeared in a Spring 1995 MoGASP Newsletter, reproduced below:

Victor Crawford expose

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