26 March 2008

Buy cigarettes online? Expect a large invoice.

Buy cigarettes online? Expect a large invoice.As many states raise the excise tax on cigarettes, smokers in high-tax states are sometimes tempted to go online and save money by ordering from an out-of-state discount store to avoid paying the tax.

Many states (34 by 2006) have now passed laws governing these types of sales, and at least 5 have banned direct to consumer shipment of cigarettes. Because of the myriad of complex state and federal laws affecting this aspect of business, many of the (over 700) vendors selling cigarettes on the internet have been found to be in breach of at least one state law. This breach makes them open to prosecution, and one of the common requirements during such prosecutions is that they turn over records of all their orders and deliveries.

When the state gets access to this information, it can be used to bill these individuals for unpaid taxes. I’ve known smokers who received a bill for thousands of dollars in unpaid cigarette excise taxes after purchasing online for a long time.

There is known case about a woman who received a bill for her husband’s unpaid taxes for internet cigarette purchases, after the husband had died of lung cancer. Whether or not you agree with this practice, you should at least be aware of the risks.

Rather than run the risk, why not make a serious attempt to quit smoking? Think of all the other things you could buy on the internet with the money you save on cigarettes!

23 March 2008

The Global Tobacco Crisis

The Global Tobacco CrisisThe World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a startling report on the state of tobacco use around the world, along with some dire predictions about our future, should we continue on the path we're presently walking. Based on current trends in tobacco use worldwide, they tell us that we are poised on the brink of a global tobacco epidemic that could claim as many as one billion lives this century.

Mirriam-Webster defines an epidemic as something that affects a disproportionately large number of people within a population, community, or region at the same time. Typhoid fever was an epidemic, and tobacco use will be too, unless we do something drastic to change these trends, and do it soon.

Today, tobacco use is growing the fastest in low-income countries that are least equipped to deal with the disease and early death that accompanies smoking-related disease. Between population growth and tobacco marketing campaigns that target these areas with little or no legislation in place to restrict advertising, millions of new addicts are emerging every year. According to the WHO report, more than 80 percent of global tobacco-related deaths will be in low and middle-income countries by the year 2030.

Tobacco Statistics

- There are 1.1 billion smokers in the world today, and if things continue as they have, that number is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2025.

- China is home to 300 million smokers who consume upwards of 1.7 trillion cigarettes a year, or 3 million cigarettes a minute.

- As many as 100 million Chinese men presently under the age of 30 will die from tobacco use.

- There are approximately 120 million smokers in India today, and it is estimated that in the year 2010 alone, there will be close to one million tobacco-related deaths among men and women age 30 to 69 in India.

- Worldwide, tobacco use will kill more than 175 million people between now and the year 2030.

- Current tobacco-related health care costs in the United States total US $81 billion annually. Germany spends an average of US $7 billion, and Australia, US $1 billion each year on health care directly related to tobacco use.

- Health care costs associated with secondhand smoke total US $5 billion a year in the U.S.

- It is estimated that as many as 500 million people alive today will be killed by tobacco use unless significant anti-smoking measures are adopted on a global level.

16 March 2008

Dads Don't Quit Cigarettes During Moms' Pregnancies

Dads Don't Quit Cigarettes During Moms' PregnanciesDespite public health campaigns, a surprising number of women continue to use substances such as tobacco, marijuana and alcohol during pregnancy and their usage rebounds to pre-pregnancy levels within two years of having a baby, according to a new University of Washington study.

Men's patterns of substance use during their partners' pregnancies were even bleaker. Men typically are not targeted by these campaigns, and their levels of binge drinking, daily smoking and marijuana use remained fairly stable before, during and after pregnancy, the study showed.

This is important, according to the study's lead authors Jennifer Bailey and Karl Hill, because men's substance use may make it harder for women to stop using while they're pregnant and may make it more likely that mothers will resume smoking or drinking after their child is born. Bailey and Hill are affiliated with the Social Development Research Group in the UW's School of Social Work.

"The months after childbirth are critical for intervening with mothers," said Bailey, who is a UW research scientist. "For example, many already have done the hard work of quitting smoking and haven't smoked a cigarette in six months or more. We should support that effort so that they can continue as nonsmokers. However, we know if dad is smoking or drinking it is more likely that mom will resume smoking or drinking."

The research is the first comprehensive look at mothers' and fathers' substance use on a month-by-month basis during a three-year period that included pregnancy. Substance use around pregnancy presents a wide variety of risks to fetuses and infants including fetal alcohol syndrome, cognitive and behavioral problems and impairments, asthma and higher incidences of sudden infant death syndrome.

The study found that:

* 77 percent of women cigarette smokers and 50 percent of the women who smoked marijuana used those substances at some time during pregnancy.

* 38 percent of women cigarette smokers and 24 percent of marijuana users reported using those substances throughout their pregnancies.

* While overall rates of cigarette and marijuana use and binge drinking for women declined during pregnancy, those rates began rising again during the first six months following the birth of a baby.

* Month by month during pregnancy, rates of smoking among all pregnant women varied between 17 percent and 21 percent, binge drinking was between 2 percent and 3 percent and marijuana use was between 8 percent and 9 percent.

Data for the study came from the Seattle Social Development Project which is following the development of 808 Seattle children who are now young adults. The participants are interviewed every three years, and for this study data covered the period when they were 21 to 24 years of age. In interviews, they were asked about their month-by-month incidences of binge drinking (5 or more alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period) and their use of cigarettes and marijuana. They were also asked a number of questions about life events, including the birth of a child. One hundred and thirty-one women and 77 men reported the birth of 244 children during this period.

The high rate of marijuana use rivaled that of cigarette smoking and came as a surprise to the researchers, according to Hill, who is a research associate professor of social work. He said it may be partly attributed to study participants who came from a high-risk, low-income urban sample.

He and Bailey said the findings emphasize the need for more public health messages and preventive interventions.

"Women who are pregnant want the best for their baby and typically reduce their drinking and smoking," said Bailey. "But after birth part of their motivation to limit alcohol use and quit using cigarettes and marijuana is taken away. If their partner is still smoking, for example, they might think, 'Boy, that cigarette smells good.'"

"There are two ways we need to reach parents," said Hill. "Pregnancy health care providers need to talk to both fathers and mothers about their smoking, drinking and marijuana use. Pregnancy seems like such a great public health opportunity to reach parents, but no one is talking to dads and this study shows that they are not changing their substance use behavior. What dads do matters and we want them to reduce their substance use.

"We also need to change the way society presently looks at the social norms of using these drugs. Right now there is little discussion about marijuana use during pregnancy, although it may be a relatively prevalent problem."

11 March 2008

How Old is your Lung Function?

How Old is your Lung FunctionLung age can be measured by comparing a smoker's lungs to the age of a healthy person whose lungs function were the same.

A recent British study involved 561 long-term smokers over 35 who lived outside of London. Each volunteer underwent a spirometry test, a simple test to record the volume and rate at which the volunteers exhaled air from the lungs.

Half the group received no detailed information about their results. The other people were given their lung age, shown a diagram of how smoking ages the lungs and told that quitting would slow the rate of damage.

Everyone was strongly encouraged to quit and offered help to do so and both groups were told that their lung function would be measured again after 12 months to see if there had been any change.

One year later, saliva tests showed that 13.6 per cent of the smokers told their lung age had quit while only 6.4 per cent of people in the other group had stopped.

Gary Parkes, a family physician in Hertfordshire, who led the study published in the British Medical Journal, says the results suggest that the smokers were influenced by what they learned about their lungs.

"Anybody who had good, understandable information seemed more inclined to give up," Parkes said. "The reason may be people had dreaded the worst and realized it was still worthwhile giving up."

Dr. John Granton of the Ontario Lung Association says he suspects that personalizing the effects of smoking is the most effective way to convince smokers of the dangers of their habit.

"It seems to be a powerful message, to tell people how old their lung function is, and more importantly, to tell them if they stop, they may be successful in returning to normal lung decline," he said.

"If they view the lungs of someone else, they might think 'Oh that's not going to happen to me, I'm a pretty healthy person.' But it you make it real to them and say, 'This is your lung function and this is what is going to happen to you over time,' it does personalize it a fair bit and maybe it sends a more clear message."