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Smoking leaves imprint on human genome, new study finds

October 6, 2016 - 4:48pm

Smoking leaves an imprint on the human genome, a recent study found. The results from the study demonstrate numerous differences in smokers and non-smokers, and some of those differences were still evident in people who had quit smoking up to 30 years prior to the study.

The University of Minnesota collaborated on the study, including co-authors Weihua Guan, Ph.D., associate professor with the School of Public Health, James Pankow, Ph.D., professor with the School of Public Health, and Ellen Demerath, Ph.D., professor with the School of Public Health. They conducted their research at the Minneapolis Center of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) which is one of four ARIC study centers in the nation. The research was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, an American Heart Association journal.

The study focused on the epigenome, which is the aspect of the human genome that is changeable and dictates gene expression. Researchers examined one feature of the epigenome called DNA methylation, which was measured in blood samples from nearly 16,000 participants from 16 cohort studies in the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genetic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Consortium. The researchers compared DNA methylation patterns in people who smoke currently and people who quit smoking to patterns in people who never smoked.

“This is important because while cigarette smoking is widely recognized to be harmful to one’s health, the idea that smoking does this by changing particular parts of the epigenome is new. This is the largest epigenome-wide study of smoking to date, and it shows how much and how long smoking might damage the epigenome in the general population,” said Demerath.

Demerath said the information gathered in this study could be useful because it suggests a possible biomarker of smoking exposure damage over time. Existing biomarkers of smoking capture only recent smoking history. The study also highlights particular gene pathways deranged by smoking which could be theoretically “reset” with appropriate pharmaceutical intervention to prevent or treat tobacco-related diseases.

“People need to keep in mind, however, that we are comparing DNA methylation differences between different individuals with different smoking histories, and inferring from that the “effect” of smoking. Ideally, studies should begin to collect longitudinal, repeated snapshots of the epigenome within individuals followed over time before and after quitting smoking, for instance. Also, the DNA methylation patterns related to smoking that we see in blood could be different than those seen in other tissues,” said Demerath.

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Research snapshot: Cigarette smoking prevalence remains high among American Indians in Hennepin County and Ramsey County

June 9, 2016 - 11:14am

A recent analysis from the Tribal Tobacco Use Project Survey of 964 urban American Indian residents in Hennepin County and Ramsey County in 2011 found a high prevalence of cigarette smoking among persons aged 25-44 years (72 percent). Among all survey respondents 59 percent were current smokers, 19 percent were former smokers and 22 percent had never smoked.

Furthermore, the smoking rate and secondhand smoke exposure is still high despite being covered by Minnesota’s strong smoke-free law.

American Indians have the highest rates of commercial tobacco use of any racial/ethnic group in the U.S. And despite the progress made in reducing the national smoking rate to an all-time low, the survey data shows that big disparities remain.

“Tobacco control as we are doing it in Minnesota is working for the population as a whole but not for American Indians,” said Jean Forster, Ph.D., M.P.H, first author of the study and professor in the School of Public Health. “The huge and deadly disparity in cigarette smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke must be addressed.”

Researchers suggest investigating a culturally appropriate approach to reducing commercial tobacco use and recognizing the role traditional tobacco use has in the American Indian community.

Some possible approaches may include engaging traditional healers and respected elders, linking prevention of non-ceremonial tobacco use to respect for traditional tobacco use, and addressing tobacco addiction in the context of social determinants of health specific to American Indians.

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Expert perspective: California to raise legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21

May 13, 2016 - 9:18am

According to a recent article in Yahoo news, California Governor Jerry Brown approved raising the legal age to buy tobacco for smoking, dipping, chewing and vaping from 18 to 21.

California is hoping that increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco will lower the addiction rate of nicotine. According to Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Psychiatry and member of the Masonic Cancer Center, who focuses on tobacco addictions and cancer prevention, young people are more susceptible to addictions because their brains are still developing.

“The primary reason for increasing the age to 21 is because the brain is continuing to develop well into the late 20s,” Hatsukami said. “While the brain is developing, it is more susceptible to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction than the mature adult brain.”

Those who smoke usually started at a young age. According to Hatsukami, about 90 percent of adult daily smokers began smoking before 19 years of age. This California law could help prevent people from smoking at a younger age, and as a result, prevent them from developing an addiction to nicotine. “Research shows the earlier the onset of smoking, the greater the difficulty in quitting,” Hatsukami explained.

According to the article, the Institute of Medicine reported that increasing the smoking age to 21 would immediately deter 15 percent of people 18 to 20 years of age from taking up a lasting tobacco habit.

The article sites that once the law goes into effect anyone who sells or gives tobacco to those under 21 years of age could be charged with a misdemeanor crime.

While the legal age to purchase tobacco in Minnesota is 18 years of age, Hatsukami says it would be wise for Minnesota to consider a similar change in its own laws.

“What is good for protecting the health of the nation is good for Minnesota,” Hatsukami said. “ I would strongly encourage the Minnesota legislators to consider this policy.”

Read More

U of M Expert: Smoking cessation programs should consider minority populations

Smoking is hazardous to your health, but for women, it might be “11-years-shorter-lifespan” kind of hazardous

UMN Expert: China will see epidemic of tobacco related disease over the next few decades

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UMN expert: China will see epidemic of tobacco related disease over the next few decades

October 22, 2015 - 12:10pm

According to a new study recently published in The Lancet, Chinese men smoke one-third of the word’s cigarettes. An astonishing two-thirds of all men in China smoke, and one in three young Chinese men will die from smoking.

The study concluded that many of these smokers started at a young age, possibly in their teenage years, which adds risk, according to a New York Times article. The article goes on to say efforts to curtail smoking in China are often met with political resistance because the “central government has a monopoly through the Chinese National Tobacco Corporation, and more than 7 percent of government revenue comes from it.”

Health Talk spoke with Harry Lando, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and community health in the School of Public Health, and member of the Masonic Cancer Center, to discuss what these alarming smoking rates mean for China and what it might mean for the U.S.

Health Talk (HT): What makes smoking so prevalent in China? Why do you think men smoke at such an alarming rate compared to women?

Harry Lando (HL): There clearly are cultural determinants. Historically smoking among women has been quite low, although this has been increasing in recent years especially in affluent urban areas.  In general, smoking has not been culturally acceptable for women.

HT: From a public health perspective, how devastating is smoking to the Chinese health care system?

HL: China is just now seeing the tip of the iceberg given projected tobacco related disease and death. There is a considerable lag between initiation and disease consequences. Based on current smoking patterns and lag in disease, China will see an epidemic of tobacco-related disease over the next few decades. Lung cancer deaths alone are likely to approach, if not exceed, 1 million per year.

HT: What are some of the lessons the U.S. can learn from China’s situation?

HL: One lesson may be the need for greater emphasis on reaching key opinion leaders. For example, a concern in China is that smoking is highly prevalent among male physicians and even among male cardiologists. I recently learned at a conference in Beijing that 30 percent of male Chinese cardiologists are current smokers.

The U.S. is ahead of many countries, due to the 50 percent decline in smoking prevalence since the release of the historic 1964 Surgeon General Report. Still, there are major disparities in prevalence with low-income, some minority, those with severe mental illness, and substance abusers smoking at far higher levels.

China has, however, ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a WHO global treaty intended to put policies in place to reduce tobacco use. The U.S. has yet to do so.

HT: What are some of the cultural, systemic, political challenges the U.S. faces with tobacco (cigarettes, chew, vapor) and what can/are we doing about it?

HL: The U.S. continues to face challenges from a still powerful and very well-funded tobacco industry. Although there is now FDA authority for regulation of tobacco, the agency has moved slowly. Our warnings on cigarette packages are exceedingly weak and when the FDA proposed stronger warnings, these were struck down by the courts. We have done a number of good things in raising prices, restricting sales to minors, and protecting people from secondhand smoke – though not uniformly.

Cigarettes are the most deadly form of tobacco consumption. Chew continues to be a significant cause of cancer but does not lend itself to the same passive exposures as cigarettes.  E-cigarettes have become extremely popular and there are some projections that e-cigarette sales may exceed sales of conventional cigarettes within just a few years. E-cigarettes are virtually certain to be safer than conventional cigarettes given the extreme toxicity of the latter. However there is little regulation, limited standardization of products, and we don’t yet know long-term effects.

Those who ‘vape’ do not necessarily know what toxins they are being exposed to. Also, we don’t know to what extent e-cigarettes might encourage kids to start and then switch to regular cigarettes or to what extent adults who otherwise might quit (or resume with e-cigarettes) might instead vape. We need to fund comprehensive tobacco control programs as recommended by the CDC. We also need stronger restrictions on all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion.

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Snapshot: lower nicotine levels in cigarettes could mean lower dependence

October 1, 2015 - 9:51am

Reducing the nicotine levels in cigarettes could lower cigarette use, according to new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study was conducted by University of Pittsburgh researcher Eric Donny, Ph.D., and Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, along with 8 other sites including the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The blinded study followed smokers for six weeks, randomly assigning them either their usual brand or one of the investigational cigarettes varying in nicotine content. The six study-designed cigarettes ranged from a nicotine content of 15.8 mg/g tobacco, which is typical of commercial brands, down to 0.4 mg/g.

After the six weeks, smokers who’d been assigned the cigarettes with the three lowest nicotine levels were smoking fewer cigarettes than those using the study cigarettes with nicotine content similar to commercial brands of cigarettes.  The people smoking the lowest nicotine level cigarettes noted reduced dependence on cigarettes and greater number of smoking quit attempts.

“This finding is incredibly promising, and part of a series of investigations designed to provide scientific support to establish a product standard to reduce nicotine levels in all cigarettes sold in the U.S.,” said Hatsukami. “The Food and Drug Administration now has the authority to set such a standard and by doing so, we can save hundreds of thousands of lives each year from cigarette-caused deaths.”

Read More

Use of e-cigarettes triples among U.S. teens

E-cigarettes may result in lower consumed toxicants for users

Cigarette turns 100: What we know now

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Use Of E-Cigarettes Triples Among U.S. Teens

April 24, 2015 - 1:01pm

A new national survey confirmed indications e-cigarettes are now more popular among teenage students than traditional cigarettes and other forms of tobacco.

The study was conducted by the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Youth Tobacco survey. Findings included the use of e-cigarettes has increased from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014 among middle school Children. The survey found the use among high school students almost tripled, from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent. The numbers equivocate to 450,000 middle school users and 2 million high school students.

Health Talk checked in with Dorothy Hatsukami Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and the Forster Family Chair in Cancer Prevention, regarding e-cigarettes and the effects of nicotine on young people.

“Nicotine alters the structures in the brain. The adolescent brain, which is still developing, is particularly susceptible to the effects of these alterations,” said Hatsukami. “For example, the earlier the brain is exposed to nicotine, the greater the chance that this individual will experience difficulty quitting tobacco in the future.”

Although many assume e-cigarettes are safer and better for you than regular cigarettes, they are not safe and users should still be wary.

“Although e-cigarettes have significantly less toxic chemicals than regular cigarettes, currently, there is no oversight of e-cigarettes.  As a result, consumers may be exposed to unnecessary and unknown toxic chemicals,” said Hatsukami. “The FDA is currently seeking deeming over e-cigarettes. This rule would allow the agency to require disclosure of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes, prohibit sale of cigarettes to minors, prevent any claims of reduced health risk that has no scientific basis, add a warning label on the product and implement product standards.”

E-cigarettes could be contributing to a much larger problem. Most often, e-cigarettes are used in conjunction with cigarette smoking.

“Most people who use e-cigarettes, even among youth, are current smokers. This dual use of products perpetuates exposures to harmful chemicals from continued smoking of regular cigarettes,” said Hatsukami.

Similarly to e-cigarettes, hookah has generated many young users without consideration of its dangers.

“There is a misperception that hookah smoking is safe,” said Hatsukami. “But hookah smoking leads to exposure of high levels of nicotine, carbon monoxide and harmful chemicals.  The exposure to some of these chemicals can be greater than from cigarette smoking.”

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Research snapshot: E-cigarettes may result in lower consumed toxicants for users, says new UMN research

January 5, 2015 - 10:01am

E-cigarettes are a quickly growing market, and potentially for good reason. New research out of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota shows the metabolized levels of disease-causing compounds are significantly lower in e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes.

The research, published online in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, compared compounds found in urine and blood of e-cigarette users to samples from a historical database of users of traditional cigarettes. The e-cigarette users had been using the devices for at least a month and hadn’t had cigarettes in at least two months.

“Because of the huge variety in origin and design of e-cigarette products, it’s difficult to assess a standard set of conditions for compounds in these devices,” said Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., Wallin Land Grant Professor of Cancer Prevention in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and member of the Masonic Cancer Center. “We decided to compare the actual constituent uptake in users, to get a more accurate picture of how these compounds were interacting with the body.”

Hecht led the study in partnership with Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., associate director for Cancer Prevention and Control in the Masonic Cancer Center and Forster Family Professor in Cancer Prevention in the Department of Psychiatry.

“There are still a lot of questions about e-cigarettes and the variety of use,” said Hatsukami. “While the results of this analysis are promising and interesting, there is still a long way to go to understand the best ways to reduce and regulate exposure to disease-causing compounds found in nicotine products.”

One thing researchers noted as similar between samples from both e-cigarette and cigarette users was nicotine levels. Both groups were getting the same amount of nicotine from the products, but in e-cigarette users the toxicants and cancer-causing agents appeared to be much lower and similar to levels of nonsmokers.

Because the research was done comparing a small sample of e-cigarette users to a historical database, researchers on the project are now looking to expand the study.

The study is recruiting exclusive e-cigarette users, smokers of regular cigarettes and non-smokers, please call 612-624-4568.

“The results show disease-causing compounds are significantly lower in e-cigarette users, and this may be a promising result for many people looking to decrease exposure,” said Hecht. “Still, the results aren’t saying e-cigarettes are a safe alternative for smokers. We need to do much more research before we can fully understand what users can expect from this emerging and expanding market of products.”


UMN researchers investigating exposures caused by e-cigarettes

Cigarette turns 100: What we know now versus (cough!) then

UMN research finds kava plant may prevent cigarette smoke-induced lung cancer

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U of M research finds kava plant may prevent cigarette smoke-induced lung cancer

January 7, 2014 - 11:05pm

New research from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and Masonic Cancer Center has found that consumption of the root of Piper methysticum, or kava, a plant native to the South Pacific Islands, may prevent the development of tobacco smoke-induced lung cancer.

In addition, the research team has identified the naturally occurring components of kava that appear responsible for all the cancer-preventative benefits. By using a patent-pending blend of these active kava ingredients, the research team was also able to avoid liver damage, a rare side effect previously associated with various commercially available kava-containing dietary supplements.

The findings are published ahead-of-print today in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

In the latest study, the University of Minnesota research team found daily consumption of a kava-derived dietary supplement prevented the formation of 99 percent of tumors in a mouse lung tumorigenesis model that is routinely used in predicting lung cancer behavior in humans. The unprecedented level of tumor prevention was coupled with the finding that some mice developed no tumors at all. DNA damage resulting from tobacco carcinogens was also significantly reduced by way of prevention, providing a clue to what is potentially behind kava’s effectiveness.

The findings open up the future possibility of health care professionals recommending or prescribing kava-derived products in the form of dietary supplements or drugs for current tobacco smokers to reduce their risk of developing lung cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking increases the risk of developing lung cancer 13-fold for women and 23-fold for men.

The research may also help explain the low rate of cancer incidence where kava is traditionally consumed. Rates of cancer in the South Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, Fiji and Western Samoa are dramatically lower than those in countries with no kava consumption. Similarly, despite tobacco smoking rates comparable to those of the United States, the occurrence of lung cancer in Fiji is just 5 to 10 percent of the U.S. lung cancer occurrence rate.

Kava roots are native to the South Pacific Islands, and the U.S. state of Hawaii. Photo: Scot Nelson/Flickr/CC

However, not all commercially available kava products on the market today are equal and many may carry the risk of liver injury. In Europe, where kava had been routinely used to treat anxiety, kava products were temporarily pulled from the market after being linked to liver problems. Many factors have been hypothesized to contribute to the rare problems, and although a definitive cause has not been identified, current products in the market typically carry a liver injury warning. Prior to liver toxicity concerns, Hawaii served as one of the largest sources of commercially available kava.

“I wouldn’t recommend using kava supplements on the market today with the hopes of receiving cancer prevention benefits,” said Chengguo Xing, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and a member of Masonic Cancer Center. “Although occasional use of currently available kava supplements is likely to have a low risk of liver injury, they may not safely provide the intended chemopreventative benefits.”

Preliminary data from University of Minnesota has identified the potential compound behind kava-related liver problems and human clinical trials for the new, patent-pending kava supplement enriched with cancer-preventative benefits alone are planned. The University of Minnesota research team is also pursuing development of kava-derived drugs that may aid in both the prevention and treatment of other types of cancers.

Scientists collaborating in this research include lead authors Pablo Leitzman and Sreekanth Narayanapillai in the U of M College of Pharmacy (Chengguo Xing Group), and their peers in the U of M Masonic Cancer Center (Stephen Hecht Group), U of M College of Veterinary Medicine (M. Gerry O’Sullivan) and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Junxuan Lu). Funding for this research was provided by National Institutes of Health grant no. R01 CA142649.

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U of M expert: Smoking cessation programs should consider minority populations

November 21, 2013 - 9:30am

Thursday Nov. 21 marks the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a day active smokers are encouraged to use as a starting point for quitting. True, nationwide initiatives like this can be beneficial for participants, but a University of Minnesota researcher believes more attention is needed for minority populations.

Due to the type of cigarettes heavily favored by certain minority groups, Kola Okuyemi, M.D., director of the Program in Health Disparities Research, says their treatment programs need to be tailored separate from the majority population.

“80 percent of African-American smokers smoke menthol flavored cigarettes, an alarming rate when compared to only 20 percent of Caucasians,” said Okuyemi. “Therefore, we need to focus on menthol research and specific treatment options to help this population.”

Currently, menthol cigarettes make up 25 percent of the United States cigarette market, a number that is a cause for concern for Okuyemi.

“There’s evidence that shows menthol makes cigarettes more addictive,” Okuyemi said. “Our work also tells us that people who smoke menthol cigarettes have a harder time quitting for good.”

To address this issue, Okuyemi and his colleagues are conducting research on African-American smoking habits and treatment preferences.

“It’s the first study of its kind focusing on African-American menthol smokers,” he said. “We’re providing them with a few different treatment options and analyzing which ones work best. Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet way to prevent smoking.”

Right now, the FDA is considering a ban on menthol cigarettes, a measure which would highly benefit both the African-American community and the rest of the United States.

“The U.S. public would be healthier without menthol cigarettes.”

Finally, Okuyemi pointed out that while the rate of overall smoking has dropped in Minnesota, the rate among Native Americans is actually rising, another population that could benefit from a culturally tailored smoking cessation program.

Read more the federal government’s investigation of menthol flavoring.

See a brief history of the modern cigarette on Health Talk.

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Cigarette turns 100: What we know now versus (cough!) then

November 1, 2013 - 1:32pm

The year is 1913. People are still shuddering at the thought of the Titanic and World War I is looming in the near future. Women aren’t allowed in voting booths and travelling daily by automobile seems like a foreign concept.

Unknown to anyone at the time, one of the biggest plagues on modern human health was about to begin its reign in society: the cigarette.

In October 1913, Camel cigarettes began rolling off the line at a pace of about 7 or 8 per second. Around 1 million were sold that year. From there, sales took off with twenty-one billion being sold in 1919. And until 1981, those numbers only grew.

Arguably the most controversial consumer product still on the market, cigarettes have led an eventful life filled with public health outcries, government regulatory measures and advertising bans.

When modern cigarettes were first introduced, health concerns were almost non-existent. How could something so commonly used be dangerous? Ash trays were everywhere: in homes, stores and automobiles. Cigarettes were sent in bulk to troops during World War Two. Advertisements showed the glamorous side of smoking with celebrities and doctors promoting the product at an alarming pace.

“They were a part of everyday life,” said Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., Associate Director of Cancer Prevention and Control for the Masonic Cancer Center.

Though negative health statistics surfaced in as early as the mid-1940s, the general public had little knowledge of the troubling truth about tobacco. That changed in 1952 with a groundbreaking article from Reader’s Digest, “Cancer by the Carton”, detailing the dangers of smoking.

From there, major tobacco companies began crafting their retaliation playbook. Executives rallied to form the Tobacco Industry Research Council, or TIRC, to put the public at ease. They also released the low-tar and filtered cigarette, which boosted sales once again.

“They wanted to muddy the facts by aligning themselves with respected scientists,” Hatsukami said. “And those low-tar cigarettes weren’t any safer. They only changed the way people smoked. They smoked deeper on the cigarette, leading to the same amount of tar as regular cigarettes.”

In the 1960’s, the government came down hard. Heavy regulations on labeling were passed as a result of studies published by the newly formed Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. Eventually, a complete broadcast advertising ban was passed in 1971.

As anti-smoking support among the public began to hit a nationwide scale, major institutions stepped in to study tobacco.

“The U of M was one of the first institutions to systematically look at and confirm the physical dependency of cigarettes in the early 1980s,” said Hatsukami. “Our researchers were also on the forefront of analyzing and identifying individual carcinogens in tobacco, something very new at the time.”

Considering today’s tobacco environment, Hatsukami says more products are being engineered to get around the act of inhaling and exhaling toxic smoke with products like oral tobacco such as snus, dissolvable lozanges, sticks and e-cigarettes.

“They’re less dangerous than cigarettes, but not safe,” she said.

Looking forward, she hopes the government will use their newly obtained power to substantially reduce cigarette smoking, helping more people avoid numerous health problems.

“Recently, the FDA was granted the authority to lower levels of nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. We at the Tobacco Research Center hope they take action,” said Hatsukami. “The U of M is currently looking at the impact of very low-level nicotine cigarettes on public health.”

Read more about current U of M tobacco research.

See a timeline of tobacco from CNN.

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Minnesota tobacco tax: enough to make smokers quit?

July 8, 2013 - 2:23pm

Last week, the Minnesota tobacco tax increased by $1.60 per pack, making Minnesota the sixth most expensive state in the country to buy cigarettes. This increase brings the total added cost to $2.83 per pack in taxes.

While some people are frustrated about the tax increase, others are pleased to see the added state money will help fund education. Over the next two years, a planned $2.8 billion will go to higher education, and an estimated $15.7 billion will go to K-12 education.

Tuition freezes and full-day kindergarten aside, what does the tobacco tax mean from a public health standpoint? Will smokers be deterred from buying cigarettes?

According to Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., M.P.H., a School of Public Health Assistant Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, cigarette taxes are the most cost-effective policy intervention to reduce the number of people who smoke.

“Cigarette taxes have been linked to smoking cessation and reduction in cigarette consumption,” said Choi. “Cost has been one of the most common reasons for smokers to thinking about quitting smoking.”

While there isn’t a direct connection between a raise in taxes and a decline in smoking, the last time Minnesota increased the tobacco tax was by $0.75 in 2005, a year the state seemed to have a significant reduction in packs of cigarette sold.

When public health professionals look at the population as a whole, raising the cost of cigarettes does reduce the prevalence of smoking. However, not everyone reacts to a tax increase the same way.

“Though not every smoker is going to quit the habit because of a tax increase, some will quit while others may think twice about starting because of the high cost,” said Choi.

For smokers looking to quit now, there are several proven effective aids to help the process. These include:

  • Prescription medication
  • Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine gums, patches, etc.)
  • Counseling programs such as quitplan

Choi says counseling programs are probably the best tools, because apart from the nicotine addiction that can be treated by medications, counseling really helps smokers come up with strategies to maintain their cessation and prevent relapse.

While the raised cost of cigarettes may hinder some cigarette purchases and cause some smokers to quit, cigarette companies continue to offer ways of buying cigarettes at a reduced price with coupons.

“Cigarette companies provide coupons to smokers, with a price discount offer,” explained Choi, who recently studied the impact of cigarette coupons. “With these coupons, smokers can successfully reduce their cigarette expenditures, which mitigates the effect of a tax increase. Our research showed that those who redeemed coupons are less likely to quit smoking.”

Raised taxes may make smoking more financially difficult and quitting more appealing, but regardless of the tobacco tax, quitting is a personal, often challenging decision. If you are a smoker thinking of quitting, talk to your physician and contact quitplan.

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Extreme Couponing: Big Tobacco style

December 14, 2012 - 9:46am

I wouldn’t call myself extreme, but I do tend to let couponing direct some of my grocery shopping. Whatever brand sends me a coupon in the mail is the brand that ends up in my shopping cart.

Everyone likes a good deal, right?

Well, it seems that Big Tobacco is in on the secret, because more and more women and young people of America are being targeted with tobacco coupons.  And according to new research published in Tobacco Controltobacco companies’ aggressive coupon marketing tactics may reduce the likelihood that current smokers will quit.

The report is the first of its kind to illustrate that cigarette coupons have a negative association on smoking cessation.

“We know that raising the price of cigarettes encourages smokers to quit. Coupons are a way to bring the price down, and keep people smoking,” said Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., a research associate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and lead author of the article. “Smokers who receive these coupons think the tobacco industry cares about their health and well-being, even though industry documents prove that they know their products are addictive and deadly.”

To arrive at his results, Choi analyzed data collected through the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (MATS) Cohort Study, funded by ClearWay Minnesota, which recruited 2,436 participants who were smokers and recent quitters in 2007, and surveyed them between 2008 and 2010.

The study found:

  • Nearly half of smokers reported receiving cigarette coupons.
  • 80% of those who received coupons redeemed them.
  • Women, younger smokers and heavier smokers are disproportionately targeted by coupons.
  • Smokers who use coupons are more likely to believe that tobacco companies care about their health, do their best to make cigarettes safe and tell the truth.
  • Smokers who redeem coupons are 84% less likely to quit smoking.

Though tobacco companies are restricted from using many forms of marketing and advertising, coupons – disseminated through direct mail marketing or other promotional channels – is a legal way to reach consumers.

Next time you grab the mail, check and see if you’re a part of Big Tobacco’s target market. Higher tobacco prices encourage smokers to quit, but will price cuts courtesy of a coupon be enough to bring these same smokers back to the drug?

Watch this video by ClearWay Minnesota to see an example of the coupon redemption process.

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Smoking is hazardous to your health. But for women, it might be “11-years-shorter-lifespan” kind of hazardous.

November 9, 2012 - 12:19pm

Unless you’ve somehow avoided all forms of mass communication over the past few decades, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that smoking is bad. But for us ladies, the full hazards of smoking and the benefits of stopping are only now being truly understood. And the results are pretty grim.

Men were early adopters of smoking, with many taking up the habit by the mid-20th century.  But smoking among young women didn’t reach its popularity peak until the 1960s. Because of the time lag, it’s taken until the 21st century to fully observe the consequences of the habit in women.

Now, for the first time, recent findings from the Million Woman Study offer an examination of the long-term health effects on the first generation of women in the UK in which smoking was widespread in early adult life.

Rachel R Huxley, M.A., D.Phil., an associate professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, recently wrote the “The full hazards of smoking and benefits of stopping for women,” a commentary appearing in The Lancet.

“Previous studies have underestimated the full eventual impact of smoking on mortality in women because of the lengthy time lag between when smoking became popular among young women and disease onset in middle and old age,” said Huxley.

In her commentary, Huxley broke down the main findings, which she said were simple and unequivocal:

  • The annual death rate in women smokers 50–80 years was triple that of never-smokers.
  • Those who smoked only a handful of cigarettes a day (as opposed to pack-a-day or more smokers) had twice the mortality rate of never-smokers.
  • Smoking throughout adulthood reduced life expectancy in women by about 11 years.
  • Women who quit smoking before they turned 30 avoided nearly all of the smoking caused deaths
  • Women who continued smoking throughout adulthood had death rates 200% higher.

“The findings from this study emphasize the need for effective sex-specific and culturally specific tobacco control policies,” said Huxley. “We must encourage adults who already smoke to quit and discourage children and young adults from starting to smoke.”

You can read the full article here.

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