Spring 2019

Washington house votes to raise smoking age to 21

OLYMPIA – Lawmakers who support raising the age for smoking and vaping nicotine-laced products overcame objections of those who said people who are old enough to vote and join the military are old enough to make their own decisions.

In a 66-30 vote, they passed and sent to the Senate a bill bumping the legal age from 18 to 21.

“Nicotine is the most addictive substance we have. It has no redeeming value,” Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said. Studies show that 95 percent of people who don’t smoke by age 21, never start, he added.

Raising the age for nicotine products has been a perennial quest in the Legislature backed by the state Department of Health, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and anti-smoking advocates. The House passed similar legislation near the end of the 2018 session, but the Senate didn’t vote on it before the Legislature adjourned.

This year, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, listed raising the smoking age as one of his priorities in his speech on opening day, saying he has served as a pallbearer too many times for relatives whose lives were cut short by smoking. To underscore the point Wednesday, he presided over the debate and vote, a task he leaves to others on most issues.

“At what age are we going to allow people to make choices?” he asked. “Is it a good choice? No.”

He offered an amendment to raise the age to 19 for those seeking to protect students, arguing that people who are 18 might be in high school, but those who are 19 wouldn’t be.

But Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, countered that high school students often have “peers” who are 19, and “21 is more of a stretch.”

The amendment failed.

Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, objected to the lack of punishment in the bill for teens who do smoke. “The laws we seek to pass should have some teeth.”

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, described the bill as “the creeping nanny state,” with legislators telling adults what they can and can’t do. If 18-year-old brains aren’t able to make good choices on smoking, as some supporters of the higher age limit contend, “why are they voting?” he asked.

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FDA Commissioner Gottlieb, who raised alarms about teen vaping, resigns

Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who used his post to tackle difficult public health issues from youth vaping to opioid addiction – surprising early skeptics worried about his drug industry ties – resigned Tuesday, effective in about a month.

Gottlieb, who has been commuting weekly to Washington from his home in Connecticut, said he wants to spend more time with his family. The 46-year-old physician, millionaire and cancer survivor known for a self-assured, sometimes brash, manner lives in Westport, with his wife and three daughters – 9-year-old twins and a 5-year-old.

“It was a very hard decision,” Gottlieb said in an interview. “This is the best job I will ever have. I’m leaving because I need to spend time with my family. I get home late Friday, work on weekends and come back to Washington on Sunday. I did the job 100 percent."

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Tobacco giant Reynolds just rolled out berry and cream nicotine lozenges as it faces new pressure from Juul for smokeless products

Tobacco giant Reynolds wants to give smokers a more convenient way to use nicotine.

On Wednesday, the company rolled out nicotine lozenges that dissolve in the mouth and come in four flavors: berry, cream, and two kinds of mint. Sold under the brand Revel, the lozenges are the first new product the company has launched on a wide commercial scale since the Vuse e-cigarette in 2013.

Reynolds is the second-largest cigarette enterprise in the US and the company behind brands like Camel, Kent, and Natural American Spirit.

Its new Revel lozenges are meant to appeal exclusively to adults who already smoke. Reynolds is betting that a sizable chunk of those customers is looking for a simpler and more discrete way to use nicotine, the same addictive drug found in cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

Reynolds' new lozenges will be available in both hard and soft varieties. They do not contain cancer-causing tobacco or tar. Still, the company does not plan to market Revel lozenges as a healthier alternative to smoking or as a way to quit, according to Shay Mustafa, Reynolds' senior vice president of consumer marketing.

Instead, Mustafa said the products are intended to help meet what she called the "evolving preferences" of adult smokers.

"We are not positioning this as a cessation product. It's just a simple way for adults to enjoy nicotine in a different format," Mustafa told Business Insider.

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Kids love e-cigs and hookahs — but they won’t love what they’re doing to their hearts

The days of young people thinking that smoking cigarettes is cool may be coming to an end. But there’s a catch.

Tobacco use among youth has dropped nearly 25 percent in less than a decade, from 4.5 million middle and high school students in 2011, to 3.6 million in 2017, according to findings from the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS).

E-cigarettes, though, have skyrocketed to become the most commonly used tobacco product among both middle and high school students since 2014, according to the Morbidity and Mortality report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the 3.6 million tobacco users in 2017, 2.1 million used e-cigarettes.

And the number of U.S. high school students who reported being e-cigarette users increased a whopping 78 percent from 2017 to 2018, to 3.5 million, reversing previous declines of tobacco use, the youth survey found. E-cig usage among middle school students increased by 48 percent to 570,000.

The study authors listed three causes for the big jump: the appealing design of e-cigarette products, the high nicotine content, and the enticing flavor options, namely fruit and candy flavors.

Also popular is a smoking device that has spanned centuries, with origins tracing back to ancient Persia and India. Enter the hookah — an unmistakable staple among South Florida’s night life scene, with hookah bars and cafés being a major draw among college students.

“It’s becoming problematic to say the least,” said Dr. Metee Comkornruecha, director of the division of adolescent medicine at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. “Unfortunately, these two forms of smoking are wrongly perceived by the public to be less harmful and thus parents may not be as concerned if they see their kids partaking. They may see it as a “lesser of two evils” situation,” he said, compared to cigarette use.

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How Juul made nicotine go viral

Juul tried to design a solution to a public health problem. It wound up creating another one.

Since the first patent in 1930, electronic cigarettes have taken many shapes. At first they mimicked the packaging and physicality of cigarettes, with a cylindrical shape and light-up tip. Then they trended toward boxier designs, with low nicotine levels and high amounts of vapor. The Juul did things differently: it packed a high-nicotine, low vapor hit in a small, USB drive-shaped package, with a colorful range of flavors and a buttonless, intuitive design. It wasn't just a hot new e-cigarette — it was a hot new tech gadget. Now, middle schools and high schools across the US are nervous about how many kids are getting hooked on Juuls.