Alcohol Delivery

Popularity of E-Cigarettes is a Public Health Matter

 

Snapchat. iPhones. Emojis. Selfies.

Of all the things teens think are cool, e-cigarettes – and the JUUL brand, in particular – should be among the most concerning.

We know e-cigarettes are making their way into the hands of youth, who are curious, attracted to the easy-to-hide design and fun flavors like crème brulee, or influenced by their peers. JUUL is especially popular because they are sleek and resemble a thumb drive, with teens saying they are “discreet enough to vape in class.”

We also know teens and adults find e-cigarettes appealing because they still believe they are less harmful than other tobacco products. But that doesn’t mean they are safe.

Case in point: one significant new study of nearly 70,000 people revealed that daily e-cigarette use can double the risk of a heart attack. When you consider that e-cigarettes are increasingly becoming a gateway to smoking among youth, these studies should be a concern.

But your average teen isn’t concerned about their chances of a heart attack — or other major health concerns like cancer; they’re drawn to e-cigarettes like JUUL, which “has developed a cult-like following among youth and young adults, fueled by a strong presence on social media sites like YouTube.”

Still, the popularity of JUUL and other e-cigarettes should be alarming to the public health community, since we know that exposure to nicotine during adolescence can cause addiction and harm the developing brain, and that children using e-cigarettes are at an a increased risk of using tobacco cigarettes in the future.

Moreover, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than tripled from 2013 to 2015. For the first time ever, teens are smoking e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes.

As concerned community members, we can advocate for regulation of e-cigarettes by the FDA, which has had the authority to regulate them since 2016 but has delayed implementation of key provisions. We can also share public health materials to build public awareness about potential harms associated with use of JUUL and other e-cigarettes. Several resources are emerging, including educational toolkit materials for teens developed by the Stanford University Department of Medicine, a Truth Initiative fact sheet, and a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids fact sheet. Finally, we can get involved with local coalitions like the Galveston/Bay Area and the Wichita County TPCCs (Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalitions) that are working to pass comprehensive smoke-free ordinances and Tobacco21 laws that would prevent anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco products.

If you have any questions or want more information about what you can do in your community on this issue or other tobacco-related issues, please contact Steve at SRoss@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501.

Alcohol Delivery

Hidalgo County Sees Groundswell of Smoke Free Ordinances

“Community buy-in.” That’s the phrase Gilda Bowen uses to describe the wave of comprehensive smoke-free ordinances recently passed in communities throughout the county. Bowen is the Tobacco Coordinator for the Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention Cessation Coalition (TPCC).

When the Hidalgo County TPCC formed in February of 2014, only one smoke-free ordinance had passed within the county. Today, 17 communities are 100% smoke-free.

“Even though there are separate cities in the county, the Valley is like a large community,” said Bowen. “So every time a city passed one, it encouraged another to take it up.”

She credits the combination of grassroots efforts and support from American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Texans Standing Tall, and other organizations for their success.

“It took research and planning from the AHA and ACS combined with a lot of one-on-one meetings to convince civic leaders that their communities wanted this,” Bowen added.

The movement built up slowly, with the cities of Edinburg, Pharr and Mission creating smoke-free ordinances from 2014-2016. Then in 2017, momentum took over, with at least one ordinance a month being passed.

Having coalition members committed to creating smoke-free communities was the major factor in making Hidalgo County virtually smoke-free. Every agenda, handout, or email from members included updates on what was happening in cities. So when McAllen had a public hearing, they had over 200 people show up.

The coalition realizes that even with this success, their work is not over.

“There will always be more work, there will always be opportunities,” said Mrs. Bowen. “We hope the community is proud and will take ownership of some projects to continue working on enforcement and implementation.”

Texans Standing Tall understands that passing and enforcing comprehensive smoke-free ordinances is hard work, but we also believe that Texas cities are up to the challenge of implementing changes that help create healthier, safer communities – Gilda Bowen and the Hidalgo County TPCC are living proof of that. If you’re interested in learning more about passing a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in your community, please contact Steve Ross at sross@TexansStandingTall.org.

Alcohol Delivery

No Ifs, Ands, or (Cigarette) Butts About It

 

School’s out for summer. For many families, spending more time outdoors is a big part of their summertime agenda.

Our Texas parks and beaches are at peak demand for the next several weeks, so it’s a good time to remind everyone about outdoor smoke-free ordinances and why they matter.

Even outdoors, children and adults are affected by secondhand smoke. Asthma attacks, eye irritation, headaches, and ear issues are just some of the effects of secondhand smoke. But it isn’t just an afternoon at the park that is concerning. A 2006 Surgeon General’s Report outlined the dangers of prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, which include cancer and heart disease in addition to asthma and other respiratory issues. While most studies about secondhand smoke are directly related to indoor exposure, more recent studies have shown that secondhand exposure outdoors can be significant.

Because we know now there is no safe level of secondhand smoke, many communities are looking at expanding their smoke-free policies to include outdoor spaces as well. In addition to protecting people from secondhand smoke, outdoor smoking ordinances can also be helpful to individuals who are trying to quit smoking by eliminating triggers.

They also send an important message to our kids that smoking is not a community norm, which can help prevent later tobacco usage.

When looking at outdoor smoking ordinances, it’s also worth considering the environmental impact of outdoor smoking. Literally trillions of non-biodegradable cigarette butts are collected from sidewalks, beaches, and other outdoors areas every year. In addition to littering the earth, cigarette butts are also harmful to wildlife and can be toxic to fish. Cigarette butts are a significant cause of outdoor fires, and they cost hundreds of millions of dollars every year in property loss and restoration expenses. In a state like Texas, where droughts are common, fire risk is particularly concerning.

While outdoor smoke-free ordinances can be challenging to implement (especially when it comes to defining what is indoor vs. outdoor space), they contribute to a healthier and safer Texas. For more information about pursuing a smoke-free ordinance in your community, please contact Steve Ross, our Statewide Coalition Specialist, at sross@texansstandingtall.org or (512) 442-7501.

Alcohol Delivery

YLC Members of the Month: Andrea Marquez and Carlos Vela

Carlos and Andrea after testifying at the Capitol

Andrea Marquez and Carlos Vela were selected as the April and May YLC Members of the Month for their outstanding advocacy efforts; both made trips to the Texas Capitol to provide public testimony on issues that affect underage alcohol and tobacco use.

Catching an early morning flight from El Paso to Austin, Andrea spent two days in town so she could testify on her concerns about powdered alcohol before the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee and Senate Business & Commerce Committee. During her testimony, Andrea discussed why she thinks it’s important to ban the product and demonstrated how easy it would be for a youth to conceal powdered alcohol packets. Armed with a makeup bag containing 48 Kool-Aid packets (the approximate size of a powdered alcohol packet), she dumped them onto the table and shared that the packets in her small bag equaled more shots than what you would find in a large 1.75L bottle of alcohol. She then asked legislators to think about which one they thought would be easier for a young person to sneak out of the house without their parents noticing: the bottle or the bag? Her powerful testimony helped educate everyone in the room on the potential harms we would see if powdered alcohol ever made it to the shelves.

Making the drive from Ingleside, Carlos came to Austin so he could testify before the House Public Health Committee. Though the hearing got postponed, super advocate Carlos hung around for an extra day so he could speak to the benefits of raising the legal purchase age of tobacco from 18 to 21. He asked for Texas to be a leader in the fight against tobacco by becoming the third state to raise the tobacco age to 21. Carlos also used his personal story about growing up around tobacco use and being offered tobacco in high school to help explain why raising the purchase age will help keep tobacco out of schools and away from youth during an impressionable time in their lives. Since 95% of smokers start before age 21, raising the age of sale to 21 is seen as an effective way to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and save lives. If you’re interested in learning more, Texas 21, a coalition of organizations working to prevent tobacco use, has put together a wealth of information on the issue. Check it out at texas21.org.

We are incredibly proud to call Andrea and Carlos members of our Youth Leadership Council. Along with their fellow YLC members, they constantly inspire us to do more and work harder to ensure we’re creating safe and healthy communities for everyone. If you’d like to learn more about the YLC and how to get involved, contact Georgia Marks at gmarks@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501.

Andrea reminding us to make every day awesome!
Alcohol Delivery

Spotlight: Palmview Passes Smoke-Free and Social Host Ordinances

Congratulations to Palmview, TX, for passing smoke-free and social host ordinances on April 4! Thanks to the hard work of the Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition and the UNIDAD Coalition, Palmview became the 14th city in the Valley to pass a smoke-free ordinance and the first in the Valley – and third in the state – to pass a social host ordinance.

The city’s new social host ordinance addresses underage alcohol use and the associated negative consequences by holding individuals responsible for providing a place where anyone under age 21 has access to alcohol. Those who violate the ordinance could face a civil fine of $500 for their first offense; subsequent violations could result in fines of up to $1,000. The police department and UNIDAD will immediately begin a public education campaign to increase awareness of the ordinance prior to enactment.

Texans Standing Tall is proud to support Palmview and all of the other cities in Texas working to create positive community change. To learn more about smoke-free ordinances, contact Steve Ross at sross@texansstandingtall.org; to learn more about social host ordinances, contact Libby Banks at lbanks@texansstandingtall.org. For more information about addressing underage alcohol and tobacco use in your community, visit Texans Standing Tall’s website at www.texansstandingtall.org or give us a call at 512-442-7501.

UNIDAD Coalition with TST’s Brian Lemons after Palmview passed the Valley’s first social host ordinance.
Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition after passing the smoke-free ordinance in Palmview, TX.
Alcohol Delivery

PG-13 May Not Be So Youth Friendly After All

Summer is nearly upon us, which means our youth will have more time to revel in the delight of school-free days for the next few months. For many, summer blockbusters in air-conditioned movie theaters are an ageless tradition for passing the time on hot summer days. While movies can be a great way to escape the Texas heat, parents may want to brush up on what their kids could be seeing, especially when it comes to tobacco and alcohol product placement – even in films rated PG-13.

Tobacco in Movies
Parents and youth may be surprised to learn that movies with smoking are a big influence when it comes to young people’s decisions to start smoking. In fact, the 2012 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report establishes that there is a “causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people.”

For years, the tobacco industry spent millions of dollars getting their brands on screen to promote their products. Though the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement prohibited tobacco placement in entertainment accessible to kids, young people continue to see smoking in youth-rated films. According to research conducted at the University of California Center for Tobacco Research Control and Education, from 2002 to 2015, nearly half (46%) of the top-grossing movies in the U.S. were rated PG-13. Of those, approximately 6 out of every 10 movies (59%) showed smoking or some other form of tobacco use.

Smoke Free Movies, an organization started by tobacco policy and research guru Stanton A. Glantz, has found that “smoking in movies kills in real life.” The organization hopes to reduce young audiences’ exposure to smoking in movies and create counter-incentives to keep the tobacco industry out of entertainment media. Smoke Free Movies suggests five evidence-based policies to reduce adolescents’ exposure to tobacco onscreen and to reduce tobacco addiction, disease, and death overall:

  1. Give an R-rating to any future film that shows or implies tobacco use.
  2. Certify that nobody associated with a production received a payoff for including tobacco depictions.
  3. Require that studios and theaters run strong anti-smoking ads immediately before any production that has any tobacco presence.
  4. Stop identifying tobacco brands in any scenes of a media production.
  5. End public subsidies for any productions that include tobacco imagery.

Looking at the first policy alone, Smoke Free Movies says that “one little letter will save a million lives.” The way movies are currently rated, the organization estimates that movies with smoking will cause 6.4 million children and teens to become smokers, and it will result in 2 million smoking deaths among that same group. However, their research shows that an R-rating would essentially cut both of those numbers in half by keeping 3.1 million kids from smoking and preventing 1 million smoking deaths among today’s youth. Together, all five of the policies mentioned above can truly help future generations live smoke-free. To learn more about the initiative and how to get involved, visit smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu.

Alcohol in Movies
It is also worth noting that tobacco isn’t the only substance youth are exposed to in movies. Research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting shows that alcohol brand placement in movies has nearly doubled over the past two decades. Researchers also found that alcohol brands appeared in 41% of child-rated movies during the study period (1996 – 2015). Three brands – Budweiser, Miller, and Heineken – accounted for almost one-third of all brand placements, but Budweiser had the highest amount of appearances in child-rated movies (15%). And, it turns out that the brands most often seen in movies are the ones that young people say they drink the most. An author of the study says this is not a surprising result since youth often see movie stars as role models. As a result, when they see one of their favorite celebrities drinking a certain brand, youth associate that brand with all of the characteristics they admire about that celebrity. What makes alcohol exposure in movies even more troubling is the fact that the Center on Alcohol and Youth Marketing (CAMY) has found that the more people under the legal drinking age of 21 are exposed to alcohol marketing, the more likely they are to start drinking early and engage in binge drinking.

Texan Standing Tall’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC) members are not keen on being targets for the alcohol industry, so they’ve decided to use their voices to fight back. Most recently, they presented on the topic at our 2017 Summit on Healthy and Safe Communities; they are currently working on service projects to increase awareness about the role alcohol marketing plays in youth use of alcohol. If you or a youth you know is interested in joining the YLC to work on this issue or others like it, the application for the 2017-2018 YLC year is now open. Join us and this amazing group of young leaders as we work to create safe and healthy communities for all Texans!

Alcohol Delivery

Spotlight: Carlos Vela Testifies Before Senate Finance Committee

On January 31, second-year Youth Leadership Council member Carlos Vela testified about how slashing funds to the Tobacco Prevention and Control program would hurt the community wide efforts made by Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalitions (TPCC) across Texas.

Carlos testified that the proposed 47% cut in state funds would reverse all of the work that has been done to prevent youth picking up smoking at an early age.

“When I was in ninth grade, my friend and I were offered a tobacco product from a seniors in one of my high school classes. This student offered us an e-cigarette while we were at school.” Carlos said.

Carlos believes that if not for the program Students, Adults and Youth Working Hard Against Tobacco (Say What!), a program that is funded by the state, that he would have become a smoker, much like several members of his family.

“Say What! Gave me the tools I need to say no to tobacco products. The program has also provided me and my fellow students educational resources so that we can tell our friends why they not use tobacco products. In my experience, hearing information like this from your friends and peers, instead of teachers and adults is more impactful.” Carlos testified.

Carlos has participated in volunteer cigarette butt clean ups and lobbied the Ingleside City Council to pass a more comprehensive smoking ordinance.

Carlos’ fear that a $5.5 million budget cut from the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program could result in more youth smoking at an early age is not one to be taken lightly. In other U.S. states where tobacco prevention budgets have been cut youth smoking rates have increased.

He closed his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee with, “I am asking you to fully fund tobacco prevention services in the budget.”

Texans Standing Tall supports the efforts of Say What! Every year, we take our YLC members to Say What! conferences so that they can learn more about environmental prevention and more about being engaged in their communities. We are extremely proud of Carlos for having the confidence and leadership skills to speak before Texas lawmakers.

Alcohol Delivery

Examining Tobacco Inequities in Black Communities

February is a chance for us to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of so many Black Americans. At the same time, it is also important to remember that there are still obstacles to overcome. We admit, the prevention field has work to do when it comes to creating solutions that address the inequities experienced by neighborhoods with a high or concentrated Black population. These inequities are especially noticeable with the discriminatory practices of the tobacco industry that target black neighborhoods and low-income schools. It is no coincidence that black people in this country die at much higher rates than their white counterparts from smoking-related illnesses.

The tobacco industry knows exactly what it’s doing. While there have been smoking declines in both youth and adult tobacco use, the health gap endures among at-risk communities. Established research indicates that the negative health affects of smoking disproportionately affects racial minorities and tobacco marketing often targets areas with a low socioeconomic status.

The shameless targeted marketing to these communities has put an unnecessary and disproportionate amount of tobacco-related health burdens on black communities. Big tobacco has been known to donate to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as sponsor cultural events, and make contributions to elected officials, community organizations, and even scholarship programs. They’ve long employed blacks to work in tobacco factories as a means of supporting their families. These seeming acts of friendliness to the black community work in contrast to the amount of damage that black families suffer at the hands of the tobacco industry. Tobacco contributes to the three leading causes of death among black Americans: heart disease, cancer and stroke.

While blacks smoke less and begin smoking at a later age than whites, they ultimately have the highest incidence of death rates and shortest survival rate of any race or ethnic group for most cancers. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reports that “more than 72,000 Black Americans are diagnosed with a tobacco-related cancer and more than 39,00 die from tobacco related cancer.” In fact, lung cancer kills more Black Americans than any other type of cancer.

Black youth are also disproportionately affected by exposure to secondhand smoke. Studies show that among youth ages three to 11, 68% of black children are exposed to secondhand smoke, compared to 37% of white children in the same age range. Secondhand smoke exposure is linked with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear infection, and more severe asthma attacks.

Prevention is key to the success of creating healthier and safer black communities. Blacks have lower cessation rates than whites because they generally have higher levels of nicotine dependence as a consequence of a preference for menthol cigarettes. Public education campaigns are generally well received and effective in decreasing the number of youth who start smoking, increasing the number of smokers who quit, and making tobacco industry marketing less effective. Research from the 2013 Tips From Former Smokers showed that in areas where the campaign was highly visible, the quit attempt among blacks was 60% higher than those areas that received a standard dose of the campaign.

Environmental prevention strategies like price increases are the most powerful anti-smoking factor for all youth, and enforcing laws that prohibit the sale of cigarettes to youth proves to be most effective in reducing smoking among black teens. However, research shows that black communities have not benefitted from the growing number of smoke-free ordinances and laws that have spread across the country. Research indicates that while white, Hispanic and Asian  communities are benefitting from the spread of comprehensive smoke-free ordinances, geographic region coupled with the lack of prevention resources available in black communities have made it so they aren’t benefitting as much from anti-tobacco campaigns. These issues contribute to the continued disproportionate exposure to secondhand smoke for black youth.

Instead of proposals by lawmakers to decrease funding for Tobacco Prevention and Control in our state, we should look at ways to increase funding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programming which includes resources for populations that are disproportionately affected as well as funding of $5.98 per person. Yet, Texas’ current funding levels are at .25 cents to $2.50 a person. An increase in per person funding levels could support public health champions in black communities advocating for their health and safety. It’s time we start investing in these communities.

For more information about tobacco prevention and control efforts in our state, visit TexansStandingTall.org or contact Steve Ross at sross@texansstandingtall.org. If you are interested in bringing change to your community, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council will host its 2017 National Conference on Tobacco or Health Ancillary Meeting on from 5 p.m. to  7 p.m. on Thursday, March 23 in Austin, Texas. For more information on the upcoming conference and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, visit SavingBlackLives.org .