Cigarettes Up In Smoke? New Zealand Proposal Outlaws Smoking For The Next Generation

In the near future, where there’s smoke in New Zealand it may not be from a youth firing up a cigarette. Proposed legislation in the Land of the Long White Cloud aims to ban smoking for the next generation. Is this smoking cessation goal a legislative pipe dream or will the Long White Cloud in the island country soon be anything but cigarette smoke?

Last Thursday, proposed legislation was announced which would progressively raise the legal age, currently set at 18, for buying tobacco in New Zealand. Individuals who are age 14 when the law takes effect would never legally be able to purchase tobacco in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Holy smoke!

The proposed legislation will be considered by the New Zealand Parliament in 2022. Its passage is anticipated since the Labour Party, which holds a majority in the Parliament, has been pushing the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan as one of its headline policies. (You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to know that the majority rules.) The Action Plan’s goal is for less than 5% of New Zealanders to be smokers by 2025.

Why is smoking, of all things, being targeted by New Zealand lawmakers? The 4,000 to 5,000 people who die each year in New Zealand from smoking-related illnesses amounts to approximately 15% of the country’s 2019 population. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and causes one in four cancer cases there. This harm is particularly concentrated in indigenous and low-income communities.

On the bright side, the percentage of adults smoking in that country has declined over the last decade. Currently, 13.4% are classified as smokers as compared to 18.2% of smokers in 2011/2012. But concern exists for the next generation. The government has determined 4 out of 5 smokers start smoking before they are 18. Accordingly, the plan of action is to make sure that young people never start smoking. Pretty smart! If they don’t start, they don’t need to be concerned about stopping.

The proposed legislation seeks to nip smoking by youths in the bud (or perhaps butt, as in cigarette butt) by making tobacco products unavailable to them. Per its plan, anyone born in 2008 could not purchase cigarettes or tobacco products in their lifetime. Aww! If that’s the worst problem these youth have, they should be extremely grateful.

In addition to targeting the age of a lawful consumer, the suggested measure would target sellers of tobacco products. The number of sites authorized to sell these products would be reduced. So, both the (lawful) demand and available supply of the products are being targeted. And just in case the consumer doesn’t know he wants this product, he is less likely to be informed that he does. Tougher restrictions on tobacco advertising would be imposed.

But wait. There’s more. Even if a person is an authorized buyer, can see/read watered down ads telling them how they want the product, and can find authorized sales sites to purchase cigarettes, they may not want them. Why? Yet another proposal would decrease the legal amount of nicotine in the products to very low levels. The user is getting less nicotine bang for his buck–actually that would be for his New Zealand dollar a/k/a a “kiwi.”

While these proposals may seem harsh, they are not the first nor the only restrictive measure focused on tobacco products. New Zealand already has imposed high taxes on cigarette sales and requires plain packaging. But the prior measures haven’t eradicated the smoking problem, so apparently more pressure is needed to make smoking unaffordable and inaccessible.

To no one’s surprise, opponents of the proposed legislation are popping up and expressing concerns. If passed, the measure would contribute to the growing black market for tobacco. Organized crime groups are apparently already involved in smuggling tobacco products into New Zealand on a large scale. So, I guess a choice between lower crime and saving lives is presented. (Seems like a no-brainer to me, but no one asked me.)

Admittedly, the New Zealand plan would be the perhaps the world’s toughest on the purchase and consumption of tobacco. But, maybe the plan doesn’t even go far enough. What it doesn’t do is to regulate vaping. Many smokers turn to vaping in an effort to kick the (real) cigarette habit; it is also a highly popular activity for youth. Is New Zealand simply kicking the can down the road and getting rid of (real) cigarette smoking only to have to deal with e-cigarettes later?

Some may ask if such draconian measures as have been proposed in New Zealand are truly justified. Is smoking really that big of a problem? The answer is yes and not just in New Zealand. An estimated 1.3 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) tobacco users populate the world. Per the World Health Organization (“WHO”), tobacco consumption is “one of the biggest health threats the world has ever faced.” Including second-hand smoke, smoking kills over 8 million people EACH YEAR. Health concerns aside, cigarette smoking is also an environmental concern. Cigarette butts are one of the most common components of litter.

If passed and successful, the New Zealand legislation may be the model for other countries to follow. Nearby Australia has already taken some steps to reduce cigarette smoking. Back in 2012, it was the first country to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes. The U.S. would be a tougher stage on which to advocate for banning the smoking of “death sticks.” Someone in the U.S. might argue the “pursuit of happiness” referenced in the Declaration of Independence extends to the right to smoke them. Who knows what will happen after the smoke clears from such arguments?

Any effort to ban cigarettes could light a fire of controversy over the ability (right?) to light up. But I’m not blowing smoke to say lots of people won’t shed a tear if cigarettes are ultimately less affordable or even banned. Personally, you won’t need to hand me a tissue.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Would New Zealand be going too far if it bans cigarettes from the next generation? Why or why not? Do you foresee such steps ever being taken in the U.S.? Were you aware that the use of tobacco products was considered such a worldwide health problem?

It’s Blowing Smoke To Say Vaping’s Safer Than Smoking

 

Holy smoke! There’s no smoke involved in vaping, but there sure has been a firestorm of controversy about the safety of vaping in recent days. CDC is investigating 450+ cases of severe lung illness linked to vaping. Moreover, six deaths have been reported from vaping-related severe lung illness. Wow! Good thing vaping is so much safer than smoking cigarettes–not!

What exactly is vaping? Well, in the first place, if you don’t know and haven’t tried it–DON’T. Vaping is the inhaling of vapor produced by an electronic cigarette. These cigarettes heat liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales.

You can’t “smoke” an e-cigarette since there’s no smoke, only vapor. Rather than producing tobacco smoke, an e-cigarette produces an aerosol that consists of fine particles which quickly enter the lungs and then go into the bloodstream. And by “fine” particles, I am referring to size and not desirability. These particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals.

E-cigarettes are relatively new having been introduced to the mass market here in the U.S. in 2007. Their popularity has exploded; currently it is estimated that 10.8 million adults and 3.6 million teens use them in this country. In fact, e-cigarettes are more popular among youth than any traditional tobacco product, and their use  is higher among high school students than adults. Between 2011 and 2015, e-cigarette use grew 900% (yes, that is 100% X 9) among high school students.

So what’s the big deal with youth or even adults using e-cigarettes? I mean they are advertised as being healthier than smoking traditional cigarettes. But, in actuality, e-cigarettes are not healthy period. Saying that they are healthier than traditional cigarettes is like saying arsenic is healthier than strychnine. The fact is BOTH E-CIGARETTES AND TRADITIONAL CIGARETTES ARE BAD FOR YOU.

In the first place, e-cigarettes have not undergone strict FDA testing. Therefore, any claim that they are a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes is unsubstantiated. Secondly, vaping may not put a user on the highway to hell, but it is likely to put him on the street to smoking. According to Yale health researchers, vaping increases the risk that a teen will smoke regular cigarettes later. Third, e-cigarettes may have fewer toxins in them than traditional cigarettes, but they still put harmful matter and chemicals directly into one’s lungs.

E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products because most contain nicotine which comes from tobacco. Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and in e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. Not only is it addictive, but it is toxic. It can raise blood pressure and spike adrenaline.

Currently, the most popular vaping device by far is the JUUL, a small device that looks like a USB flash drive.This product, which only came out in 2015, commands a whopping 72% of the market for vaping products. Not only is its market share high, but so is the product’s nicotine content. One pod or flavor cartridge contains the same amount of nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.

And nicotine is not the only substance about which to be concerned. Scientists have found harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde in e-cigarette vapors. Formaldehyde? Wasn’t that the horrendous smelling substance used to preserve that frog you dissected way back in high school biology? Yup! Want some of that stuff in your lungs? Not me! And if you do get it in your lungs, you might end up like that poor, lifeless frog.

The substance e-cigarette users breathe in and then exhale can contain harmful or potentially harmful substances like chemicals and heavy metals in addition to nicotine. A study from Johns Hopkins University found that e-cigarettes can potentially release significant amounts of toxic metals in its vapors which users inhale. Discovered in the vapors released by e-cigarettes were potentially unsafe levels of lead, chromium, manganese, and/or nickel. Yes, the word “potentially” has been used several times in this paragraph, but are you willing to risk such “potential” harm to your body?

The recently reported lung illnesses related to vaping are believed to be associated with chemical exposure from  vaping. Vaping leads to inflammation within the lungs, and the chemicals in e-cigarettes can cause permanent lung damage. Accordingly, CDC has urged Americans to stop using e-cigarettes while investigations are ongoing.

Need specific case examples? A 17 year old Texas boy who had been vaping since 8th grade nearly died. An x-ray of his lungs showed a complete blockage. He was placed in a medically induced coma, and his parents were not sure he would live. Happily the boy did recover, and even more happily, he pitched all his e-cigarettes and swore off vaping when he got out of the hospital. In another case, which lead to death, a female in her 50’s died in Kansas a week after starting to use e-cigarettes.

Obviously people get to make their own life choices. One may choose to abuse alcohol, drugs, and nicotine. Adults can and do make poor decisions which have adverse health consequences; people can choose to use e-cigarettes despite the health risks. But should we allow youth to be targeted to make poor decisions along these lines? Unfortunately, that is exactly what is occurring with vaping.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the number one reason young people give for using vaping devices is because of the flavors offered. It isn’t stinky tobacco like regular cigarettes. Want crème brulee? Mango? There are over 7,000 flavors of e-cigarettes on the market, including cotton candy and gummy bear. Tell me that such flavors aren’t aimed at appealing to kids.

Clearly not appealing to me as an adult is the popular “unicorn puke” flavor. It is advertised as a “delicious and refreshing rainbow sherbet vapor that will remind you of a summer day.” I’m sorry, but delicious and refreshing are not adjectives I connect with puke, unicorn or otherwise.

To me what would be refreshing is Americans engaging in behaviors that are smoke free and toxin free, i.e., no cigarette smoking OR vaping. Sure the vape flavors are enticing. But eat creme brulee, don’t inhale it. If you want a refreshing taste, buy an Icee or some fruit-flavored hard candy. OK, these purchases involve the risk of consuming additional calories, but isn’t that better than putting toxic chemicals and heavy metals directly into your lungs? If you care about your health, then blow off any suggestion of vaping.

JUST WONDER-ing:

Have you, or anyone you know, tried vaping? Before reading this post, was it your impression that vaping was a healthy alternative to smoking? If so, has reading this post altered that impression? How do you feel about young people being targeted to indulge in unhealthy activities such as vaping?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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