David Phillips: Cigarettes changing, but consequences for smokers remain the same as always

David Phillips
Reflections from my Notebook

Smoking rates in Minnesota have been declining for decades, but the tobacco industry keeps finding ways to entice people to use tobacco. One innovation is e-cigarettes, also known as e-vaporizers, which are battery-powered devices people use to inhale an aerosol that typically contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals.

The devices were originally marketed as a cleaner, safer alternative to cigarettes, but research shows the e-cigarette aerosol contains heavy metals, formaldehyde and other carcinogens and harmful chemicals. Besides that, the nicotine in the aerosol hooks people, often teens, into a lifetime of smoking.

Tobacco use remains Minnesota’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking the lives of more than 6,300 Minnesotans every year and costing an estimated $7 billion annually.

Although smoking rates in Minnesota had been declining for decades, the adult cigarette-smoking rate has plateaued at 14 percent, and, for the first time in a generation, youth tobacco use has increased. The reason for these new trends is thought to be due to the popularity of e-cigarettes.

The U.S. Surgeon General calls teen e-cigarette use an epidemic. National surveys found that from 2017 to 2018, youth vaping increased 78 percent – the largest increase in adolescent substance use ever recorded.

Minnesota health advocates have been fighting to include e-cigarettes in the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act since 2014 and they were finally successful this spring when a bipartisan bill was signed into law. The new law, which begins Aug. 1, prohibits the use of e-cigarettes in workplaces and public places, such as restaurants, bars and stores.

Reasons for the change are to improve the health of local residents and send a message to youth that e-cigarettes aren’t safe. Indoor, public e-cigarette use – especially when allowed in places where cigarette smoking is prohibited – may re-normalize smoking and further threaten Minnesota’s progress to reduce youth tobacco use, according to Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco.

The coalition is also pushing for Tobacco 21 policies, which have been enacted in 40 Minnesota cities and counties, including Olmsted County. The measure raises the tobacco sale age to 21, which helps to reduce youth smoking since 95 percent of addicted adult smokers started before age 21. The National Academy of Medicine estimates that Tobacco 21 would reduce smoking among 15- to 17-year-olds by 25 percent.

Another way tobacco companies are making their products more palatable to consumers is with “natural” cigarettes or those “made from organic tobacco.” These terms imply reduced risk of toxic exposures and studies back that perception up with findings that show smokers choose them for that reason.

However, University of Minnesota researchers who did a comprehensive chemical analysis of 13 varieties of one brand, Natural American Spirit, found something quite different.

The study, which was led by School of Public Health Associate Professor and Masonic Cancer Center member Irina Stepanov, was recently published in the journal Tobacco Regulatory Science. The researchers investigated both the tobacco used in Natural American Spirit cigarettes and the smoke they produce. The smoke was analyzed using a smoking machine, a device that simulates puffing on a cigarette and measures the chemicals emitted.

The study found: levels of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals in Natural American Spirit cigarettes are generally similar to those found in other commercial cigarette brands; and tobacco and smoke of Natural American Spirit cigarettes contain higher levels of nicotine than those typically present in other brands, which suggests they may be more addictive.

"The similarities between the cancer-causing chemicals in various Natural American Spirit cigarettes are consistent with the knowledge that harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke come from the tobacco plant itself or from the combustion process, and do not depend on tobacco being ‘organic’ or ‘natural,’" said Aleksandra Alcheva, a School of Public Health graduate student and study co-author. “We also learned that there is more tobacco per cigarette and it takes more puffs to finish Natural American Spirit cigarettes than other king-size brands, which means a smoker can inhale more smoke from each cigarette.” 

Companies can market their product differently and come up with new ways to use tobacco, but that doesn’t change the fact that cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases and reduces the health of smokers in general.

In fact, cigarette smoking causes nearly one in five deaths in the United States each year. More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rather than chasing the latest fad in smoking, people would be better off staying away, or leaving if they are already hooked. As the CDC notes, quitting smoking lowers the risk for smoking-related diseases, even as soon as within one year in the case of heart attacks, for example, and can add years to one’s life. Never starting provides an even better outlook.








Just a side note , Your new canidate of the month Andrew “$1000 a Month “ Yang , said “ It’s too late ,we all need to move to higher ground “ . It’s now your  duty to put out the word , hurry the sky is falling , we need to move to higher ground.