Parker Waichman LLP Injury Alerts
SMOKING UPDATE More Bad NewsJun 1, 2003 In a previous Newsletter, we discussed a number of smoking related issues other than the obvious one, lung cancer. Since that time, however, many of those issues have appeared again and again in the media. This prompted us to update our research and information so that we might provide our readers with the most recent facts regarding these matters.
I. The Misleading Notion of “Light” and “Low Tar” Cigarettes:
The tobacco industry has always led the public to believe that smoking “light” or “low tar” versions of cigarettes is less harmful because health risks are minimized. Recent studies indicate that this may not be the case at all. There are a number of factors which show that the information provided by the tobacco industry is indeed misleading.
* A recent report published by the National Cancer Institute found that people who switched to low-tar cigarettes actually smoked more in order to get the same total amount of nicotine. For the most part, the ratio between tar and nicotine remains the same in all cigarettes and, therefore, the risk for the smoker exposing his or her lungs to the carcinogenic ingredients remains the same. The same report found that smokers of these “mild” brands inhale eight times more nicotine than the amount listed on the packet. “The [report] clearly demonstrates that people who switch to ‘low-tar’ or ‘light’ cigarettes…are likely to inhale the same amount of cancer-causing toxins,” says Scott Leischow, Ph.D., Chief of the NCI Tobacco Control Research Branch. “Scientific research does not show that changes in cigarette design and manufacturing over the last 50 years have benefited public health.”
* According to an analysis in Tobacco Control, a British Medical Association publication, many tobacco companies recognized that low tar products were as dangerous as regular cigarettes, yet continued to market them as “healthier” alternatives. The industry believed that, with all the evidence linking tobacco with lung cancer, smokers would be encouraged to quit and thus they devised “low tar” and “light” products in order to reassure them that smoking was not as bad as they originally thought.
* Cigarettes that are branded as “hi-fi” or “high filtration” imply that they are somehow able to reduce health risks associated with smoking. This filtering ploy was recently described in industry documents as “an effective advertising gimmick” which was merely cosmetic, offering “the image of health reassurance.”
* While test results related to “low tar/light” cigarettes seem to illustrate that they are a healthier alternative to full-flavor cigarettes, the test results themselves are subject to question. The tobacco industry designed cigarettes specifically so that the Federal Trade Commission tests, which have used smoking machines since the 1960s to determine the levels of smoke toxicity, would find that these “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes yield less tar when smoked. In actuality, they still deliver full doses of tar and nicotine to actual smokers.
* Although low-tar cigarettes are frequently made with porous paper and more loosely packed tobacco in an effort to reduce tar intake, research has shown that smokers will still receive the maximum levels of tar because they will usually take more (and deeper) puffs or smoke more total cigarettes per day. Some of these cigarettes also have small holes in the filters designed to dilute the tar and nicotine with air. Reports show, however, that many people will consciously or unconsciously cover these holes with their mouths while smoking thus receiving the same amounts of tar and nicotine as in regular cigarettes.
* In a study conducted last year by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, less than 10% of smokers nationwide knew that one light cigarette could deliver the same amount of tar as one regular cigarette.
* As we previously reported, William Farone, a former employee of Phillip Morris, the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturer, has testified that the company increased the tar in one “low-tar” brand, Cambridge Lights, from 0 to 12 mg. over a seven-year period. The company never told consumers that the tar content had gradually been increased. Smokers of the aforementioned brand as well as smokers who bought Marlboro Lights subsequently sued Phillip Morris on the grounds that the label “lights” was deceptive regarding tar and nicotine levels. (The lawsuit was for the refund of money they paid for the cigarettes as opposed to one for personal injuries). A spokesman for Phillip Morris said that the company does not want the terms “light” and “low-tar” banned from cigarette packs but would support greater regulation of their use.
II. Second-Hand Smoke: Just as Dangerous
There is no longer any real doubt that second-hand smoke is indeed harmful and that increased and prolonged exposure to it can result in the very same health risks as those associated with first-hand smoke. As the following indicates, second-hand smoke should be avoided whenever possible:
* A Japanese study examined the effects of spending 30 minutes in a hospital’s smoking room on smoking and non-smoking men. The study found that the non-smokers exhibited a reduced ability of heart arteries to dilate which previous research has suggested may be a precursor to the hardening of arteries. It was not determined, however, if these effects were permanent.
* An international study concluded that exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk for a person to experience a variety of respiratory ailments such as breathlessness, nighttime chest tightness, nighttime breathlessness, and breathlessness after activities.
* In June of 2002, the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that second-hand smoke could be classified as carcinogenic to humans. Non-smokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers. Even typical levels of passive exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer among people who never smoked.
III. Specific Risks for Women and Children:
Although the IARC study found that lung cancer risks are similar in women and men and that 90% of lung cancers in both sexes are attributable to cigarette smoking, there are specific health risks for women and children about which the public should be aware.
* As our previous discussion on this particular issue revealed, since 1950, there has been a 600% increase in women’s death rates from lung cancer. Three million women have died of diseases caused by smoking or in fires ignited by cigarettes since 1980 and, on average, these women died 14 years prematurely. In the 1990s, American women lost a collective 2.1 million years of life because of smoking.
* According to a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, female smokers are at greater risk than non-smokers for infertility. Cigarette smoke includes a toxin that can trigger ovarian failure by accelerating the destruction of egg cells in ovaries. The process is gradual and cannot be immediately detected. Researchers are now studying the possibility that smoking by pregnant women could damage the ovaries of developing female fetuses and reduce the number of egg cells produced by the female offspring of women who smoke.
* Additional evidence has reinforced previous reports that pregnant women who smoke are at a greater risk of having: (1) a baby with a low birth weight; (2) a stillborn baby; (3) a neonatal death; or (4) a child with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition, the children of smoking women have a greater risk of developing asthma, bronchitis, colds and pneumonia.
* Female smokers suffer from lower bone density and experience a premature decline in lung function.
* Women are more easily conned into smoking light cigarettes: 58% of women use lights compared to 50% of men.
* In addition to lung cancer, women who smoke are at greater risk to develop cancers of the mouth and pharynx, esophagus, larynx, bladder, pancreas, kidney, and cervix. They also have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, especially when using oral contraceptives.
* It bears repeating that the children of women who smoke during pregnancy are at greater risk of developing Type II diabetes and obesity. The findings suggest that smoking deprives the fetus of nutrients, resulting in lifelong metabolic abnormalities. Because diabetes and obesity are associated with heart disease, smoking during pregnancy can also risk shortening the child’s life span.
* A study by the Hong Kong University Faculty of Medicine found that babies who live with two or more smokers are 30% more likely to need hospital treatment that those who grow up in smoke-free homes.
* Childhood exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is associated with an increased prevalence of asthma among adult non-smokers. People exposed to ETS during childhood are also more likely to experience breathing difficulties from exercise and when exposed to cold air.
* The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that children whose parents smoke may have lower levels of vitamin C, a vital antioxidant, than children of non-smokers. Vitamin C is needed for normal growth and development. Even very low exposure to second-hand smoke was found to be associated with lower levels of vitamin C.
IV. Further Updates on Smoking Related Issues
The tobacco industry continues to receive criticism for advertising schemes which often targeted young people.
* In June of 2002, the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company was accused of violating a 1998 legal settlement by targeting children in its ads. The company spent $9.4 million on advertising in magazines such as Rolling Stone, Spin, and TV Guide which are known to have a substantial number of young readers. The current settlement did not mention magazine advertising but included a ban on companies taking “any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth within any settling state in the advertising, promotion, or marketing of tobacco products.”
* Anti-smoking groups have sought to regulate tobacco advertisements so that they would no longer be appealing to minors. They argue that banning pictures from ads would help eliminate the image that smoking is fun. Studies have shown that adolescents and young adults are more likely to recall cigarette ads than those over age 30.
* Last year, a Michigan attorney called on the FDA to institute a ban on a new candy-like tobacco product called “Ariva.” Ariva is a mint-flavored candy which delivers as much nicotine as smoking a cigarette. The product had never been tested for safety or health purposes when it appeared on the market in July of 2002. Star Scientific, Inc., the makers of the product, was accused of marketing the bright packaging and sweet flavor towards children. This product was immediately viewed as dangerous since parents would not be able to ascertain if their children were using it because it does not emit a strong tobacco odor when used.
* Many advertisements are still specifically aimed at young women to present the illusion that some “female brands” are designed to keep them slim.
With all of the evidence that continues to surface regarding the harmful and deadly effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products, the percentage of smokers has still not seen a significant overall decline. People continue to perpetuate this deadly habit despite major health risks and adolescents are still beginning to smoke regardless of the warnings they receive from their parents, in school, and from other sources. As we previously reported, smoking even causes premature wrinkles and lines according to a study in the Lancet Medical Journal. The study concluded that smoking switches on a gene involved in destroying collagen, the structural protein that gives skin its elasticity. This suggests that smoking produces an effect on skin that is similar to the injury caused by over exposure to the sun.
We caution our readers not to be taken in by the tobacco industry’s misleading advertising campaigns. Don’t be fooled by the hype surrounding “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes. Avoid exposure to as much second-hand smoke as possible. Do everything you can to discourage your children from smoking. The experts agree that the only way to reduce health risks associated with smoking is to quit completely. (Many states operate free services to help people quit smoking). However, to avoid those same risks altogether, a person should not start smoking in the first place.
For further information regarding the rights you or your loved one may have with respect to this matter contact PARKER & WAICHMAN immediately by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER or visiting http://www.yourlawyer.com.