WHO: Tobacco use falling, urge countries to invest in helping more people to quit tobacco

A new World Health Organization (WHO) shows 60 countries are on track to reduce tobacco usage from 2010-2025 by 30 percent or more. The report also says investment in evidence-based practices like funding quitlines (among other cessation practices) could help more than 150 million people quit. To read the report, follow the link.

KX News: Help available for tobacco users

KX News interviewed TFND about the upcoming #QuitWeek2021. You can read the full article by clicking here.

PuffBar Defies FDA Order and Brings Products Back to Market

Puff Bar was ordered to take their products off the market by the FDA. They’ve brought them back in an effort to skirt FDA regulations and get youth hooked on nicotine. Read more about their move in this Wall Street Journal article.

Foster County Passes Tobacco Free Park Policy

Congratulations to Foster County for passing a tobacco free parks policy! These policies are critical to ensure every North Dakotan breathes clean air in public places. Thanks to all parties and the commission who worked so hard on to make this happen. To read the policy, click here. 

CNN: The fight against Covid-19 should also be the fight against tobacco

This story was posted on CNN’s website on June 3. The opinion piece was written by Kelly Henning, the director of public health at Bloomberg Philanthropies. She’s also a former professor of infectious disease at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and served as director of the Division of Epidemiology at the New York City Health Department.


Community Readiness Survey Shows Startling Concerns About Tobacco in North Dakota

The 2019 Community Readiness Survey of North Dakota is showing adults across the state are deeply worried about tobacco use, particularly among youth.

Just a few numbers in the survey show:

  • 3 out of 4 (75 percent) of ND adults believe tobacco use is a moderate or serious problem among youth.
  • Nearly 92 percent of adults don’t believe kids should be using e-cigarette products
  • Nearly 57 percent of adults say the tobacco taxes in North Dakota should be increased, something that hasn’t happened since 1993.
  • 82 percent of people say e-cigarettes should be taxed at the same rate as other tobacco products

To read the full survey, click here

ABC23: Family warns of symptoms and health dangers of vaping

This story was posted on ABC23’s website on April 14. ABC23 serves Bakersfield, California. The original link to the story can be found here

Family warns of symptoms and health dangers of vaping

Posted at 8:41 PM, Apr 14, 2020

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — This past march 16-year-old Ryker Schamblin had a cough along with nausea and vomiting for about a week. So, his parents took him to urgent care where he got an x-ray, doctors thought he had pneumonia and prescribed standard medications and sent him home.

A few days later Ryker hadn’t improved and was still having trouble breathing, so they took him to the emergency room.

“Immediately kind of thought it was a COVID to be honest with you. He had the clinical picture of a COVID presentation,” said Mark Schamblin, Ryker’s dad.

Ryker was immediately admitted into the intensive care unit. He was put on oxygen, and given an x-ray, CT scan and was tested for COVID-19. After his first night in the ICU his breathing worsened, and doctors said he had acute respiratory distress syndrome also known as ARDS. The next morning doctors told his parents his x-rays were ten times worse and he needed to be intubated immediately.

“As dad it’s a nightmare. I’ve said often times if there’s one thing that could break me it would be losing a kid or losing him. So, as a dad it’s painful and as a doctor who’s seen these things sometimes go the wrong way, you can’t help but panic that he’s not going to come out of it,” said Mark.

Ryker’s doctors began some treatment but were waiting for the result of his COVID-19 test to ensure the next best course of treatment. The hospital even sending the COVID-19 test out of town to get faster results.

His test came back negative but while the nurses prepped Ryker for the ventilator, they found a clue that lead to the right diagnoses, vape pens.

Ryker was placed on a RotoProne bed, used to treat acute respiratory distress. Part of the bed treatment required him to be placed facedown for 16 hours. His family said it was hard to sign off on the treatment once they saw the risks which included, facial disfiguration, blindness and skin wounds.

“That was the hardest part was while he was on the RotoProne bed because we couldn’t see him,” said Dana Schamblin, Ryker’s mom.

After eight days of being in a medically induced coma and a series of breathing tests, Ryker finally began to recover.

His parents said they took pictures because, “We wanted him to be able to see them and see what he went through. I mean our word versus – pictures speak for themselves,” said Dana.

Ryker is home now recovering, he lost 30 pounds in the hospital and said he never thought this would happen to him. He also hopes he can let other people know the danger of vaping.

“Just don’t do it. You don’t want to go through that, you don’t want to see your parents cry, you don’t want to see any of that there’s no point,” said Ryker.

CNN Health: Now’s the time to quit smoking: It could increase your odds of beating Covid-19

This article appeared on CNN Health’s webpage on April 3, 2020. The original link to the article can be found here.

Now’s the time to quit smoking: It could increase your odds of beating Covid-19

By Ryan Prior

(CNN)If you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, there’s no time like the present pandemic.

With the novel coronavirus sweeping the globe, the science on quitting smoking offers welcome news for smokers who want to build up their defenses in case they contract Covid-19.
Though it may still take many months for a smoker’s lungs to heal from damage caused by long-term smoking, your health can noticeably improve in the days and weeks after quitting in ways that could make a difference against the virus.
Although you can’t reverse scarring to your lungs caused by smoking, there are a number of ways your lung health can improve in the short term, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Time to strengthen your lungs

“Every lung doctor in America will be preaching that everyone should quit smoking.” Dr. Brian Christman, a volunteer spokesman with the American Lung Association and a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, told CNN. While this message isn’t new, it’s more relevant than ever.

Covid-19 creates an added sense of urgency, and there’s ample reason to believe that quitting smoking during the pandemic could increases your odds of fighting off the virus.
If you make the decision to quit, the cilia in your lungs are one of the first parts of your body to heal. These hair-like projections wave back and forth like a brush as air moves in and out of your lungs. They help your body fight off colds and infection, the CDC says. They also help clear mucus, so if they’re not functioning as well as they should, mucus can build up in the lungs.
Your body’s inclination to cough during an infection helps activate the bodily process of clearing out mucus, called the mucociliary escalator. That’s vital in fighting the Covid-19 condition.
The elderly are at a greater risk for excessive lung fluid that often limits breathing following coronavirus infection because “old folks don’t have a strong enough cough to clear it up,” Christman said.

Quitting can reduce inflammation

A second short-term gain from quitting smoking comes from reducing ongoing inflammation in your body, which can predispose you to Covid-19.
“If you quit smoking, the chronic inflammation goes away after a few weeks,” Christman said.
You’ll notice you won’t have as many symptoms of being short of breath when walking or climbing stairs, the CDC says.
Christman noted that smokers tend to need several months to stop producing higher levels of mucus, which their lungs create in order to clear out tar and other particulates contained in cigarettes.
“In terms of structural change, it takes a little while to clear the whole space,” he said.
Having your lungs in as good of shape as you can in case of a coronavirus infection is key. Covid-19 patients frequently experience acute lung injury, which can cause leakiness in mucus membranes, leading to what’s called acute respiratory distress syndrome, Christman said. This condition can result in patients drowning in their own mucus.
For smokers, “at baseline you’re set up for chronic bronchitis,” Christman said. “With Covid, it gets worse.”
And even if you’re not living in an area where there are numerous coronavirus cases, your decision to quit smoking might pay off down the road. That’s because public health authorities have projected multiple waves of cases over the next 18 months could be possible.
“It’s an investment in the future,” he said. “Covid might circulate in the Southern Hemisphere and then come back. Someone quitting now might really help themselves in the second wave.”

Respiratory failure is a common cause of death

For those who are diagnosed with Covid-19 and either fall seriously ill or die from it, respiratory failure or significant lung damage is common.
According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report through March 28, 78% of US Covid-19 cases requiring intensive care unit admission came from patients who self-reported a recognized risk factor or a diagnosis of at least one underlying medical condition.
Current or former smoking status was among the shortlist of risk factors, along with other traits known to put people at risk for respiratory illness, including pregnancy. The most commonly reported underlying conditions included diabetes, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and immune compromised conditions.

Quitting smoking helps with blood circulation

Besides lung-related issues, smoking cessation can also deliver healthy benefits to the heart that could help stave off the possibility of cardiac arrest. Heart attacks are another cause of death in Covid-19 cases.
After you quit smoking, your blood becomes thinner and less susceptible to clotting, the CDC says. Heart attacks are less likely. One reason this happens is because smokers inhale carbon monoxide, and thereby diminish their capacity to carry oxygen and make it harder for the heart to distribute blood throughout the body.
“There is the occasional patient with Covid who dies from heart failure,” Christman says. He noted that in some cases, clinicians were seeing patients with elevated levels of troponins — a sign of heart attack that can be triggered by a severe infection.
You may already be practicing social distancing, washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face. In addition to all these, limiting or quitting smoking is yet another important aspect of your anti-coronavirus arsenal.
“Now is the time to take care of yourself,” Christman said.

Bloomberg News: FTC Sues to Unwind Altria’s $12.8 Billion Juul Investment

*April 6 Update* The Federal Trade Commission posted the complaint on their website. You can read the complaint by clicking here.


This article appeared on Bloomberg’s Business News webpage on April 2. The original link to the story can be found here

FTC Sues to Unwind Altria’s $12.8 Billion Juul Investment

By: and 

U.S. antitrust officials sued to reverse Altria Group Inc.’s troubled $12.8 billion deal to take a stake in vaping company Juul Labs Inc., saying the companies are competitors who shouldn’t be in business together.

The move further chips away at a much-heralded late 2018 deal that was supposed to combine the marketing might of Marlboro maker Altria with the savvy cool of Silicon Valley startup Juul. Instead, Altria has written down the investment twice, slashing the 35% stake’s value to $4.2 billion in January as health concerns about e-cigarettes led to a regulatory crackdown. Nonetheless, Altria vowed Wednesday to defend the deal.

The Federal Trade Commission’s complaint argues that Altria and Juul were aggressive rivals until Altria decided to end the competition by shutting down its own e-cigarette brands, MarkTen and Green Smoke, before acquiring its stake in Juul.

“Altria and Juul turned from competitors to collaborators by eliminating competition and sharing in Juul’s profits,” Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement

The complaint is the latest hurdle for the deal, which gave the largest U.S. cigarette maker a piece of the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker and was criticized from the start. Altria investors bemoaned the price tag and longtime Juul employees said the transaction flew in the face of Juul’s stated mission to rid the world of cigarettes.

The FTC’s challenge could cost Altria its piece of the e-cigarette market, which had appeared to be an avenue for growth as smoking rates decline and the market for tobacco shrinks. At the same time, it could release the company from the troubled investment. Complicating the process for Altria is the fact that Chief Executive Officer Howard Willard has contracted Covid-19 and has taken a medical leave of absence.

Altria shares gained 0.9% to $37.95 in premarket trading Thursday. Through the close of trading Wednesday, the stock had fallen 25% this year, roughly in line with the drop in the broader market caused by the coronavirus crisis.

“We believe that our investment in Juul does not harm competition and that the FTC misunderstood the facts,” Altria General Counsel Murray Garnick said in a statement. Juul declined to comment.

For Juul, it poses yet another hurdle for the embattled company to overcome as it grapples with investigations of its business practices that allegedly helped spark a surge of underage vaping. The company is now a target of federal investigations and lawsuits from parents and school districts. The FTC also has a separate probe into the company’s marketing.

Juul and other e-cigarette makers must soon submit applications to the Food and Drug Administration to continue selling their products in the U.S.

It’s unclear how the investment could be unwound. Juul has spent the bulk of the $12.8 billion to pay out investors and award bonuses to its employees. Other Juul investors include Fidelity Investments and Tiger Global Management. Altria was supposed to gain voting rights and board seats at Juul with antitrust clearance.

Unanimous Vote

The FTC’s five commissioners voted unanimously to file a complaint in its administrative court and a trial has been scheduled to begin on Jan. 5, 2021. The complaint threatens to tie up Altria in litigation for months. The cases are heard by an administrative law judge and then by the full five-member commission. Decisions can be appealed to federal court.

The complaint, which hasn’t been made public, follows a year-long investigation by the FTC into whether Altria’s investment violated antitrust laws.

In October 2018, Altria pulled its pod-based e-cigarette products from the market and sent a letter to Scott Gottlieb, then the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, blaming products like Juul’s for fueling a teen vaping epidemic. Two months later, Altria closed its e-cigarette business entirely and then announced its Juul investment.

As part of the deal, Altria gave Juul some of its shelf space and promised its help with an upcoming regulatory application that will determine whether Juul can continue to sell its e-cigarettes in the U.S. In the fall of 2019, a longtime Altria executive who pursued the investment, K.C. Crosthwaite, took over as Juul’s CEO and hired Altria colleague Joe Murillo as Juul’s chief regulatory officer.

Health Scare

Juul, once among the most valuable start-ups in the U.S., saw its fortunes quickly diminish last year. A health scare that was later tied to faulty cannabis vaping products spooked consumers and prompted governors and state regulators to crack down.

The company laid off about 650 people last fall and implemented a $1 billion restructuring plan. A number of executives have left amid the shake up. Co-founder James Monsees and Chief Transformation Officer Guy Cartwright both left within the past month.

Altria has been “highly disappointed” in the investment, CEO Willard said in January. Lawsuits accusing Juul of hooking minors to nicotine have ballooned, including many that name Altria as a co-defendant. The company has since narrowed the terms of its cooperation with Juul away from marketing and solely to gaining regulatory approval.

FTC Scrutiny

The FTC is increasingly questioning deals where upstart competitors are swallowed up by established players. In February, the agency demanded new information about startup acquisitions by Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. that had previously flown under its radar to determine whether they should have been blocked. The same month, the FTC sued to block the merger of Edgewell Personal Care Co., the maker of Schick razors, with Harry’s, the shaving-supply company.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the Altria-Juul deal, according to a report last month from the Wall Street Journal.

(Updates stock-price information in seventh paragraph. A previous version of this article corrected the date that Altria closed down its e-cigarette business in 14th paragraph.)

Post Bulletin: I’m a smoker … And along comes a pandemic

This article appeared online for the Post Bulletin out of Minnesota. It was published on March 31. The original article can be read by clicking here.


I’m a smoker … And along comes a pandemic

Matthew Stolle mstolle@postbulletin.com

Mar 31, 2020 Updated Apr 1, 2020

It’s never been a great time to be a smoker. Now in the midst of a pandemic, it just got riskier for smokers.

Yet smoking is a coping mechanism for many, and pandemics are nothing if not stressful.

Dr. J. Taylor Hays, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center, talked with the PB about the heightened risks smokers face and why now might be the time to quit.

PB: Why are smokers at risk for COVID-19?

Hays: Several things are at play. One of the more obvious ones is that smokers have a higher risk for all kinds of conditions that are associated with more risk of complications from COVID-19. So, for example, chronic lung disease, COPD, emphysema. People with chronic lung disease have a higher risk of complications and more serious and critical infections.

More specifically, we know that smoking decreases the ability of the lungs to fight infection. The main thing that smoking does is impede the clearance of mucus from the lungs. We have in our lungs little hairs on the cells called cilia that beat in a coordinated fashion and move the mucus we produce up (towards the throat). That’s how we clear infections.

In smokers, those cilia don’t work. They’re paralyzed.

PB: So if I’m a smoker, I’m more susceptible to COVID-19. And if I get the infection, my symptoms are more likely to be more severe. Is that right?

Hays: More complicated, more severe, longer recovery time. Greater chance of having to go to the hospital, developing lower respiratory infections and pneumonia.

Early data from China suggests that smokers were over-represented among the people who had severe and critical illness, who had higher risk of mortality from the COVID infection.

PB: Here’s a hard-hearted question: Smokers know the risks. Why should I care?

Hays: You’re right. People do make choices in their lives. And some of those choices end up costing them. And in this case, the cost could be dear. But my comeback to that is: Because of the nicotine in tobacco causes addiction, people really lose the ability to choose.

So if a chemical is driving the urge to smoke and causing withdrawal around quitting, those are hallmarks of addiction.

Also, smoking doesn’t just impact you. It impacts people around you. If you’re inside your house, which we all are, and you’re smoking, second-hand smoke exposure is also a risk factor for more serious COVID 19 infection.

PB: Let’s say the pandemic scares me enough to consider stop smoking. If I stopped now, would I get any appreciable benefits?

Hays: The answer to that is an unequivocal yes. We know that within hours of stopping, respiratory symptoms begin to improve. Within days, the clearance of mucus begins to improve.

PB: What is the percentage of people who smoke?

Hays: It’s gotten a lot better in the U.S. We’re now down for all adults to 15 percent to 17 percent in most states. In Minnesota, we’re probably down to 14 percent. That’s the lowest we’ve been since before World War II.

PB: Do the risks you describe also apply to marijuana smokers and people who vape?

Hays: The answer to that is unknown. We presume that if you inhale any combustible product or e-cigarettes, that it can cause some irritation to the lung. That’s probably not a good thing to do. If you’re exposed to COVID and have to fight an infection, we presume it would increase your risk. But there’s no data on that yet.

Those interested in quitting can find more information by calling 1-800-quit-now, a national quit line. You can also access information at becomeanex.org.