16/06/2014

Cigarette Smoking Down Amongst Teens, But Nearly Half Admit To Texting While Driving

The number of teenagers who smoke cigarettes is at a 22-year-low, but nearly half of all high school students report having texted or emailed while driving, according to a new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released Thursday.

The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) report found cigarette smoking rates among high school students has dropped to 15.7 percent. However, the CDC study, which used national data and 42 states, also said 41 percent of students who had operated a motor vehicle over the past 30 days admitted to having texted or emailed while doing so.

According to Reuters reporter David Beasley, the teenage smoking rate is the lowest recorded since the survey began in 1991. Health officials told Beasley the results were encouraging, but they expressed concern that any gains made by anti-smoking campaigns would be offset by the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes.

“We’re particularly concerned about e-cigarettes re-glamorizing smoking traditional cigarettes and maybe making it more complicated to enforce smoke-free laws that protect all non-smokers,” CDC Director Tom Frieden told Reuters.

Likewise, Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the YRBSS study findings “are a powerful reminder that the fight against tobacco is an entirely winnable battle, but the job is still far from done.”

This year marked the first year the CDC inquired about teen texting-and-driving habits, and in stark contrast to the smoking statistics, the results were not encouraging – especially among older students. In fact, Alex Wayne of Bloomberg News reports more than half of all high-school seniors confessed to having texted while behind the wheel.

“Texting and driving can lead to car crashes, the number 1 cause of deaths among adolescents, the Atlanta-based agency said in its report released today,” Wayne said. “The rate rises as students age, with 61 percent of 12th-grade boys and 59.5 percent of girls reporting they sent a message while driving.”

At the state level, 61.3 percent of students in South Dakota admitted to texting or emailing while driving, noted Mike Esterl of the Wall Street Journal. That was the highest reported incidence rate, while the lowest was observed in Massachusetts, where just 32.3 percent said they had engaged in this high-risk behavior.

More than one-third of students (34.9 percent) said they had consumed at least one alcoholic drink during the past 30 days, Esterl said. That’s down from 38.7 percent in 2011, and part of a steady decline that has been going on for more than a decade. At the state level, teen drinking rates ranged from a high of 39 percent in New Jersey to a low of just 11 percent in Utah, the Wall Street Journal writer added.

The study also found 23.4 percent of students said they had tried marijuana at least once over the past month, compared to 23.1 percent in 2011 and 25.3 percent in 1995. Use of other types of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, had fallen since 2011 and were said to be lower than they were two decades ago.

The percentage of US high school students who had participated in at least one fight over the past 12 months was down from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 2013, and the number of fights occurring on school grounds dropped by half (from 16 percent to 8 percent) since 1993, the CDC report said.

The agency added that the percentage of high school students who are currently sexually active declined from 38 percent in 1991 to 34 percent in 2013. Those who do engage in intercourse were found to be less likely to use condoms, as 63 percent said they used the contraceptive in 2003 compared to just 59 percent in 2013.

09/06/2014

Illicit cigarettes trade causes loss of Rs 80b

The country has lost Rs 80 billion in last five years due to illicit trade in cigarettes and is expected to lose another Rs 100 billion in the next five years.

According to Euromonitor International, a global research agency, Pakistan, the penalties for the sale of smuggled cigarettes included confiscation of such cigarettes, fine up to Rs 50,000, recovery equal to 500 percent of unpaid taxes and the imprisonment up to five years. However, up till now the markets are flooded with smuggled cigarette brands, especially in the absence of enforcement.

Under the laws, the mandatory pictorial and textual health warning in Urdu and English as well as printing of underage sale warning and retail price on each pack is mandatory for cigarettes packs to be sold in Pakistan. Smuggled cigarettes, however, do not comply with any of these mandatory requirements. In addition to that due to non-payment of duties and taxes, the national exchequer suffers huge losses.

In this situation, citizens praised the proposal of the government to increase taxes on tobacco as specified in the finance bill in order to discourage its consumption in public particularly in youth.

Tobacco giant derails Government’s anti-smoking message

A CUT-PRICE $13 packet of 25 cigarettes is being introduced in an act of defiance that has inflamed the health lobby and held the Federal Government’s tough anti-smoking stand in contempt.

Cigarette giant British American Tobacco Australia has begun distributing the Rothmans brand in what is being called a “cheap trick” to get youth and low-income earners smoking. The $13 is barely dearer than an average black-market smokes pack.

With rising prices seen as one of the major motivators for people to quit, health campaigners are further alarmed after the company flagged the possibility of dropping prices even further to cater for what it claims is a surge in demand for cheap cigarettes.

The move is the latest salvo in what the industry itself is describing as “a race to the bottom” as cigarette suppliers scramble to retain market share amid efforts by the Government to reduce smoking rates by rising taxes and plain packaging.

The trend has triggered calls from anti-smoking campaigners for the Federal government to crack down harder, with a minimum price for cigarettes and subsidised nicotine patches.

It comes as a South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute study has found SA smoking rate jumped from 16.7 per cent in 2012 to 19.4 per cent last year while fewer people said they were intending to quit smoking.

The study, published in April, found a 4 per cent rise in male smokers, a 5 per cent spike among 45 to 59 year olds and significant increases in the number of country residents and people with mentall illness taking up smoking.

More people were smoking cheaper roll-your-own cigarettes, the report found.

The State Government has announced it will ban all smoking in outdoor dining areas by 2016 in an attempt to reverse the smoking trend.

Under the Federal Government’s cigarette tax regime implemented in December last year, a 12.5 per cent tobacco excise will apply each year over four years, ending September 2016, raising more than $5 billion for the Government while lifting the price of an average packet of cigarettes to between $20 and $25.

The Government has argued the excise, together with plain packaging laws, are aimed at cutting smoking rates.

However, BATA claims it has had the opposite effect with rising prices driving demand for lower priced cigarettes.

BATA claims the cheap cigarette sector has grown by more than 66 per cent in the past five years as price sensitive smokers down trade to cheaper brands., with more than 42 per cent of the total legal cigarette market now priced under $15 per pack.

When combined with the illegal market, BATA claims more than 60 per cent of all cigarettes sold are priced between $8 and $15.

BATA spokesman Scott McIntyre said the figures showed the excise had failed to curb smoking, especially among 18 to 30 year olds., who were driving the cheap cigarette market.

The demand for cheap cigarettes had forced tobacco companies to price brands accordingly in order to compete for business, particularly among young adults who were driving the demand, he said.

The excise had also coincided with increasing demand for illegal cigarettes, with almost 14 per cent of tobacco sources from the black market — a trend that had forced the industry to go head to head with organised criminals, he said.

“Since the last 12.5 per cent excise increase on 1 December 2013, the low price segment has grown almost five per cent — that’s more smokers, smoking cheaper cigarettes in the last six months,” Mr McIntyre said.

“Although high excise rates have pushed the most expensive pack of 25 cigarettes to around $25, the cheapest legal pack is only $13. We have been forced by the government’s excise policy to price our brand accordingly.

“”We’d prefer not to sell cigarettes at $13 a pack but we are a legal business and we need to compete with other tobacco companies and their cheaper products.”Smokers are driving the market down by seeking cheaper brands and the industry has catered for them.”

He said prices could “potentially” drop further as the industry continued to battle for market share.

Cancer Council SA general manager for cancer control Dr Marion Eckert said cheap cigarettes were a concern becauseprice was a key factor behind smoking rates.

“We know price increases help drive down smoking rates, which in addition to saving lives will ease the burden on our health system,” she said.

“The volume of incoming calls to the Quitline also increases when previous price hikes have been implemented.”

“The financial burden of smoking has a particular impact in disadvantaged communities, where smoking prevalence is much higher than the general population.”

“Increases in the cost of smoking have proven effective in encouraging these groups – people with a mental illness, those on a low income and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – to kick the habit.”