Monthly Archives: March 2014

Exposure to Tobacco Smoke May Contribute to Allergies

More than a third of children in the United States live with a tobacco smoker, and allergic diseases are becoming increasingly common among children. Could there be a connection? A recent study review found that tobacco smoke exposure was moderately associated with nose, skin and food allergies, especially in children and teenagers.

The authors of this review believe that more studies that focus on specific age groups and more detailed definitions of exposure are needed to fully assess the strength of these associations. The lead author of this review was Bahi Takkouche, MD, PhD, from the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Santiago de Compostela, Spain; and the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Epidemiología y Salud Pública in Barcelona, Spain.

A total of 196 studies published between 1996 and June 30, 2013. Ninety-seven of the studies were on allergic rhinitis, 91 studies were on allergic dermatitis and eight studies were on food allergies. Allergic rhinitis is a reaction that causes the inside of the nose to become inflamed due to breathing in allergens such as pollen, dust, animal hair, etc. Symptoms include running nose, sneezing, watery eyes and itchy nose, throat and eyes.

Allergic dermatitis is a skin reaction that happens when the skin is exposed to allergens such as latex gloves, poisonous plants, antibiotics or certain fragrances. The studies were conducted in 51 countries around the world.

The findings showed that secondhand smoke exposure was associated with a 10 percent increased risk of developing allergic rhinitis when all studies were analyzed together. When the authors restricted the analysis to adult participants only, they found that secondhand smoke exposure was associated with a 17 percent increased risk of developing allergic rhinitis.

Smokers were 21 percent more likely to develop allergic dermatitis compared to the participants who were not exposed to tobacco smoke (either through smoking or secondhand smoke exposure). Adult smokers were 14 percent more likely to develop allergic dermatitis compared to adults who were not exposed to tobacco smoke.

Secondhand smoke exposure was associated with a 7 percent increased risk of developing allergic dermatitis for all ages, but was associated with a 26 percent increased risk of developing allergic dermatitis when just considering the adults.

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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Tobacco News


Smoking, Plain Packaging, and Public Health

Smoking is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the world. In most wealthy countries, smoking has been declining for decades. Public health experts and anti-smoking groups have for many years advocated for restrictions on the marketing of tobacco products in general and cheap cigarettes in particular. In response, governments in wealthy countries have banned most or all advertising, and many have banned sponsorship and other explicit forms of marketing of cigarettes.

Many public health advocates say these restrictions do not go far enough and have called for the elimination of brand identifiers such as logos and colours on cigarette packs. Some experimental evidence suggested that such plain packs would encourage smokers to perceive cigarettes less favorably, which might lead them to quit.

However, this optimism was tempered by evidence that even restrictions on advertising have had at best a small influence on the decline in smoking (most of the decline can be traced to a better understanding of the risks of smoking, in large part a result of public information campaigns, and taxes on cigarettes).

In 2011, Australia’s government introduced legislation mandating that cigarettes be sold in “plain packages” (i.e., without brand logos and colours). The legislation came into effect in late 2012. (Australia had already banned practically all tobacco advertising and other forms of marketing. In 2006, it had introduced a requirement that cigarette packs display graphic health warnings on a substantial proportion of their surface area.)

Some studies (such as a survey carried out when plain packaging was being introduced, an analysis of calls to a smoking cessation hotline, and a survey of outdoor smoking habits) suggest that plain packaging has indeed, made cigarettes less desirable to smokers and has increased thoughts of quitting.

However, an online survey of smokers carried out in two phases, the first a month before and the second six to eight weeks after the introduction of the plain packaging rules, suggest that the impact of the rules on quitting tendencies is probably small. Moreover, many smokers engaged in defensive behaviors such as covering up health warnings, and did not report changing brands or a significant increased tendency to quit. This finding was corroborated by another survey that found that in the year to July 2013 the proportion of smokers in Australia had not declined since the introduction of plain packaging.

A study looking at discarded packs and other data suggests that consumption of cigarettes in the year to July 2013 remained at the same level as in 2012, but found that the proportion of illicit cigarettes had increased substantially. This is corroborated by the most recent Annual Report of Australia’s Customs and Border Protection Service, which indicates that the number of illicit cigarettes entering Australia has indeed risen dramatically in the past three years.

The discarded pack study concluded that contraband—much of which is in the form of finished cigarettes that are not legally sold anywhere in the world, known as “illicit whites”—now accounts for more than half of illegal sales and about 7.5% of all sales. Part of the blame for the increased availability of illicit whites lies with a 25% increase in excise tax on tobacco introduced in 2010. But, since most of the increase in their market share occurred in the past 18 months, part of the blame almost certainly rests with the plain packaging rules.

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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Tobacco Facts


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