Monday, June 06, 2011

Linn County Health Officials Want to Ban Dissolvable Tobacco Products (Which Kids Don't Use) and Keep Cigarettes (Which Many Kids Do Use) Available

Apparently wanting to make sure that kids in Linn County, Iowa will continue to have access to their tobacco product of choice - cigarettes - health officials in that county are urging the County Board of Supervisors to pass a law that bans the sale of tobacco products, but exempts the most popular types of tobacco products among kids: cigarettes and traditional smokeless tobacco products like snuff and chewing tobacco.

In fact, the only type of tobacco product for which a ban is recommended by county health officials is dissolvable tobacco products (like Ariva and Stonewall), which are exceedingly unpopular among youths.

Ironically, the entire premise of the proposed policy, according to health officials, is to "protect youth."

According to an Eastern Iowa Health article: "Linn County Public Health received a $2 million, two-year Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant last year through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to target tobacco policies."

The Rest of the Story

If this is how the $2 million of federal taxpayer money is being used, then it is being spent in exactly the opposite way that it should.

This policy targets precisely the least popular type of tobacco product among youth and specifically exempts the most popular tobacco product: cigarettes. Thus, the proposed ordinance does nothing to reduce youth tobacco use in Linn County. It does, however, penalize smokers who may be trying to quit with the use of Ariva or Stonewall.

A study published last year in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research demonstrated that the use of Ariva/Stonewall "led to a significant reduction (40%, 95% CI: 24%–55%) in cigarettes per day, no significant increases in total tobacco use (cigarettes + Ariva/Stonewall; p > .05), and significant increases in two measures of readiness to quit, either in the next month (p < .001) or within the next 6 months (p = .04), as well as significant increases in self-efficacy to quit smoking (p < .001)."

The researchers conclude: "this study suggests a strong need for a large prospective randomized clinical trial to more accurately assess the long-term viability of smokeless tobacco use as a method for cessation induction among unmotivated smokers."

I guess they won't be conducting that trial in Linn County. There, they seem to be eager to take off the market a product which is safer than cigarette smoking and which could potentially be helping some smokers to quit, under the guise of "protecting youth." But how exactly does it protect youth to ban a product which those youth are not using? And to exempt from the ban the precise products which are most popular among those youth?

The logic among Linn County health officials is exactly reversed. This is similar to the reversed logic among national anti-smoking groups, which supported FDA tobacco legislation that institutionalizes the FDA's seal of approval for the most toxic tobacco products on the market - cigarettes - and puts insurmountable obstacles that preclude the marketing of safer tobacco products that could potentially save lives.

While Linn County received a $2 million "Communities Putting Prevention to Work" grant last year, I would suggest that this year it needs a $4 million "Communities Putting Logic to Work" grant.

No comments: