EXPERT VOICES

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American Cancer Society Expert Voices

The American Cancer Society

Thomas J Glynn (9 posts)  RSS

What really works to help you quit and avoid tobacco?

November 17, 2013

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD


The American Cancer Society's first Great American Smokeout was celebrated November 18, 1976. Gerald R. Ford was President of the United States, the "War on Cancer" had begun just a few years before, Barack Obama was 15 years old and, according to a Gallup Poll taken that year, 37% of American adults smoked cigarettes.

This year, the 37th anniversary of that first Great American Smokeout, the percentage of Americans who smoke has nearly been cut in half, to 19%. And, those who do smoke use far fewer cigarettes than in 1976, from about 4,000 cigarettes per year for every U.S. adult then, to about 1,200 now.

Certainly, we know that any cigarette smoking is dangerous to the smoker and non-smokers who inhale cigarette smoke. We also know that far too many Americans continue to smoke - 44 million, at last count. Still, astounding progress has been made in combatting what is the nation's largest cause of preventable death and disability.

How do we know what works?

How was such progress made? What actions were taken to achieve such significant changes in the face of the tobacco industry's relentless, illegal, and well-funded efforts to addict men, women, and children to their deadly products? There is no easy answer to that question. But we do know that, over the past 37 years, a wide range of interventions - in communications, education, policy change, and medicine - have been undertaken. Interventions in all of these areas have been effective, but some have been more effective than others. More...

Menthol cigarettes - what's the big deal ?

August 28, 2013

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD


The discussion around whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should keep or ban menthol-flavored cigarettes has produced a number of news headlines in recent weeks, because in July the agency released a report reviewing current science around these cigarettes. This science will inform many of the decisions the agency may make about menthol cigarettes, and the millions of current and potential smokers who will be affected by those decisions. But the menthol story goes back much further than just the past few weeks.

Menthol and cigarettes: a brief history


Menthol is an organic compound which can be made in a laboratory or derived from mint oils, and has a distinctive and, for most people, pleasant odor and taste. It is used to enhance the flavor, popularity, and ease-of-use of many food products, candies, and medications.

As a medication, it can be used as a mild local anesthetic, counter-irritant, and, more specifically, for the relief of minor throat irritation. That is why menthol was first introduced in cigarettes in the 1920's and gained broader popularity with the introduction of a filtered menthol brand, Salem, in the mid-1950's.

Over the years, largely because they mask the harsh taste and/or throat-irritating properties of inhaled tobacco smoke, mentholated cigarettes have gained a wide audience, such that about 30% of all 44 million smokers in the U.S. now identify menthols as their preferred cigarette. This is especially true among African American smokers, about 80% of whom are menthol users. More...

Mind the (Smoking) Gap: Those Who Want to Quit and Those Who Actually Do

November 14, 2012

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD


For those who have traveled London's Underground, or Tube, the term "Mind the Gap" will be familiar. It's the warning for riders to be aware that there is a gap of several inches between the station platform and the train cars. In the public health community, we also have a gap: the gap between the number of smokers who want to quit and those who actually succeed. The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout, held this year on November 15, is an opportunity to remind us that we also need to "mind the gap."

In the United States, this gap is very wide. Nearly 70% of the country's 43.8 million smokers say they would like to quit smoking; 52% report making at least one serious attempt to quit each year; but a disappointingly low 4% are actually successful in doing so. More...

The FDA and Tobacco Regulation Three Years Later

October 29, 2012

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD

 

As the official sponsor of birthdays, the American Cancer Society has every reason to be proud of a "toddler" celebrating its third birthday this year. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act - aka the Tobacco Control Act - was strongly supported by ACS and ACS CAN and signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 22, 2009.


For the first time and after nearly 2 decades of debate, this historic legislation gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products. In doing so, Congress enabled the FDA to establish the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), which is charged with regulating the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products in order to reduce tobacco use by children under 18 and protect public health.


More specifically, the Tobacco Control Act authorizes the FDA to act in a number of ways, including:

  • Restricting tobacco sales, distribution, and marketing
  • Requiring stronger health warnings on packaging and in advertisements
  • Requiring disclosure of tobacco product ingredients
  • Reducing (but not eliminating) the amount of nicotine in tobacco products
  • Creating standards for tobacco products
  • Regulating "modified risk" (i.e. potentially harm reducing) tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, snus, dissolvables, etc.


So, with the authority to take these types of action, how is the Tobacco Control Act doing 3 years later? Is it having its intended effects? Are Americans - tobacco users and non-users alike - beginning to see its hoped-for health benefits? To best address these questions, it will help to take a small step back and consider the history of the Tobacco Control Act, take a brief look at the Act's accomplishments to date, and then look a bit into the future. More...

Hookahs are trendy, but are they safe?

May 29, 2012

By Tom Glynn, PhD

 

 

Hookah smoking is no safer than cigarette smoking. If you read no further, that is the take-home message for this blog -- no matter what you may have heard or read, the scientific evidence is clear that hookah smoking is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.

 

Countering the widely-held, although mistaken, belief that hookah smoking is safer than cigarette smoking is important, so let's take a step back and consider what hookah is, learn about its history and current popularity, and then look at the facts about the scientific evidence regarding its effects on health. More...

Here Come the Dissolvables

November 16, 2011

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD

 

No, "The Dissolvables" are not a Saturday morning TV cartoon show - they are the tobacco industry's latest attempt to maintain, and even expand, the number of tobacco users in the U.S., at a time when fewer people are smoking cigarettes.


"Dissolvables," as they have become collectively known, are products made of compressed tobacco and are available in a variety of forms, including sticks, pellets, and strips (think the Listerine breath strip). They dissolve in the user's mouth, delivering nicotine, as well as thousands of other chemicals and substances. Examples of these products are below.  More...

Ewwww, that's gross! A New Era in U.S. Cigarette Labeling

June 22, 2011

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD

OK, admit it - you have no idea what current cigarette packs in the U.S. have to say about the dangers of tobacco use. I've been working in this field for nearly 30 years and I'm not really sure, either. And we're not alone - very few of us remember that they say things like "Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health" in very tiny letters and are virtually hidden on one side of the pack. More...

Electronic Cigarettes – Boon, Bane, Blessing, or Boondoggle?

May 03, 2011

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that it is taking steps to regulate electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as tobacco products, acting under its authorities in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

 

That's got everybody talking about these rather strange devices, which have become increasingly popular over the past few years.

More...

Want to quit smoking? Here's how.

April 19, 2011

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD


"I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I know I can." These words are a familiar refrain to the millions of Americans who want to quit smoking. We promise ourselves that this is the year that we are going to get healthier, to save more money, or to be nicer to our friends and family. But there are so many challenges - it's too cold or rainy to exercise, I need that dress or that app, and who could be nice to Uncle Jack?


Yet there is good news if you are among the 45 million American adults who is still a smoker. You can become healthier, save more money, and do something wonderful for your friends and family- you can stop smoking.

More...

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