Smoking only in social situations may still be tied to heart problems

UNTV News   •   May 12, 2017   •   3511

A woman lights a cigarette in this illustration picture taken in Paris, October 8, 2014. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

(Reuters Health) – So-called social smokers who only light up on special occasions may have some of the same risks for heart disease as people with a daily cigarette habit, a U.S. study suggests.

For the study, researchers examined data on smoking habits, cholesterol levels and blood pressure for a nationally representative sample of 39,555 adults. Most people said they didn’t smoke, while roughly 17 percent were current smokers and about 10 percent were social smokers who didn’t have a daily habit but did regularly smoke in certain situations.

Compared with non-smokers, social smokers were more than twice as likely to have high blood pressure – known as hypertension – and 53 percent more likely to have elevated cholesterol, the study found. Social smokers had the roughly the same odds of having these risk factors for heart disease as current smokers in the study.

“These results provide strong evidence that smoking, regardless of amount, is an even stronger indicator of cardiovascular risk than previously thought,” said lead study author Kate Gawlik, a researcher at the Ohio State University College of Nursing in Columbus.

“Social smoking is still a major cardiovascular health risk,” Gawlik said by email. “No amount of smoking is safe.”

Researchers defined cardiovascular health based on blood pressure and total cholesterol levels. And before accounting for other heart health risk factors like weight, age, gender and race or ethnicity, social smokers were found to have lower rates of high blood pressure than current smokers.

But after adjusting for the other risk factors, rates of hypertension were similar for current and social smokers, 76 percent and 75 percent, respectively, a difference too small to rule out the possibility that it was due to chance.

High cholesterol rates were also similar after adjusting for other risk factors: 53 percent for social smokers and 55 percent for current smokers.

Social smoking was most common among adults 40 and under, researchers report in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Social smokers were also more likely to be male and Hispanic.

Study participants were screened from 2012 to 2016 as part of a cardiovascular health education program. Participants reported their own smoking habits and had clinicians check their blood pressure and total cholesterol.

The study isn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how much social smoking impacts heart health compared to other patterns of tobacco use. It also didn’t assess the long-term health effects of smoking, only the presence of certain risk factors for heart disease.

Another limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data on prior smoking behavior, the authors note. Participants also volunteered to join the study instead of being randomly selected, which might make the results less reliable.

It’s also possible that not all of the participants had chronic high blood pressure, said Michael Cummings, co-leader of the tobacco research program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. That’s because blood pressure readings may spike after someone smokes without being regularly elevated when they aren’t using nicotine, Cummings, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

But that doesn’t make any amount of smoking safe, Cummings said.

“Every cigarette you smoke does your body damage,” Cummings added. “For someone predisposed to cardiac disease for whatever reason, exposure to cigarette smoke stresses the heart and increases the risk of serious cardiac problems.”

Heart problems associated with smoking don’t need to be permanent, however, said Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Any smoking is bad,” Glantz, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “The good news is that, unless the smoking has caused a heart attack, the effects go away when you stop.” — By Lisa Rapaport

SOURCE: bit.ly/2pDoAYZ American Journal of Health Promotion, online May 2, 2017.

U.S. scientists join effort to solve mysterious vaping-related illnesses

UNTV News   •   September 20, 2019

The U.S. investigation into hundreds of cases of life-threatening lung illnesses related to vaping is turning up new clues and helping researchers across the country trying to make sense of the situation.

Robert Tarran, a physiologist and vaping expert at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, is one of a group of researchers studying collections of lung cell samples, looking for answers about the outbreak.

“In my lab we study real world vapers who vape normally. So we’ve been collecting people who’ve been vaping for six months to a couple of years and then taken their lungs as they are. So I think the people we’ve been studying are representative of people being hospitalized. And I think it’s important to say that in the all the vapers that we’ve studied we’re seeing changes in their lungs,” he told Reuters.

Many of the victims had pockets of oil clogging up cells responsible for removing impurities in the lungs.

The answer to where that oil comes from will help explain whether these cells play a key role in the vaping-related outbreak that has killed atleast seven people and sickened 530 so far.

It may also reveal whether some of these cases have been occurring all along, undetected.

A group of researchers who have been studying the long-term effects of vaping told Reuters they have taken up the challenge. They have begun to re-examine lung cell samples they have collected in recent years for evidence of these oil-filled immune cells in people who vaped but didn’t get sick.

One possibility: The deposits are residue from inhaling vaping oils, such as those containing the marijuana ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or vitamin E acetate. Both are considered possible contributors to the current illnesses.

Some researchers suspect the oils are formed inside the lungs as part of the body’s natural response to chemicals found in many commercial vaping devices. One theory is that vaping these chemicals may impair the immune system, and make people who vape more vulnerable to respiratory distress, they say.

“One of the things we found there is a wide variety some liquids are more toxic than others and we found there is a correlation the more flavors in a liquid the more likely it was to be toxic. But there’s also an incredible diversity of flavors. So in 150 e-liquids we found about 200 different chemical constituents. And so really the flavors e-liquid really are all over the map,” Tarrant said.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation earlier this month has fueled the latter theory.

It found that mice exposed to aerosols of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin – common solvents used in conventional nicotine vaping devices – developed these same fat-clogged immune cells even though they were never exposed to vaping oils. These mice also had impaired immune systems compared to mice exposed to room air.

The study set off alarm bells for Thomas Eissenberg, co-director of the Center for Tobacco Products at Virginia Commonwealth University. For years, doctors have reported isolated cases of pneumonia-like illnesses in people who vaped. In many cases, patients also had these fat-filled immune cells – called lipid-laden macrophages.

Now, these same abnormalities have been found in mice, and in at least some of the people who have fallen ill recently.

They want to help determine is whether these abnormalities have been present for years, and whether they have made vapers generally more vulnerable to severe disease, possibly triggered by some new vaping substance.

The group’s members say they have been in regular contact with officials at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health on how they can best help with the multistate investigation.

They include Tarran, a physiologist and vaping expert at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and Dr. Peter Shields, a lung cancer specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who has one of the country’s largest sets of lung samples from vapers, smokers and never-smokers.

Investigators at the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have pointed to THC vaping oils or vitamin E, a substance used in some THC products, as a possible cause of these illnesses. But they have not ruled out anything yet, including conventional nicotine liquids.

“So we’ve been able to break some of our studies down to study just the nicotine or the solvent the propane glycol vegetable glycerin. And we’ve been finding changes due to both of these components. So we can help identify things in any liquids which are having these effects and then potentially we could extend these studies and study cannabinoids or the vitamin E oils,” Tarrant said.

CDC pathologists are examining hundreds of lung cell samples gathered from patients in the outbreak. Meanwhile, forensic chemists at the FDA are testing more than 120 products to determine whether there is a common ingredient that may explain the illnesses. (REUTERS)

(Production: Gershon Peaks, Kevin Fogarty, Andrew Hofstetter, Rollo Ross, Temis Tormo)

Duterte signs law on higher excise tax on tobacco

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 26, 2019

FILE PHOTO: An illustration picture shows cigarettes in their pack, October 8, 2014. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Illustration

President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Thursday (July 25) the law imposing higher excise taxes on tobacco products, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has confirmed.

“To address the urgent need to protect the right to health of the Filipino people and to maintain a broader fiscal space to support the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act, the President has signed into law HB no. 8677/ SB no. 2233 Increasing the Excise Tax on Tabacco Products,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, health advocates including the Sin Tax Coalition lauded the signing of the law on increasing tobacco taxes.

“This latest tax increase represents another positive step in protecting more Filipinos from the harmful effects of cigarette smoking,” said Dr. Anthony Leachon, health advocate and former independent director of PhilHealth.

READ: Country in a ‘win-win-win’ situation with increased cigarette tax—WHO

Under the new law, Republic Act 11346, tax rates for cigarettes will increase to P45 this 2020, from P35 per pack. There will be additional P5 for each succeeding year.

Duterte to sign tobacco excise tax this week

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 24, 2019

Courtesy : Pixabay

President Rodrigo Duterte will sign the proposed tobacco excise tax law this week according to the Department of Finance (DOF) on Wednesday (July 24).

Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua said the law is ready for signature and it will lapse into law by July 27.

“I was told it would be signed this week because that is a priority measure certified urgent by the President in the previous Congress and mentioned by the President in the SONA (state of the nation address),” he said.

READ: DOH lauds tobacco tax bill passage in Congress

Based on the proposed law P10 will be the added tax to a pack of cigarette starting next year and it will increase by P5 in succeeding years.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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