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Posts Tagged ‘E-cigarettes


The 5-year journey as Chicago Department of Public Health: Bechara Choucair, M.D.

In the U.S., we tend to believe our health is largely a result of our genes and our personal choices. But, as research shows, health is most influenced by our environment.

You could say our ZIP code has more to do with our health than our genetic code.

Though I will soon step down as commissioner of public health, it is this reality that first led me to this job — if we can improve the health of a neighborhood, we can improve the health of our residents.

posted this Dec. 30, 2014

5-Year Journey: One Blog 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel understands this. When he first took office, he directed the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to create a comprehensive public health agenda for the entire City.

That plan, Healthy Chicago, provides 200 strategies to build healthier neighborhoods, which will in turn provide our residents — especially our youth — with more opportunities to get and stay healthy.

And it’s working.

Since launching Healthy Chicago, we have reported declines in childhood obesity rates and teen smoking rates while making real progress in our fight to close breast cancer disparities. There is more work to do, but we are moving in the right direction across the board.

We know that 90% of adult smokers started when they were minors.

So Healthy Chicago includes a series of initiatives aimed at discouraging our children from ever lighting their first cigarette.

We increased the city’s cigarette tax because
research shows that increased cost is the single most effective way to prevent kids from picking up the habit

We supported the regulation of e-cigarettes, ensuring these products are not physically accessible to youth and championed a new ordinance restricting the sale of flavored tobacco — including menthol — within 500 feet of schools

This effort is paying off. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing that less than 11% of Chicago high school students reported smoking in 2013 — a historic low and five points below the current national average. The CDC also reported that Chicago’s adult smoking rates have hit a new record low of less than 18%.

While it is critical that we reduce the number of tobacco users in Chicago, addressing this challenge alone will only get us so far. It is just as important to encourage all residents to adopt healthier lifestyles across the board.

Over the last 3 years, we have worked to reduce childhood obesity.

We have expanded the number of bike lanes across the city and launched one of the nation’s premier bike sharing programs. The CDPH also launched PlayStreets to provide nearly 27,000 Chicago children and their families more opportunities to get outside and play in their own neighborhoods.

We are also working to keep our children healthier when they are in school.

We guaranteed recess for every student, strengthened nutritional standards in our cafeterias and expanded our free dental and vision programs. Last school year we provided an Action Plan for Healthy Adolescents, dental exams and cleanings for 113,000 students and distributed nearly 30,000 pairs of eyeglasses.

By helping our children today, we are creating a healthier future for tomorrow.

One of the most important ways to protect the health of our children and every Chicago resident is by protecting the air we all breathe in every neighborhood of our city.

Mayor Emanuel fought to shut down the two remaining coal power plants in the city and joined the CDPH to issue the most comprehensive set of regulations to cut down on the harmful emission of petroleum coke on the city’s southeast side.

We also launched innovative programs like FoodBorne Chicago, using Twitter to identify and respond to potential cases of food poisoning. Partnering with the University of Chicago, we have developed a new way to identify and repair homes most likely to have children exposed to lead-based paint.

We also made changes that seemed controversial at the time but are starting to pay off today.

This includes reforming the city’s mental health and primary care programs. With mental health, we consolidated our clinics ensuring they had the staff and resources to serve uninsured residents.

We also secured $14 million in funding to strengthen the overall mental health infrastructure, including $4 million for children’s services on the South and West Sides.

With primary care, we transitioned city clinics to non-profit partner organizations which have expanded services, improved the quality of care and increased patient visits by nearly 70 percent in the first year and a half — all while saving taxpayers an additional $12 million.

That is why we were honored as the 2014 Health Department of the Year by the National Association of County and City Health Officials. And that is why the CDPH will continue to move the needle forward.

Serving as Chicago’s health commissioner has been a profound honor and the highlight of my career. I am proud to say I leave behind a department that is stronger than it was when I arrived and a city that is healthier. There is no greater job satisfaction than that.

E-cigarettes? Should Electronic cigarettes Be Regulated as Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are designed to look like cigarettes. They are labeled and marketed like cigarettes. They contain nicotine like cigarettes. And it is addictive to nicotine. And kids will get hooked to its usage, if unregulated…

Electronic cigarettes now come in dozens of flavors like passion fruit, cotton candy, bubble gum, gummy bear, Atomic Fireball, and orange cream soda.

These kid-friendly flavors are an enticing “starter” for youth and non-smokers, increasing nicotine addiction and frequently lead to use of combustible cigarettes.

What do you think is Big Tobacco next step? Producing real tobacco with preferred flavors that the youth were hooked to?

Should they be regulated like cigarettes?

, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health, posted this Dec. 2, 2013

Should e-cigarettes be regulated as cigarettes?

I think so.

Like other gateway products Big Tobacco has masked to entice its next generation of smokers, e-cigarettes follow suit as its popularity with youth nationwide more than doubled from 2011 to 2012.

Ten percent of our students have already used these addictive products — and they have only been on the market for a few years. This meteoric rise in popularity among youth is concerning.

It is also the main reason Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced a new ordinance to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products.

Simply put, kids should not have easy access to e-cigarettes any longer.

Right now in Chicago, a 14-year-old can walk into a store and purchase an e-cigarette with no question asked. This is unacceptable.

Retailers should be required to have a tobacco-retail license in order to sell e-cigarettes, which would place these products behind the counter with the other tobacco products and out of arms reach of our children.

The government has a duty to protect children from ever picking up a nicotine habit. The preventive action Mayor Emanuel is a long-term investment in the health and well-being of Chicago’s youth.

Some might argue that e-cigarettes should not be regulated because they are safer than regular cigarettes.

While it’s true that they may be safer than regular cigarettes, they have not been proven to be safe.

The truth is e-cigarette companies have not provided any scientific studies or toxicity analysis to the FDA to show that e-cigarettes pose any reduced health risk over conventional cigarettes, nor have they demonstrated that e-cigarettes are safe.

Laboratory tests have found that the so-called “water vapor” from some e-cigarettes can contain nicotine and volatile organic compounds like benzene and toluene; heavy metals like nickel and arsenic; carbon compounds like formaldehyde and acrolein, in addition to tobacco specific nitrosamines.

No federal regulations have been imposed on e-cigarettes, which means that there currently are no restrictions on ingredients manufacturers can or cannot use and no restrictions on the kinds of chemicals they can emit into the indoor environment.

Until more is known about these products, limiting their use in indoor areas is just good common sense.

I am also concerned that widespread use of e-cigarettes is re-normalizing smoking in our society, which in turn, makes this a very pertinent public health issue.

E-cigarettes intentionally were developed to mimic the act of smoking. This distorted reinforcement of smoking as cool and acceptable sends the wrong message to our youth and undermines the existing smoking bans put in place to protect the health of the public.

In Chicago, smoking rates are lower than ever. This progress is a direct result of life-saving policies like the Chicago Clean Indoor Air Act. Health advocates worked tirelessly to ensure we all have the right to breathe clean in-door air. We’re not turning our backs on their hard work to promote clean air.

Our residents expect a healthy environment when they walk into a restaurant, bar or theater. We can’t allow any regression in our progress to change the landscape of public health by reverting back to a culture we’ve worked so hard to change. We need to, and can do, better for the children in our city.

Chicago’s new ordinances are part of an overall comprehensive strategy to reduce the negative consequences tobacco use has on our youth.

With the introduction of these expanded tobacco-control policies, Mayor Emanuel is inspiring cities across the nation to take action to ensure that residents avoid preventable disease and live healthy and productive lives.

Follow Bechara Choucair, M.D. on Twitter:
Note 1:  I am a smoker and have reduced my addiction to 10 cigarettes a day. I have no intention of quitting going cold turkey: I figured that the real psychological benefits I get from smoking, taking a real break and letting my my mind wander now and then, far surpass the physical harm.
If I live much longer, cigarette smoking is a sure death, but I can die any time from non-smoking related diseases or traffic accidents, or slipping and falling, or many unsafe usage of ill-designed products….
Most of those who quit smoking love to approach a smoking person for the smell: This is an aphrodisiac smell to them, far more potent than whatever perfume can offer.
Note 2: The fact that:
1.  “No federal regulations have been imposed on e-cigarettes, which means that there currently are no restrictions on ingredients manufacturers can or cannot use and no restrictions on the kinds of chemicals they can emit into the indoor environment…” and
2.  The act of mimicking  smoking by youth as a cool behavior is a dangerous trend.
Note 3: As long as E-cigarette is not harming the people surrounding the smoker or ruining the environment, I don’t believe it should be banned as regular cigarettes in close environment.  The activists should focus on banning the harmful added ingredients in the E-cigarette.




June 2023

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