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August 18, 2014

Electronic Cigarettes the Go-to- Device for Quitting Smoking

According to the journal "Addiction", most smokers that are trying to quit use electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as their go-to-device for quitting smoking. It was published by the journal that smokers who use e-cigs are 60% more likely to succeed at quitting than those smokers who use the nicotine patch or gum.

In the United States there are at least six million people who smoke electronic cigarettes. The industry is expected to reach $1.5 billion in sales this year alone. In 2013, the total year sale from these e-cigs was $79 million.

Another study included a survey conducted by the Kantar Media Research Firm, which found that 57% of smokers who use a smoking cessation device choose e-cigs, while only 39% choose a drug and 30% choose nicotine gums and patches.

The FDA, however is concerned with the health risks of the use of these e-cig devices to stop smoking because studies have shown that they release formaldehyde and other carcinogens. Therefore; the FDA has issued warning letter to various e-cig manufactures. In these letters it is declared that claiming that electronic cigarettes help people quit smoking is illegal without FDA approval first. The companies have conducted little to no clinical trials and have no evidence to support their claims, therefore; before these companies can call their devices smoking cessation devices, the FDA must evaluate them for safety and effectiveness.

In April 2014, the FDA announced proposed rules to regulate e-cigs. The proposed rules will restrict the sale and purchase of e-cigs to children under the age of 18. Also, manufactures will be required to register their products with the FDA, report ingredients and market the products only after receiving FDA review and approval, and, most importantly the manufacturers cannot claim that the devices can be used to quit smoking, unless they undergo an FDA review first.

March 26, 2014

Cigarette Smuggling Increases in Maryland and Virginia

Higher cigarette taxes are causing an increase in the smuggling cigarette trade along Interstate 95 in Maryland and Virginia, and all over the east coast of the United States. Maryland and Virginia lawmakers have passed various bills in the last few months making the penalties for smuggling harsher and so these states can crack down on the trafficking of cigarettes and regain lost revenue.

States and the federal government have all raised tobacco taxes and therefore the profit incentive for smugglers increased. There are huge differences in cigarette costs from one state to another. There's a difference in costs for cigarettes from one state to another as high as $4.18 per pack. 57% of cigarettes smoked in the state of New York alone are smuggled by cigarette traffickers. Therefore the entire east coast is cracking down and making the needed changes to prevent the loss of billions of dollars of revenue and increase the fight against the increase of organized crime.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), there are many types of tobacco trafficking and schemes, actively trying to avoid taxes. The most common is the smuggling of cigarettes between states due to tax differentials between states along the East Coast of the United States. From $7 billion to $10 billion in state and federal tax revenue is lost each year because of tobacco smuggling. These amounts are much higher than the $5 billion it was just a few years ago, according to the ATF.

The per pack tax on Tobacco ranges from .17 cents in Missouri and .30 cents in Virginia to $4.35 in New York, where there is an additional charge state charge of $1.50 per pack. In total, there have been about 113 tax increases on Tobacco in 47 states, the District of Columbia and New York City since 2000.

According to the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in the state of Washington, every time there is a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes the overall consumption lowers by as much as 5% and lowers the number of children who smoke by about 7%.

On the other hand, this increase in Tobacco tax leads to a huge profit for smugglers. For example, Tobacco smugglers buying 200 cases of cigarettes in North and South Carolina to sell illegally in New York can clear as much as $500,000 in profits. Buying illegal and untaxed cigarettes, for as low as $6 a pack instead of the legal $12 to $13 per pack, is as easy as walking into any convenience store in Brooklyn, or any part of New York.

In recent months, over 12 recommendations have been made to various crime commissions on the east coast. One of which includes, dedicating more funding for enforcement, as well as increasing penalties for tobacco smuggling. Besides the lost revenue, organized crime is a growing problem, according to the Virginia State Crime Commission. Crimes that include: gangs stealing peoples' identities, to buy cigarettes in large quantities, using fake credit cards. These schemes can be expansive. Maryland was included in an indictment in the state of New York, after it was discovered that a ring of smugglers were flooding New York city and Albany, New York with more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes imported from Virginia. The investigation found $55 million in unlawful cigarette sales and more than $80 million in lost state sales-tax revenue.

No matter how one looks at this, it is a crime to smuggle Tobacco from one state to another. Taxes and loss of revenue by states and the federal government are affected.

August 22, 2011

High Levels of Lead Found in Grafton Ridge Developments in Harford, Maryland

Local health officials in Harford County, Maryland are investigating a possible contamination in the running/drinking water of residents in Fallston, Maryland. Residents in Fallston, Maryland may have been exposed to excessive levels of lead in their drinking/running water.

Health officials in Harford County, Maryland are warning residents in Grafton Ridge housing developments to boil their drinking water. The water in those developments had lead levels which exceed the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and therefore, may be unsafe and cause health risks.

The source of the lead exposure and contamination has not yet been determined, but an investigation is underway. Health officials are not sure how long the lead levels have been over the EPA established limit and are therefore, conducting extensive testing of all area water.

Testing to date has determined that 14 out of 16 homes in the Grafton Ridge housing developments have had high levels of lead in their drinking water. Richmond American Homes, the builder of these homes in the Grafton Ridge Development, will be replacing the brass parts with stainless steel ones to see if that improved the water lead levels.

Residents in Saddle View, Watervale Farm, Deer Hollow and Martin Meadows should be careful as well, as they too are part of the Grafton Ridge communities.

The elevated lead levels could pose a risk of lead poisoning, which may result in nervous system injuries, brain damage, seizures, convulsions, growth or mental retardation, coma and even death in children. If you are a resident in the Grafton Ridge Developments and experience any health problems, please see your physician immediately. Go to your nearest emergency room and call the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

June 7, 2010

Asbestos Regulations in Maryland

Asbestos.gifAsbestos: a naturally occurring mineral found in certain rock formations, mined from open pit mines. Most of the asbestos used in the United States comes from Canada. Three kinds of asbestos are most commonly found in the US: Chrysotile, "white asbestos"; Amosite, "brown asbestos" and Crodifolite, "blue asbestos".

Asbestos was used in more than 3000 different products, ranging from pipe insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, brake pads, plasters, adhesives, paint, packing materials for valves, roofing materials, etc. Asbestos fibers were wonderful to use because they were durable, strong, flexible, and most importantly resistant to wear.

Concerns with Asbestos:
In the early 1960's evidence began to emerge showing that certain diseases were rampant among asbestos workers. These workers were ones that worked in mills, manufacturing facilities, painters and shipyards. These people were heavily exposed to airborne fibers. They were at high risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.

The diseases most common are asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and digestive system cancers. Fibers may be inhaled or ingested. The fibers are small and can remain in the air for various hours. These fibers have no color or smell and therefore; are difficult to detect. Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition where the lungs become scarred, breathing becomes difficult and the disease may worsen even if the person stops working with asbestos. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer to the lining of the lung and/or abdominal cavities and is always fatal. None of the asbestos related diseases have early warning symptoms and are usually diagnosed years after the disease begins to develop.

Regulating Asbestos:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates Asbestos. They brought to law a Clear Air Act to produce regulations to regulate air pollutants hazardous to health. These regulations are called the Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants. Asbestos is one of the air pollutants that is being regulated by the act. Asbestos in schools is also regulated by the EPA, but specifically by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). Under AHERA schools are required to inspect buildings for asbestos and develop a plan to manage asbestos. The department inspects Maryland's public and private schools.

Asbestos is regulated by states and by the federal government. The State of Maryland regulates how persons work with asbestos and also regulates those who train persons to work with asbestos. The EPA regulations cover four basic asbestos activities:
1) Removal, repair, or encapsulation of asbestos containing materials;
2) Approval of asbestos training;
3) Regulation of persons accredited to perform asbestos related activities;
4) Asbestos in schools.