Tag Archives: cigarette

Sweden recruits crows to clean up cigarette butts from its streets

Credit: Pixabay.

Billions of cigarette butts are discarded on Swedish streets each year, representing the most common type of littering in the Scandinavian country. Smokers leave this litter everywhere, from bus stations to narrow alleys. Since they’re so widely distributed across the entire city, clean-up is a never ending and expensive uphill battle. But this is where smart crows may come in.

Corvid Cleaning, a startup from Södertälje, near Stockholm, is on a mission to rid Swedish streets of annoying cigarette butts. To this aim, they’ve recruited some unlikely sanitation workers.

The startup is currently running a pilot program in Södertälje in which New Caledonian crows are trained to pick up butts off the street and deposit them in a special machine, which hands out a small food reward for every butt.

Crows are some of the most intelligent creatures in the world, not just of the bird kingdom. They use tools, which they’ve crafted themselves, to reach otherwise inaccessible food; remember people’s faces and even hold grudges; understand water displacement better than some human children, as well as the concept of zero, and solve highly complex puzzles involving intricate steps. 

In comparison to their previous brainy feats, cigarette butt retrieval is easy pickings for these clever corvids. The startup founders are also banking on crows’ propensity for learning through observation when doing so benefits them, in this case by gaining easy access to tasty food. A handful of trained crows could turn into a swarm of cigarette butt-retrieving birds.

All the birds involved in this project are not being held in captivity, so they’re free to abandon the project at any time. For all intents and purposes, the crows are volunteering for this role.

If all goes well in this pilot program, the initiative could be extended to the whole of Stockholm, a city of nearly two million. It all hinges on how effective and financially feasible the program proves to be. Corvid Cleaning claims implementing the project across the city could cut cigarette butt cleanup costs by 75%.

“The estimation for the cost of picking up cigarette butts today is around 80 öre [Swedish change] or more per cigarette butt, some say two kronor. If the crows pick up cigarette butts, this would maybe be 20 öre per cigarette butt. The saving for the municipality depends on how many cigarette butts the crows pick up,” Christian Günther-Hanssen, the founder of Corvid Cleaning, told The Guardian.

A similar project was tested in 2017, in the Netherlands, and in 2018, at the Puy du Fou theme park in ​​Western France.

It remains to be seen whether this creative plan will pan out as intended. In the meantime, we can’t help noticing that it is easier to train birds to pick up cigarette butts than it is for humans to learn not to discard them on the street.

Electronic cigarettes aren’t good for you — in some respects, they’re worse than traditional cigarettes

E-cigarettes aren’t harmless. Although viewed as a healthier alternative, the study finds that e-cigarette smoking impacts heart health similar to the smoking of traditional cigarettes.

Image via Pixabay.

Several heart disease risk factors — cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose levels, as well as decreased blood flow in the heart — are negatively impacted by e-cigarette smoke. The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019, later this month.

Not harmless by far

“There is no long-term safety data on e-cigarettes. However, there are decades of data for the safety of other nicotine replacement therapies,” explains Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., FAHA, the American Heart Association’s deputy chief science and medical officer.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the use of FDA-approved smoking cessation aids, which are proven safe and effective. Robertson says that people often choose e-cigarettes as an alternative to quitting (as it is perceived as being safer than traditional tobacco), or as a temporary solution while working to quit altogether. In the latter case, however, she warns that people should also plan how to subsequently stop using e-cigarettes. There is a striking lack of data on the long-term safety of such devices, and growing concerns over the physiological effects caused by the chemical cocktails therein.

One study used in this report — the Cardiovascular Injury due to Tobacco Use (CITU) Study — compared cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose levels in healthy adult nonsmokers, e-cigarette smokers, traditional cigarette smokers, and dual smokers (who use both traditional and e-cigarettes). Participants were aged 21-45, didn’t have any preexisting cardiovascular disease, and took no relevant medication. Out of the total of 467 participants, 94 were non-smokers, 52 were dual smokers, 45 were e-cigarette smokers, and 285 were traditional cigarette smokers.

After adjusting for age, race, and sex, the team reports that total cholesterol was lower for e-cig smokers, but their low-density lipoprotein (LDL, ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels were higher, compared to nonsmokers. High-density lipoprotein (HDL, ‘good’ cholesterol) was lower in dual smokers.

“Although primary care providers and patients may think that the use of e-cigarettes by cigarette smokers makes heart health sense, our study shows e-cigarette use is also related to differences in cholesterol levels. The best option is to use FDA-approved methods to aid in smoking cessation, along with behavioral counseling,” said study author Sana Majid, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow in vascular biology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Another study looked at heart blood flow as a measure of coronary vascular function in 19 young adult smokers (ages 24-32) immediately before and after smoking either e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes. The study looked at this metric both at rest and after performing a handgrip exercise (meant to simulate physiological stress).

For smokers of traditional cigarettes, the team saw a “modest” increase in blood flow after cigarette inhalation, which decreased with subsequent stress. E-cig smokers, however, saw blood flow decrease both at rest and after the handgrip exercises. All in all, e-cigarette use seems to be associated with coronary vascular dysfunction to a greater degree than seen in traditional cigarettes.

“These results indicate that e-cig use is associated with persistent coronary vascular dysfunction at rest, even in the absence of physiologic stress,” said study author Florian Rader, medical director of the Human Physiology Laboratory and assistant director of the Non-Invasive Laboratory, Smidt Heart Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.

“Providers counseling patients on the use of nicotine products will want to consider the possibility that e-cigs may confer as much and potentially even more harm to users and especially patients at risk for vascular disease,” added study co-author Susan Cheng, director of Public Health Research at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The studies were funded by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, and The California State Tobacco-related Disease Research Program High Impact Pilot Research Award. The American Heart Association Tobacco Center for Regulatory Science provided research materials for the first study.

The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 conference, November 16-18 in Philadelphia, USA (sessions Mo3106, Sa3199).

Cigarette consumption in decline in the UK, showing tobacco tax works

Amid government efforts and health concerns, people are ditching cigarettes in England, with around 1.4 billion fewer cigarettes being smoked per year, according to new research funded by Cancer Research UK.

Credit: Flickr

The study, published in Jama Network Open, showed that average monthly cigarette consumption fell by nearly a quarter between 2011 and 2018. This represents around 118 million fewer cigarettes being smoked every month. Stricter tobacco laws and taking action to encourage people to quit smoking can be linked with the results.  

Based at UCL, the researchers looked at cigarette sales data for England and compared this with the monthly self-reported cigarette use of over 135,000 individuals from the Smoking Toolkit Study.

Over the period analyzed, the average number of cigarettes smoked monthly declined by 24.4% based on survey data and 24.1% based on sales data from 3.40 billion and 3.41 billion a month to 2.57 billion and 2.58 billion, respectively.

“It’s brilliant that over a billion fewer cigarettes are being sold and smoked in England every year. The decline in national cigarette consumption has been dramatic and exceeded the decline in smoking prevalence, which, over the same time period, was around 15%,” said lead author Dr Sarah Jackson.

Currently, 16% of English adults smoke cigarettes. That’s far from 1974 when almost half of the adults in the UK smoked. Now the government wants to “finish the job” and make smoking tobacco obsolete in England by 2030. This would help to deal with the daily 200 deaths from smoking-related illnesses.

In a green paper released on July 22, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) laid out its plans for a cigarette-free England. The goal will be to crack down on the industry and pledging to help smokers quit or move to reduced-risk products like e-cigarettes.

An annual YouGov survey commissioned in early 2019 by Action on Smoking and Health showed that 72% of adults were in favor of manufacturers paying a levy or license fee to help smokers quit and prevent young people from starting. About 64% of the survey participants would be in favor of inserts in tobacco products with information on how to quit

“Big tobacco said that introducing stricter regulation wouldn’t work and campaigned against it, but this is proof that smoking trends are heading in the right direction. But smoking is still the biggest preventable cause of cancer, and certain groups have much higher rates of smoking, such as routine and manual workers, so we can’t stop here and think job done,” said George Butterworth, senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK.

Cigarette smoke breeds drug-resistant bacteria

In what could be a new reason against smoking, new research from the University of Bath in the UK showed that cigarette smoke can make bacterial strains more resistant to antibiotics.

Credit: Flickr


Some strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a microbe present in a large part of the global population and responsible for many diseases, can become more invasive and persistent due to exposure to the smoke from cigarettes, according to the researchers, whose work was published in Scientific Reports.

“We expected some effects, but we didn’t anticipate smoke would affect drug-resistance to this degree. It seems reasonable to hypothesize that stressful conditions imposed by smoking induce responses in microbial cells,” said Dr. Maisem Laabei, the lead author.

Working with colleagues from Spanish research institutes, the experts at Bath carried out a set of lab-based experiments. They exposed six reference strains of the most important ‘superbug’ Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) clones to cigarette smoke.

The strains were chosen for their clinical relevance and genetic diversity, known to cause several infections. While not all responded the same way, the strains showed increased resistance to the antibiotic rifampicin and increased invasiveness and persistence after being exposed to cigarette smoke.

The changes seen on the trains were linked by researchers to the emergence of so-called Small Colony Variants (SCVs), a slow-growing subpopulation of bacteria with distinctive phenotypic and pathogenic traits. SCVs have been linked to chronic infections in smokers in previous research.

“These Small Colony Variants are highly adhesive, invasive and persistent. They can sit around for a long time, are difficult to kick out, and are linked to chronic infections. We hope that our work provides another reason for people not to smoke and for current smokers to quit,” said Laabei.

The next step for the researchers will be to study how air pollution, from diesel exhaust fumes and other sources, might affect the microbes in nasal passages as many of the pollution compounds are the same as in cigarette smoke.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, and cigarette smoke has over 4,800 compounds within it,” said Laabei. “We wanted to study S. aureus because it’s so common in humans and it can cause a range of diseases, so we wanted to see what happened when we exposed it to smoke.

Cigarette butts are damaging plants, new study shows

Cigarette butts, one of the most common forms of pollution, significantly hamper plant growth. Both regular and menthol cigarette filters reduce plant growth and germination success, researchers write.

Plant growth around a wooden stick versus plant growth around a cigarette butt. Image credits: Danielle Green.

Cigarette butts have become nigh ubiquitous — they’re so widespread that one recent study found them to be the most abundant form of garbage in the oceans. More than 5.5 trillion cigarettes are manufactured globally every year with a plastic-based filter, made of cellulose acetate. It is estimated that around 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year, and this type of plastic takes decades to disintegrate.

But what happens after they’re littered?

Cigarette butts are not inert. They contain a myriad of chemicals from the tobacco which they can release into the environment. A previous study found that birds purposely bring cigarette butts into their nests because these chemicals can help keep ticks at bay — but the substances also have a negative effect.

In the new study, the team used a greenhouse experiment to assess the impact of discarded filters on two common and representative plants: Lolium perenne (perennial ryegrass) and Trifolium repens (white clover). They used a number of different scenarios (smoked and unsmoked cigarettes, regular or menthol), assessing their impact on the plants’ health.

After 21 days, the results were in, and the damage was visible. Shoot length and germination success were significantly reduced by exposure to any type of cigarette filter, and the damage was more substantial when the plants were exposed to filters from smoked regular cigarettes, as opposed to those which still had some leftover tobacco.

Image credits: Danielle Green.

Although this is hardly surprising, this is the first study to assess the impact of cigarette butts on plants, says lead author Dannielle Green from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“Ryegrass and white clover, the two species we tested, are important forage crops for livestock as well as being commonly found in urban green spaces. These plants support a wealth of biodiversity, even in city parks, and white clover is ecologically important for pollinators and nitrogen fixation.”

“We found they had a detrimental effect on the germination success and shoot length of both grass and clover, and reduced the root weight of clover by over half.”

The main takeaway of this study, researchers say, is to convince people that cigarette butts are indeed litter and they have a negative impact

“Dropping cigarette butts seems to be a socially acceptable form of littering and we need to raise awareness that the filters do not disappear and instead can cause serious damage to the environment.”

“Many smokers think cigarette butts quickly biodegrade and therefore don’t really consider them as litter. In reality, the filter is made out of a type of bioplastic that can take years, if not decades, to break down.”

The study was published in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.

Credit: Pixabay.

Pleasant odors might help decrease cigarette cravings

Quitting smoking is daunting due to the intense cravings for nicotine. Some people go through multiple cessations only to relapse time and time again. According to new research, inhaling pleasant odors may be enough to temporarily reduce the urge to light a cigarette, suggesting it could be a useful addition to effective smoking cessation strategies.

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

In the United States, a much smaller percentage of the population smokes compared to 50 years ago. In absolute numbers, though, there are still about 40 million Americans who smoke. Cigarettes cause more than 480,000 premature deaths in the United States each year. Most adult smokers are not only aware of the risks they’re subjecting themselves to but would also like to quit. At least half of all smokers report having tried to quit in the past year, yet half of those who try relapse within two weeks.

For most smokers, the pressure of nicotine cravings is like a psychological bungee cord that yanks those who try to quit back towards their lighters. Although nicotine is not nearly as intensely rewarding as other drugs such as marijuana or opioids, it’s an extremely addictive substance. Like other drugs, it stimulates the release of dopamine in neurons that connect the nucleus accumbens with the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and other brain regions. Each time a person takes a puff out of a cigarette, the brain reinforces this behavior. The amount of released dopamine isn’t great compared to other drugs, but nicotine makes up for it through repetition — a person who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day typically is exposed to roughly 250 hits of nicotine. Over months or years, that’s a lot of reinforced behavior, which makes it highly difficult afterward to unlearn the mildly rewarding behavior of lighting up a cigarette.

Long story short, nicotine cravings are high-wired in the smoker’s brain and are very difficult to control. But maybe taking a whip of a pleasant aroma might be enough to calm a smoker’s nerves, for a little while at least.

For their study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recruited 232 smokers, aged 18 to 55, who at the study’s onset were not trying to quit nor were they using any alternative nicotine delivery system, such as vaping or gum. The participants were asked not to smoke for at least eight hours before prior to the experiment and were told to bring a pack of their favorite cigarettes and a lighter with them.

Each participant was asked to smell and rate a number of different odors that are generally considered pleasant (i.e. apple, peppermint, lemon, vanilla, etc) as well as unpleasant ones, tobacco smoke, and a blank (no distinguishable odor). The participants were then asked to light a cigarette but not smoke it. After 10 seconds of holding the lighted cigarette in their hands, the participants had to rate their urge to smoke from a scale of 1 to 100 before extinguishing the cigarette.

The participants then inhaled a scent from a container that was either an odor they had rated as most pleasurable, the scent of tobacco, or blank. After taking one sniff, the participants had to again rate their urge to smoke. They continued to inhale the scent for the next five minutes, rating their urge to smoke every 60 seconds.

Not surprisingly, the participants rated the odor of tobacco smoke from their preferred brand of cigarettes with the highest cravings score (82.13%). However, when inhaling a pleasant odor, the average craving scores dropped significantly (19.3%), compared to smelling tobacco (11.7%) or the blank scent (11.2%).

“Despite disappointing relapse rates, there have been few new approaches to smoking cessation in general and to craving relief in particular,” said lead author Michael Sayette, of the University of Pittsburgh. “Using pleasant odors to disrupt smoking routines would offer a distinct and novel method for reducing cravings, and our results to this end are promising.”

The drop in nicotine craving lasts for as long as five minutes, which can be enough time for a smoker to decide against lighting a cigarette or leave from a high-risk situation. As to why a pleasant aroma might relieve cravings, the researchers believe that the scent may distract smokers by triggering memories associated with these cues. For instance, peppermint reminded one of the participants of childhood Christmas holidays. More research is needed to verify this hypothesis.

“Our research suggests that the use of pleasant odors shows promise for controlling nicotine cravings in individuals who are trying to quit smoking,” concluded Sayette.

The findings appeared in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Even a single cigarette a day can be devastating for your health

A review of 141 studies, published in the British Medical Journal found that even a single cigarette a day significantly increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke. Researchers found that smoking one cigarette a day brings about half the risk of smoking 20 per day. The study debunks the idea of a “safe level” of smoking and suggests that smokers should aim to quit, not cut down.

Image credits: Patrick Brinksma.

The idea that smoking is bad for you isn’t news to anyone — it’s about as established as it can get. Still, many myths about smoking are still floating about, refusing to disappear. Among them is the idea that if you “mostly” quit smoking — if you only smoke one or a few cigs a day — you get rid of most of the health hazards. That simply isn’t true, as study after study has shown. Now, University College London researchers have carried out a review of 141 such studies, finding that even one cigarette a day is still very hazardous.

“We have shown that a large proportion of the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke comes from smoking only a couple of cigarettes each day,” say the authors. “This probably comes as a surprise to many people. But there are also biological mechanisms that help explain the unexpectedly high risk associated with a low level of smoking.”

Cardiovascular diseases and not cancer are the main culprit when it comes to smoking, causing about 48% of smoking-related premature fatalities. Scientists compared the effect that smoking one cigarette a day has to smoking 20 cigarettes a day (a typical pack). Men who smoked 1 cig a day had 46% of the excess risk of heart disease and 41% of the excess risk of stroke associated with smoking 20 cigarettes per day, while for women the figures were 31% and 34% respectively.

“No safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease,”  the researchers add in the study. “Smokers should quit instead of cutting down, using appropriate cessation aids if needed, to significantly reduce their risk of these two common major disorders.”

The take-home message for smokers is that “any exposure to cigarette smoke is too much,” they conclude.

Of the 1.22 billion smokers, 1 billion of them live in developing or transitional economies, and over 800 million are men. Eastern European countries such as Russia, Belarus, and Montenegro are the “leaders” when it comes to smoking averages. However, in developed countries, smoking has already peaked and is starting to decline, especially where anti-smoking legislation has been passed. For years, researchers have urged policy-makers to implement such legislation. In the US, adults aged 16 and above smoke an average of 1687.56 cigarettes a year.

Journal Reference: Allan Hackshaw et al. Low cigarette consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: meta-analysis of 141 cohort studies in 55 study reports. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5855


Credit: psu.edu

Urban birds use cigarette butts as chemical weapons against parasites

Out of all the reasons you should quit smoking, maybe an unusual avian behavior will convince you. According to researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, house finches collect discarded cigarette butts and use them as nest building material to ward off pests like ticks. Essentially, the birds employ a form of chemical warfare against the parasites — and some people are willingly pumping it in their lungs.

Credit: psu.edu

Credit: psu.edu

This kind of behavior has been noted for some time but despite nicotine’s antiparasitic properties, it was never clear if this was done on purpose to protect the bird’s nest or merely a coincidence. To get to the bottom of things, a team led by Constantino Macías Garcia set up an experiment involving 32 house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) which were separated into three groups exactly one day after the eggs in their nests had hatched.

First of all, the natural nest lining was removed and replaced with artificial felt so that any parasites that might have moved in during brooding could be eliminated. The researchers introduced live ticks in the first group comprised of ten nests, dead ticks in another ten nests while the final third group made of 12 nests was left free of any parasites.

When the nest contained ticks, the finches were far more likely to add cigarette butt fiber to their nest. The weight of cigarette butt material added to these tick-infested nests was also 40 percent greater on average than the weight of cigarette butt material added to the nests were dead ticks were present.

This evidence suggests that the finches really are consciously using the cigarette butts to cleanse their nests and protect them from ticks.

“It seems that the tendency to bring to the nest cigarette butts is at least partially a response to current, and perhaps also past, parasite load,” the researchers wrote.

A positive use for cigarettes? Not necessarily.

But this sort of chemical warfare is like a double-edged sword, as we have learned from many human conflicts as well. In 2012, Garcia and colleagues reported that the more butts are present in Mexican house finch nests, the greater the number of chromosomal abnormalities in the chicks. Maybe the birds are aware of this but the trade off is acceptable to them. It’s more likely however that finches are not aware of the damage they’re causing to their own chicks since the genetic damage is far more difficult to spot.

Findings appeared in the Journal of Avian Biology.

Russia plans to ban all tobacco sales in 2033

The Russian Government is considering implementing a nation-wide ban of tobacco in 2033. The decision would mark the last step in the country’s fight against rising smoking rates, but has also drawn some criticism.

Image credits C. Koch / Pixabay.

Smoking is bad for you, m’kay? It is one of the world’s leading causes of preventable chronic disease and takes a huge toll on future generations. Cigarette butts are also probably the most littered item in the world, so your smoking is bad for everything else around you too.

Banning the vice

Just to come clean here, I’m also a smoker. So I don’t judge. I do try to advise others from picking up the habit, however, and am in a constant state of quitting myself. And people in developed countries have generally smarted up and smoking rates drop here but they’re still going strong in developing and third world countries.

Part of the problem is that the US and EU maintain a freedom-of-choice-view on the issue. Without any serious legal precedent to limit its use, big tobacco can pour resources to strong-arm these states into passing favorable legislature. Together with populations who are rarely informed of the full implications of smoking, these countries are prime targets for tobacco companies.

Russia is considering tackling smoking in a whole different way, though. The country’s government is considering a total ban on tobacco and tobacco products for 2033. In effect, this will ban every generation born 2015 and later from legally purchasing tobacco in the country. This would be the nation’s last move in their effort to bring its huge smoking rate down to 25% by 2025. Newspaper Izvestia also reports that some Russians have already kicked the habit over the last 7 years, with a 6% drop bringing the national smoking rate to 33%.

What to expect

The World Health Organization estimates that there are around 1.1 billion tobacco smokers worldwide. Though that number is falling overall, certain regions such as Africa and the Mediterranean see a steady rise in smoking rates. While taking the whole of Russia’s population out of that billion certainly is a solid idea, one can’t hope but be reminded of the American prohibition.

In the end, banning tobacco is bound to be easier said than done. Certain Russian politicians have also voiced their concern that black market tobacco sales will skyrocket following the ban. So it could simply prove too hard to enforce.

Still, with the huge social and economical cost associated with smoking, Russia will likely try to enforce the ban no matter how hard it proves to be.

Cigarettes are the most littered item in the world – and that’s a problem

Smoking is bad. We’re way past the point of discussing that one; it’s bad for your health, it’s bad for the ones around you, and it’s bad for the environment.

Cigarette filters are made from thousands of polymer chains of cellulose acetate; once discarded into the environment, these filters create a huge waste problem. Cigarette filters are actually the most common type of litters in the world, as some 5.6 trillion cigarettes are smoked every year worldwide. Of these, a whopping 4.5 trillion (80% !) become litter. That amounts to 1,687,500,000 pounds (765,400,000 kg) of litter, every year, from cigarettes alone. Oh, and no, they’re not biodegradable. Discarded cigarette filters usually end up in the water system through drainage ditches and are transported by rivers and other waterways to the ocean, where they pose threats for aquatic life.

DoSomething.org, one of the largest global organizations for young people and social change has started a campaign which I found pretty interesting: Get The Filter Out (GTFO). Teen smoking rates in the US and the European Union have gone down significantly in recent years, but there’s still much more work to be done. GTFO wants to encourage this generation to #FinishIt altogether; for this purpose, they’ve released the hard truths in the images above and below.

If you too want to get involved, you can register at DoSomething.org/GTFO. Registrants will be equipped with a free action kit, bags and gloves to help clean up cigarette butts in their community. Furthermore, if you send a picture of yourself cleaning cigarettes, you may win a $10,000 scholarship from DoSomething.org. The GTFO campaign runs through September 30th.

But there are more things you can do to help. Basically every country and even some cities have their own campaigns to quit smoking, prevent it, or at least clean up the mess. Whether you’re a smoker or not, don’t pollute the environment with leftovers from our vice; if not for yourself, then do it for the environment.


e-cigarette youth

Blowing vapor: cigarette use plummets among youth in schools, but e-cigs take their place

Electronic cigarettes have soared in use among high school and middle school kids, tripling in 2014, while cigarettes have reached an all time low. The report was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found  4.6 million middle and high school students were current users of any tobacco product, which includes e-cigs despite the fact that it doesn’t burn or contain any tobacco – just the nicotine.

e-cigarette youth

Among high school students, e-cigarette use jumped to 13.4 percent in 2014 from 4.5 percent in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette use over the same period fell to 9.2 percent from 12.7 percent, the largest year-over-year decline in more than a decade. Among middle school students, current e-cigarette use more than tripled to 3.9 percent in 2014 from 1.1 percent in 2013, while cigarette use remained unchanged, the CDC said.

So, should we be excited by the news or, on the contrary, more worried? Tobacco control advocates fear that e-cigs are a “gateway” that promote an unhealthy lifestyle and make kids prone to addiction later in life. Sort of like wearing a seat belt, but driving faster because you feel safer.

“Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement.

Mitch Zeller, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco division, said the data “forces us to confront the reality that the progress we have made in reducing youth cigarette smoking rates is being threatened.”

Just as well, however, the data could be interpreted as a sign that smoking rates fell because young people took up e-cigarettes instead of traditional cigarettes. The CDC said nearly half the students used more than one tobacco product. The most popular was e-cigarettes, followed by hookah. Cigarettes came in third place followed by cigars, smokeless tobacco and pipes.

A  meta-study which examined 81 e-cigarette studies found that these are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, and that their introduction reduces the number of tobacco-related deaths. The long term effects of e-cigarette use are, however, largely unknown. Because of this, the World Health Organization and national authorities are considering policies to restrict their sales, advertising and use given the absence of evidence that they help smokers quit, and the way they are being exploited by the tobacco industry to target children.

Used cigarette buds could provide energy storage sollution

A group of South Korean researchers has transformed used cigarette buds into a high-performing energy storing material which could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicles and wind turbines.

Cigarette buds may provide cheap and efficient energy storage.

Interestingly enough, the new material significantly outperformed commercially available carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes. When you consider the 5.6 trillion used-cigarettes, or 766,571 metric tons that are deposited into the environment worldwide every year, the advantages of such a material become even more evident. Basically, you take a pollution problem and turn it into an advantage.

Co-author of the study Professor Jongheop Yi, from Seoul National University, said:

“Our study has shown that used-cigarette filters can be transformed into a high-performing carbon-based material using a simple one step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution to meeting the energy demands of society. Numerous countries are developing strict regulations to avoid the trillions of toxic and non-biodegradable used-cigarette filters that are disposed of into the environment each year — our method is just one way of achieving this.”

Carbon is the most used element in supercapacitors, due to its relatively low cost, high surface area, high electrical conductivity and long term stability. Now, scientists are focused on improving the capacities of carbon supercapacitors, while also reducing production costs. In this study, they have shown that cellulose acetate fibres (the main component in cigarette filters) could be transformed into a carbon-based material using pyrolysis – a simple burning technique. Following the burning process, the resulting material has with many tiny pores which increase performance as a supercapacitive material.

“A high-performing supercapacitor material should have a large surface area, which can be achieved by incorporating a large number of small pores into the material,” continued Professor Yi. A combination of different pore sizes ensures that the material has high power densities, which is an essential property in a supercapacitor for the fast charging and discharging.”

After composing their theory and creating the material, they set out to test iti n a three-electrode system to see how well it stores energy. The results were remarkable – the material stored a higher amount of electrical energy than commercially available carbon and even had a higher amount of storage compared to graphene and carbon nanotubes, as reported in previous studies. So not only did it outperform commercially available products, it also outperformed other prototypes with much fancier materials.

Scientific Reference: Minzae Lee, Gil-Pyo Kim, Hyeon Don Song, Soomin Park, Jongheop Yi. Preparation of energy storage material derived from a used cigarette filter for a supercapacitor electrode. Nanotechnology, 2014; 25 (34): 345601 DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/25/34/345601