Study Finds Support For Raising Age to Buy Tobacco

According to a new report a majority of adults support increasing the minimum age to buy tobacco products.

The report found support for raising the age in all regions of the country even in areas known for tobacco production. The report was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine and was conducted by researchers from UNC and East Carolina University.

The report found that there was the most support for raising the minimum age to 21, rather than 20 or 19.

Adam Goldstein is a member of the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center and a doctor of family medicine. Goldstein said the report marked a change in public opinion.

“It appears to be a tipping point for this particular policy among the American public,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein said support for raising the age to buy tobacco products was found on both ends of the political spectrum.

“This appears to be something that can bring people together so that in a time and place in which we have a pretty rancorous public policy debate about lots of issues, this type of issue appears to be one that is not that rancorous,” said Goldstein.

The report said that raising the minimum age would reduce the overall number of smokers by 12%. Goldstein said it will also make it harder for underage kids to get tobacco products.

“If the age of purchase is 21, it’s much less likely that they’ll be able to go out and purchase products or that merchants will no longer sell to them,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein said politicians can use this study to know there is public support for these policies.

“Because we actually find [support] in every state in the country and this is a nationally representative sample that all states could go forward with this with the knowledge that this is going to be supported,” said Goldstein.

Hawaii was the first state to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products and California followed suit earlier this year. Some individual counties and cities, including New York City, have also raised the minimum age.

Ban Vaping In Orange County Bars And Restaurants?

It’s no longer legal to smoke inside bars and restaurants in North Carolina.

Should the same policy be extended to vaping?

The Orange County Board of Health is seeking public feedback now on a proposal to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in the enclosed areas of bars and restaurants. The board proposed the new rule in January, after considering new evidence on the risk of secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapor (which can contain nicotine and other chemicals).

You can read the proposed rule here.

Get additional information on the rule and the broader issue here, via the Orange County Board of Health.

Not everyone is in favor of the proposed rule: Orange County conservative Ashley DeSena says she’s concerned the county would be imposing restrictions without sufficient evidence of a legitimate public health threat. She discussed the issue earlier this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


If you’d like to weigh in on the proposed rule, you can take an online survey, or send an email to, through Sunday. There will also be a public hearing this Wednesday, April 27, at 7 pm in the health department’s office at 300 West Tryon Street in Hillsborough.

For more information on how you can weigh in, visit this page on the Health Department’s website.

Youth Anti-Smoking Events Planned For Wednesday

Young people across the country will gather on Wednesday to say no to smoking.

Kick Butts Day, like cigarette butts, is a day of activism against big tobacco companies and youth smoking.

Gustavo Torrez is the director of youth advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. He says tobacco companies spend billions of dollars each year in advertising and much of that is target at youth.

“The goal of Kick Butts day is truly to provide a space to young people to really come together and say enough is enough, they’re tired of being marketed and target to by the tobacco industry,” said Torrez.

According to the Center for Disease Control, cigarette smoke causes more than 480,000 deaths a year in the United States.

Joshua Pritchett is a nationally recognized anti-tobacco youth advocate. He says a simple awareness of the dangers of smoking is a deterrent to young people.

“It’s really just informing them. If you inform the youth and show them the effect it has on the body, they take it in, they really do understand,” said Pritchett.

This year marks the 21st annual Kick Butts day and youth smoking has certainly decreased since these events began.

“For the last 20 years we really been focusing on trying to reduce youth smoking rates and we’ve done so by reducing the high school smoking rate more than half” said Torrez.

According to the CDC, 15.7% of high schools students in 2013 were smokers, down from 36.4% in 1997.

Torrez said increasing taxes on cigarettes is another good way to reduce smoking, as well as putting pressure on local government.

“We really need to reach out to our legislators to pass comprehensive smoke free air laws,” said Torrez, “because we know that when we protect our communities from the dangers of second hand smoke, we are having more conversations about the issues and the effects it’s having on our community.”

Anti-smoking advocates are now dealing with a new wild card, E-cigarettes. Often advertised as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, the FDA admits they have not been fully studied to know all of the potential risks.

Torrez said E-cigarettes are also being heavily marketed to children.

“These products are being marketed with flavors like gummy bears, cotton candy, watermelon, which as you mentioned are very appealing to our young people,” said Torrez.

Torrez says we need more regulation of E-cigarettes. He warned that E-cigarettes could undo some of the recent progress made by anti-smoking campaigns by getting kids addicted to nicotine.

But Torrez said the ultimate goal of organization like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, is to create a smoke-free generation.

In the same anti-smoking spirit, the Orange County Health Department is partnering with Tobacco Reality Unfiltered (TRU) clubs at local high schools to collected cigarette butts in downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro and provide resources to quit smoking this Saturday.

Kick Butts Day events are being held all across the country.

Quit Now! “Great American Smokeout” Is Thursday

Thursday marks the annual “Great American Smokeout,” a national initiative sponsored by the American Cancer Society to encourage smokers to try quitting – one day at a time.

The ACS holds the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November every year. It’s a one-day event: the idea is to encourage smokers to quit for 24 hours, with an eye on beginning the process of quitting for good. (The benefits of quitting are almost instantaneous: within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure begin to drop, and within 12 hours the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal. Quitting for a year cuts your excess risk of coronary heart disease in half.)

Learn more about the health benefits of quitting.

In Chapel Hill, UNC Family Medicine’s Nicotine Dependence Program is getting into the spirit: they’ll be operating a booth all day at UNC Hospitals, with information and help (plus raffle prizes!) for individuals looking to give up smoking.

Barbara Silver of UNC Family Medicine spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


If you’re thinking of quitting, there’s also a hotline you can call: 1-800-QUIT-NOW. If you’re an Orange County resident, you can get 8 weeks of free Nicotine Replacement Therapy if you call and register to quit.

For more information on how to quit smoking, visit this page.

Pictures More Effective than Text to Stop Smoking

Graphic warnings on tobacco products are more effective than text cautions, new UNC analysis has found.

By this point you are more than likely familiar with the television ads from smokers warning against the dangers of using tobacco.

Those commercials can be uncomfortable, but that’s the point. And Seth Noar, UNC Journalism Professor and member of UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, says analysis done at UNC of global studies found the graphic warnings on cigarette packs are more of a deterrent to smoking than text warnings.

“We looked at 25 different outcomes,” Noar says, “and what was most impressive was that on almost every outcome these pictorial warnings outperformed text warnings.”

The 25 outcomes surveyed included, do the picture warnings generate more attention, fear, and consciousness among smokers.

Noar says while Americans see these graphic television commercials, other countries take different approaches. He notes Australia is one of the most progressive countries utilizing tactics to encourage residents to quit smoking – or not start smoking to begin with.

“They’re the first country in the world that has told tobacco companies ‘you cannot put any branding on the cigarette pack,’” Noar says. “[They] can only put [for example] ‘Marlboro’ in plain text. They can’t have the red color. They can’t have the fancy font and some of the branding.

“And they also have a very large graphic picture on the pack.”

Noar says UNC’s analysis found there is good evidence these types of campaigns are effective in keeping residents from smoking.

“[With] the CDC’s “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign, there was an evaluation that came out recently that suggested that that campaign may have impacted something like 100,000 people,” he says, “essentially getting 100,000 people to quit smoking for good.”

Noar adds legislation was introduced years ago in the US to bring these graphics onto cigarette packs domestically, but it has been stalled in court filings from large tobacco companies.

“It seems to be across the board, no matter what country is trying to implement tobacco-control policies, the industry often uses litigation as a way to try to stop the policies [or] try to slow them down,” he says. “I think especially when countries are trying to do something that’s new, that’s innovative.”

While litigation can cause the graphics implementation to be slowed in a country with the resources of the United States, some smaller countries are not able to compete with the litigation dollars being put forward by tobacco companies.

Noar adds, in light of all of the evidence that graphic warnings are more effective than the text cautions, the number one way to slow the number of citizens smoking has consistently been raising the price of a pack of cigarettes.

This Thursday, Join The “Great American Smoke-Out”

Are you a smoker who’s thinking about quitting? There’s no better day to start than Thursday.

That’s the day of the Great American Smoke-Out, a national event held every year by the American Cancer Society.

The Smoke-Out “encourages people who smoke or use tobacco to quit for 24 hours,” says Barbara Silver, the program manager for employee wellness at UNC Family Medicine and the Town of Chapel Hill. “And then if they’re successful, to quit for another 24 hours – and just do it one day at a time, as a prelude to being able to quit altogether.”

If you’re one of the 42 million Americans who smoke, and you’re looking to quit, UNC’s Nicotine Dependence Program is setting up booths around town on Thursday from 11 to 3 as part of the Great American Smoke-Out.

“We’ll have information tables at the (UNC) hospital outside of Starbucks (and) at UNC Family Medicine by the patient entrance,” Silver says. “And then CVS also has been partnering with us because they’re not selling tobacco anymore – (so) we’re going to have some pharmacy students helping us down there on Franklin Street.”

And if you can’t make it to the booths, there’s also a statewide quit line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You can call that number at any time – but if you call on Thursday, as part of the Great American Smoke-Out, you can receive even more support.

“If you call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, on Thursday, the Quit Line will give you eight weeks of free (nicotine) patches,” says Silver.

Silver says nicotine patches and other forms of medication can double your chances of quitting successfully.

It’s a hard road to quitting, and there may be stumbles along the way – but Silver says those stumbles are just “bumps on the road to progress.” And it is possible to quit – you just have to take it one day at a time.

Matt Englund of UNC Health Care has been smoke-free for a year.

“(I did it by) spreading out my cravings,” he says. “When you want a cigarette, you just take an extra 15 minutes and try to hold off – then try 30 minutes, then an hour, and eventually you train yourself to realize that you don’t – though you think you need it at that moment – you don’t need it at that moment…

“And work up to the moment when you can take a day. Take two days. Take a week. Do as much as you can – and keep trying until you’re successful.”

England and Silver joined Aaron Keck on WCHL this week.


The Great American Smoke-Out is held every year on the third Thursday in November. For more information, visit the American Cancer Society’s website, – and for more information on programs here in our area, visit the Nicotine Dependence Program’s page,

UNC Study: NC Doctors Suggest E-Cigarettes to Quitting Smokers

UNC physicians have published a survey stating that more research must be done about the practice that physicians have taken of recommending electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, as a means of quitting smoking for patients.

The Associate Director for Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program at UNC and leading author on the study, Dr. Leah Ranney, gave a brief summary about the study.

“We did a study of North Carolina providers, and we asked physicians about their attitudes towards e-cigarettes,” she says.

The study, entitled “Physicians’ Attitudes and Use of E-Cigarettes as Cessation Devices,” analyzed 128 North Carolina physicians regarding their opinions of e-cigarettes. 67 percent of the physicians surveyed said that they believe substituting e-cigarettes for regular cigarettes is a helpful alternative, and 35 percent submitted that they do recommended their use to patients.

The study found that physicians were likely to suggest e-cigarettes when asked about it by their patients or when the physician concluded e-cigarettes were safer than the use of common cigarettes.

“Our research actually provides one of the first looks at how e-cigarettes are being used as tobacco cessation devices among physicians who treat adult patients,” says Dr. Ranney. “We also found that over two-thirds of physicians believe that e-cigarettes were a helpful aid for smoking cessation, and over one-third reported recommending these e-cigarettes to their patients.”

Despite the recommendations, physicians have been found to possess information about e-cigarette safety that is inconsistent; the survey demonstrated that 13% of physicians do not know that e-cigarettes are not FDA approved.

“As e-cigarettes become more popular, physicians are going to be called upon to engage in conversations with their patients about the safety of these products, as well as their utility for tobacco cessation,” says Dr. Ranney. “We believe that FDA should provide physicians with clear guidelines about e-cigarette use, including health impacts and their effectiveness as a tobacco cessation tool.”

Dr. Ranney says that there is more research coming out everyday about the facts of e-cigarettes that will hopefully allow physicians to better understand them and if they should continue to be recommended to patients that wish to stop smoking.

To read the study, click here.

July 1 Brings Health Changes And Flooding

CHAPEL HILL – On the first of the month, Orange County faced two significant changes – more than five inches of water causing flood damage, along with the enforcement of the Smoke-Free Public Places Rule. WCHL’s Aaron Keck sat down with Dr. Colleen Bridger, the Director of the Orange County Health Department to discuss the Health Department’s role in both of the impacts of flooding and the smoking ban on Orange County residents.

After the devastating storm on Sunday, the Orange County Health Department sent two nurses to the Red Cross’ shelter that night.  Monday morning, the Health Department focused on restaurants and pools, restoring sanitation and safety, so they can re-open as quickly as possible.

“We have two primary roles,” says Bridger. “We provide nursing support to the Red Cross and the shelter. And then this morning the focus has been on the restaurants and pools that have been flooded. We have sent teams of restaurant inspectors to the areas that have been flooded to make sure the restaurant owners know how to clean up after a flood. Most of the pools have needed to be drained and refilled and start all over again.”

Monday, Orange County began enforcing the Smoke-Free Public Places Rule.

“It prohibits smoking indoors where the public is invited or allowed and outdoors in places that are either owned by Orange County or one of the municipalities that falls within Orange County,” says Bridger. “So for example, parks, sidewalks, bus stops, places like that.”

The Health Department is promoting this rule by posting signs inside and along the outside of about a dozen buses, on billboards, and in magazines. Bridger says mainly the Health Department is mainly focused on sharing ways and providing resources to quit smoking.

“We’re really trying to pair information about the fact that Orange County public places are smoke-free, but also, if you’re a smoker and you’d like to quit smoking, here are some resources for you to quit,” says Bridger.

Bridger hopes this rule will be practiced by the public, minimizing law enforcement. A citation costs a smoker $25, but she says the rule is mainly to encourage the public to quit smoking, not punishment.

“Essentially, we are hoping that this will be a grassroots enforcement process, where somebody next to somebody else smoking says, ‘Oh hey, did you hear that there’s a new rule. You’re not allowed to smoke here anymore,’” says Bridger. “We are really hoping to minimize any sort of law enforcement involvement in this process.”

She says the public showed a very positive response to the idea of the rule.

“We surveyed folks. We got 750 responses,” says Bridger. “Eighty-percent of those responses were, yes this is a good idea, please do it.”

Resources the Orange County Health Department provides include free nicotine replacement therapy for people involved in smoking cessation programs offered by the Health Department and the NC Quitline.

For any information on how to quit smoking, call the number for the Smoke-Free OC Hotline is (919)-245-2480.

To access the Orange County Health Department’s website, you can go to

Health Advocates Oppose NC Senate Smoking Bill

RALEIGH – Health advocates say a North Carolina Senate bill would repeal hundreds of local and community college rules restricting smoking outdoors.

The Senate Environment Committee passed a bill Tuesday that prohibits local governments and community colleges from enacting smoking bans that are stricter than state law. Bill sponsor Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson said he appreciates public health progress made in the state since it passed restrictions in 2010, but he thinks a line should be set at outdoor settings.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed concerns about how the bill would overturn smoke-free campus laws and specially designated smoking areas. The North Carolina Health Alliance counts 249 local ordinances under threat by the law and most of the state’s community colleges.

The bill now goes heads to another committee for review.