Some States Tackle Tobacco this November

21 October 2016| By: Kevin Trieu

In addition to choosing local and national officials this November, many states will introduce some ballot initiatives to allow voters to decide whether or not to approve of a proposed measure. Several states have taken on the issue of tobacco and raising the taxes on purchasing tobacco products. Unfortunately, Illinois is not one of them, but I still wanted to highlight the states that are and what they are proposing.

All the states listed here are proposing a tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. California is calling for a per cigarette tax, ($0.10 per cigarette) and a tax on e-cigarettes, most notably. Colorado is proposing an increase in the cigarette tax, but not on any e-cigarettes. North Dakota is proposing to raise the tobacco tax a whopping 400% from $0.44 to $2.20 per 20-pack.  In Missouri there are 2 measures on the ballot. Both would raise taxes for tobacco products to varying degrees. One of the measures actually has support from the Tobacco industry because of a proposed fee to be collected by Tobacco companies that did not participate in a Masters Settlement Agreement in 1998. Big Tobacco companies like it because it will decrease the market shares of smaller Tobacco companies. Even more interesting, there are some Prevention groups opposed to both of these initiatives because they believe it does not go far enough.

What are your thoughts on all these ballot initiatives? Comment down below.

Source for my story can be found here.

In relation to this post, I looked at the substance abuse policies of certain candidates running in 2016. You can find my analysis for the Illinois US Senate Race and the US Presidential Race by clicking on them.




How Can Heroin be a lot Worse? Just Add Fentanyl

14 October 2016| by: Kevin Trieu

By now, most people are aware of the terrible Opioid/ Heroin epidemic that is hurting the country. Thousands of people have died because of this epidemic over the past few years, but now, drug suppliers are adding something even more deadly and potent into their already deadly concoction: fentanyl.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.” Cheaply made and even more potent than heroin, Drug dealers have been sneaking in Fentanyl from China and selling it as heroin. Users, thinking that they have a normal amount of heroin that they would usually take, end up overdosing and dying because of it. There are also stories of people unknowingly consuming Heroin mixed with Fentanyl which is also a deadly combination.

With massive profits to be had, it does not seem to be a time where dealers will stop trying to bring in this dangerous substance. Scarily enough, an even more powerful drug, Carfentanil, used popularly in elephant tranquilizer, has started popping up in the United States and is 100 times more powerful than Fentanyl.

What do you think about this? Comment down below.

Link to the full story here.

You can check out a visual representation of how much Fentanyl is considered deadly here.

Study: Smokers Leave Behind Much More Than Smoke in Homes

7 September 2016| By Kevin Trieu

In a small study that was published in Tobacco Control, researchers found that even after someone quits, toxins from cigarettes can linger on walls in people’s homes six months after someone quits. Researchers studied 65 smokers who were quitting over a 6 month period to observe the effects of tobacco smoke had on someone’s homes. They discovered that after six months, there were still toxins (such as nicotine) that were on house dust and surfaces such as walls and tables that occurred before smoking cessation. Please note that, there was a decline in the amount of toxins on the walls and surfaces, but there were still traces of the toxins six months after last use.

This was a relatively small study, so I would generally be wary of the results, had it not been something that has been well documented in years previous. This is called Thirdhand smoke. “Thirdhand smoke is the residue of tobacco smoke that accumulates on surfaces, textiles, and people after smoking has occurred in a room.” according to Respiratory Health Association (RHA). RHA has been a powerhouse lead in advocating for smoke-free homes, because of this problem exactly. Well after someone is done smoking, the effects and residue can still linger on. This is just another example of how one person smoking affects everyone around them.

Have you guys had any experiences with a home where someone smokes in? let me know in the comments down below.

Link to the study can be found here.

Link to the story can be found here.

To find out more about Smoke-free housing, check out RHA’s page on it here and check out their fact-sheet on thirdhand smoke.


Drugs kill more than Guns and Cars

30 September 2016| by: Kevin Trieu

In recent months and years a lot has been said about the rates of gun violence and deaths in the United States, and especially Chicago. We are constantly bombarded by stories of another mass shooting, another police officer shooting an unarmed African American, another war in some distant land. Very little stories are about deaths by drugs. Very recently have we seen this rising prevalence of stories and a buzz about drug use. Oftentimes these stories are of the heroin epidemic, but even still, drugs take a backseat to bigger headlines like the murder rates in Chicago.

If we look at the data and statistics though, a different picture gets painted than what is portrayed by the media. According to statistics gathers by the Centers for Disease Control, Drug deaths have surpassed both gun deaths and car accidents….. in 2010. It has since continued to rise further widening from gun and car accidents. So why are we hearing about this just now?

I think that the drug problem has never really been talked about because the story isn’t as sexy or juicy as a story about someone being shot in public. Drugs happen in privacy and it is a taboo topic. Drugs happen in the Underworld, and whoever dies because of it, deserved to die because they should have never gotten into that. Gun violence, however, is always a story of another innocent victim stuck in the crossfire. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some rant against the coverage or importance of gun violence in America. I think that gun violence is an important issue in America, yet numbers never lie. Drug deaths are going up, and gun deaths are going down, and it started in 2010! And nothing ever happens in a vacuum in this world. Maybe it is time that we start talking about this issue…

What do you guys think? Comment down below.

Link to the story can be found below. There are also some really cool graphics and charts that I was not able to show on here, but do check them out.



Former Speaker John Boehner, to Join Tobbaco Board

23 September 2016

Former US Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has recently joined as a member of the Board of Directors of Reynolds American Inc (RAI). Reynolds, the makers of such cigarettes as Camel and Newports, and John Boehner, a current smoker, especially of Camels, seem like a match made in heaven. Boehner will serve on the board governance committee as they try to navigate the new tobacco regulations (once again, not a big surprise here).

In a public statement, a Boehner spokesman said that, “RAI is is striving to transform the tobacco industry through innovative strategies that include speeding the decline in tobacco use among young people and reducing the harm caused by smoking. These are objectives Speaker Boehner supports and looks forward to helping RAI advance through his service on the board.”

While I will offer no opinion about whether or not RAI, specifically, is in fact trying to reduce youth use and reduce the harms caused by smoking, I will say that historically, the tobacco industry has been targeting youth to use, especially those in minority communities. In fact, Asian countries have actually seen a rise in Tobacco use and sales, whereas, in other continents, tobacco sales and use are declining. To me, I would love to see their strategies on how they are going to reduce youth use. If it is anything like before, then it will not be very much.

What do you think of John Boehner joining the board of the second largest Tobacco Company in the country? Comment down below.

Looking into Substance Abuse Policies: US Presidential Race

16 September 2016

As we get closer and closer to the November elections I thought it would be important to look at the Substance Abuse Policies put forth by a few candidates running for office. By doing this, I wish to help inform you, and by no means is this an endorsement or and opinion piece of one candidate or another. I hope you enjoy the read, and find the article helpful.

For this final piece, we will be looking at the two major party candidates running for the US Presidency: Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. You can find a bio for Donald Trump here. You can find a bio for Hilary Clinton here. Both candidates have positions on substance abuse on their website.

Donald Trump

You can find Trump’s position on the “Drug Epidemic” under the Issues tab on his website. Link to that here.  You are going to have to scroll down a bit to read more into it. There, you will find a 43 Second YouTube video about his issue. Some Highlights (excluding the epic background music): His commitment to “stop the drugs coming in to New Hampshire and in the country by building a wall” and “will make the people that are addicted better” (slightly paraphrasing, sightly direct quote).

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has a whole page dedicated to “Addiction and Substance Use.”  There is a video on that page as well, and most of it, is a story women’s addiction to drugs when she was a teen in what looks to be some sort of Town Hall with Hillary Clinton listening on. Some highlights: she wants to “empower communities to implement programs to teach adolescents about drug use and addiction,” “investing on recovery community organizations to make sure everyone gets treatment,”  “giving first responders access to naloxone,”  and “rehab and treatment over jail time for low-level Drug offenders” (once again, slight paraphrasing, slight direct quote).

Clinton also has a little fact sheet that you can find here.

What do you think about each candidate’s position? Comment down below.

Looking into the Substance Abuse Policies: Illinois US Senate Race

9 September 2016

As we get closer and closer to the November elections, I thought it would be important to look at the Substance Abuse policies put forth by a few candidates running for office. By doing this, I wish to help inform you, and by no means is this an endorsement or an opinion piece for one candidate or another. I hope you enjoy the read and find the article helpful.

This week we will be looking at the two major party candidates running for the US Senate in Illinois: Incumbent Mark Kirk (R) and Tammy Duckworth (D). Both Mark Kirk’s and Tammy Duckworth’s campaign website contains no information on any policy stance about anything on their websites, but they do contain brief bio’s of each candidate and you can read more about each in the link here, for Mark Kirk and here, for Tammy Duckworth. After doing some digging, I was able to find some public statements about drug policies, but no real clear information about their drug policy agenda that they would propose.

Mark Kirk

Senator Mark Kirk has a piece on the heroin epidemic on his official Senate website. You can find that here. He  has since been continuously talking about the heroin epidemic throughout his time in office. You can find them by searching on his website. Mark Kirk has also made a few mentions of drug policy in relation to border security.

For a full list of all statements by Mark Kirk in relation to drug policy you can also go here. (Disclaimer: the website, has a limit on the amount of pages you view on their website before you have to start paying/ getting a subscription. I would just be careful about how many times to click and surf through the pages.)

Tammy Duckworth

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth has also been very interested in tackling the ppioid/ heroin epidemic. On her official Congressional website, she has talked a bit about the heroin epidemic and preventing drug abuse, and you can find that here.  For a full list of all public statements by her on the issue, you can click here. (Disclaimer: same website as above with Mark Kirk. Be mindful of your clicks.)

What do you think about the drug policy statements put forth by each candidate? Comment below!

Next week: the Race for President!