Los Angeles – One of the most misused statements in the argument over secondhand smoke is a line on page 11 of the 2006 report of the Surgeon General of the United States entitled “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke”:
“The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
That is because the Surgeon General’s so-called conclusions have already been rejected by the one governmental agency responsible for safety in the workplace: the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). The next time someone tries to ram the Surgeon General’s view of secondhand smoke down your throat, you may wish to ask him or her to consider:
=> OSHA lists “permissible exposure limits” (a.k.a. “PEL”) for hundreds of different kinds of pollutants in its “Limits for Air Contaminants” table Z-1 (also at 29 C.F.R. 1910.1000). This table shows “nicotine” at a permissible limit of 0.5 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) over an eight-hour day.
=> We are talking about tiny amounts here: remember that there are 1,000 milligrams (mg) in 1 gram! The famed Swiss chemist Phillip von Hohenheim established the principle that “All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous” back in the 1530s, making the point that even water can be poisonous if “overconsumed” . . . as in drowning.
=> The studies which measure nicotine in the air do so in micrograms, which are 1/1,000th of a milligram. So, 0.5 mg – the OSHA standard for exposure to nicotine – is 500 micrograms. Keep that figure in mind.
The Web site CleanAirQuality.Blogspot.com tracks the air-quality studies used by the anti-smoking lobby and compares them against the OSHA standard. Typical findings showed:
=> 2009: St. Louis, Missouri: A Washington University School of Medicine study trumpeted “high levels” of nicotine in a study of 20 bars, but the report itself noted that “airborne nicotine levels ranged from 0.015 to 25.14 [micrograms per cubic meter].” Even at the smokiest bar, 25 micrograms is way short of OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 500 micrograms!
=> 2007: Baltimore, Maryland: A Johns Hopkins University report claimed that air nicotine exposure in its study of Baltimore bars ranged from 2.1 to 16.9 micrograms per cubic meter; folks, that’s not close to 500 micrograms . . .
=> 2004: The American Cancer Society study of smoking levels in Western New York bars showed air nicotine exposure over eight hours in establishments with no smoking regulations to vary between 539 and 940 nanograms . . . not really very close to 500,000 nanograms (which equals 500 micrograms)!
In fact, OSHA Acting Assistant Secretary Greg Watchman stated in a July, 1997 letter that “Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELs) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000) . . . It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.”
The anti-smoking lobby will then posit that secondhand smoke has loads of carcinogenic chemicals such as arsenic (present in seafood), benzene (widely used in industry), cyanide (present in almonds, lima beans, soy, spinach, bamboo shoots and cassava roots), formaldehyde (naturally produced by the human body!) and so on. In fact, all of these chemicals and many more have been evaluated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and its Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has published a list of Minimal Risk Levels for Hazardous Substances, which lists all of these items and assigns an actual level of ingestion which is safe! It’s the dose which makes the poison.
Finally, you’ll hear that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke causes fat and blood clots to form in your arteries. Boston University Prof. Michael Siegel, no friend of tobacco and a long-time campaigner against secondhand smoke, rails against such nonsense in his daily TobaccoAnalysis.BlogSpot.com column, writing on October 25 that:
“[T]hese statements are outright lies. You don’t get a build up of fat and blood clots in the arteries in just 30 minutes. What happens in 30 minutes is that the cells lining your coronary blood vessels do not function normally, leading to a reduction in coronary flow velocity reserve. This damage to the blood vessel lining is reversible. However, if repeated over and over again and sustained for many years, these effects could contribute to the formation of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). But it is a lie to state that 30 minutes of tobacco smoke exposure results in a build up of fat and blood clots in the arteries that increases the chance of a heart attack or stroke.”
Moreover, he notes that the 2001 study which is given as proof for these assertions says nothing of the kind. In his October 21 post, he notes that the study “found that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure produces endothelial dysfunction in nonsmokers, and reduces their coronary flow velocity reserve to the same level as that in smokers” and points out that “eating a hamburger reduces coronary flow velocity reserve to roughly the same extent as in an active smoker . . . If you walk into McDonald’s and order a hamburger, you may be at risk of disease, but not from immediately keeling over from a heart attack.”
Siegel is right when he moans of his hysterical colleagues in anti-tobacco lobby, “Like so many other social movements, it appears that we, too, are lying to the public in ways that exaggerate and distort the actual science.”
The anti-tobacco haters tell an engaging story, just like many others over the centuries: the Earth is flat, the sun goes around the Earth, bleeding a patient will release the “bad humors” ailing him, the art of “medicine” is actually witchcraft and so on. Add “there is no safe level of secondhand smoke” to the pile.
>> “I am pleased to report that Swedish Match today posted its best ever quarterly underlying operating profit, reaching 1,017 MSEK.”
That was the good news that Swedish Match chief executive Lars Dahlgren announced on October 27, with total sales of $564.1 million (converted from Swedish Kronor) in the quarter and profits of $150.1 million (converted from 1,017 MSEK above).
Dahlgren noted that the company’s cigar sales were strong as well:
=> Total cigar sales – machine-made and premium – totaled $167.7 million (up 7% from 2009), with operating profits of $41.9 million (up 49%) for the quarter. For the first nine months of 2010, cigar sales totaled $476.0 million (down 4% from 2009) with operating profits of $112.2 million (flat).
=> Dahlgren commented that “Our U.S. mass market cigar business continues to perform very well, as volumes rose to new record levels,” up 43% in units for the quarter and up 26% in local currency in dollars. The report attributed the rise to “the continued success of FoilFresh cigars, as well as the successful introduction of a new line of sweet cigars, first introduced towards the end of the second quarter of this year.”
For the year-to-date, Swedish’s mass-market sales are up 16% in cash and 26% in units.
=> On the premium side, the third-quarter showed an increase in the number cigars sold over 2009, with a higher demand for smaller cigars. Swedish’s report explained that “Sales grew in the Cigars International (mail order and Internet) business, which more than offset modest declines in sales from General Cigar.” For the year-to-date, sales in dollars were down by 3% over the third quarter of 2009 and unit volumes were also down. Swedish estimates the total U.S. market for premium cigars to be at just 230 million units annually.
=> Swedish’s European cigar operations were slightly up in cash and slightly down on unit volumes for the quarter, and slightly up for the year on both measures.
Looking to the future, the new Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG) joint venture, of which Swedish holds 49%, was officially launched on October 1. The pro forma financials for the new company, made up of Swedish’s cigar, pipe tobacco and lighters/matches businesses and Skandinavisk Holding A/S’s cigar holdings, principally Henri Wintermans and C.A.O. International, showed that 80% of the new company’s revenue is projected to be derived from cigar sales, with 8% from pipe tobacco, 6% from fine-cut (roll-your-own) tobacco and 5% from lighters and matches (also 1% from other operations).
The formation of STG now leaves Swedish as one of the world’s top smokeless tobacco companies, with annual sales of about $630 million in snuff and snus and $165 million in chewing tobacco. It will retain its highly-profitable machine-made cigar business, as the distribution channels are virtually identical to its smokeless products, but many analysts believe the STG joint venture is just the first step toward selling its premium cigar and related business to Skandinavisk Holding at some point in the coming year or two.
>> Everyone is getting into the branded lounge business and Pepin Garcia’s My Father Cigars is the latest to join in.
The first My Father Cigars lounge was christened on Saturday, October 30, inside the Mojito Cigar Lounge store in Cave Creek, Arizona, about a half-hour north of Phoenix.
Both Pepin Garcia and his son Jaime will attend, with live music, plenty of food and drink and, of course, cigars. A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the 100 Club of Arizona, a support organization for the families of fire, law enforcement or public safety personnel injured or killed in the line of duty.
The Mojito Cigar Lounge is itself an interesting project, owned by Bill Niederer, an active commercial airline captain for Southwest Airlines. The store stocks more than 100 brands of premium cigars, has a smoking area in the front of the shop and a separate, members-only “Club Mojito” in the back, complete with private seating, flat-screen televisions, a poker table, private kitchen and bathroom and 60 private lockers. Memberships cost $450 annually with a locker or $300 without, or $45 or 30 for a month for the snowbird crowd.
The Garcia’s My Father Cigars lounge brings to 15 the number of cigar brands sponsoring lounges, including Diamond Crown, the national leader with nearly 50 locations, Avo, Camacho, Cohiba, Cuesta-Rey, Graycliff, Gurkha, La Aurora, La Gloria Cubana, Macanudo, Montecristo, Perdomo, Rocky Patel and Torano.
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