Wayne Hogan was honored to be guest speaker at Northeast Florida’s Area Health Education Center’s (AHEC’s) quarterly meeting in St. Johns County. He thanked the group for being on the front lines of helping Floridians quit smoking. The organization provides free smoking cessation classes, counseling and proven nicotine replacement products to smokers statewide.
Florida’s Tobacco Settlement
Vicki Evans with Northeast Florida AHEC asked Wayne to speak because he served on the legal team that represented Florida in its historic lawsuit against cigarette companies in 1997. They sued Big Tobacco on behalf of Florida taxpayers who were bearing billions of dollars to treat disease from cigarette addiction.
The lawsuit included allegations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and resulted in a $17 billion-plus settlement. The settlement included the elimination of all billboard advertising and retiring Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man in Florida. It also led to big changes in Florida’s tobacco control laws. Florida continues to receive $400 million a year from the settlement. Some of that money is used to fund AHEC’s smoking cessation programs throughout Florida.
Wayne also addressed the potential health threat posed by electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). They include e-cigarettes and other battery-operated devices like vape pens or hookahs.
He said there are two million kids using ENDs. As newer products, they are just beginning to receive regulatory attention. An FDA Rule went into effect earlier this month which bans sales to minors and regulates the manufacturing, sales and packaging of ENDS.
The potential long-term health effects of electronic nicotine delivery systems have not been studied. However, research shows that when chemicals in them are heated, they become extra dangerous breaking down into formaldehyde, a known cancer causing agent. Some e-cigarettes contain the chemical responsible that causes Popcorn Lung disease.
While e-cigarettes are marketed as ways to beat nicotine addictions, he said they also expose young people to addiction. It’s the same drug that’s hooked millions of smokers over the decades and has proven a more difficult addiction to break than many illegal drugs.