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7/23/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: July 23, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

not just for kids

7/22/14 7:30pm

Adults Quitting Smoking Prefer Fun-Flavored E-Cigs

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While it may appear to e-cigarette critics that manufactures are guilty of creating fruity flavors exclusively for the purpose of attracting the sweet-loving kid smoker demographic, a new survey has shown that fun flavors like fruit or spice are not just for kids.

That revelation came after a Senate hearing last month, where 77-year-old Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) declared that fun flavors would not appeal to him. “I am an adult,” Rockefeller said. “Would I be attracted to Cherry Crush, Chocolate Treat, Peachy Keen, Vanilla Dreams? No, I wouldn’t.”

But Jason Healy, founder and president of Blu eCigs, shot back at the senator's critique, citing a customer survey that showed grownups actually do love the supposedly kid-only flavors. The results come from a poll by vaping enthusiast site E-Cigarette Forum, which also found that “the average age of a cherry smoker is in the high 40s.”

About 74% of the site's user base is between 22 and 54, and only a quarter of them report liking tobacco-flavored e-cigs. The other three quarters of adult vapers favored fruit flavors (31%), bakery/dessert flavors (19%), and savory/spicy flavors (5%).

The poll also found that e-cig users were using the stuff to effectively quit real tobacco cigarettes. Around 89% of survey respondents said they smoked 10 cigarettes a day before they started vaping, with 88% reporting that they were no longer traditional cigarette smokers. They users said that part of their success came in using non-tobacco flavors to help them quit smoking, which allowed them to dissociate the habit from the flavor of burning tobacco.

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By Bryan Le

hefty price

7/22/14 5:30pm

Florida Pill Mill Doc Gets 15 Years In Prison

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In its continuing efforts to crack down on pill mills, Florida has sent another doctor to jail for a lengthy prison sentence for illegally selling prescription drugs.

Zachary Rose, 29, was given 15 years and eight months in jail after pleading guilty to drug conspiracy charges stemming from his ownership of three multimillion-dollar pill mill clinics in Jacksonville.

Rose initially faced 30 years, but agreed to a reduced sentence after testifying against other doctors and employees. However, the five people that Rose testified against were acquitted after defense attorneys questioned his credibility.

“I’m sorry for all the people I hurt,” Rose said to U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger as he fought back tears. “I accept responsibility for my actions.”

According to prosecutors, Rose's clinics generated roughly $9.5 million, and sold prescription drugs like oxycodone and Xanax to buyers as far away as Ohio and Kentucky. Rose claimed that he suffered from mental illness for most of his life, but Judge Schlesinger dismissed the argument. Rose has been credited three years for time served and will face six more years of supervision following his release.

Rose's conviction came about the same time Florida saw a 17% drop in overdose deaths by 2012, according to numbers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. That drop came after the state previously saw a 60% surge in overdoses. The CDC credited Florida's crack down on pill mill docs for the significant decrease.

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By Shawn Dwyer

breathe easier

7/22/14 3:30pm

Study Claims Pot Smoking Doesn't Increase Lung Cancer Risk

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According to study data published online by the International Journal of Cancer, habitual marijuana smoking is not associated with an increased lung cancer risk.

The study claimed that people who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of contracting lung cancer than those who consume it occasionally or not at all. An international team of investigators from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States analyzed data from six case-control studies involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls) worldwide.

“Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers," the study authors wrote. The findings of the current study are similar to those of a 2013 review published in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society. As reported by Norml, that initial study concluded, “Habitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function…Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.”

At the same time, an accompanying commentary in the ATS Journal revealed the following results as well that play against traditional perspectives of the medical community. “Cannabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or airway cancers. In fact, there is even a suggestion that at low doses cannabis may be protective for both conditions.”

Although the results of the studies in the latest medical journals seem clear, there are still many opposing voices relying on older data. Senator Tom Coburn, who is one of three medical doctors in the U.S. Senate, has claimed that smoking one marijuana cigarette a day for a year increases a person’s risk for lung cancer by 8%. The senator most likely is citing a six-year-old study from New Zealand published in the European Respiratory Journal that found smoking one joint is equivalent to the effect that smoking 20 cigarettes has on the lungs.

Given the results of the above reports and other recent studies, including one from 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that did not detect any damage to the lung’s pulmonary function or instances of lung cancer caused by marijuana use, the jury is still out. With different studies providing divergent opinions and results, the long term cancer risk and health dangers of marijuana smoking may remain uncertain for some time to come.

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By John Lavitt

celebrity addicts

7/22/14 1:00pm

'Star Wars' Ewok Admits Cocaine, Alcohol Addiction

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A 4’4” sci-fi actor best known for playing an Ewok in Return of the Jedi and a goblin in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has admitted to a very real-life drug problem.

Pictures emerged last week of British actor Paul Grant snorting lines of cocaine and drinking cans of expired lager, leading him to publicly ask for help to address his addiction. “I’ve been on cocaine and it has just got worse. I’m drinking and smoking what I can get,” he said. “I had a family. I was married, now I’m divorced. I’ve lost everything.”

Grant had been working steadily as an actor since the mid-‘80s, but attributed the end of his marriage to his personal and professional collapse. He admitted to being responsible for the breakup by cheating on her multiple times and spending all of his money “on drugs and prostitutes.” Grant has also found himself in trouble with the law and was recently convicted of common assault.

Now 44, Grant's acting career has hit the skids and he has admitted to not having seen his manager in two years. Grant was even reduced to living on the streets until he was taken in by a mother-of-two and her boyfriend, both of whom took pity on him. However, it is unclear whether he is currently receiving any treatment for his addiction.

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By McCarton Ackerman

policy fail

7/22/14 10:30am

Experts Blame the Child Migrant Crisis on America’s Drug War

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On Thursday, Congress heard testimony from author and journalist Sonia Nazario on the situation in Honduras, where drug trafficking has entrenched itself in recent years and drastically increased levels of violence.

Nazario, who serves on the board of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a nonprofit founded by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie that provides pro bono legal representation to unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children in the U.S., told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that after spending a week in the country, she witnessed a level of violence and corruption that left her “astounded.” The root of the violence, she said, is “the recent control by narco-cartels that has brought a new reach and viciousness to violence children in particular face in this neighborhood and throughout the country.”

“The U.S. has spent billions to disrupt the flow of drugs from Colombia up the Caribbean corridor. The narco-cartels, mostly Mexican, have simply re-routed inland, and four in five flights of cocaine bound for the U.S. now land in Honduras,” Nazario said in her opening statement before the committee. “These cartels are vying for control over turf and to expand drug distribution, sales, and extortion in these neighborhoods.”

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington’s Futile War on Drugs in Latin America and The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America, called it a game of “squeeze the balloon.”

“While the pace of Mexico’s drug-related corruption and violence has eased slightly over the past two years, the situation in Central America has grown steadily worse,” he said. “The leading Mexican cartels began to move operations into Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in 2008 as the pressure in Mexico mounted. It’s a game of ‘squeeze the balloon.’ Put pressure on the drug cartels in one area, and the drug trade just pops up somewhere else.”

As of 2012, 75% of all cocaine smuggling flights departing South America first land in Honduras, according to the U.S. State Department. The country’s Caribbean coastal region has become a primary landing zone for drug trafficking flights due to its remoteness, limited infrastructure, lack of government presence, and weak law enforcement institutions.

The drug cartels’ ill effect on Honduras is evidenced in the homicide rate. In 2007, the homicide rate was approximately 50 per 100,000 people. In 2012, the rate soared to more than 90 per 100,000. The homicide rate in the city of San Pedro Sula, in particular, is 187 killings per 100,000 people, earning it the sad distinction of being the murder capital of the world.

As the situation in Honduras goes from bad to worse, it’s no wonder that a large percentage of the unaccompanied minors making the perilous journey north now come from that country, said Carpenter.

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By Victoria Kim

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