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New Campaign Targets Tobacco Industry's Deceptive Marketing to Youth

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This article was contributed by Samela Perez with the San Benito Public Health Department.

In an effort to combat the tobacco industry’s latest marketing strategies aimed at getting youth hooked on nicotine, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently launched a new “Flavors Hook Kids” campaign.

This campaign warns parents and concerned adults about the increasing availability of flavored tobacco products targeted to teens. The campaign also highlights how easy it is for kids to purchase flavored tobacco products online.

“E-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products are appealing to youth and, although smoking flavored tobacco products such as Cotton Candy and Unicorn Poop may seem fun, these products are harmful and can lead to a lifetime of nicotine addiction,” stated Dr. Gail Newel, health officer for San Benito County.

Locally, Public Health Services staff and youth, along with parents and educators, packed the Hollister City Council meeting on April 16, 2018 to encourage council members to pass a policy limiting the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products to only retail establishments that allow customers 21 and over.

“Tobacco is seen by teenagers as harmless and a way to look ‘cool,'” said Vanessa Sanchez, sophomore at San Benito High School. “It is crazy to me to see how tobacco is affecting the lives of many young people. As a student at San Benito High School I have encountered classmates vaping in Baler Alley, in the bathrooms, and walking home. Tobacco is so accessible to us and nothing is being done about this problem in our community.”

More than 80 percent of youth who have tried tobacco products started with a flavored product. There are currently more than 15,500 e-cigarette flavors on the market.

Also increasing in popularity among teenagers are new e-cigarette devices called “pod mods.” One in particular, JUUL, looks like a flash drive. It is easily hidden from parents and teachers because of its deceptive design. Each JUUL cartridge contains the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes.

“We encourage parents to talk to their kids about the significant risks of nicotine addiction and tobacco use – which can impact brain development and cause asthma and respiratory disease,” Dr. Newel said. “There’s simply no safe level of tobacco consumption, and it is far too easy for teens to get interested and hooked due to the tobacco industry’s deceptive tactics.”

E-cigarettes are the most common tobacco product used by youth in the U.S. In 2016, 13.6 percent of California high school students reported using tobacco products, compared to 14.8 in San Benito County and more than half (8.6 percent) reporting using e-cigarettes, including “pod mods.” Research has shown minors can successfully buy e-cigarette products online 94 percent of the time.

For more information on e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products please call Public Health Services at (831) 637-5367, go to San Benito Public Health Services website, or the California Tobacco Control website at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DCDIC/CTCB/Pages/FlavoredTobaccoAndMenthol.aspx.

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OPEC threatens to turn on the spigots as oil price briefly hits highest point since 2014

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The price of the North American oil benchmark briefly touched $72 US a barrel late Tuesday despite the OPEC oil cartel publicly mulling boosting supply as soon as next month.

The price of West Texas Intermediate, the North American oil benchmark commonly known as WTI, was changing hands as high as $72.83 at one point on Tuesday. Although it slumped slightly lower on Wednesday, that was the highest level since November 2014.

Supply concerns in Venezuela and Iran have been overhanging the market for months, driving prices higher. 

Then late Tuesday the oil-producing cartel known as OPEC suggested it may soon turn on the spigots a little, after curbing its supply for the better part of the past year to boost prices.

The notoriously fractious cartel has been uncharacteristically collaborative of late, as OPEC and Russia had agreed to curb their collective output by about 1.8 million barrels per day until the end of 2018.

Last month, the cartel reported 166 per cent compliance to its own cut targets — meaning it has been pumping even less oil than it had planned to.

But speaking to a Reuters reporter on Tuesday, one unnamed OPEC source said the group is considering lifting those limits sooner than anticipated, in part because of the rising price of oil. 

While WTI was briefly at $72 US, Canadian oil companies have also seen their prices rise. The blend of oil from Alberta's oilsands is known as Western Canada Select and it, too, has risen to a more than three-year high, almost touching $58 U.S. on Tuesday.

Higher oil prices are doubly helpful for Canadian producers, because they are priced in U.S. dollars, while Canadian companies book most of their expenses in Canadian dollars.

In Canadian terms, WTI is currently trading as high as $91 a barrel, Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter noted on Tuesday.

"That's up 50 per cent  from just eight months ago."

In Canadian dollar terms, the price of WTI is now where it was, on average, during what Porter called the "go-go years for oil prices," between 2007 and 2014.

"The lack of a currency response means that Canadian consumers are feeling the full impact of higher oil prices," he said.

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Comcast prepares to top Disney's $50-billion offer for Fox

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Comcast Corp confirmed for the first time on Wednesday it was preparing a higher, all-cash offer for the businesses that Twenty-First Century Fox has agreed to sell to Walt Disney Co.

While the U.S. cable operator said it was still considering its position, it said it was in advanced stages of readying an offer that would be “superior” and “at a premium” to Disney’s all stock offer.

“While no final decision has been made, at this point the work to finance the all-cash offer and make the key regulatory filings is well advanced,” Comcast said.

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Sources familiar with the deal told Reuters at the start of May that Comcast was preparing bridge financing for a cash offer for the Fox assets, but Wednesday’s statement is the first formal confirmation by the company it is ready to move.

The same sources said Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts will only proceed with a bid if a federal judge next month allows AT&T Inc’s planned $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc to proceed.

Disney in December offered stock then worth $52.4 billion to buy Fox’s film, television and international businesses as it bids to beef up its offering against streaming rivals Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

Disney shares have fallen nearly 3.3 percent since, reducing the value of the offer to just over $50 billion.

“It all depends on the AT&T and Time Warner deal,” said Brian Weiser, analyst at Pivotal Research. “If that goes through it is highly possible there will more than one bid for Fox.”

Fox and Disney were not immediately available for comment.

Comcast, owner of NBC and Universal Pictures, has also made a 22 billion pound ($30 billion) offer to acquire the 61 percent stake in European pay-TV group Sky Plc that Fox does not already own. In doing so, it topped an earlier offer for the entirety of Sky by Fox.

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A regulatory filing in April showed Comcast offered to acquire most of Fox’s assets in an all-stock deal valued at $34.41 per share, or $64 billion last November – just before Disney’s offer was agreed.

After a sale, Fox’s remaining assets will include Fox News, Fox Business Network and sports cable networks.

Comcast shares were down 2 percent at $31.83 while Disney was down 0.7 percent at $103.26 in premarket trading.

“I think Fox, or its controlling shareholder and Board of Directors, has already expressed their preference – Disney, even though Comcast allegedly offered a higher consideration already,” said Jeffrey Logsdon, an analyst with JBL Advisors in California.

“Comcast does seem intent on winning this one (and) rivalry can frequently drive prices to un-economic levels.”

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Comcast v. Disney: a fight for Twenty-First Century Fox

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PHILADELPHIA — Comcast may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, potentially putting it in a head-to-head bidding war with Disney.

Comcast Corp. on Wednesday did not provide specific details on a bid, other than to say that it would be all cash and at a premium to the value of Disney’s current all-stock offer.

The Wall Street Journal and others reported earlier this month that Comcast had $60 billion to challenge Disney.

Disney’s $52.4 billion bid would go a long way in allowing it to better compete with technology companies in the entertainment business. Any tie-up would put in its stable more Marvel superheros, as well as the studios that produced the Avatar movies, “The Simpsons” and “Modern Family.” Disney would control Fox’s cable and international TV businesses as well.

Comcast said Wednesday that it’s in the “advanced stages” of preparing its bid. The Philadelphia company said the structure and terms of its offer would be at least as favourable as Disney’s.

A potential transaction with either Disney or Comcast would not include the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company and certain other assets.

Comcast’s stock fell 2 per cent in premarket trading, while shares of the Walt Disney Co., based in Burbank, California, dipped slightly.

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