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Tobacco control: a Foundation too far?

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Commentary on the launch of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

September 2017 saw the launch of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which describes itself as “an independent, non-profit organization created to accelerate global efforts to reduce health impacts and deaths from smoking, with the goal of ultimately eliminating smoking worldwide”.

http://blogs.bmj.com/tc/2017/10/13/commentary-on-the-launch-of-the-foundation-for-a-smoke-free-world/

The creation of such an organization would usually be a matter for celebration among the tobacco control community and especially for the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the United Nations tobacco control treaty, whose Secretariat I lead.

And yet this is not good news. The Foundation is currently 100% funded by Philip Morris International (PMI). The company has already pledged around US$1 billion for the period of 12 years or around US$80 million a year. To put that in context, this is more than eight times greater than the entire WHO FCTC annual budget.

The Foundation claims that its funding source doesn’t matter, since its bylaws prohibit tobacco industry interference, and safeguard against conflicts of interest, thereby guaranteeing its independence. We are asked to believe that this industry-funded organization will simply ignore the commercial interests of its paymaster. We are asked to believe this where the organization is established to work on specific issues of interest to PMI, where that work may promote other products that contain nicotine and have the ability to sustain addiction, and where the paymaster can decide not to continue funding the organization from one year to another. How can masters of this Foundation that claim to be independent be unaware of PMI’s lobbying strategies, and ensure that their Foundation is not inadvertently supporting bad public health policy?

The establishment of the Foundation ties into a broader PMI strategy to ensure that there is little or no regulation on new tobacco products PMI is producing. It also fits into the tobacco industry’s corporate social responsibility schemes. Such projects are designed to mislead or confuse public opinion. They are the anti-truth.

How do we know? Reams of research and legal documents on tobacco industry behaviour confirm that the Foundation’s public statements fit seamlessly into the tobacco industry’s strategy, which is to sell new products while continuing to sell cigarettes. Over decades, tobacco industry dollars have funded influence buying, covert activities and scientific misrepresentation. Industry money has never advanced the cause of public health, as is made clear in excruciating detail by the millions of tobacco industry documents. These reveal, for example, that firms have “sought to influence debate by buying up scientists on a spectacular scale.”

PMI recently rejected an appeal from 120 Organisations asking it to halt the production of cigarettes. To make it plain, if the company were serious about making the world smoke-free they should immediately stop fighting, in several countries, tobacco control measures to implement the Framework Convention.

This Foundation fits within a broader strategy of PMI attempting to present itself as a “stakeholder” in tobacco control. Some examples of these initiatives include PMI Impact,which claims to counter the illicit trade in tobacco products but in fact serves to slow and disrupt the entry into force of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. Another tobacco industry initiative, which PMI co-funds, is the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (ECLT). With little impact on reducing child labour on tobacco in low and middle income countries, this Foundation detracts from implementation of Article 17 of the WHO FCTC, which calls upon governments to support tobacco workers and growers to switch to alternative sustainable livelihoods.

Taken as a whole, the tobacco industry’s corporate social responsibility programmes are an abomination, which seek to give the impression of action on important issues, while boosting its own profits and hiding its own role in creating problems.

Parties to the WHO FCTC have pledged, through Article 5.3 of the treaty, to resist tobacco industry interference. In a 2016 ruling against the tobacco industry, a senior English judge accurately summarised this key Article and its Guidelines : “[T]he tobacco industry should be treated as having adopted a deliberate policy of subverting public health policy through, inter alia, the deployment of its substantial capital and organisational resources to generate evidence designed to contradict the established policy consensus… that this evidence is unreliable, i.e. false.”

WHO FCTC Parties should therefore adopt legislation or rules to implement Article 5.3 and ensure they do not promote, participate in or endorse tobacco industry involvement, directly or through these “foundations”, in initiatives related to tobacco control. No government and no reputable academic, research or public health organisation should partner with PMI’s new foundation.

It is already clear that this tobacco industry-funded Foundation fits a long-established and sinister pattern of corporate chicanery. The industry’s aim, after all, is not to help its customers but to profit from them.

The tobacco industry’s new “partnerships” with supposedly independent organizations do constitute a serious threat, but we have a response to hand.

It’s called the WHO FCTC, and it’s the true foundation for a smoke-free world.

Dr Da Costa e Silva is the Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat.

Global tobacco giant Philip Morris commits to a ‘smoke-free’ future in Australia

TOBACCO giant Philip Morris will on Thursday commit to a “smoke-free” Australia in a push to legalise reduced-risk alternatives to replace cigarettes.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/global-tobacco-giant-philip-morris-commits-to-a-smokefree-future-in-australia/news-story/110c8a659e56980e5b6aa16c9c9fe19c

The company will tell a federal parliamentary inquiry on electronic cigarettes that technology has rapidly transformed its business away from cigarettes in favour of smoke-free alternatives.

E-cigarettes containing nicotine are not regulated as therapeutic goods in Australia and cannot be legally imported for personal use.

Australian medicines regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration does not support the use of electronic cigarettes.

Philip Morris scientific affairs fellow Maurice Smith said every level of the global company was committed to “transitioning away” from cigarettes “as soon as possible” — a process it has already begun in 30 countries.

Mr Smith will tell the hearing in Melbourne that more than three million smokers worldwide — and more than 8000 smokers a day — had switched to Philip Morris’s IQOS, which heats tobacco rather than burning it.

He said the rapid consumer acceptance had made it possible for cigarette smoking to become obsolete.

The product has already captured 10 per cent of its worldwide market.

“Ironically, although many share our vision of a smoke-free Australia, the law in Australia, unique in the world, requires that all tobacco products must be smoked,” Mr Smith said.

While the Council of Australia has conceded e-cigarettes are “probably less harmful to health” than traditional cigarettes, it says and the short- and long-term health effects are not yet known.

It says claims e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking are “unsubstantiated” and unfair to consumers.

Chairman of the parliamentary Standing Committee for Health, Aged Care and Sport Trent Zimmerman, said it was important for politicians to query the implications of the growing body of research on the health impacts of e-cigarettes.

Phillip Morris has pledged $US80 million a year until 2030 to develop alternative measures to reduce the harm caused by smoking.

The research is headed by former World Health Organisation cabinet director, Dr Derek Yach.

rob.harris@news.com.au

Big tobacco’s push to legalise e-cigarettes needs to be quashed immediately

If Philip Morris truly believed it’s push to legalise e-cigarettes containing nicotine in this country had merit it would be making its case publicly and under its own name.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/ct-editorial/big-tobaccos-push-to-legalise-ecigarettes-needs-to-be-quashed-immediately-20170713-gxaow8.html

The fact the tobacco giant is using its catspaw smokers’ rights lobby group “I Deserve To Be Heard” to lend the argument the dubious legitimacy of contrived popular support is, in itself, a good reason for the Federal Government to refuse to give this matter any oxygen.

Another is that in the almost 500 years since Spanish merchants introduced tobacco to Europe from the New World big tobacco’s track record of advocating anything in the public interest has been appalling.

It’s a pretty good bet, just on the historical record, that if Philip Morris thinks it would benefit from the legalisation of e-cigarettes there’s likely some sort of downside for the broader society.

Despite the handsome revenues governments rake in from the taxes, levies and charges imposed on what is arguably the most deadly mass consumption product available for public sale, the industry, and its users, always come out ahead.

The costs to other taxpayers from picking up the burden of additional healthcare and lost productivity arising from the chronic illnesses and early deaths caused by consumption on tobacco products far outweigh the revenues that come in.

An estimated 15,000 Australians die of smoking related causes each year at a cost to the community, in terms of health expenditure and economic costs, of $31.5 billion a year. This is almost three times the roughly $12 billion spent on tobacco products in Australia in 2015.

This is not a message big tobacco is keen to spread. Instead, by enlisting proxies from the nicotine-using and “vaping” communities, it is trying to play this as a “free speech” and “freedom of choice” issue.

That is not the case. Public health was, is and must always be, the core issue in the smoking debate. Everything else, as was demonstrated by the industry’s failed bid to overturn plain packaging, is a side show.

Health concerns were behind the many initiatives, including increased prices, that have seen Australian smoking rates fall to less than 13 per cent compared to 1945 when 72 per cent of males and 26 per cent of females smoked.

Today’s battle is not so much to wean the last hard core smokers off the habit as it is to stop young people from taking it up.

This is why e-cigarettes, which could be touted as a “reduced risk” and potentially “cool” way to imbibe must stay banned.

If legalised they would simply serve as yet another gateway towards the use of the traditional product.

Exposed: big tobacco’s behind-the-scenes ‘astroturf’ campaign to change vaping laws

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is running an under-the-radar campaign to convince federal politicians to legalise e-cigarettes containing nicotine, with anti-smoking campaigners accusing the company of using the same “astroturf” tactics it used in its fight against plain packaging.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/exposed-big-tobaccos-behindthescenes-astroturf-campaign-to-change-vaping-laws-20170712-gx9lsl.html

The multinational has been using its offshoot smokers’ rights lobby group – dubbed “I Deserve To Be Heard” – to contact Australian smokers and vapers and urge them to make submissions to a parliamentary probe into the use and marketing of e-cigarettes.

The company’s campaign – along with a coordinated push from Australia’s online vaping community – has seen the inquiry inundated with submissions from people who say vaping has helped them quit smoking and dramatically improved their health.

While health groups in Australia and across the globe continue to warn about the potential risks of nicotine vaping, 107 of the 108 submissions so far loaded on the inquiry’s website are strongly pro-vaping – and the vast majority follow a similar “personal story” template.

World renowned tobacco control expert Simon Chapman, an emeritus professor at the University of Sydney, said Philip Morris and other interest groups were “astroturfing” – trying to create the illusion of a big grass-roots pro-vaping movement that does not really exist.

“They’ve been actively recruiting people to put in submissions,” Professor Chapmen told Fairfax Media. “These are exactly the same tactics they used for plain packaging. They have dusted off the same software, the same template and just changed the content.”

E-cigarettes are a multi-billion-dollar business overseas but the sale and personal possession of nicotine e-cigarettes is illegal in Australia. Health groups fear that if the government relaxes the rules it could lead to a wave of seductive advertising that would lure young people into taking up the habit – and possibly serve as a gateway drug to other forms of smoking.

Philip Morris’s new campaign comes after it was ordered to pay the Australian government millions in legal costs over its failed bid to kill off world-first plain packaging laws.

The company used I Deserve To Be Heard in its plain packaging efforts but it has been largely sitting dormant in recent years. It fired back into life late last month with an email blast to members calling on them to “make their voices heard”, as the company intensifies its push into the increasingly lucrative international e-cigarette market.

“Australia’s laws on vaping are ridiculous. While the UK, USA, EU, Canada and New Zealand have all legalised or are legalising e-cigarettes, Australia completely lags behind. There’s no reason why e-cigarettes with nicotine shouldn’t be legal in Australia,” it said.

Company spokesman Patrick Muttart told Fairfax Media that Philip Morris was committed “to converting the world’s one billion plus smokers to smoke-free alternatives”. I Deserve to be Heard members had demonstrated a strong interest in the legalisation of smoke-free products, he said: “As such we wrote once to our membership, informed them of the inquiry and encouraged those interested to consider submitting.”

The submissions are also being coordinated by senior members of Vaper Cafe Australia, an online forum.

On June 7, a senior member of the forum identified as a 52-year-old man from Western Sydney urged users to “inundate” the inquiry with submissions. He offered a step-by-step guide on writing a submission.

Many of the 108 published submissions closely follow the template, in which people are urged to include “your age and gender, when you started smoking, how long you smoked for, how much you smoked and if you suffered any side effects from smoking”.

Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said the tobacco industry was aggressively pursuing the potential of e-cigarettes because it had given them the opportunity to “rebrand” themselves as part of the effort to reduce smoking – even there is no evidence e-cigarettes work as a deterrent.

“We must not allow e-cigarettes to become a socially acceptable alternative to smoking,” he said. “E-cigarettes essentially mimic or normalise the act of smoking. They can result in some smokers delaying their decision to quit, and they can send signals to children and young people that it is okay to smoke.”

But Dr Colin Mendelsohn, a tobacco treatment specialist in Sydney who advocates for e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to smokes, said the AMA’s submission was “disgraceful” and accused it of using misleading data and ignoring international evidence that could save lives.

He defended the submissions despite the coordination: “These are still genuine stories, many of whom have had their lives saved by vaping.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council says ‘there is currently insufficient evidence to support claims that e-cigarettes are safe”.

PMI test marketing ‘flat coil’ e-liquid technology

Philip Morris International is test marketing a product employing new technology described by PMI as a mesh patch to heat e-liquids that eliminates manual assembly of wick-and-coil designs that are the industry standard.

http://www.tobaccojournal.com/PMI_test_marketing_%C3%82%E2%80%98flat_coil%C3%82%E2%80%99_e-liquid_technology.54255.0.html

PMI’s technology allows full automation in contrast to nearly all e-cigarette products that require wicks to be hand-threaded through heating coils, the company said in its latest Scientific Update for Smoke-free Products. A flat-coil product has been undergoing test marketing under the MESH brand in Birmingham, UK, since late last year, PMI said.

“The trick was to design a flat alternative to the original coil-and-wick technology that provided a comparable user experience to traditional e-cigarette products,” PMI said. “By designing a flat coil, a machine could place a flat wick on top of it, inject e-liquid into an adjacent cavity, and neatly seal it all in a self-contained cartridge.”

Electronic Marlboro sucks smokers away from Japan Tobacco

http://english.astroawani.com/business-news/electronic-marlboro-sucks-smokers-away-japan-tobacco-113807

TOKYO: Marlboro maker Philip Morris International says its e-cigarette has rapidly captured close to 3 percent of Japanese tobacco sales, making inroads into a market Japan Tobacco (JT) relies on for 40 percent of its profit.

In what may be an early vindication of Philip Morris’s e-cigarette strategy, the iQOS accounted for 2.2 percent of Japan’s tobacco sales in the quarter ended June 30, a company spokesman said.

That share had climbed to 2.7 percent by the end of June after Philip Morris rolled out the 9,980 yen ($98.53) electronic smoker in late April accompanied by “HeatSticks”, which cost the same as regular cigarettes.

“The figures clearly show that iQOS is stealing a chunk of the rolled tobacco market,” said Masashi Mori, analyst at Credit Suisse Securities in Tokyo. Japan’s overall cigarette sales in June shrank 5.2 percent.

On Friday, JT said revenue from July cigarettes sales in Japan dipped by 3.4 percent to 53.4 billion yen.

Unlike conventional e-cigarettes that vaporise a nicotine infused liquid, iQOS produces a smokeless aerosol by heating tobacco leaf packed into stubby cigarettes inserted into the device.

So far it has tested the gadget in seven countries including cities in Switzerland and Italy. Japan, which has suppressed e-cigarette “vaping” by regulating nicotine liquids under pharmaceutical laws, is the only country where it is sold nationwide.

Demand for iQOS, which is made in Malaysia, has outstripped demand, leaving Philip Morris unable to make the most of its early entry into Japan. Some limited-edition IQOS models are selling online for as much as 80,000 yen.

“When Philip Morris can supply enough to meet demand then its push in to the market is very likely to accelerate,” UBS Securities Japan analyst Naomi Takagi said.

E-cigarettes assuage some smokers’ health concerns and ease social stigmas attached to tobacco. Tobacco firms are battling to take an early lead in the emerging market as overall cigarette sales shrink globally.

Sales of e-cigarettes, however, are booming, growing five times to $8 billion in 2014 from 2010, according to research company Euromonitor. The market in 2020 is likely to be 20 times the 2010 level, predicts Euromonitor. Global cigarette revenue is about $750 billion.

Philip Morris plans to widen sales of iQOS to 20 countries by the end of the year.
Former state tobacco monopoly Japan Tobacco, which has 60 percent of its domestic market, is struggling to counter the challenge with its own device. JT’s electronic cigarette stick, dubbed the Ploom TECH, creates a vapor from a liquid that is passed through granulated tobacco.

Yet the world’s No. 3 cigarette maker has so far been unable to match iQOS’s nationwide launch, with no clear indication yet when it will have sufficient production output to do so.

“It doubtful JT will manage a wider launch before the end of the year,” Takagi at UBS Securities said.

Smoke without fire – Japan becomes test ground for real tobacco e-cigarette

Two tobacco giants are seeing strong demand for their reboots of the e-cigarette in Japan, with Philip Morris International (PM.N) twice postponing a nationwide rollout and Japan Tobacco (2914.T) suspending shipments – both due to supply shortages.

Japan has become a key testing ground for the two companies and their new, real tobacco esmokes as they grapple with shrinking demand for traditional cigarettes in other developed countries.

Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco company, has postponed the nationwide rollout of its iQOS to April 18.

“We believe that the success of iQOS commercialisation in Japan will accelerate its global expansion,” Philip Morris Japan president Paul Riley told Reuters.

Japan Tobacco CEO Mitsuomi Koizumi told an earnings briefing in February: “We have very high expectations for growth of the so-called tobacco vapour category in five years or so from now.”

The iQOS is a tobacco stick that is heated just enough to produce an aerosol but not combust. The company is betting the presence of real tobacco will make it more satisfying to smokers than existing e-cigarettes.

The new device, priced at 9,980 yen (£62.5), appears similar to other e-cigarettes in that it is pen-shaped and battery-powered, and is heated to release tobacco vapour.

A key distinction is the refills, sold as Marlboro HeatSticks. Most e-cigarettes sold elsewhere use nicotine-laced liquid, which is heavily regulated in Japan. A pack of 20 HeatSticks sells for 460 yen, the same as regular Marlboro cigarettes.

Philip Morris has introduced the products in major cities in Switzerland, Italy and other countries, but Japan is the first country it plans a nationwide release.

The company had originally planned to sell the product throughout Japan on March 1, but postponed the launch to the end of the month due to a potential supply shortage after it saw stronger-than-expected sales in 12 prefectures where it has been test marketing.

The company estimates the market share of Marlboro HeatSticks reached 2.4 percent in Tokyo at the end of January.

Japan Tobacco, which commands about 60 percent of Japan’s cigarette market and is the world’s third-largest tobacco maker, has also got in on the action by acquiring two overseas ecigarette makers in the past two years.

In Japan, it has launched the Ploom TECH, priced at 4,000 yen and sold with 460-yen packs of five capsules. Ploom TECH’s selling point is that vapour generated from a liquid cartridge passes through the capsules’ granulated tobacco, creating a taste the company says is close to the real thing.

“There is definitely a need for products that are smokeless but are still satisfying as cigarettes,” said Masanao Takahashi, director at Japan Tobacco’s emerging products marketing division.

Like iQOS, Ploom TECH’s initial launch in the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka proved so popular that the shipment of the device were suspended after a week due to a supply shortage.

It is currently working on a nationwide launch and is also eyeing a global expansion later this year.