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March 22nd, 2012:

Tobacco use is top cause of death in China – World – The Boston Globe

Tobacco use is top cause of death in China


MARCH 22, 2012

BEIJING – Tobacco use killed almost 6 million people last year and was the top cause of death in China, the world’s biggest cigarette market, a report by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation said Wednesday.

Four of every five deaths were in low- and middle-income countries, and 1 billion people may die from tobacco use and exposure this century if current trends continue, according to the report, released in Singapore.

Tobacco-related deaths almost tripled in the past decade amid a 17 percent jump in cigarette production and increased affordability of the cancer-causing products in low-income nations. The tobacco industry generates about $500 billion in annual sales, with the six biggest companies making a combined profit of $35.1 billion in 2010, said Judith Mackay, who co-wrote the report.

“The tobacco industry is among the top-10 most influential industries in the world because of its sheer magnitude of wealth and sales,’’ Mackay, a physician and adviser to the World Lung Foundation and the World Health Organization, said n Tuesday.

Governments have been trying to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global treaty endorsed by more than 174 countries and recommended by the Geneva-based United Nations agency, to curb smoking.

Producers have been increasing efforts to combat those measures with legal challenges in every region of the world, according to the World Lung Foundation.

These include objections to smoke-free legislation, and opposition to advertising bans and graphic warnings of disease on cigarette packs.

Tobacco Plants Turn into Living Vaccine Factories | Inserogen SwiftVax | LiveScience

Tobacco Plants

The startup called Inserogen is turning tobacco plants into biological factories for producing vaccines and medical therapeutics.
CREDIT: University of California, Davis

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Tobacco use is responsible for almost half a million deaths in the U.S. each year, but the tobacco plant could find redemption as a savior for public health. That’s because a U.S. biotechnology startup has transformed tobacco plants into living factories for making new vaccines and medical treatments.

The “SwiftVax” tobacco plants are designed to act as quick, cheap biological factories for churning out bioengineered proteins needed for human or animal vaccines. Faster vaccine manufacturing could allow the world to respond rapidly to future outbreaks of infectious diseases — a problem it faced while racing to stockpile vaccine during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

“Thousands of lives and millions of dollars were lost because current technologies for production were not able to provide vaccines fast enough,” said Lucas Arzola, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at the University of California, Davis. “The use of tobacco plants as biofactories of vaccines can provide a solution to this problem.”

Arzola’s startup, called Inserogen, has already begun lining up bioengineered products made by the SwiftVax tobacco plants. First, it’s creating a vaccine for the poultry illness called Newcastle disease — an infectious disease capable of rapidly spreading among chickens or other farm birds.

Second, a therapeutic protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) could help human patients suffering from the genetic disorder known as AAT deficiency, because the missing protein typically protects the lungs and liver from damage. But Arzola envisions the SwiftVax technology making a wide variety of vaccines and proteins used in medical treatments.

“The technology is easy to customize, and can be engineered to produce not only vaccines, but virtually any recombinant protein,” Arzola told InnovationNewsDaily. “A unique aspect of our technology is that we are repurposing tobacco, a plant that is viewed as negative, for a positive purpose: manufacturing vaccines and therapeutics to improve quality of life.”

Arzola originally founded Inserogen alongside fellow Ph.D. candidates Oscar Ortega-Rivera and Michelle Lozada-Contreras, as well as Karen McDonald, a professor of chemical engineering at UC-Davis. Inserogen went on to win first place among 40 teams competing in the Big Bang! Business Plan Competition at UC Davis in 2010.

The startup’s breakthroughs have built upon years of funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation — it was accepted into the new Innovation Corps Program that awards a $50,000 grant to university teams. More recently, it received a $20,000 E-Team Grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) to do a proof-of-concept for producing an animal vaccine.

Inserogen will also represent one of 14 student teams participating in the NCIIA’s Open Minds exhibition being held at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco on Friday, March 23. The startup team hopes to share tips with fellow entrepreneurs and perhaps find interested collaborators or investors.

Arzola had several tips for fellow entrepreneurs: build a team with complementary skills, don’t be afraid of talking about the startup idea, and get involved with supporting organizations such as NCIIA.

“You must seek advice from experienced individuals who have built a similar company or have commercialized a similar technology or product before,” Arzola said. “They have been there, done that, and you can learn a lot from their successes and mistakes. You will be surprised by their willingness to mentor and to provide valuable advice.”

This story was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. You can follow InnovationNewsDaily Senior Writer Jeremy Hsu on Twitter @ScienceHsu. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @News_Innovation, or on Facebook.

Cigarette machines in Kyoto, Japan. Global profits for big companies totalled $35bn last year, while smoking deaths reached 6 million.

Cigarette machines in Kyoto Japan. but excludes China

Revenues from global tobacco sales are estimated to be close to $500bn (£316bn), generating combined profits for the six largest firms of $35.1bn – more than $1,100 a second.

Much of this profit is ultimately channelled to pension and insurance investors in the UK – British American Tobacco andImperial are two of the largest companies listed on the London stock market.

London’s role as a hub of the multinational tobacco trade is in part a legacy of the British empire. While BAT sells very few cigarettes in the UK, for example, it is a big player in many emerging economies. In Turkey it sells Viceroy and Pall Mall brands; its Kent cigarettes are big sellers in Russia, while Gold Flake and John Player Gold Leaf are popular in Pakistan. Rothmans in Nigeria and Kent and Montana in Iran are also important for BAT. India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Iraq, Egypt and Yemen are also promising markets for the company.

The big four tobacco firms – Philip Morris, BAT, Imperial and Japan Tobacco – insist they do not recruit new smokers in developing countries; rather, they grow sales by converting existing smokers of local tobacco products to their stable of aspirational Western brands – often “safer” products, they say.

British American Tobacco spokesperson said: “There is constant speculation that we’re breaking into emerging markets to avoid regulation. But this is not true. We didn’t invent smoking, nor ‘export’ it anywhere, and we have been in many of these developing markets for hundreds of years – in the case of Africa, India and Brazil, since the early 1900s.

“As disposable income grows around the world, particularly in developing countries, more smokers are upgrading to premium brands rather than low quality local alternatives – and this doesn’t just apply to cigarettes.”

And yet almost 80% of the 6 million people killed last year by tobacco-related illnesses were from low- and middle-income countries, according to new research from health lobby campaigners.

The study identified tobacco as the No 1 killer in China, where smoking is said to cause 1.2 million deaths annually. It is also blamed for more than a third of male deaths in Kazakhstan and in Turkey – other major smoking nations.

China accounts for about 40% of the global market for tobacco. The big four western firms have been eager to gain a foothold, but the industry remains firmly in state control.

The New Tobacco Atlas – produced by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society and published in Singapore at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health – found that tobacco-related deaths had tripled in the last decade: they now account for more than 15% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths.

The study indicated cigarettes had become an average of 21.7% more affordable in low and middle-income countries.

Health campaigners insist the industry is in fact lobbying hard to block international standards on tobacco control. “The tobacco industry thrives on ignorance of the true harms of tobacco and using misinformation to subvert health policies that could save millions,” said Peter Baldini, chief executive of the World Lung Foundation.