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May 15th, 2013:

Researchers link elevated cadmium levels to increased risk of liver disease

Researchers link elevated cadmium levels to increased risk of liver disease

Heavy metal commonly found in industrial emissions, tobacco smoke

Hub staff report / May 15, 2013 Posted in Health Tagged liver disease

People with higher levels of cadmium in their urine—evidence of chronic exposure to the heavy metal found in industrial emissions and tobacco smoke—appear to be nearly 3.5 times more likely to die of liver disease than those with lower levels, according to a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins.

The findings do not show that cadmium directly causes liver disease, the scientists caution, but do suggest an association that needs more investigation.

Reviewing information from a large population-based survey, the Johns Hopkins investigators say the cadmium-liver disease link disproportionately affects men. The gender differences could occur because of the protective effects of menopause chemistry, which may redistribute stored cadmium from liver and kidneys, where it can do more damage, and into bones where it remains more stable.

Cadmium accumulates in the body over time because of the metal’s long chemical half-life, according to the researchers, who reported their findings online in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery.

“We already know about the health hazards of heavy metals like lead and mercury, but we don’t know much about what cadmium does to the body,” says study leader Omar Hyder, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “In mice, chronic cadmium exposure has been shown to cause liver failure, but we need to understand more about the factors that may cause liver disease in humans, and whether we can do anything to prevent it.”

Cadmium is found widely in the environment, with tobacco smoke the most important, single source of exposure in the general population. Other environmental sources of human exposure include fossil fuel combustion and the incineration of municipal waste. For many years, most of the batteries in the United States were made with cadmium, and it is also found in pigments and plastics.

Hyder says long-term exposure is known to cause kidney disease and has been linked to lung cancer. Studies have shown an increase in all-cause mortality and cancer mortality in populations exposed to low levels of cadmium for long periods of time.

For their study, Hyder and his colleagues analyzed data from 12,732 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Tobacco debate ‘hotting up’ as Council details leaked to industry

Published: 15 May 2013

The content of European Council working party meetings on the EU’s tobacco policy review is being leaked to the industry, said an EU source who added that the debate is “hotting up”.


The first tobacco control legislation in the EU was introduced in the 1980s. Since then, EU legislation and policy has been further developed in the areas of product regulation, advertising and protecting people from second-hand smoke, as well as prevention.

Health Commissioner Tonio Borg is set to widen the scope of cigarette-trading rules to cover potentially harmful electronic cigarettes, flavourings and marketing strategies – potentially including plain packaging – as part of a revision of the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive.

The tobacco industry receives notes and documents from ministerial meetings on the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive and prepares lobbying materials targeting specific policymakers, and the tobacco lobby has sent out the campaign letters using the information as soon as one day after they took place.

“There is an issue that reports of working party meetings are obviously going to tobacco industry,” said the source. “Somewhere in the chain there’s a leakage of reports. Then industry goes to certain capitals and complains about the positions taken up by some member states.

“That shouldn’t really be happening. They shouldn’t be engaging with the tobacco industry on issues of public health policy. It’s hotting up at the moment. It’s getting more real,” he said.

The European Council holds working party meetings with national representatives and members of the Commission. Decisions taken at the meetings are sent back to national experts who mull over the legislative amendments. Representatives then reconvene to discuss the proposals of the national experts.

The Council has held so far nine meetings on the revision of the tobacco directive, with another five scheduled for before June when ministers are expected to take up an official position.

The next meeting on the tobacco directive is due on Thursday (16 May), but it may be delayed due to recent strikes at the Council, an unexpected boon for the tobacco industry.


The tobacco industry, which employs over 100 full-time lobbyists in Brussels, is also waging an intense campaign in the European Parliament. MEPs complain of receiving dozens of e-mails, letters and brochures

“MEPs will tell you they’re being bombarded. It’s often through front organisations acting on their [tobacco’s] behalf,” the source told EurActiv.

The source said that the industry produces reports predicting, for example, a rise in illicit tobacco trade if the Commission’s proposals go through in their current form.

The industry also applies pressure closer to home. “We had a lobbyist from the tobacco industry – BAT [British American Tobacco] if I remember correctly – trying to organise small retailers in my constituency to complain about the draft Commission law,” the British MEP drafting the amendments, Linda McAvan, said in emailed comments.

Economic arguments are particularly prevalent, holding more sway during the economic crisis. Anti-smoking campaigners have accused the British government of stalling on plans for standardised, “plain” packaging because industry claimed it would move its packaging suppliers abroad if the government carried through with the move.

“Since the UK government has u-turned on their plan to introduce plain packaging, we may see an increase as industry turns their attention to Brussels,” said McAvan, a Labour politician.

The aggressive campaign may be working. “The positions of some member states closely resemble the tobacco industry position,” another source said.

Some political groups also may have been influenced by the industry, he said, adding that some UK Independence Party MEPs often present arguments which closely resemble those of the industry.

Other politicians in the Parliament’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, such as members of the eurosceptic Italian Northern League, have also given statements which appear like a pure copy and paste from industry campaign materials. “But sometimes this is broken down on national lines rather than political groups,” the source said.

“MEPs should be careful about meeting with the lobbyists but it depends on the political group how careful they are.”

In general these MEPs are pro-industry and regard EU regulation on smoking as indicative of a supranational “nanny state”.

The Commission and the Irish EU presidency are attempting to push through the amendments to the tobacco directive as soon as possible to avoid the inevitable delays that would be caused by next year’s European elections.

The Commission says that its proposed amendments to EU tobacco rules would see only a 2% drop in consumption over five years, stressing that the measures will not affect regular smokers but are aimed at preventing uptake amongst the youth.


“There is very intense lobbying at the moment to the influence the outcome. They are trying every trick in the book at national and EU level,” said a Council source.

European Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner Tonio Borg told European lawmakers to be wary of the “economic arguments” for less regulation which were “very persuasive in an economic crisis.”

Florence Bertelli Kemp, director of the Smoke Free Partnership, called the tobacco lobby “Goliath”, saying it sows “myths and lies to create fear”. She called for MEPs to strengthen the regulation and introduce plain packaging.

“It is not surprising that there is a huge amount of lobbying – this is to be expected given the figures – e.g. the tobacco industry has hired about 100 full-time lobbyists to lobby the EU institutions alone,” said British Labour MEP Linda McAvan​.

“Mr Borg kept his word that the release of the revised TPD would be one of his priorities when taking up the Health and Consumer portfolio. This long-delayed revision is a leap towards better health protection of hundreds of millions of people in Europe. I hope this is a watershed moment for the relationship between the Commission and the tobacco industry, and indicates a move towards greater transparency,“ said Monika Kosińska, secretary general of the European Public Health Alliance, on the release of the Commission’s revision of the tobacco directive.

Next Steps

  • 16 May 2013: Scheduled Council working party meeting
  • June 2013: Expected formal Council position

Standardised packaging of tobacco products

Written Statement – Update on tobacco policy: 1. Standardised packaging of tobacco products. 2. Sub Committees on The Smoke-free Premises etc. (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.

Last updated 15 May 2013

Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services

Standardised packaging of tobacco products

I have now considered responses to the UK-wide consultation on standardised packaging, alongside our approach to tobacco legislation in Wales more generally.

I believe that the introduction of standardised packaging has the potential to be an important public health tool in our bid to reduce the harm from tobacco-related illness. Responses to the recent consultation demonstrated support for the introduction of standardised packaging, and I have asked my officials to undertake further work on this issue.

A UK-wide approach to legislation would seem to be the most appropriate way forward; and I have therefore written to the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, urging him to take an early decision to support the introduction of legislation on standardised packaging.

Sub Committees on The Smoke-free Premises etc. (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012

The Smoke-free Premises etc. (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012, which would amend the 2007 Regulations to provide an exemption for performers in certain circumstances, were laid on 18 July. Prior to them being debated it was announced that the Enterprise and Business Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee of the Assembly would take evidence from all interested parties on this matter, with a view to producing a final report on their conclusions.

The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport and I have reviewed the evidence presented to the sub-committees to date, and have concluded that the Government will not proceed with the original proposals at this time. We have therefore written to the Chairs of those committees on this basis.