Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

November 5th, 2014:

Beijing’s revised smoking bill sets a poor example

29 September, 2014

SCMP Editorial

It is bad enough when people become addicted to smoking. It is worse when the state becomes hooked on their habit. While a smoker can find it hard to quit for good, the state can also find it difficult to adjust. The craving in the latter case is for the revenue from commercial-industrial taxes on the tobacco industry, not to mention the enormous profits generated by a state tobacco monopoly on the mainland and the potential for official corruption.

We trust these are not factors behind the decision by the Beijing municipal government to water down a law on public smoking indoors that was hailed by tobacco control advocates as significant progress. The official explanation for it was to remove ambiguity. But the World Health Organisation is not convinced. “It would be a great shame – and a tremendous waste of life – if Beijing’s leaders let special interests derail progress towards passage of a law [for a] comprehensive ban on indoor public smoking,” said Dr Bernard Schwartlander, WHO representative in China.

The proposed law, when unveiled in April, beefed up restrictions on smoking to include all indoor public spaces including public transport. When the bill was presented for a second reading in July, the ban was amended to “shared indoor areas of offices”. This would exempt offices with a single occupant, most likely an official or boss. It conjures up an image of someone sitting in an office wreathed in smoke while staff who enter or work nearby are exposed to second-hand smoke. It also reinforces the perception of one law for the elite and another for everyone else.

This is disappointing in light of plans for a nationwide smoking ban in public places. It makes a continuing mockery of China’s commitments under the WHO framework convention on tobacco control. Smoking is responsible for more than one million deaths on the mainland every year. The cost in lost revenue and profit of reducing it has to be weighed against the economic costs of not doing so. This is one issue on which the nation’s capital should set a good example, not a poor one.

No ifs, no butts: UK’s £100m e-cigarette industry up in smoke?

October 21, 2014

British people are becoming less attracted to smoking both tobacco and e-cigarettes, with a majority favoring a total ban on the use of the electronic devices indoors, new data shows.

The data, collected by pollster YouGov and the Sunday Times, shows around 60 percent of Britons would like to see e-cigarette devices – that imitate real tobacco, but produce a generally harmless vapor – banned in public buildings.

Such a ban would extend to workplaces and shopping centers. In contrast, only 27 percent of people are against the prohibition.

The data comes despite a huge increase in the number of Britons using E-Cigs. The health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) estimates around 2.1 million people in the UK use the devices.

According to the ASH study, which was published in April this year, the majority of users switched to E-Cigs as a way to help them quit smoking.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed doubts over claims the devices assist quitting, while the YouGov poll indicates only 9 percent of E-Cig users found the devices helped them kick their habit.

Earlier this year, the WHO advised governments to place stronger limits on the use of e-cigarettes, claiming the chemicals contained in vapors were potentially harmful to children, as well as the environment.

Experts have hit out at the WHO’s findings, asserting the devices, on balance, are significantly safer than normal cigarettes and that the report did not paint a complete picture of the benefits of using E-Cigs.

“There are currently two products competing for smokers’ custom,” Peter Hajek, of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University, told the Daily Mail.

“One – the conventional cigarette – endangers users and bystanders and recruits new customers from among non-smoking children who try it. The other – the e-cigarette – is orders of magnitude safer, poses no risk to bystanders, and generates negligible rates of regular use among non-smoking children who try it.”

The E-Cig market it worth more than £1.8bn globally. The UK is one of the product’s largest markets, where its total estimated value is nearly £100mn.

According to experts, the vapors from E-Cigs are intended to be a thousand times less toxic than normal cigarette smoke, although there has been no conclusive study into the potential dangers of the vapor.

While the British Medical Association (BMA) has not made any plans to propose curbs on the use of E-Cigs, they have said that controls are needed to ensure it does not undermine existing law relating to cigarette use.

“Stronger controls are needed on where e-cigarettes can be used to protect others from exposure, to ensure their use does not undermine existing restrictions on smoke-free public places … and to guarantee the use of e-cigarettes does not reinforce the normalcy of smoking behavior,” chairman of the BMA board Sheila Collins told the Sunday Times.

The YouGov poll also illustrated a growth in the number of people supporting further bans on smoking in public places, such as parks and outdoor restaurants. More than half of those surveyed wanting to see further limits on smokers.

It is expected that London Mayor Boris Johnson will adopt proposals for public smoking bans in the city before the end of his tenure in 2016.

Cigarettes vs. e-cigarettes: Passive exposure at home measured by means of airborne marker and biomarkers

• This is the first study of e-cigarette exposure at home under real-use conditions.
• Airborne nicotine in homes with smokers were 5.7 times higher than in e-cig homes.
• Cotinine of non-smokers exposed to e-cig and conventional cigarettes was similar.
• Airborne nicotine in homes with e-cig users was higher than control homes.
• Cotinine of non-smokers exposed to e-cig users was higher than in those no exposed.



There is scarce evidence about passive exposure to the vapour released or exhaled from electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) under real conditions. The aim of this study is to characterise passive exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes׳ vapour and conventional cigarettes׳ smoke at home among non-smokers under real-use conditions.


We conducted an observational study with 54 non-smoker volunteers from different homes: 25 living at home with conventional smokers, 5 living with nicotine e-cigarette users, and 24 from control homes (not using conventional cigarettes neither e-cigarettes). We measured airborne nicotine at home and biomarkers (cotinine in saliva and urine). We calculated geometric mean (GM) and geometric standard deviations (GSD). We also performed ANOVA and Student׳s t tests for the log-transformed data. We used Bonferroni-corrected t-tests to control the family error rate for multiple comparisons at 5%.


The GMs of airborne nicotine were 0.74 μg/m3 (GSD=4.05) in the smokers’ homes, 0.13 μg/m3 (GSD=2.4) in the e-cigarettes users’ homes, and 0.02 μg/m3 (GSD=3.51) in the control homes. The GMs of salivary cotinine were 0.38 ng/ml (GSD=2.34) in the smokers’ homes, 0.19 ng/ml (GSD=2.17) in the e-cigarettes users’ homes, and 0.07 ng/ml (GSD=1.79) in the control homes. Salivary cotinine concentrations of the non-smokers exposed to e-cigarette׳s vapour at home (all exposed ≥2 h/day) were statistically significant different that those found in non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke ≥2 h/day and in non-smokers from control homes.


The airborne markers were statistically higher in conventional cigarette homes than in e-cigarettes homes (5.7 times higher). However, concentrations of both biomarkers among non-smokers exposed to conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes’ vapour were statistically similar (only 2 and 1.4 times higher, respectively). The levels of airborne nicotine and cotinine concentrations in the homes with e-cigarette users were higher than control homes (differences statistically significant). Our results show that non-smokers passively exposed to e-cigarettes absorb nicotine.