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September 1st, 2015:

E-cigarette industry funded experts who ruled vaping is safe

E-cigarette industry funded experts who ruled vaping is safe: Official advice is based on research scientists in the pay of manufacturers

PHE called for electronic ‘nicotine sticks’ to be prescribed on the NHS

Agency claimed using e-cigarettes is 95% safer than smoking tobacco

But assertion relied on study by scientists in pay of e-cigarette industry

Experts say conflict of interest raises questions about report’s findings

By Ben Spencer, Medical Correspondent For The Daily Mail

Official advice proclaiming e-cigarettes to be ‘95 per cent safe’ is based on research by industry-funded scientists, it was revealed last night.

Public Health England called last week for electronic ‘nicotine sticks’ to be prescribed on the NHS as part of a ‘game-changing’ review of medical evidence.

The agency claimed that using e-cigarettes, or ‘vaping’, is 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco.

Now it has emerged that its assertion relied on a 2014 study conducted by scientists in the pay of the e-cigarette industry.

Experts warned last night that the conflict of interest raises serious questions about the report’s conclusions.

PHE, set up in 2013 under the last government’s sweeping health reforms, is responsible for ‘protecting the nation’s health’ and ‘reducing health inequalities’.

At a press conference to launch its report last week, Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE’s director of health and wellbeing, said it was vital the public is told e-cigarettes are safe.

A press release to accompany the launch said: ‘The current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.’

When journalists asked where the findings came from, they were shown a chart showing cigarettes with a 99.6 per cent ‘harm score’, compared with 4 per cent for e-cigarettes.



Public Health England’s report said: ‘The current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.’ This was based on a 2014 study, published in the journal European Addiction Research, which stated: ‘[The] relative nicotine harms [are] cigarettes 99.6%; electronic nicotine delivery systems 4%.’


The journal article’s researchers admitted: ‘A limitation of this study is the lack of hard evidence for the harms of most products on most of the criteria.’

An editors’ note also pointed out: ‘The editors are aware that [researcher] Karl Fagerstrom has connections with a company that is associated with one of the largest tobacco industries in the world… which produces smoking cessation products. The scientific community has to discuss the demarcation between potential conflicts of interest related to companies producing addictive drugs and companies producing therapeutics.’


The Lancet said yesterday: ‘The reliance by PHE on work that the authors themselves accept is methodologically weak, and which is made all the more perilous by the declared conflicts of interest surrounding its funding, raises serious questions not only about the conclusions of the PHE report, but also about the quality of the agency’s peer review process.’

The Lancet reveals that this claim – and the chart – originated from a study published in the journal European Addiction Research last year.

Three of the 11 authors of that study disclosed their role advising the e-cigarette industry in the original text of their paper.

The editors of the journal went even further, issuing the article with a warning of ‘potential conflict of interest’.

But PHE did not repeat the declaration of interests anywhere in its 111-page review.

Even the industry-funded scientists were cautious about the robustness of their research, warning that there was a ‘lack of hard evidence’ for their claims. That caution did not make it into the PHE report.

E-cigarettes deliver a nicotine hit by heating liquids until they are vaporised, avoiding the tar and other carcinogens associated with breathing in smoke.

Around 2.6million adults in Britain have used e-cigarettes in the decade or so they have been on the market. Scientists generally agree they are far safer than tobacco, but concerns about long-term safety remain.

Last August, the World Health Organisation said e-cigarettes should be banned indoors over fears that they could harm non-users.

Last week’s PHE report was greeted with glee by the £340million e-cigarette industry, and most public health experts and medical bodies also welcomed it.

But Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, said: ‘People need to recognise they are not risk free, and they should only be used as a means to help smokers quit and stay quit.’

In an editorial, The Lancet says PHE has based a ‘major conclusion’ on an ‘extraordinarily flimsy foundation’ and ‘has fallen short of its mission’.

The original 2014 study was led by Professor David Nutt, the controversial former government drugs adviser.

People need to recognise they are not risk free, and they should only be used as a means to help smokers quit and stay quit

Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer

His team of 11 scientists included Italian addiction expert Riccardo Polosa, a consultant to e-cigarette distributor Arbi Group Srl, and to the pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and GSK.

Swedish scientist Karl Fagerstrom, another researcher, admitted to being a ‘consultant for most companies with an interest in tobacco dependence products’.

And Jonathan Foulds, of Pennsylvania State University in the US, has links to several manufacturers of smoking cessation products, including Pfizer, GSK and Novartis.

Public Health England insisted last night it would stand by its claims, saying a previous ‘expert review’ had already endorsed the findings.

U.S. Smoking Rate Falls to 15 Percent: CDC

Higher tobacco taxes, tough messages contribute to falloff, experts say.

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. smoking rate continues to decline, with just over 15 percent of adults reporting they’re current smokers, a new government survey reveals.

That’s down from nearly 17 percent in 2014 and almost 18 percent in 2013. The falloff reflects a continued decline that started in 2010 after a decade of no progress against smoking, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

Higher tobacco taxes, tough anti-smoking messages and smoke-free laws that ban smoking from indoor and outdoor areas appear to be dissuading even hard-core, heavily addicted smokers from continuing the habit, said Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.

“I hear from smokers all the time, ‘When I can’t smoke here, I can’t smoke there, when people see me smoke they look at me like I’m a pariah — it makes me want to not smoke anymore,’ ” said Folan, who applauded the continued decline of smoking in America.

The new data comes from the CDC’s 2015 National Health Interview Survey, an annual survey that tracks a variety of public health issues.

The smoking rate has fallen dramatically since 1965, when 42 percent of adults smoked, the CDC said.

But between 2004 and 2009, progress stalled, and the U.S. smoking rate hovered around 20 percent. Anti-smoking activists wondered if there would be no way to convince the remaining diehard smokers to quit tobacco.

These [new] numbers show that America’s current anti-smoking strategy works, and that we need to do “more of the same,” said Thomas Carr, director of national policy for the American Lung Association.

Carr cited smoke-free laws as one innovation that’s made a real difference. But he added that only one state — North Dakota — has passed a comprehensive smoke-free law within the last five years. There still are 22 states that haven’t passed any limitations on where a person can smoke, he said.

“It could have an impact on the smoking rate, and definitely would protect more people from secondhand smoke,” Carr said.

Carr and Folan also cited anti-smoking ads that feature smokers talking about the toll the habit has taken on their lives and their health.

“Smokers find them so painful to watch that they keep changing the channel, but these ads are running everywhere,” Folan said. She’s heard from smokers that these spots have motivated them to quit and to resist the temptation to resume.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s push to begin regulating other smoking products, such as cigars, hookahs and e-cigarettes, could also help further reduce the smoking rate, Carr added.

“That’s something the Obama Administration needs to move on,” Carr said.

Experts don’t know whether e-cigarettes have played a role in the reduction of the smoking rate, as there haven’t been enough studies conducted to assess their impact, Carr and Folan said.

“We haven’t seen the evidence of that yet,” Carr said. “Up to 75 percent of the users are dual users. They use e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes at the same time. That’s not reducing your risk at all.”

Who continues to smoke? More men smoke than women — 17 percent compared with 13 percent, the CDC reported.

Race also plays a factor, with more blacks (18 percent) smoking than whites (17 percent) or Hispanics (10 percent).

Folan believes that future anti-smoking efforts will need to be more targeted. For example, people without a high school diploma, people with low income, and those struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse are all groups that have proven resistant to the anti-smoking groundswell.

Cliff Douglas, American Cancer Society vice president for Tobacco Control and director of the American Cancer Society’s Tobacco Control Center, said the new numbers are “encouragingly consistent with the decrease we’ve seen since 2009, especially following the stagnation of the mid-2000s.”

Douglas said the differences in smoking between men and women and between the races “highlight the importance of something that’s crucial to us — addressing disparities in the tobacco epidemic.”

EU-Tobacco industry redaction revelations must not go unchallenged, warns health NGO

Written by Florence Berteletti on 1 September 2015 in Opinion

The row over the European Commission’s release of heavily redacted documents documenting its relationship with the tobacco industry is just ‘another dirty drop in an already murky pool’, argues Florence Berteletti.

The adoption of the EU’s revised Tobacco Products Directive should be considered a victory for public health.

However, it also marked the end of five years of controversial lobbying practices by the tobacco industry, which included a multitude of well-documented unsavoury events.

One would have hoped that in the aftermath of these events, the European Commission would have learnt some lessons and would now be dealing with the tobacco industry in a different manner.

But no, even when confronted with the worst lobbying practices, the Commission remains resolute in continuing to deal with the tobacco industry as if it were any other, despite Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which states that “… Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry …”

The EU and its member states have all ratified the framework convention which entered into force almost ten years ago. Being party to the convention, the EU has an obligation to protect its policy setting and law making from the tobacco industry’s commercial and other vested interests.

Instead, when the Commission’s Secretary General, Catherine Day, was asked to release documents related to a series of meetings between her team and the tobacco industry during negotiations over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), she stated: “Whilst I fully recognise the importance of transparency in enabling citizens to follow trade negotiations, I take the view that this public interest does neither outweigh the public interest in protecting the Commission’s international relations and decision-making process, nor the commercial interests of the companies in question in this case.”

Let us not forget that through the framework convention, the world’s governments and the EU have, with the backing of the WHO, agreed that the tobacco industry should be judged separately from other industries. One-size-fits-all no longer works; the tobacco industry is different!

The fiasco related to the cover-up of the documents between Commission officials and the tobacco industry during the negotiations over the proposed TTIP treaty is another dirty drop in an already murky pool.

The lack of transparency illustrated by the heavily redacted documents provided to Corporate Europe Observatory is shocking.

How long will we, citizens and MEPs, continue to be duped in this way? Even if I am aware that the EU is the biggest trading bloc in the world and that the commission is interested in keeping it that way during the TTIP negotiations, it should not be done at any cost.

Over the years, Europe has been at the forefront of efforts to end the tobacco pandemic. We have made important strides to establish good policy and law which has helped reduce the burden tobacco places on our societies. In this, we should not be let down by today’s commission.

The EU bears a special responsibility with regards to tobacco control. Why? Because the tobacco pandemic was created by us and much of ‘Big Tobacco’ is still headquartered in Europe.

We need to recognise that we need to do better. I hope that the Europe will not let the current state of affairs go unchallenged and will continue to demand full transparency of meetings between the tobacco industry and the commission. This is the least we can do.

About the author
Florence Berteletti is director of Smoke free partnership, the Brussels-based tobacco control and policy research group

Asia 16 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2014 – Philippines September 2015

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New tax on tobacco will drive smokers to quit

QUEENSLAND smokers will pay up to A$3.05 more for a packet of cigarettes from today, with the price of a single cigarette rising to more than A$1 for some brands.

The latest national tobacco tax excise increase of 12.5%, effective today, will see smokers paying an extra $1.52 in tax for a pack of 25 and up to $3.05 more for a pack of 50.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the tax on tobacco was proven as the most effective measure to drive down smoking rates.

“Many Australians cut back on their habit or quit altogether, in response to the tobacco tax hikes each year,” Ms Clift said.

“Research shows the tobacco excise increase in 2010 caused smoking rates to decline by about 11%.

“Evidence also indicates that a tax increase on cigarettes is particularly effective among people on lower incomes and young people across Australia.

“There’s been no better time than now to stub out the habit for good – for your health, your budget and the health of your friends and family.

“Save a few extra dollars and take a step toward saving your life from this lethal habit by quitting for good.”

Cancer Council Queensland has urged all Members of Parliament to vote for a Private Member’s Bill calling for more smoke free spaces across the State.

The Bill calls for a ban on cigarettes sold at ‘pop-up’ shops and smoking bans within five metres of Queensland Government buildings, at public transport waiting points and pedestrian malls, and at swimming pools and skate parks.

Around 3700 Queenslanders die from a tobacco-related disease each year.

About 370 of these deaths are caused by second-hand smoke exposure.

Smokers can obtain free information, practical assistance and support from Quitline, 13 QUIT (13 7848), or join the QUEST to quit at