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June 23rd, 2016:


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Harsh words for HK regulators on e-cigs

An Asian smokers’ rights advocacy group has condemned Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee (陳肇始) for putting smokers’ long-term welfare at risk by turning a deaf ear to e-cigarette advocates and users, who oppose the Hong Kong government’s intention to push for a local ban on the devices.

“Half of some 650,000 smokers are condemned to death by Sophia Chan for [her] refusing to talk to any of us and she should get out of the office for not doing her job,” said factasia cofounder John Boley on the sidelines of the third annual Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN), held in Warsaw on 17-18 June.

Heneage Mitchell, Boley’s partner in factasia, had no good words about Chan and the Hong Kong government’s attitude either.

“Chan was tasked by the government to look into the whole issue and bring in different views, but what she did was to shut the door … and warned media representatives not to come to our briefing event in last December,” he recalled. “Vaping is a very large part of the nicotine alternative. Consumers have chosen it, so why on earth should you stand on the way?”

According to a survey conducted by factasia in the region December 2015, about 26% of smokers in Hong Kong were already using e-cigarettes regularly or occasionally, with 66% stating that they would switch to e-cigarettes if they were “legal”, “met quality and safety standards”, and were “conveniently available”.

Repeat study proposed

The group’s statements are emblematic of the concerns of many local e-cigarette activists, who believe that Chan’s bureau, as well as the statutory Council on Smoking and Health (COSH), are cherry-picking evidence to support their case.

In February 2016, Baptist University announced the results of a COSH-commissioned study on e-cigarettes. That study found high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) in the devices – one is a petroleum byproduct and the other is a flame retardant. At the time, Baptist University Assistant Professor of Biology Dr Chung Shan-shan (鍾姍姍) was widely quoted (or misquoted) as saying that the level of PaHs was “at least 1 million times more than roadside air in Hong Kong”.

In response, European doctor and scientist Professor Riccardo Polosa has a repeat of Dr Chung’s study. He said that a laboratory experiment would be conducted simultaneously in Hong Kong and Italy by the end of the summer. “We hope that by conducting a repeat study we can clarify some of the findings on e-cigarettes, which may not be accurate, and Dr Chung’s response was very positive,” Polosa stated.

Chung was invited by factasia to attend the conference, but she turned it down citing personal reasons.

A packed conference

About 350 participants from 55 countries joined the Warsaw conference to discuss the latest scientific and regulatory developments in the e-cigarette industry.

“Deeming” regulations by the US Food and Drug Administration and strengthened product and advertising restrictions in the European Union were particularly hot topics. To various degrees, advocates argued that these new rules would drive smaller e-cigarette companies out of business and force vapers back to their deadly habit.

In contrast, the United Kingdom was praised by many. Professor Gerry Stimson, Director of UK-based advocacy group Knowledge-Action-Change and chair of the GFN programme committee, provided a four-point summary of that country’s favourable environment: A general acceptance for tobacco harm reduction in the UK’s public health and medicine field on top of demand and supply control; good risk communications and consensus-building by the official Public Health England; positive responses from evidence-led tobacco researchers and civil society organisations; and active lobbying in Parliament by e-cigarette consumers.

“We have 2.9 million e-cigarette users in the UK, 8 million smokers. Of the 2.9 million, a million have stopped smoking. This is a huge public health success at no cost to the government.” Stimson asserted.

However, the United Kingdom has recently endorsed strict European standards despite an attempt in Parliament to undo them.

“It’s not as bad it could have been. Nevertheless it’s a strange bit of regulation and it’s a lesson for countries not to burden themselves with legislations when you can do things in less burdening ways, such as an advertising code of practice and a standard regulatory framework just as you can for phones or washing machines and so on,” Stimson elaborated. “So my advice to governments is to avoid jumping to legislation when all the concerns about e-cigarettes can be dealt with as you would deal with other consumer products.”

Understanding how perceptions of tobacco constituents and the FDA relate to effective and credible tobacco risk messaging

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Tobacco Consumption in China Falls

In a victory for Government health policies, tobacco consumption in China has fallen for the first time in over 20 years.

The Financial Times reports that there’s been a fall of 2.4%, although the Chinese market remains enormous, accounting for 45 percent of all cigarette sales in the World.

China’s Government has recently been proactive in enforcing smoking bans in municipal spaces, and has increased tobacco duty from 5% to 11%.

Meanwhile, City A.M. has contrasted the decline of tobacco sales in China with a growing market in Europe.

The paper also reported that the worldwide growth of vaping products has slowed.

Doctors call for e-cigarette ban in public places over ‘passive vaping’ fears

Electronic cigarettes should be banned in public places to avoid the risk of “passive vaping”, doctors have warned.

The British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday called for e-cigarettes to be outlawed in bars, cafes, restaurants, museums and schools.

Glasgow public health consultant Dr Iain Kennedy warned there was evidence of second-hand vaping, particularly at people’s homes.

He claimed the activity, judged to be around 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco, still polluted the air with harmful chemicals.

Dr Kennedy told the association’s annual meeting in Belfast: “There is growing evidence that passive vaping happens, particularly based around testing nicotine levels in households.

“What we don’t know yet is what the precise mechanisms of that are, what long-term harm there is.

“This is cutting edge research, with findings being published at the moment.”

But the BMA’s position put them at odds with Public Health England, which has warned that banning e-cigarettes would damage people’s chances of quitting smoking.

The organisation’s director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, Rosanna O’Connor, said: “Vaping is not the same as smoking.

“Second-hand smoke is harmful to health but there is no evidence that e-cigarette vapour carries the same harms.

“In fact a ban on using e-cigarettes in public places could be damaging, as it may put off smokers from using e-cigarettes to help them quit.”

Do you know what’s in your cigarette that you are smoking?

Researchers reach all segments of the US population, especially those most vulnerable to tobacco product use and its associated health risks.

Do you know what’s in your cigarette? A recent study suggests that most of you don’t! The research found that there is little awareness of the chemical components of cigarette smoke amongst the US adults, even though many of them report having looked for relevant information. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggest that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expand its messaging activities so that information about these constituents reaches all segments of the US population, especially those most vulnerable to tobacco product use and its associated health risks.

First author Marcella Boynton said that the majority of the U.S. public wants easy access to information about chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products. ‘Surprisingly, the results reveal that groups one might presume to be the least psychologically motivated to look for this information, young adults and smokers, were more likely to say that they had previously looked for this information.’ 27.5 percent adults reported having looked for information on the different components of tobacco products and tobacco smoke, many of which are known to be poisonous or cause cancer. Out of these adults, 37.2 percent were young adults and 34.3 percent were smokers.

Out of non-smokers and older adults, 26 percent reported having looked for information on tobacco constituents. However, with the exception of nicotine, most respondents were largely unaware of which constituents are present in cigarette smoke. Over half of respondents indicated that they would like relevant information to be available on cigarette packs, and 28.7 percent would prefer to access that information online. These results indicate that publication of tobacco constituent information is of interest to the public and could improve public health in the US where tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease, the researchers suggest.

Boynton added that by making tobacco chemical information available to the public and tobacco industry practice more transparent, those seeking this information may be less likely to start smoking and more likely to quit because they will be better informed about the toxic chemicals present in tobacco products. The research team conducted a nationally representative telephone survey among 5,014 US adults aged 18 years and over. The study is published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Southeastern states not protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws

Stalled state-level progress since 2010 prolongs regional disparities

Ten years after the Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, no states in the Southeast have a statewide comprehensive smoke-free law, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). A comprehensive smoke-free law is one prohibiting smoking in all private worksites, restaurants and bars.

Comprehensive smoke-free laws prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of worksites, restaurants, and bars. The number of states (including the District of Columbia) with comprehensive smoke-free laws increased from none in 2000 to 28 by June 9, 2016. Despite this progress, only two states (North Dakota and California) have achieved comprehensive smoke-free status since 2010. With California’s removal of exemptions in their smoke-free law on June 9, nearly 60 percent of Americans are now covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws at the state or local level, up from less than three percent in 2000.

In 14 of the 23 states with no comprehensive statewide smoke-free laws, local laws protect some residents. However, nine states lack any local or state comprehensive smoke-free law, including eight that prevent localities from passing smoke-free laws. Local protections vary widely. Local smoke-free laws protect 60 percent of West Virginians and more than 30 percent of Texans, South Carolinians, and Kentuckians. However, local laws protect only 2.4 percent of Georgians and less than 1 percent of people in Arkansas and Wyoming.