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August 29th, 2016:

Tears as tobacco sponsor quits Salzburg

The festival has just lost 600,000 Euros a year as a result of the withdrawal of JTI Tobacco.

Hold that news.

You mean Salzburg were still taking money from cancer peddlers? Even though it’s illegal in Austria to advertise tobacco products? And now they’re weeping over lost cancer dollars?

Yes, to all three.

Go figure.

The failed history of tobacco harm reduction

Dark clouds hung over smoking as a likely risky activity long before the watershed case control studies on smoking and lung cancer were published in 1950 by Doll and Hill (on British smokers) and Wynder and Graham (on American smokers).

Early last century Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the boy scouts movement wrote with sexist prescience:

When a lad smokes before he is fully grown up it is almost sure to make his heart feeble, and the heart is the most important organ in a lad’s body.

Popular expressions such as “smoking stunts your growth” derive from that period.

The commonplace of smokers’ cough had always quietly worried people that filling their lungs with smoke some twelve times per cigarette, sometimes up to 60 cigarettes a day, every day of the year for many years might be a problem.

As far back as the 1920s, Lucky Strike advertised that it was “less irritating” to the throat.

Following a series of widely read articles in the Readers’ Digest on cancer and smoking, filters on cigarettes first began being introduced in the late 1940s and were accompanied by uninhibited claims about risk reduction (“L&M filters are just what the doctor ordered!”). The goal was smoker reassurance. This was the start of a global industry program designed to keep anxious smokers from quitting – and it continues today.

The most outrageous innovation in tobacco harm-reduction was Kent’s micronite filter, which used deadly blue asbestos (crocidolite) between 1952-56 in the United States (see the Kent micronite filter advertisement below).

Decades of litigation followed, with the most recent in Florida with US$3.5m awarded against the manufacturers. I’ve found evidence that Kent with the micronite filter was sold in Australia in 1961, although we don’t know if it still contained asbestos.

An unforgettable demonstration of what gets through cigarette filters can be seen here. Mike Atrix, filming in Sydney, compares the brown stains exhaled into a tissue paper from holding the cigarette smoke in his mouth and also after exhaling it after pulling it into his lungs.

Two things are very obvious: the filter on the cigarette allows obvious quantities of particulate matter (“tar”) through and into the lungs, and the lungs retain considerable amounts of these toxic particles when the smoker exhales.

But the mass migration to filtered cigarettes did nothing to prevent a progressive increase in lung cancer risk among male smokers who began smoking during and after the second world war compared to the first world war-era smokers. A critical review of the evidence that so-called reduced-risk cigarettes lowered tobacco-caused death rates concluded:

that lung cancer risk continued to increase among older smokers from the 1950s to the 1980s, despite the widespread adoption of lower yield cigarettes.

The change to filter tip products did not prevent a progressive increase in lung cancer risk among male smokers who began smoking during and after the second world war compared to the first world war era smokers…

No studies have adequately assessed whether health claims used to market “reduced yield” cigarettes delay cessation among smokers who might otherwise quit, or increase initiation among non-smokers.

There is no convincing evidence that past changes in cigarette design have resulted in an important health benefit to either smokers or the whole population.

Tobacco control policies should not allow changes in cigarette design to subvert or distract from interventions proven to reduce the prevalence, intensity, and duration of smoking.

Between 1968 and 1980, the US National Cancer Institute invested more than $US50m into research on less hazardous cigarettes. But by 2001, it had concluded that there was no evidence that smokers switching to so-called less hazardous cigarettes (lights and milds) had a lower rates of disease or death.

Unlike cigarette testing machines, which were calibrated to smoke the putative reduced-risk cigarettes in a standardised way, smokers compensated for the lower delivery of nicotine by taking more and deeper puffs per cigarette, smoking more and occluding the tiny ventilation holes on the filters with their fingers.

These holes let air in to dilute the smoke pulled through into the testing machines, providing the tar and nicotine readings that were not those that smokers actually obtained from smoking. Around 78% of Australian smokers bought light or mild-labeled brands before these descriptors were banned by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as misleading in 2005.

In more recent years, we saw a series of failed attempts by tobacco companies to interest smokers in switching to “reduced carcinogen” cigarettes such as Omni (see the ad below) and products which heated rather than burned tobacco (“Introducing Premier, the remarkable new cigarette that offers you a genuine alternative”), delivering a vapour into smokers’ lungs.

These products have all been abject market failures and because of this, no longitudinal data exist on whether they actually reduced harm in users.

E-cigarettes are the latest kids on the tobacco harm-reduction block, although their users insist they are not tobacco, smoking or cigarettes.

Like all their predecessors, their promoters have graduated from hype school. All good news is megaphoned, and all questioning pilloried as thousands of tiny start-up manufacturers, retailers and their PR agencies try to catch the wave, along with all the major tobacco companies which are now selling both e-ecigarettes and tobacco products.

E-cigarettes have only been in widespread use in early adopting nations for just a few years. Respiratory and heart diseases and cancers caused by tobacco use generally take several decades to manifest, which is why the jury on reduced-risk cigarettes was out for so long before declaring them failures.

Those who insist they are “95%” less dangerous are therefore only making fingers-crossed predictions, much in the same way that the scientific colossus Ernst Wynder (who published the first case control study on smoking and lung cancer) did about his hopes for reduced-risk cigarettes. Wynder was wrong.

The failure of all previous tobacco harm-reduction efforts does not mean that all current or future efforts will also be failures, or worse, slow or reverse the 50-year fall in smoking prevalence. But this history should serve as a dazzling warning light to switch on the bovine excrement detector and remain hyper-vigilant over the often gossamer-thin claims that abound about both their safety and how good they are at getting smokers to switch completely.

For example, efforts to liken the risks of vaping to breathing steam in a shower distract from the emissions containing nicotine, carbonyls, metals, and organic volatile compounds. Moreover, the high concentrations of nanoparticles in vape, despite their small mass, may have a significant toxicological impact because of their increased ability for deep penetration into the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems.

Recent reports of rapid onset changes in aortic stiffness after exposure to vape, of mice exposed to vape with nicotine developing features of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the suppression of immune and inflammatory-response genes in nasal cells are examples of possible early causes for concern. With vapers taking an average of 200 puffs per day (and up to 610) – some 73,000 deep inhalations each year – vapers’ exposures over many years will be considerable.

There are now more than 8,000 different flavours available through e-cigarette suppliers. The 2016 revised statement on e-cigarettes by the US Flavoring and Extract Manufacturers Association about these chemicals (which have been safety assessed for use in foods and beverages, but not for inhalation) is further cause for concern:

The manufacturers and marketers of e-cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products, and flavor manufacturers and marketers, should not represent or suggest that the flavor ingredients used in these products are safe because they have FEMA GRASTM status for use in food because such statements are false and misleading.
It would be unequivocally great news if time shows e-cigarettes to be both all but benign and effective at helping smokers quit. Such a benevolent genie let out of the bottle would be good news. But if the genie starts looking like a trojan horse bringing its very own set of health problems down the track, addicting vast numbers of school kids to nicotine who would have never used any nicotine product, and slowing smoking cessation through prolonged dual use of e-cigs and cigarettes, putting it back in the bottle may prove very hard.

That’s why most Australian health agencies are urging the Therapeutic Goods Administration to think very carefully before letting e-cigarettes off the leash.

E-cigarettes are ‘as bad for the heart as tobacco': Nicotine vapour damages blood vessels and raises risk of disease

• Researchers: E-cigarettes are ‘far more dangerous than people realise’
• Study found using either e-cigs or regular tobacco led to similar levels of stiffness in the main artery and/or raised blood pressure

Using electronic cigarettes could be as bad for the heart as smoking tobacco, research suggests.

Scientists found inhaling nicotine vapour damages key blood vessels, raising the risk of heart disease.

The team monitored participants’ hearts while smoking a conventional cigarette for five minutes and using an e-cigarette for half an hour, which they said was the most accurate comparison of typical use.

A trial of healthy men and women, with an average age of 30, found e-cigarettes are ‘far more dangerous than people realise

They found the two activities led to similar levels of stiffness in the aorta, the main artery, which is a major cause of heart problems. Both also raised blood pressure.

The Greek scientists stressed this only revealed short-term damage, and more research is needed into long-term effects.

But they said their trial of 24 healthy men and women, with an average age of 30, shows e-cigarettes are ‘far more dangerous than people realise’.

Their concerns were echoed last night by the British Heart Foundation, which said the devices ‘could not be assumed to be risk-free’. The charity called for more research into the safety of long-term use.

The results, presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Rome, will fuel the fierce debate about e-cigarettes.

Most experts agree they are less harmful than smoking tobacco but some are concerned they are still a risk to health.

The World Health Organisation warns they may also be toxic to bystanders.

Scientists found inhaling nicotine vapour damages key blood vessels, raising the risk of heart disease

But Public Health England last year encouraged smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, saying they were ‘95 per cent safe’.

The claim was widely criticised when it emerged it came from scientists funded by the e-cigarette industry.

Study leader Professor Charalambos Vlachopoulos, of the University of Athens Medical School, said the UK had ‘rushed into’ its promotion of e-cigarettes, adding: ‘E-cigarettes are less harmful but they are not harmless. I wouldn’t recommend them now as a method to give up smoking.’

The devices, which contain liquid nicotine that is heated into a vapour and inhaled, avoid the harm caused by tobacco smoke.

But Professor Vlachopoulos said nicotine is the most likely cause of damage to arteries. He is planning another trial using e-cigarettes without nicotine.

Public Health England last night continued to back the devices. A spokesman said: ‘Vaping carries a fraction of the risk of smoking yet many smokers are still not aware.’

Deborah Arnott, of campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, said the study showed if vaping was limited to five minutes too it caused much less damage than tobacco.

The e-cigarette industry’s trade body also played down the research, claiming aortic stiffness is ‘transitory’ and a ‘very poor measure’ of long-term risk.

So what is holding up the commercialization of tobacco by-products?

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Tobacco stalk, the most common agricultural waste that tobacco farmers have been discarding for centuries since commercial tobacco farming was introduced in the islands during the dawn of the tobacco monopoly, is in fact a diamond in the rough.

Tobacco stalk has been found to be a good source of pulp for the production of paper. Tobacco paper processing impacts less on the environment and has the potential to penetrate the country’s P30 billion paper industry if given a chance.

However, tobacco paper production remains a handicraft and hand-made industry.

Tobacco scrap has been found to be an effective mollouscide, meaning it is a cheap alternative in controlling farm snails that eat palay at the start of the cropping season.

One research has also shown that tobacco scarp can be used as alternative organic soil conditioner.

However, tobacco scrap has yet to be processed commercially.

Tobacco dust has also been proven by research done by the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) as a boost to local aquaculture and can even jumpstart initiatives for more organic aquaculture programs.

However, tobacco dust has yet to be fully developed for wider use.

So what is keeping these wonderful prospects from reaching full potential?

Local initiatives

In 1998, a research done by Agrupis, S., Maekawa, E. and Suzuki, K. J on the possible industrial utilization of tobacco stalks revealed that tobacco stalks have shown to posses the characteristics of a raw material for pulp and paper application.

“Fiber dimensions, chemical composition, and soda and soda-AQ pulping of tobacco stalks were examined to assess if they were suitable for pulp and paper production.

The results showed that the morphological characteristics of tobacco stalks were similar to those of non-woods and hardwoods,” the research said.

Author Jed Yabut said that the pulp and paper industry contributes about P30 billion per year in domestic sales value to the economy, or saves the country $700 million per year in foreign exchange from imported paper and board.

He added that as of 2012 the local paper industry directly employs about 6000, personnel, mostly skilled workers and technical professionals, and contribute value to the economy by sustaining the livelihood opportunities of about 1.2 million workers in the wastepaper collection, sorting, and hauling sub-sectors.

If pulp from tobacco stalk would transcend its current state as a handicraft product in can very well contribute in the wider paper market.

Currently, paper produced from tobacco is hand-made using processes of bio-mechanical pulping and non-conventional bleaching, which produce less impact on the environment. NTA is the only known supplier of tobacco hand-made paper as of press time. The NTA, in the past years, have trained farmer-leaders from four tobacco-based cooperatives from Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. The idea is to help farmers earn more through creating cottage industries.

Hand-made tobacco paper is mainly used for all-purpose cards, stationeries, invitations, gift wrappers, bags among others.

But imagine if tobacco paper is industrialized further. Around† 156 kg of tobacco stalks per would yield 60 kg or pulp this means almost 0.3 cubic metres of wood could be saved from forests from being converted to paper.

Though more research is needed on whether tobacco paper can compete in the commercial paper industry on an industrialized level, the prospects still are too tempting to ignore.

Impact on local industries

A research of James, et al. from PhilRice-Batac demonstrated the use of tobacco scrap before and after transplanting to control harmful snail populations in rice fields. The field test was done in seven municipalities of Ilocos Norte.

The research revealed that weekly use of tobacco scraps significantly reduced the population of golden kuhol from 60 to 90 percent.

“The affected area was minimized by 80 percent and damaged hills by 84 percent. Where farmers’ practice and no treatment were employed, an average 23.39 percent and 4 percent reduction in population were observed, respectively,” the research said.

Rice plants treated with tobacco scraps had better crop stand, greener leaves, and taller plants, the study added. The study also showed that fields treated with tobacco scraps produced the highest yield per hectare (7.37 t/ha) compared to farmers’ practice (6.38 t/ha) and no control (6.19 t/ha).

The country’s aqua-culture has also found a promising use for tobacco dust as it has been proven effective as molluscide against snails and other fish pond pest but also enhances the growth of the “lablab”, a pond fish-food.

Again, tobacco dust leaves no residue and is a perfect organic alternative in aquaculture farms. According to the NTA, tobacco dust acts swiftly to protect fish and its eggs from predatory snails and other creatures that exist in ponds and fish pens.

The NTA conducted field testing in fishponds in Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur confirmed the validity of the scientific studies on tobacco dust and its benefits.

More initiative for investment, government funding

Hipolito Carlos, a former tobacco contract grower, said that initiatives for tobacco by-products have been seriously pursued by research done by the NTA and private entities.

“The immediate objective was to help local tobacco farmers earn more. While we should commend NTA for all it has done to discover the potentials of tobacco by-products we should also ask government to seriously consider the wider perspective of creating bigger industries on these by-products,” Carlos said.

He shares the opinion of other businessmen in saying that such by-products could even benefit more tobacco farmers and even create bigger industries if there are investments coming in from the private and government sectors.

Carlos said investment on tobacco by-product industries, from the government and private sector, will not threaten the conventional use of tobacco for cigarette production and instead will produce off-shoot industries that can complement the industry. More industries depending on the different parts of tobacco would mean more farmers cultivating high-quality tobacco and more farmers benefiting from more industries.

Carlos said that there is a need for a shift to industrial and commercial approach rather than the small town cottage industry perspective.

For the people involved in the various research and promotion of tobacco by-products, it is not a question of whether or not these products will see their full potential in the wider commercialized market. Rather, it is a question of when government and the private sector investments and developments would come in. They earnestly hope that it will be soon.