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February 8th, 2008:

Low Tar Cigarettes Harm Rather Than Help

The Korea Times – February 8, 2006 – Bae Ji-sook

In a desperate effort to quit smoking, many people buy special aids, while those who find that too difficult smoke “low-tar,” “mild” or “light” cigarettes.

However, recent reports say these methods could actually do more harm to the body, let alone not help one quit smoking.

Shin Yoon-jeong of the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs conducted a survey on 443 male and 57 female smokers in 2007 and found “people tend to smoke more and inhale deeper when smoking low tar cigarettes.”

About 63 percent of the respondents said they smoked “mild” cigarettes, “believing” this would be safer for their health.

However, Shin said this could cause even worse damage to their bodies. About 59 percent of the 316 low tar smokers said the number of cigarettes they smoked increased after switching to the lighter brand. Shih said that could lead the nicotine content in their bodies to increase even more.

Also many people said the lighter cigarettes did not give them confidence that they could quit smoking in the future, the report said.

“Low tar cigarettes increase addiction to nicotine, making it easier to smoke but harder to quit. We need to put more regulations on their production and marketing while holding more campaigns to let people know the reality of what they are smoking,” Shin said.

The smoking cessation aids, popular among chain smokers who have been smoking for more than ten years and are afraid of heavy withdrawal symptoms, can have serious effects, too.

The U.S. and Korean Food and Drug Administration recently ordered multinational drug maker Pfizer to add warning tags on its cessation aid “Champix” about possible suicide impulses it could bring to users.

The drug was one of the best selling items in 2007 but there were constant allegations that the drug brought with it potential side effects such as depression, anxiety and even the desire to commit suicide.

Also, according to the Korean no-smoking research center, there were hundreds of cases of nightmares, chest pain, vertigo, fatigue and tiredness among other effects after using nicotine patches.

WHO Report On The Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008

In the 20th century, the tobacco epidemic killed 100 million people worldwide.

During the 21st century, it could kill one billion.

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use
  • Warn about the dangers of tobacco
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
  • Raise taxes on tobacco

The six policies of WHO’s MPOWER package can counter the tobacco epidemic and reduce its deadly toll.

WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 is the first in a series of WHO reports that will track the status of the tobacco epidemic and the impact of interventions implemented to stop it.

We must act now to reverse the global tobaco epidemic and save milions of lives

We hold in our hands the solution to the global tobacco epidemic that threatens the lives of one billion men, women and children during this century. In fact, tobacco use can kill in so many ways that it is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world. The cure for this devastating epidemic is dependent not on medicines or vaccines, but on the concerted actions of government and civil society.

This is a unique point in public health history as the forces of political will, policies and funding are aligned to create the momentum needed to dramatically reduce tobacco use and save millions of lives by the middle of this century. Reversing this entirely preventable epidemic must now rank as a top priority for public health and for political leaders in every country of the world.

The global consensus that we must fight the tobacco epidemic has already been established by the more than 150 Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Now, the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 gives countries a roadmap that builds on the WHO Framework Convention to turn this global consensus into a global reality through MPOWER, a package of six effective tobacco control policies.

But countries need not act alone. WHO, with help from its global partners, is scaling up its capacity and is committed to supporting Member States as they implement and enforce the MPOWER policies. The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 also enables WHO to present a unique and comparable set of country-specific data from around the world that will cast an intense spotlight on tobacco use, its impact on people and economies, and the progress countries are making to reverse the epidemic.

Prompt action is crucial. The tobacco epidemic already kills 5.4 million people a year from lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. Unchecked, that number will increase to more than 8 million a year by 2030. Tragically, with more than 80% of those deaths occurring in the developing world, the epidemic will strike hardest in countries whose rapidly growing economies offer their citizens the hope of a better life. To the tobacco companies, these economies represent vast new marketplaces. This will result not only in large increases in illness and death, but also in less productive workforces and escalating avoidable healthcare costs.

We cannot let this happen. I call on governments around the world to take urgent action to implement the policies outlined in the MPOWER package.

Dr Margaret Chan
World Health Organization

View the full report on The Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 – 342 pages

Case Links Death To Environmental Tobacco Smoke

A young asthmatic woman who collapsed and died shortly after arriving for her shift as a waitress at a bar may be the first reported death to be reported nationally from acute asthma associated with environmental tobacco smoke.

This case report by a Michigan State University physician, published in the February edition of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, not only outlines circumstances under which the woman died, but also raises a number of issues regarding safety in the workplace.

The report states the woman arrived at the bar in Michigan and, according to co-workers, seemed happy and healthy. About 15 or 20 minutes later she collapsed and within a few minutes died.

“This is the first reported acute asthma death associated with work-related ETS,” said Kenneth Rosenman, an MSU professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “Recent studies of air quality and asthma among bar and restaurant workers before and after smoking bans support this association.”

In 2006, the surgeon general’s report concluded that ETS causes coronary heart disease, lung cancer and premature death. But at that time there was little hard evidence linking ETS to the exacerbation of asthma in adults.

However, Rosenman and colleagues believe this case provides plenty of evidence to link secondhand smoke to this death.

“The autopsy clearly indicates she died from asthma,” Rosenman said. “There was no other cause of death. Her death is consistent with what we know about exposures in bars like this. We know asthmatics are more susceptible to irritants and other particulates in the air.

“We know that particulate levels from secondhand cigarette smoke in bars like this reach sufficient levels to set off an asthma attack.”

As an occupational and environmental health physician, Rosenman said he also is concerned about the long-term effects of ETS on all employees, not just those with pre-existing conditions like asthma.

“As a consumer, I don’t have to go into that bar,” he said. “But is it a safe environment for the employees? We have federal laws that say employers have to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This was clearly not a safe and healthy workplace for this employee.

“This death dramatizes the need to enact legal protections for workers in the hospitality industry from secondhand smoke.”

In the United States, 23 states have already banned smoking in restaurants and bars. A number of other states, including Michigan, are considering it.

While many bar and restaurant owners say a smoking ban would hurt business, Rosenman argues that just the opposite is true.

“Consider that 75 percent of the population doesn’t smoke,” he said. “Banning smoking could actually serve to increase business. Studies of restaurants and bars in Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Washington D.C. all show business up since they banned smoking. Chicago went smoke free the beginning of this year.

“We’re behind the times if we want to attract tourists and help businesses be more profitable.”

Source: Michigan State University

A Smoldering Controversy At UCLA

From the Los Angeles Times

The school accepts money from tobacco giant Philip Morris in its three-year study of nicotine addiction. Teenagers and monkeys are part of the research.

By Richard C. Paddock -Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

9:31 PM PST, February 8, 2008

Here’s a recipe for academic controversy:

First, find dozens of hard-core teenage smokers as young as 14 and study their brains with high-tech scans. Second, feed vervet monkeys liquid nicotine and then kill at least six of them to examine their brains. Third, accept US$6 million from tobacco giant Philip Morris to pay for it all. Fourth, cloak the project in unusual secrecy.

At UCLA, a team of researchers is following this formula to produce what it hopes will be a groundbreaking study of addiction. So far, the scientists have proved that the issues of animal testing and tobacco-funded research are among the most contentious on university campuses.

UCLA professor Edythe London, the lead scientist on the three-year study, said it could discover new ways to help people quit smoking and lead to innovative treatments for other addictions.

“We are doing this because we really want to save lives,” she said. “I am really proud of what we are doing. We have a track record for contributing to science, and we would like to bring that to bear on the problem of nicotine addiction.”

But even before she had a chance to select her first teenager for study, London paid a price for her research. In October, activists opposed to animal testing flooded her Westside home with her garden hose, causing more than $20,000 in damage. They struck again this week, leaving an incendiary device at night that charred her front door. A gardener discovered the damage Tuesday.

The activists, who have also targeted other UCLA researchers, accused London of using “sadistic procedures” and “torturing nonhuman animals to death” in earlier studies. No one has been arrested in the attacks.

At the same time, Philip Morris’ role in the study has drawn sharp criticism from anti-tobacco activists. They doubt that the company wants to help people stop smoking and question whether the study of teenage and monkey brains could help Philip Morris design a more addictive cigarette.

“It’s stunning in this day and age that a university would do secret research for the tobacco industry on the brains of children,” said Matt Meyers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C. “It raises fundamental questions about the integrity, honesty and openness of research anywhere at the University of California.”

London said that Philip Morris would not have any oversight or other involvement in the study. The suggestion that the company might use her findings to make cigarettes more addictive is “twisted,” she said.

“That is not something we ever considered,” she said. “The representatives of Philip Morris were very sincere.”

Roberto Peccei, vice chancellor for research at UCLA, said the company’s motives were immaterial.

“I have no idea why Philip Morris decides to fund this anti-smoking research, but they do,” he said. “As long as we do not feel that we are interfered with and that the research is done with the highest intentions, what’s in the mind of the funder is irrelevant.”

But critics say the UCLA study allows Philip Morris to sponsor research on adolescents that would prompt an outcry if the company did this work in its own laboratories.

“Edythe is a very good researcher, and frankly I’m shocked she would take the money,” said Michael Cummings, a senior researcher at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. “I think she’s naive.”

Philip Morris, which is paying for 23 research projects at seven UC campuses, supports the UCLA study as part of the company’s effort “to reduce youth tobacco use and increase scientific understanding in the field,” said William Phelps, a Philip Morris spokesman.

He said the company has no intention of using the results or teenagers’ brain scans to develop more addictive cigarettes. “We would never do that,” he said.

Phelps declined to comment on the use of animals in the study.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who backed efforts by an activist to obtain a copy of the grant proposal, said UC has no business accepting money from tobacco companies.

“It is absolutely outrageous to see this kind of funding and this type of research within the UC system,” said Yee, a psychologist. “The fact that a piece of research is funded by the tobacco industry, and their singular issue is how to sell cigarettes, taints the results of whatever the findings might be.”

At UCLA, as at other University of California campuses, faculty members are free to accept money from any source. The only restriction is that studies involving animal and human subjects be approved by university review committees to ensure that they meet standards for the treatment of their subjects, university officials said.

For more than a year, anti-tobacco scientists and activists have pushed UC to prohibit faculty from accepting money from tobacco companies for research on tobacco. The Board of Regents, citing academic freedom, agreed instead to establish a committee that will review tobacco company research proposals.

UCLA officials say that the idea for the study of teenagers and monkeys originated with Philip Morris.

Phelps said Philip Morris began searching the country in 2006 for scientists who might be interested in conducting research on helping adolescents quit smoking. The search led the company to London, a noted UCLA professor of psychiatry and pharmacology who had studied addiction at the National Institutes of Health.

Philip Morris invited London to submit a grant proposal, which she did, said Carol Stogsdill, senior executive director of UCLA’s media relations office. The company awarded London US$6 million to establish the Adolescent Smoking Cessation Center at the school and conduct the study on teenage and animal brains.

The smoking-cessation center is modeled on one at Duke University in North Carolina, which also receives money from Philip Morris. London said she hopes the UCLA center will receive additional funds for related research from Philip Morris or other donors.

UCLA has attempted to keep quiet about London’s study out of fear of attacks on its researchers.

Animal rights activists were suspected in June of placing a bomb under the car of a UCLA ophthalmologist who had conducted tests on monkeys. In 2005, another UCLA researcher who conducted animal studies was targeted by a bomb at a residence. Neither device went off.

In September, UCLA responded to a Public Records Act request from anti-smoking activist Kimberlee Homer Vagadori by releasing a heavily redacted copy of London’s grant proposal. There were so many deletions from the document that tobacco foes charged that the university was trying to hide work for Philip Morris.

In response to a subsequent Public Records Act request from The Times, UCLA provided more details but released virtually no information on the animal studies, citing the danger to its staff if specifics were made public.

Officials said it was the first time UCLA had withheld research information on the grounds of public safety. Peccei, who oversees research at the campus, acknowledged that UCLA could face a legal challenge but said that protecting researchers comes first.

“It’s not like we are trying to protect this Philip Morris center because we have some secret to hide,” Peccei said. “We will probably wind up in court, but we don’t want firebombs in the backyards of people who work on animals.”

In interviews, London and Peccei discussed some aspects of the study, which will include research on rats as well as monkeys.

In the first phase, researchers will test smoking-cessation techniques on 200 smokers between 14 and 20, an age when the brain is still developing. London said one focus is to understand why young people smoke, including whether depression or attention-deficit disorder contributes to the habit.

For the second phase, researchers will recruit 40 hard-core smokers, most of them from the first study group, as well as a control group of 40 nonsmokers, London said.

They will undergo functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of their brains while they take psychological and personality tests.

The third phase will focus on animals. Researchers will administer liquid nicotine to adolescent and adult vervet monkeys, London said. The monkeys will undergo different behavioral tests and have PET (positron emission tomography) scans of their brains.

Eventually, six to 12 monkeys will be killed and their brains studied, Peccei said.

London, who has been at UCLA since 2001, hopes that the research will lead to a new understanding of how addiction works.

“It’s very important to do animal studies,” she said. “The animal studies are very focused on the effects of nicotine during development and the ability of the brain to do its work.”

After the first attack on her house, London took the unusual step of standing up to the activists. She wrote an opinion piece for The Times contending that animal studies are a necessary part of research, saying it would “be immoral” to turn down the Philip Morris money and “decline an opportunity to increase our knowledge about addiction.”

UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block, a research scientist who generally uses mice for his own laboratory tests, defended London.

“All the evidence leads me to believe that the research supported by Philip Morris is independent research of high quality,” the chancellor said. “Edythe London’s program is celebrated. She is studying addiction, important issues, human issues, that have an enormous effect on people’s lives.”