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December 15th, 2013:

Emotional graphic cigarette warning labels reduce the electrophysiological brain response to smoking cues


There is an ongoing public debate about the new graphic warning labels (GWLs) that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposes to place on cigarette packs. Tobacco companies argued that the strongly emotional images FDA proposed to include in the GWLs encroached on their constitutional rights. The court ruled that FDA did not provide sufficient scientific evidence of compelling public interest in such encroachment. This study’s objectives were to examine the effects of the GWLs on the electrophysiological and behavioral correlates of smoking addiction and to determine whether labels rated higher on the emotional reaction (ER) scale are associated with greater effects. We studied 25 non-treatment-seeking smokers. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants viewed a random sequence of paired images, in which visual smoking (Cues) or non-smoking (non-Cues) images were preceded by GWLs or neutral images.

Participants reported their cigarette craving after viewing each pair. Dependent variables were magnitude of P300 ERPs and self-reported cigarette craving in response to Cues. We found that subjective craving response to Cues was significantly reduced by preceding GWLs, whereas the P300 amplitude response to Cues was reduced only by preceding GWLs rated high on the ER scale. In conclusion, our study provides experimental neuroscience evidence that weighs in on the ongoing public and legal debate about how to balance the constitutional and public health aspects of the FDA-proposed GWLs. The high toll of smoking-related illness and death adds urgency to the debate and prompts consideration of our findings while longitudinal studies of GWLs are underway.

Daily Record: Illegal tobacco sales claims denounced

by Gareth Jones, reporting for the Daily Record:

Professor Linda Bauld, of the university’s Institute of Social Marketing, said new research funded by the tobacco industry is attempting to hamper plans for plain cigarette packaging in Scotland.

Former Scotland Yard Detective Will O’Reilly carried out an undercover investigation into the illicit tobacco trade, where his team was able to buy 44 packs of illegal cigarettes and two 50g quantities of roll-your-own tobacco. During the three-day operation, which covered Alloa, Falkirk and Stirling, the cheapest pack of 20 cigarettes was bought for £3.50 – less than half the normal retail price, which averages at £8 a pack.

Mr O’Reilly said: “There needs to be more done to combat this issue throughout Scotland.

“We know that organised crime is behind the illicit trade. Criminals are turning from harder crimes to this, due to higher profit margins and fewer risks.”

The investigation was commissioned by Philip Morris International Inc, which boasts seven of the world’s top 15 international brands, including Marlboro, the number one cigarette brand worldwide.

The findings come as the Scottish Government has committed to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products, with legislation expected to come in by 2015.

The tobacco industry is claiming this would lead not only to the closure of many smaller newsagents and convenience stores but also to an increase in the illegal trade. And no ‘point of sale’ regulation means that illicit cigarettes could be produced in unsanitary conditions, with past reports suggesting they contain anything from dead flies to human faeces.

Mr O’Reilly’s team have passed their findings on to Trading Standards, who will be investigating claims which include a Stirling barmaid who is selling illegal cigarettes by the carton. A test purchaser, who told her he only had £20 to spend, was given four packs of a well-known international brand in an ‘under the counter’ transaction.

Intelligence from the test buyers was that organised criminal groups control the illicit tobacco supply in Stirling, especially around pubs, and threaten anyone else trying to sell illicit products with violence.

But Professor Bauld, who has advised both the UK and Scottish Government about standardised packaging of cigarettes, said: “Every time there’s a new piece of legislation about to clamp down on smoking, the tobacco industry says it will fuel the increase of illegal sales.

“They did it when we brought in the point of sale legislation, meaning packets had to be hidden from view in shops.

“The police and HMRC have strategies to deal with illegal sales, and it’s thought just one in 10 tobacco sales is now illegal – it used to be one in three.

“I would be amazed if we had a huge problem in Stirling. This is just scaremongering. And to say illicit cigarettes are dangerous is a bit of a cheek, since tobacco itself kills one in two users.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said: “We know that removing brands and logos makes tobacco less attractive to young people. Why do you think the tobacco companies are spending millions of pounds opposing it?

The tobacco companies have a long history of opposing regulation by paying for scaremongering studies and reports that suit their agenda. Put simply you cannot trust work paid for by a tobacco company. They have been proved wrong before and I am sure they will be proved wrong again.”

A Stirling Council spokesperson said: “Trading Standards actively pursue the prevention of the sale of illicit tobacco products. Recent successes, helped by our trained detection dog, have included operations at local markets, retailers and mobile traders. All reportings of alleged sales are investigated and appropriate action taken.”

22 Nov 2013

Sydney MH: Public servants’ super fund scraps tobacco investments

by Dan Harrison, reporting for the Sydney Morning Herald:

The superannuation fund for federal public servants and military personnel is the latest to ditch its investments in tobacco.

News that the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation had sold off its tobacco holdings – valued at about $100 million – emerged in response to questions from Greens Senator Richard Di Natale in a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The corporation’s chief executive, Peter Carrigy-Ryan, told the hearing it made the decision to divest on October 22 and was in the process of selling its tobacco investments.

The tobacco holdings represent about 0.33 per cent of the approximately $30 billion managed by the corporation.

Mr Carrigy-Ryan said increased regulation of tobacco, such as plain packaging and tougher restrictions on where smoking is permitted, and the risk of further controls, had influenced the corporation’s decision to divest.

Mr Carrigy-Ryan said while the corporation had a policy of trying to engage with companies on environmental, social and governance concerns, this approach would not work with tobacco because of the harmful nature of the product and because tobacco products were generally the only products produced by tobacco companies.

‘‘In other words, we did not think that our engagement process was going to have any level of success in relation to that particular product,’’ he told the hearing.

Senator Di Natale congratulated the corporation on the move.

‘‘I think it is an important decision, and the fact that we have now in the ballpark of $100 million of your members’ money out of companies like Philip Morris and British American Tobacco is something that you should rightly feel proud of,’’ he said.

In February, the Future Fund announced it would sell its tobacco investments – valued then at about $222 million – citing the damaging health effects and addictive properties of tobacco.

Superannuation funds including HESTA, UniSuper and First State Super have previously dumped their investments in tobacco.

20 Nov 2013