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August, 2015:

Could nearly all E-Cigarettes disappear?

Could nearly all E-Cigarettes disappear? – FDA Regulations to dramatically change the face of vaping forever

E Cigarettes are electronic devices which allow a user to inhale liquid nicotine, generally flavored, which can contribute to helping a user wean themselves off cigarettes. But is this all good news?

Could E-Cigs be spawning a new health damaging habit?

E-Cigs have yet to be fully studied. Therefore customers are not fully aware of:

Potential risks of E-Cigs.

If there are any benefits associated with using vaping products.

How much nicotine or chemicals are being inhaled while using these products.

If E-Cigarettes influence young people to try tobacco products, which they would have not otherwise have tried. We already know the risks of regular cigarettes. Do we want to potentially influence the next generation to get addicted to something which could lead to regular smoking?

Evidence so far suggests that e cigarettes on the whole are a great idea and the health risks are massively reduced in comparison to regular smoking. But how is the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) going to influence the massive up trend of vaping? E-Cigarettes are facing a possible rapid decline due to upcoming FDA regulations. Mainly they will affect how the products are sold, and what hoops the e cig and e liquid vendors have to jump through. The effects could be catastrophic for the industry. Here are some of the guidelines that could come into place:

Only market new products after FDA review

Vendors and manufacturers to register with FDA and report product and ingredient list

Only make direct claims of health benefits over regular smoking if the FDA confirms the scientific evidence that it will be beneficial to public health overall

No distribution of free samples

Minimum age requirements to stop sale of products to minors

Requirement to show health warnings

No vending machine sales (apart from maybe casinos etc)

Complete overhaul of the way the eliquid is sold – maximum nicotine per ml and maximum sizes making some current products completely obsolete

This might not seem so damaging, but lets take for example the many small vaping shops which have popped up everywhere. In the UK and America, over the last 5 years there has been thousands of small businesses investing into this and opening shops, will they cope with the new regulations?

Effect on small Vaping businesses

Lets take your local vaping shop as an example. Due to new regulation, they will need to get packaging for all their products, and get each tested. They currently generally have a generic packaging for their eliquid, and don’t have to get it tested.

Currently they sell 6mg, 12mg, 18mg & 24mg nicotine strength eliquid. They sell this in a normal PG/VG (propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin) and they generally sell one with a higher VG ratio, this is due to the users preference. They also have 180 flavors.

180 flavours x 4 strengths x 2 types = 1440 different packaging requirements. Can you imagine your local e cig vendor being able to produce that many different types of packaging, and store them? They could possibly get away with having only one box for eliquid per flavor and list the difference in nicotine, but even then the ingredient list may not be accurate enough for the FDA.

Further to this, they will now need to retrospectively apply for each product to be approved. The cost for this is said to run into the millions. We are not sure about the implied cost associated with this, but the New York Times have estimated a pre-market review demonstrating each specific product to be beneficial to smokers and how it would affect non-smokers to cost around $300,000.

There are also many other minor problems vendors will have to deal with. Such as the fact the Eliquid can only be sold in 10ml bottles. So the current 30ml bottles sold, will now be obsolete. On the tech side of things, the batteries and products are going to be regulated to only a few devices, possibly spawning more mass producing of smaller “cigalike” devices – generally the only ones you see on TV advertising at the moment, such as the Vype advertisements. Advertising is likely to take a huge hit as well. There will be no advertising until they can convince the FDA otherwise.

The final word

It seems to us, the astronomical costs of getting Ecigs and Eliquid to market, will not be something which is achievable for a small e cig vendor. That would mean closure of up to 99% of e cigarette businesses. However is this an opportunity for larger companies to absolutely dominate the market? Example being BAT (British American Tobacco). They own Vype, and according to wikipedia, BAT have an annual Revenue of $42 billion, compared to your average ecigarette shop having an annual revenue of around $108,000. Seems to us its a perfect opening for a company with an unlimited budget, it would also be fair to say BAT were all for FDA regulations before they released their own brand of Ecigs. Now they have done a total 180 and consider the FDA to be hindering them, they are calling for the FDA to revisit the proposed guidelines. Despite all this, it would seem it is not deterring some vendors from coming up with new products, VG E Liquid from the UK by Pure E Liquids for example. However it seems this particular brand is ahead of the game in some respects. They already get their eliquid batch tested, so that will make the changeover easier and do not sell anything larger than 10ml. They seem to be preparing for the guidelines as best they can – but will it be enough? With 135,000 comments being reviewed by the FDA though, it doesn’t look like we are facing a British American Tobacco domination, or a catastrophic decline in our local ecig vendors, just yet.

TTIP deal: Business lobbyists dominate talks at expense of trade unions and NGOs

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato: This is a corporate discussion, not a democratic one.

European Commission officials have held hundreds of meetings with lobbyists to discuss the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty – yet only around one in ten is with public interest groups.

The world’s biggest companies in finance, technology, pharma, tobacco and telecoms are dominating discussions with the EU executive body’s trade department responsible for the proposed EU-US free trade treaty, which could become the biggest such deal ever made.

Between January 2012 and February 2014, as TTIP discussions began, the Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) had 597 behind-closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss the negotiations, according to internal Commission files obtained by research group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

There were 528 meetings (88 per cent) with business lobbyists while only 53 (9 per cent) were with groups such as trade unions and NGOs. The remainder were with other parties such as public institutions and academics.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström took office in November last year promising a “fresh start” for the TTIP negotiations. More civil society involvement and listening to public concerns was her “top priority”, she said. Yet in her first six months in office Ms Malmström, her Cabinet and the Director General of DG Trade had 121 one-on-one private lobby meetings in which TTIP was discussed.

CEO said 100 of these declared meetings (83 per cent) were with business lobbyists – but only 20 (17 per cent) were held with public interest groups. The other meeting was with a standard setting institution. Although the EU has a transparency register for lobbyists it is only voluntary and CEO revealed that one in five corporate groups lobbying DG Trade on TTIP are not on it.

Politicians have joined campaigners in calling for greater transparency in the Commission’s TTIP negotiations after The Independent published the heavily redacted correspondence between ‘Big Tobacco’ companies British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris obtained by CEO.

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato said: “The censoring that the Commission has undertaken regarding its discussions with big tobacco reaffirms the secrecy surrounding these negotiations and is symbolic of the way MEPs, the European Parliament and European citizens are being treated.

“Looking through the smoke haze we can see why these documents appear blacked out. Nine out of ten lobby contacts during the preparatory phase of the TTIP negotiations were with companies and corporate lobby groups. Corporations are effectively co-writing the treaty. Yet the vast majority of citizens are against TTIP.

“A worrying aspect of this particular cover-up is that tobacco control policies are vital for public health. We know that Big Tobacco have used comparable trade treaties to take legal action against Australia and Uruguay as those nation have attempted to take action in the interests of public health.”

BAT, the world’s second largest tobacco group with brands in 180 countries, spends between 1.5m and 1.75m euros a year employing seven lobbyists in the EU. Philip Morris spends between 1.25m and 1.5m on employing six lobbyists, although not all working full-time on EU-related activities.

Yet even that spend is dwarfed by companies such as European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and ExxonMobil Petroleum and Chemical spend even more on lobbying – 5m euros each annually, according to the register.

By contrast the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention NGO spends less than 10,000 euros a year employing two lobbyists in Brussels in a part-time basis. It survives with the help of a 200,000 euros grant from the EU.

Politicians are only allowed to read documents relating to TTIP in a secure European Parliament restricted reading room. They are also required to sign a 14-page document ultimately promising not to share the information with their constituents.

Ms Scott Cato described the experience earlier this year comparing it to “a scene from a James Bond film”.

She said: “I don’t feel what I was granted access to contained the important details. Key information seems to have been retracted; there was little of interest. But what I did see did not leave me with any sense of reassurance, either that the process of negotiating this trade deal is democratic, or that the negotiators are operating on behalf of citizens. It reconfirmed that this is a corporate discussion, not a democratic one.”

No smoke without fire: Negotiations with tobacco firms must be transparent

Despite the almost comical redacting of entire pages of material, the release of documents by the European Commission on the implementation of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) sheds useful light on the Commission’s dealing with the big tobacco firms.

The suspicion is that these powerful multinationals are using their influence in a (literally) unhealthy manner, and attempting to make the European Union agree to provisions that would seriously harm efforts to cut back on tobacco smoking across Europe – a large and profitable market for the cigarette makers. While rates of smoking, among men at least, have been coming down across Western Europe since the cancer link was discovered more than half a century ago, Eastern Europe may hold greater opportunities for expansion for tobacco companies, as those economies grow in prosperity.

Despite the efforts of Corporate Europe Observatory to make a reality of freedom of information, Brussels still clearly has a good deal to learn about transparency. TTIP will have a dramatic effect on Europe’s peoples. There remain deep concerns that the benefits of trade liberalisation will be negated by a raft of concession to big business.

Your Body Immediately After Vaping an E-Cigarette

While much research has been done on conventional cigarettes, data on e-cigs is much more sparse. This is because e-cigs were only invented in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist, while tobacco has been around for centuries.

Because of e-cigarettes’ relative newness, their potential risks or benefits are not well-understood. There aren’t decades-long epidemiological data for researchers to analyze. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it’s unclear whether e-cig users are inhaling potentially harmful chemicals. The California Department of Health earlier this year declared them a public health threat.

The general consensus is that e-cigs are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, mainly because there is no smoke or burning involved. “They’re simpler than cigarettes,” Jonathan Foulds, PhD, professor of public health sciences and psychiatry at Penn State University’s College of Medicine and Cancer Institute, tells Yahoo Health. “You burn it, cigarettes creates 7,000 different chemicals into your body. But with e-cigarettes, there’s no combustion. The good news is that you’re inhaling a vapor that’s got four to five things as opposed to 7,000 things.”

But not all e-cigs are created equal. There are hundreds of brands with simple products resembling conventional tobacco cigarettes to more high-end, sophisticated vape pens. The FDA has found inconsistencies with some e-cigs containing nicotine when they’re marketed as free of the substance, not to mention varying levels of quality. At this point, e-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, although the agency seeks to change that soon.

Not all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. And some of the products let users control the amount and potency of the liquid solution. What’s inside the liquid solution vary by brand and flavors, such as butter popcorn and cookies and cream, which carry different chemical agents. Other e-cigs are more straightforward, with about five ingredients.

“The question is: What’s the effect on the body of the four to five things?” says Foulds.

The problem remains: lack of data. “There’ve been few studies that investigated the extent of biological effects,” says Jake McDonald, PhD, director of Environmental Respiratory Health Program and the Chemistry and Inhalation Exposure Program at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico.

So here’s what we know so far about how e-cigarettes may affect your body:



Users have complained of cotton mouth, scratchy throat, and coughing. It’s unclear why this happens to some people other than due to hydration issues.


One of the main ingredients used in e-cig liquid solutions is propylene glycol (which is used as fog in concerts and theater) and glycerin (which is proven safe in foods).

“We’re putting things in e-cigs proven safe in foods, but it’s not the same as putting it into a vapor and inhaling it,” Foulds explains. “A Mars bar is safe to eat, but I wouldn’t want to inhale it. If something is safe as a food, it’s not highly harmful, but we don’t know what happens when you inhale it.”

There are concerns that nanoparticles from the vapor can be embedded in the lungs, causing inflammation and leaving the lungs vulnerable to infection. A study published in the journal PLOS this year found that the vapors damage the epithelial cells in the airways, leaving them vulnerable to infection.

“E-liquids without nicotine and with nicotine inhibit the lungs’ innate immunity, which helps it defend itself against infections,” study author, Qun Wu, MD, Ph.D, told Yahoo Health earlier this year.

The American Lung Association has called for more governmental oversight because “the reality is that without FDA regulation and review, we don’t know what is in e-cigarettes.”


The few studies that looked at e-cigarettes’ cardiovascular effects find that the ones containing nicotine raise heart rate and blood pressure. This is from the nicotine kick, which acts as a stimulant and prompts an adrenaline rush in the body. But studies have also found that e-cigarettes didn’t cause the type of disruptions in the body seen with tobacco smoking.

One small European study compared the heart functions of 20 young tobacco smokers versus 22 e-cigarette users seven minutes after using their products. The study conducted in Greece found none of the heart problems associated with tobacco cigarettes among e-cigarette users. Its lead researcher, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, said in a statement: “This is an indication that although nicotine was present in the liquid used (11mg/ml), it is absorbed at a lower rate compared to regular cigarette smoking.”

The American Heart Association says there needs to be more research into this topic and called for rigorous examination of the “long-term impact of this new technology on public health, cardiovascular disease and stroke.”


When nicotine enters the brain, it releases a feeling of pleasure as dopamine levels increase.

Nicotine, while not considered a carcinogen, is still addictive and may “prime the brain to become addicted to other substances,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

One of the biggest concerns by anti-tobacco advocates is that e-cigarettes will get users hooked on nicotine and will serve as a gateway to tobacco use.

Your Baby

Nicotine can be detrimental to your baby if you’re pregnant. It affects the development of the baby’s lungs and brains, and can cause problems like preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth in higher rates, research shows.

“For smokers of e-cigarettes, we know it’s going to increase premature birth [and] increase intensive care state,” Foulds says. “These are things that affect babies for life. Some believe e-cigs are completely safe — it’s not quite true.”

Estimating the Harms of Nicotine-Containing Products Using the MCDA Approach

Download (PDF, 401KB)

The tobacco endgame: a qualitative review and synthesis

Download (PDF, 346KB)

MEPs slam commission for ‘smoke-screening’ tobacco lobby meetings

Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli

The commission has been attacked for releasing highly censured documents linked to TTIP talks with big tobacco.

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As part of its effort to make EU trade agreement talks more transparent – including those for the controversial transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) – the European commission has released a series of documents detailing contacts with the tobacco industry.

This was done at the request of transparency campaigners Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), back in March.

However, much of the documents’ contents were blacked out, including the names of all the lobbyists and commission officials involved in meetings, dates and even, in a 14-page letter from British American Tobacco, a page number.

Defending the heavy censorship of the files, commission secretary-general Catherine Day argued that “public interest [on the issue] 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.”

Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats MEP Glenis Willmott blasted Day’s reasoning, pointing out that “there is a fundamental conflict between the public interest and the commercial interests of the tobacco industry, which rely on the promotion of a product that is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Europe.”

Fellow Socialist deputy Catherine Stihler said, “my colleagues and I have been clear that bringing an end to secret investor tribunals are essential elements of any EU-US trade agreement and I would think it was issues such as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) being discussed at these meetings”.

ISDS has been one of the most hotly debated aspects of TTIP, with many MEPs staunchly opposing it. It was originally planned as a private arbitration mechanism between governments and corporations, leading to fears that companies would have too much power over national policymaking.

During last month’s plenary session, parliament backed a resolution calling for an amended ISDS, with “publically appointed, independent professional judges [in] public hearings”, according to the adopted text.

Stihler added, “tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the EU, so it is in the public interest for talks with this industry to be transparent.”

“Protecting public health is of the highest importance, not commercial interests of big business. I would encourage the commission to offer further insight into the talks.”

Meanwhile, Irish MEP Nessa Childers has submitted several parliamentary questions on what she described as “the commission’s smoke-screening of its dealings with big tobacco in trade talks.”

She underlined that, “this level of secrecy undermines the legitimacy of trade talks and raises questions about the propriety of the commission’s contacts with big tobacco when they should be making them transparent and kept to the minimum necessary to regulate this industry, in accordance with world health organisation rules that it has subscribed to.”

Childers said she “would like to see if the commission can shed light on the inconsistencies within secretary-general Day’s response and between it and yesterday’s [Wednesday] denial from the commission’s team in charge of EU-US trade talks that these documents have nothing to do with the TTIP agreement under negotiation.”

The commission has repeatedly argued that the documents were censured because they “contain elements that relate to [its] negotiating position with regards to tobacco in the ongoing bilateral negotiations for a free trade agreement with the USA and Japan.”

According to Childers, “in the face of all these tarred pages, they seem not only to be very much connected, but also that the commission is happy to provide the industry with information they don’t want the public to see.”

CEO said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned about the commission’s secrecy around its relations with tobacco industry lobbyists and more widely the secrecy around its international trade negotiations”.

The campaign group said they will file a complaint with European ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, who is due to publish the results of her investigation into tobacco lobbying in the coming weeks.

About the author
Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine

Total Black Out: Brussels Accused of Cover-up Over Tobacco Lobby Dealings

The European Commission is accused of a widespread cover-up after refusing to release the full details of dealings between its officials and the tobacco industry during negotiations for the highly controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty.

Following a freedom of information (FOI) request by research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), the European Commission released an almost completely redacted letter that it received from British American Tobacco regarding their recent correspondence.

The 14-page document was almost completely redacted, with almost all of the content, including names of officials and lobbyists, dates of the meetings and even the issues discussed blacked out.
Less than 5 percent of the text was visible, which included merely a few standard introductory and closing remarks.

The documents were in relation to discussions about the proposed TTIP trade deal being negotiated between the US and EU, as well as separate negotiations between EU and Japanese officials.

Fears Over ISDS

TTIP negotiations have been dogged by a severe lack of transparency of behalf of government officials involved in the talks, with the almost completely blacked out letter increasing fears that such a trade deal will include provisions for tobacco companies to sue governments if they attempt to tighten smoking legislation.

The investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process is currently being used by tobacco giant Philip Morris, which is undertaking legal action against Australia after the government introduced plain cigarette packaging, while the same company is also suing Uruguay for $25 million over its attempts to increase health warnings of the packaging of tobacco products.

CEO has denounced the release of the letter, backing its call for a full disclosure of negotiations between European officials and tobacco lobby groups.

The group says that full disclosure of the documents is necessary in order to “enable the public to scrutinize the nature of the relations between DG Trade [Directorate-General for Trade of the European Commission] and the tobacco industry” and “to enable the public to assess the extent to which the EU-Japan FTA (and TTIP) poses a risk to tobacco control policies.”

In response, Catherine Day, Secretary-General of the European Commission, dismissed arguments that the transparency of negotiations was in the public interest, saying that it: “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.”

Day added that the documents could not be released in their entirety because they “contain elements that relate to the Commission’s negotiating position with regards to tobacco in the ongoing bilateral negotiations for a free trade agreement with the USA and Japan.”

Opposition to TTIP Grows

Following the FOI request, a number of politicians and campaign groups have heaped more pressure on EU governments to come clean on the highly secretive TTIP negotiations, while CEO officials say they are in the process of appealing against the redacted documents.

“CEO is deeply concerned about the Commission’s secrecy around its relations with tobacco industry lobbyists and more widely the secrecy around its international trade negotiations. We are therefore preparing a complaint to the European Ombudsman.”

The proposed TTIP trade deal, currently being negotiated by US and European Union member states, has attracted widespread public criticism in Europe for the lack of transparency associated with negotiations.

There are fears that the deal will result in a reduction of health and safety standards in Europe, and will favor large US multinational corporations, which critics say could kill off many European small businesses.

On top of widespread public demonstrations against TTIP, 2.5 million people have signed a petition against the treaty, with critics arguing that EU officials are determined to ram through the deal despite the wishes of the European public.

E-cigarettes: no indoor smoking ban planned in England despite WHO call

Department of Health rules out outlawing e-cigs in enclosed spaces in England, although Wales’s government is considering doing so.

Denis Campbell, health correspondent

Tuesday 26 August 2014 20.03 BST

Ministers will not ban e-cigarettes indoors in England, despite the World Health Organisation urging governments to do so to combat the threat posed by the growing popularity of vaping.

The Department of Health (DH) made clear that it does not plan to outlaw the use of the increasingly popular gadgets in enclosed public spaces in England, although Wales’s Labour government is considering doing so.

The DH ruled out making e-cigarettes subject to the same “smoke-free” controls that have applied to normal cigarettes since 2007. Smoking is currently banned in pubs, restaurants and workplaces across the UK.

The department did so despite the United Nations’ health agency recommending such prohibition as part of tougher regulation of products it said were dangerous to children.

Lobbyists and official watchdogs are divided on how to respond. The British Medical Association, which represents most of Britain’s doctors, said it backed a ban.

But the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health has opposed such a move. E-cigarettes could help smokers quit, it said.

The WHO said that e-cigarettes should be subject to much tighter restrictions on their use, sale, content and promotion, in a major statement that again highlighted key differences of opinion among medical groups as to whether they will ultimately increase or reduce the number of people addicted to nicotine.

The global health watchdog accepted that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional ones. But it argued that the risk they pose to people passively inhaling their vapours means they should not be allowed to be used indoors.

The organisation’s long-awaited report on the public health issue also noted with concern that much of the fast-growing electronic cigarettes industry is in the hands of established global manufacturers of conventional cigarettes.

The DH said it was already tightening regulation, just as the WHO wanted. For example, it is outlawing the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s by 2016 and introducing the European tobacco products directive in the same year. It will set a legal limit on the amount of nicotine such products can contain, except for those which are classified as medicines that might help smokers who want to quit the habit. These are already regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The new European rules will cover lower strength products, ban most advertising, as well as setting standards for their ingredients, labelling and packaging, a DH spokeswoman said.

Regulation of e-cigarettes, still in its infancy in the UK, is done mostly on the basis that they are consumer products. “More and more people are using e-cigarettes and we want to make sure they are properly regulated so we can be sure of their safety and quality,” she added.

The WHO also recommended that vending machines stocking e-cigarettes be removed from “almost all locations” and that such products should be controlled in order to “minimise content and emissions of toxicants”. It also wants a ban on e-cigarettes which contain fruit, sweet or alcoholic drinks flavours, in order to reduce consumption.

The WHO wants governments to prevent e-cigarette manufacturers from making claims about their products’ capacity to improve people’s health by helping them quit unless and until they provided “convincing supporting scientific evidence and obtain regulatory approval.”

There is still only limited evidence that e-cigarettes do help people quit, which “does not allow conclusions to be reached” on that point, it added.

The BMA and other groups fear that e-cigarettes may prove a gateway to people – especially under-18s – trying, and starting to use, normal cigarettes.

Dr Ram Moorthy, deputy chair of the BMA’s board of science, said: “Tighter controls are needed to ensure their use does not undermine current tobacco control measures and reinforces the normalcy of smoking behaviour.”

That same concern has prompted ministers in Wales to have a public consultation on how to tackle e-cigarettes, including the possible first ban in the UK on their use indoors.

In its report on what it called electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), the WHO said: “The fact that ENDS exhaled aerosol contains on average lower levels of toxicants than the emissions from combusted tobacco does not mean that these levels are acceptable to involuntarily exposed bystanders.

“In fact, exhaled aerosol is likely to increase above background levels the risk of disease to bystanders, especially in the case of some ENDS that produce toxicant levels in the range of that produced by some cigarettes.”

Why Big Tobacco is after our children

Mike Daube

There are signs the tobacco industry will fight to the bitter end to make sure nothing gets in the way of their goal of profiting from death and disease.

There are three possible explanations for British American Tobacco’s attempts to use Freedom of Information legislation to access Cancer Council research on children’s attitudes to smoking, as reported in The Age last week.

The first is that nobody in the company realised that this would be a PR disaster, confirming yet again Big Tobacco’s reputation as both the world’s most lethal industry and its most ruthless. As such it gives the lie to industry rhetoric about not being interested in children, justifies comment about tobacco companies sinking to new lows, has led politicians to consider amending FOI legislation, and generated a magisterial rebuke from Federal Assistant Health Minister Senator Fiona Nash. PR myopia is always possible in a global tobacco company that claims to be “applying exemplary corporate conduct in our markets” despite selling and promoting a product that kills when used precisely as intended.

The second is that tobacco companies are terrified that Australia’s world-leading plain packaging legislation will spread to other countries. Thus they will go to any lengths in their efforts to undermine it.

If ever a measure passed the tobacco “Scream Test” (the louder the industry scream, the more impact you know a measure will have) it is plain packaging. Plain packaging deprives tobacco companies of their last opportunity to promote cigarettes in ways that children may find attractive. Always intended as a long-term part of the comprehensive approach to reducing smoking, peer-reviewed research is already encouraging about its impacts on both children and adults. Perhaps crucially, it sends out a signal to the entire community that this product is so uniquely harmful that it may only be sold in packaging designed to be repellent.

Small wonder that this has sent Big Tobacco into a tailspin. It has led to litigation here and internationally and triggered advertising and public relations programs, lobbying, and commissioned reports from tobacco-funded groups, industry-friendly think-tanks and bloggers. Tobacco industry lawyers have also generated media speculation that pictures of cirrhotic livers on beer bottles could be the next target. So it is possible that trying to get hold of Cancer Council research on children is further evidence of the industry’s desperation.

But there is a third, darker possibility. The tobacco industry has known for 65 years that its product is lethal. Smoking kills some 6 million people each year, and has been identified by the McKinsey Global Institute as the top global social burden generated by human beings, ahead even of armed violence, war and terrorism. But despite the overwhelming evidence about the galaxy of diseases caused by cigarettes, and despite innumerable exposes about their tactics, tobacco companies have survived and continue to promote their products wherever they can, notably in developing countries.

And yet the tide is turning – too slowly to prevent hundreds of millions of deaths, but it is turning nonetheless. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has been signed by 168 countries. Around the world, governments are increasingly taking action that will over time reduce smoking and with it the massive profits that come to the merchants of death. It will all take far too long, but it will happen, and Australia is often held up as an example of the art of the possible.

So it may be that this always ruthless industry has decided to step up yet further its campaigns to oppose and undermine tobacco control and its advocates.

After more than 40 years in tobacco control, here and internationally, my sense is that in recent years the global tobacco industry has become even tougher and more aggressive. The companies are unashamedly taking legal action against governments in developed and developing countries. They have already used FOI against the Federal Health Department. Public relations and lobbying efforts are being ramped up (to tackle one measure recently proposed for the European Union, one tobacco company employed 161 people), and, with stunning effrontery, the industry is trying to improve its image by presenting itself as health conscious. Tobacco companies have reportedly funded lawyers to help remote countries oppose plain packaging in international trade forums. Tobacco control advocates find themselves increasingly under attack from shadowy think-tanks and other internet activists.

Now we have British American Tobacco trying to use FOI legislation to get research on children from the Cancer Council, with the added bonus that this will be a huge distraction for the Council, which must also incur significant legal costs in fighting them off.

It may be a PR blunder and it may be desperation about plain packaging. But it may also be a signal from Big Tobacco that they are in this business for the long haul, the war is about to get even tougher, and nothing and nobody will be allowed to get in the way of profiting from death and disease.

Mike Daube is Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University and president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health.