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December, 2015:

More evidence e-cigarettes may be bad for you, scientists say

Vapour from smokeless cigarettes can damage human cell DNA in ways that could lead to cancer, study shows.

Adding to growing evidence on the possible health risks of electronic cigarettes, a lab team from the United States Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System tested two products and found they damaged cells in ways that could lead to cancer. “Our study strongly suggests that electronic cigarettes are not as safe as their marketing makes them appear to the public,” wrote the researchers, who published their findings in the journal Oral Oncology. The researchers created an extract from the vapour of two popular brands of e-cigarettes and used it to treat human cells in Petri dishes. Compared with untreated cells, the treated cells were more likely to show DNA damage and die. The e-cigarette with nicotine caused worse damage, but even the nicotine-free vapour was enough to alter cells. The dosage of vapour in the study was similar to someone smoking continuously for hours on end.

Hawaii Becomes First State To Raise Smoking Age To 21

America’s healthiest state implements new law with fines for retailers and underage consumers.

Hawaii will ring in the new year by becoming the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

In June, Gov. David Ige (D) signed the law aiming to prevent adolescents from smoking, buying and possessing both traditional and electronic cigarettes. It goes into effect on Friday.

“We are proud to once again be at the forefront of the nation in tobacco prevention and control,” Virginia Pressler, the state’s director of health, said in a statement.

And it’s a move befitting of a state that consistently finds itself ranked among the healthiest in America.

Ninety-five percent of adult smokers in the U.S. begin smoking before the age of 21, according to the Hawaii Department of Health. And while smoking rates have drastically decreased among Hawaii’s youth and adults, there has been a “recent and rapid increase in e-cigarette use.” Only 5 percent of Hawaii public high school students reported in 2011 that they had tried e-cigarettes, compared to 22 percent in 2014 — a 344 percent increase.

Under the new law, stores caught selling cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products to anyone under 21 can be fined between $500 and $2,000. Additionally, any minor caught purchasing or possessing such products will face fines between $10 and $50, as well as community service.

There will be a three-month educational grace period to allow people to get used to the new laws. Warnings, rather than fines, will be issued during this time.

The U.S. Army, the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps have each announced their support of Hawaii’s new law. Some have criticized the military for this, arguing that a person old enough to die for their country should be able to decide for themselves whether to smoke.

Bill Doughty, spokesman for the Navy Region Hawaii, told The Associated Press the Navy sees it as a fitness and readiness issue.

“When we can prevent sailors from smoking or using tobacco, if we can get them to quit, then that improves their fitness and readiness, and it saves them a ton of money too,” he said.

A second measure, which also goes into effect Jan. 1, incorporates e-cigarettes into Hawaii’s smoke-free laws, meaning such products will be prohibited in areas smoking and tobacco use is already banned.

Lola Irvin, administrator for the state’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division, said the measures make tobacco products less accessible and less attractive to Hawaii’s youth.

“Prevention is the best strategy, and youth are especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction,” she said in a statement. “By prohibiting their use in public places, the new laws encourage a no-smoking norm.”

While Hawaii is the first state to raise the smoking age to 21, more than 100 cities have already done so, including New York City and Boston.

Secondhand smoke is bad for pets too, and makes dogs fat, study shows

Cats who live with smokers have it even worse than dogs, perhaps because they groom themselves so much, University of Glasgow research finds

Secondhand smoke is bad for pets as well as people, the University of Glasgow says, citing an ongoing study into the effects of secondhand smoke on dogs and cats.

Research under way at the Scottish institution has found that pets living in a smoky environment have a higher risk of health problems including some animal cancers, cell damage and weight gain.

“Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets,” said Clare Knottenbelt, professor of small animal medicine and oncology. “Our findings show that exposure to smoke in the home is having a direct impact on pets.

“It risks ongoing cell damage, increasing weight gain after castration and has previously been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers.”

While dogs can take in significant amounts of smoke, the university study shows cats are “even more affected”.

“This may be due to the extensive self-grooming that cats do, as this would increase the amount of smoke (chemicals) taken in to the body,” said Knottenbelt.

The research so far has found that while outdoor access made little difference for cats, smoking away from them did reduce the amount taken into the body.

It has found that when smokers light up fewer than 10 times a day, nicotine levels dropped significantly, but were nonetheless noticeably higher than in cats from non-smoking homes.

An examination of the testicles of castrated dogs found that a gene, which acts as a marker of cell damage, was higher in dogs living in smoking homes.

Dogs living with a smoker also gained more weight after neutering.

The finished research paper is expected to be published in 2016.
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‘Un-Islamic’ vaping catches fire in Malaysia, amid government backlash

At Malaysian e-cigarette outlet Vape Empire, customers kick back and puff out thick, aromatic clouds of vapour in funky flavours like Horny Mango and Creamy Suckerz’ Banana Anna.

“Vaping” is soaring in popularity in Malaysia, the largest e-cigarette market in the Asia-Pacific region, but authorities are threatening to ban the habit for health reasons – a move that has sparked anger from growing legions of aficionados.

Backing a ban, Malaysian religious leaders this month declared a fatwa on the “un-Islamic” habit, but it remains to be seen whether the decree will dampen enthusiasm.

“The business is growing very fast because there are many people trying to convert from tobacco smoking to vaping,” Vape Empire’s co-founder Muhammad Sharifuddin Esa said, adding that his business has expanded to 57 locations since it opened just two years ago.

The pastime has proved a particular hit in the moderate, Muslim-majority nation, where other vices such as alcohol and drugs are especially frowned upon.

Now several Malaysian states say they may impose a ban from January 1 and have threatened to stop issuing new merchants’ licences – a potential blow to a sector worth an estimated US$650 million last year, according to reports.

The industry, which is expected to grow by more than 13 per cent year-on-year to 2025, is currently unregulated, and many say forbidding e-cigarettes – already outlawed in Thailand and Singapore for health reasons – is a big mistake.

“The government must regulate and not ban, because vaping is the future,” Sharifuddin said.

Research on health risks remains split and like Malaysia, few countries have introduced national legislation to regulate the sector.

The devices function by heating flavoured nicotine liquid – or e-juice – into a vapour that is inhaled, much like traditional cigarettes but without the smoke.

Some experts warn vaping can produce cancer-causing formaldehyde and one US study said vaping is up to 15 times more harmful than traditional tobacco smoking. The World Health Organisation has called on governments to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

But other research suggests vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes and manufacturers tout them as harmless aids to quit tobacco.

Enthusiasts in Malaysia say banning the habit doesn’t make economic sense.

“Vaping communities are fighting for their rights because the vape scene actually brings profits to the country,” said Muhammad Imman, marketing manager of the colourfully named Fcuking Flava vape shop, one of thousands that have popped up across the country.

Marketers cater to local tastes, selling e-juice flavoured with snake fruit, lychee and even durian, the notoriously pungent Southeast Asian fruit.

The juices are marketed like single-malt whiskies or perfumes, as seen at a recent vaping convention in Kuala Lumpur, their creators extolling organic and other premium ingredients.

Aficionados gather daily in Malaysia’s vape shops, sometimes for “cloud chasing” competitions to see who can produce the biggest vapour puffs and to show off vape prowess by blowing rings into the foggy air.

A growing number of amateur merchants have emerged across the country, where about a million people smoke e-cigarettes, a five-fold surge since last year, according to the Malaysia E-Vaporizers and Tobacco Alternative Association (MEVTA) activist group.

Making e-juice is a simple process that involves mixing readily available ingredients – water, flavouring, nicotine and other easy-to-access chemical compounds.

On a Kuala Lumpur street recently, a vendor set up a table arrayed with a range of flavours, from guava to lychee on sale for about 30 ringgit (US$7).

“Mine are the best,” he boasted to passing office workers. But some bottles looked old and reused, and he was tight-lipped on the e-juice’s origin.

Other more mainstream Malaysian manufacturers have struck deals to distribute their goods elsewhere in Asia and as far afield as Europe, as Malaysian flavours become popular overseas.

The habit doesn’t appear to be losing steam at home, especially among former smokers.

“I actually have reduced the level of nicotine when I vape,” said officer worker Nicolas Chan, speaking between puffs on his lunch break.

“I feel better and have more energy after quitting cigarettes and starting to vape.”
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E-Cigarettes ‘No Better’ Than Smoking Tobacco, Scientists Warn

E-cigarettes are “no better” for health than smoking tobacco, scientists have warned. A new study has shown that vapour from the devices can damage or even destroy human cells. Researchers now want to conduct further tests to determine the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes, including whether they could cause cancer.

It is estimated that 2.6 million adults in Great Britain use electronic cigarettes.

To test the health implications of using the devices, scientists treated cells with a nicotine-based e-cigarette and a nicotine-free version. They found that cells which had been exposed to the vapour were more likely to become damaged or die than those that hadn’t.

“Based on the evidence to date I believe they [e-cigarettes] are no better than smoking regular cigarettes,” said Dr Wang-Rodriguez, chief of pathology at the San Diego branch of the US Department of Veteran Affairs and co-author of the study.

“There have been many studies showing that nicotine can damage cells. But we found that other variables can do damage as well. “It’s not that the nicotine is completely innocent in the mix, but it looks like the amount of nicotine that the cells are exposed to by e-cigarettes is not sufficient by itself to cause these changes. “There must be other components in the e-cigarettes that are doing this damage. So we may be identifying other carcinogenic components that are previously undescribed.

“For now, we were able to at least identify that e-cigarettes on the whole have something to do with increased cell death.”

She added that the results from lab tests aren’t necessarily the same as what would be found in a living person. This is because the amount of vapour used was equivalent of a person vaping for “hours on end”. The research was published in the journal Oral Oncology.

Dr Wang-Rodriguez added: “Our study strongly suggests that electronic cigarettes are not as safe as their marketing makes them appear to the public. “Vapourised e-cig liquids induce increased DNA strand breaks and cell death.” They now hope to conduct further research to determine the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes. They also hope to discover whether DNA damage from vaping could cause cancer.

More Chinese people are smoking cigarettes, and they’re smoking more of them

China has 15 million more adult smokers in 2015 than it did in 2010, and they’re smoking almost a pack a day on average, even as the government has been trying to get citizens to curb the habit.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (link in Chinese) finds 27.7% of Chinese people smoke, based on a survey of over 15,000 people above the age of 15 that was published Dec. 28. More than half of all Chinese men, 52.1%, smoke, compared to just 2.7% of Chinese women. In the US in comparison, 16.8% adults smoked in 2014, and the rate of men and women smoking is much closer.

China’s smoking rate is nearly the same as 2010, but the population over the age of 15 has grown, so the study calculates China now has 316 million smokers, a new record.

The average number of cigarettes consumed each day per smoker has also risen, from 14.2 to 15.2, the study found.

The study also suggests Chinese people have a little awareness of the danger of tobacco, despite a several year push to educate the public. While nearly 80% of the respondents know smoking that lead to lung cancer, fewer know about the other risks:

Also, 75.5% of the respondents believe cigarettes with lower levels of tar are less harmful, the study says, due to the misleading promotion from tobacco companies. China’s state-owned tobacco companies have also blocked efforts to curb cigarette advertising.

Beijing introduced a smoking ban in June for all public indoor areas, from restaurants and offices to trains and hospitals. But the results have been mixed, with many Beijing residents are ignoring the ban. While the World Health Organization has urged China to take the smoking ban nationwide, the capital is currently the only Chinese city that imposes one.

An October study published in medical journal The Lancet showed even more grim statistics, reporting that 68% of Chinese men and 3.2% of women smoke, and around two-thirds of young Chinese men start smoking mostly before age 20. The report says tobacco caused about one million deaths in China in 2010 and will kill two million people in 2030.

Romania wants to ban the sale of flavored cigarettes and change the warning messages on cigarette packs

The Romanian Ministry of Health has published a draft bill that includes a list of restrictions related to the sale of tobacco products.

For example, the Ministry will regulate the ingredients that can be used in tobacco products. It will thus ban the sale of flavored cigarettes and tobacco, including the electronic cigarettes’ liquid, and of those containing special additives such as vitamins, caffeine, taurine, or the additives that give the impression that the product has a beneficial effect on health, or that the risk is smaller, reports local

The draft bill also changes the warning messages on cigarette packages. The labeling should include a “smoking kills” general warning on 50% of the lateral side of the pack, and a “tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances that cause cancer” information message on 50% of the lateral side. Moreover, there should also be combined health warnings, made up of text, picture and a phone number where the consumer can call to get information on how to quit smoking, on the top of the pack’s both sides, on 65% of the surface. A black outer frame will have a size of 1 mm and will be included in the warning area.

When it comes to the non-combustible tobacco products, the labeling should include the “this tobacco product is harmful to health and is addictive” warning on both sides. The warning message will have to cover 30% of the product’s surface.

Moreover, the Ministry of Health will also ban the sale of chewing tobacco.

The draft bill also stipulates that the new products must be retested before being placed on the market. It also introduces limits on the electronic cigarettes’ content: for example, the liquids containing nicotine will only be put on the market in dedicated refill bottles with a maximum volume of 10 ml, in disposable electronic cigarettes, or in disposable cartridges, the maximum volume of the cartridges and reservoirs will not exceed 2 ml and the liquid that contains nicotine can’t have more than 20 mg of nicotine per ml. The labeling should also include all the ingredients, a warning message, but it shouldn’t contain references to the special properties of the product.

The manufacturers and importers of cigarettes will report to the Ministry of Health the ingredients used in the manufacturing process, the tobacco products’ emissions, and sales volume data of tobacco products in Romania, per type and brand.

The law should enter into force on May 20, 2016, but products that don’t meet the legislation could still be placed on the market until May 20, 2017, reports

Scientist Debunks Latest Claim That E-Cigarettes Are As Dangerous As Tobacco

A study making headlines across the world claiming two e-cigarette products “damaged cells in ways that could lead to cancer,” is under fire from a leading public health expert.

Conducted by a research team at the University of California, San Diego, the study investigated how e-cigarettes may contribute to the development and progression of a cancer known as head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

The research team “created an extract from the vapor of two popular brands of e-cigarettes and used it to treat human cells in Petri dishes. Compared with untreated cells, the treated cells were more likely to show DNA damage and die.”

What was the result?

“The exposed cells showed several forms of damage, including DNA strand breaks. The familiar double helix that makes up DNA has two long strands of molecules that intertwine. When one or both of these strands break apart and the cellular repair process doesn’t work right, the stage is set for cancer.”

One of the study’s authors even went on to claim “they [e-cigarettes] are no better than smoking regular cigarettes.” Combined with a hyperbolic press release, the study has triggered a wave of headlines claiming vaping is just as dangerous as smoking.

But Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, with 25 years of experience in the field of tobacco control has dissected the most sensational claims of both the researchers and headline writers.

In a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation, Siegel said, “this study confirms previous findings that e-cigarette vapor can cause damage to epithelial cell lines in culture, and that the damage caused by e-cigarette vapor is much lower than that caused by tobacco smoke. However, it cannot be concluded from this cell culture study that e-cigarette vapor actually has toxic or carcinogenic effects in humans who use these products.”

“In particular, the dose at which e-cigarette vapor was found to have an adverse effect was much higher than the actual dose that a vapor receives. Nevertheless, one of the co-authors concluded publicly that based on these results, e-cigarette use is no less hazardous than cigarette smoking.”

Siegel added that “not only is this conclusion baseless, but it is damaging to the public’s health. It undermines decades of public education about the severe hazards of cigarette smoking. To declare that smoking is no more hazardous than using e-cigarettes, a non-tobacco-containing product is a false and irresponsible claim.”

One of Siegel’s chief concerns about the misrepresentation of e-cigarettes is many ex-smokers who took up vaping may switch back to regular cigarettes if they believe there is no difference between the two. “This will cause actual human health damage, not merely damage to some cells in a laboratory culture,” says Siegel.

Plain packaging effective in reducing misperceptions of tobacco products among Australian Indigenous

Following the introduction of plain packaging on tobacco products in 2012, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were 12 per cent less likely to think certain tobacco brands were less harmful than others, a new study found.

Plain packaging means tobacco company colours, logos and design elements are not allowed on tobacco products, but government health warnings still appear. Australia was the first country to implement plain packaging in December 2012 in an effort to curb national smoking rates. Canada plans to implement plain packaging as part of Prime Minister Trudeau’s Safer Kids Initiative.

The research, published today in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, studied the effects of plain packaging on Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s perceptions of different brands being less harmful or more prestigious than others.

“We know that brand imagery and design elements influence perceptions of consumer risk and status,” said Dr. Raglan Maddox, a postdoctoral fellow at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, specializing in Aboriginal tobacco use, public health and evaluation. “Colours, shapes and symbols on packaging contribute to beliefs that certain brands are more high-status, while using words like mild, light or slim can give consumers the impression that some tobacco products are less harmful than others.”

The study found plain packaging not only reduced overall misperceptions that there are healthier tobacco brands, but also found that participants under the age of 35 were 16.5 per cent less likely to view some brands as more prestigious than others. Research also indicates that smokers, especially those ages 18 to 29, found the new plain packs less appealing.

“These age-specific findings provide important insight for changing perceptions of status or prestige associated with tobacco brands in the younger indigenous population,” said Dr. Maddox. “Preventing uptake and eliminating tobacco use in this demographic is central to addressing the disproportionate burden of smoking-related death and disease, while also improving overall health and life expectancy.”

In 2013, approximately 42 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were smokers – a substantially higher rate than the general population. Tobacco-related illness is the most preventable cause of disease and death in both Australian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, contributing to heart disease, chronic respiratory disease and various forms of cancer.

Dr. Maddox said the study adds to growing literature indicating the world’s first plain packaging initiative is associated with increased thoughts of smoking cessation, attempts to stop smoking and calls to cessation helplines.

“The findings are consistent with recent, broader research that smokers were more likely to correctly identify that cigarette brands are equally harmful and similar in prestige after plain packaging was implemented,” said Dr. Maddox. “The findings on Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people further support plain packaging and health warnings as an effective strategy in reducing global tobacco use.”

As Canada and Australia are both Commonwealth countries with similar health and social systems, Dr. Maddox said he believes Australia’s documented success combined with this study’s findings could haves huge potential for Canadians – especially vulnerable populations, which include First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Both countries observe much higher rates of smoking among Indigenous people than non-Indigenous citizens. According to Statistics Canada, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people are twice as likely to smoke or use tobacco products as non- Indigenous people. Among those who smoke, the majority started between the ages of 13 and 16 years of age.


This study was conducted in conjunction with Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service and received funding from the ACT Health Directorate and the University of Canberra.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Anti-Tobacco Campaigners Celebrate Australia’s Plain Packaging Win

(3BL Media/Just Means) – ​The Australian government ha​s​ scored a win against smoking: plain packaging will remain. Philip Morris had been fighting a lawsuit against a legislation introduced in 2011, but ​a​ Singapore tribunal​ agreed that ​the Australia’s position ​is right: the tribunal ​has no jurisdiction to hear ​the tobacco company​’s claim.

The law was introduced to protect young people who are more vulnerable to advertising and being lured into smoking. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Philip Morris Asia brought the case against Australia using a legal mechanism called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)​, and it was the first time Australia had to fight this type of litigation.​

As a rich country, Australia is in advantageous position to fight such legal cases. But it is not the same for developing countries, where smoking rates remain higher and governments don’t have robust financial resources​ to fight the problem and attacks from stakeholders.

​“Tobacco companies will do whatever it takes to undermine efforts to reduce smoking, especially in low-income countries that don’t have the resources to fight expensive lawsuits,” said Mike Bloomberg said in a blog post published by Bloomberg’s charitable arm, Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Bloomberg ​celebrated the Australian victory as an indication that the anti-tobacco campaign has gained momentum with ​the outcome in Singapore. The organization is focused on helping vulnerable countries fight back through the litigation fund it has launched with the Gates Foundation and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

​The purpose of the new fund, which was launched in March, is to assist governments in low- and middle-income countries by defending their tobacco control laws from suits brought by the tobacco industry through international trade agreements. CTFK will direct financial, legal, and other technical assistance t​o those countries when they need to defend themselves from tobacco multinationals, who will fight tooth and nail to keep​ and, if possible, increase​ their market share.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills around six million people every year​, mostly from direct tobaccl use but also from second-hand smoke. Most smokers (nearly 80% of ​one billion across the globe)​​ live in low- and middle-income countries.

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