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June 21st, 2016:

Perceptual and experiential factors in switching to e-cigarettes

Exhaled aerosol particles e-cigs & cigarettes

Ask the Lawyer: What are the basics on suing tobacco companies?

Q Just what is the main theory against the tobacco companies now since it’s so well-known that smoking can cause harm?

— S.F., Wilmington

A Lawsuits against the tobacco companies date back more than 50 years, but allegations have changed as more information has come forward. Early reports linking cigarettes to cancer are found in the 1950s. Legal theories included product liability, negligent advertising and negligent manufacture. In the 1980s, in the landmark case of Cipollone v. Liggett, the plaintiff and her family alleged that cigarette manufacturers knew smoking caused lung cancer and was addictive, but did not warn consumers. Rose Cipollone’s husband was successful at trial, but the case was reversed on appeal. At that point, the tobacco companies were doing well in defending themselves.

In the 1990s, some plaintiffs began having at least limited success. Among other things, documents were leaked showing some cigarette companies were aware of tobacco’s addictive nature. Then, in February 2000, a California jury found against Philip Morris to the tune of $51.5 million in a case involving a smoker who had inoperable lung cancer. About the same time, more than 40 states sued the tobacco companies under consumer protection and antitrust laws.

More recently, decisions have at least opened the door for class actions. And individual lawsuits face arguably less difficult challenges given the increased awareness of the dangers of smoking. But tobacco litigation often involves complex legal theories, detailed scientific analysis and tenacious defense counsel. Claims may include failure to warn, fraud, negligence and product liability.

Q I see where the family of Tony Gwynn, the great San Diego Padres baseball player, has sued the tobacco industry for wrongful death. They contend his salivary gland cancer was associated with his many years of using smokeless tobacco. A bunch of players still seem to use the stuff. Is there any warning that has to be put on it?

— W.A., Redondo Beach

A Examples of smokeless tobacco are chewing tobacco, moist snuff and snuf. Under the federal Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Act, the package and advertisement must include one of the following warnings:

• This product can cause mouth cancer

• This product can cause gum disease and tooth loss

• This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes

• Smokeless tobacco is addictive

Packages of smokeless tobacco must have the warning on the two principal sides, and cover at least 30 percent of each side. As to advertisements, the warning has to cover at least 20 percent of the area of the ad. These warning labels were required beginning in June 2010.

As to Tony Gwynn, I don’t know enough of the facts at this point, but his use of smokeless tobacco well preceded June 2010, when the act’s warnings became required.

Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with more than 30 years of experience. His column appears on Wednesdays. Email questions and comments to him at or write to him at Ask the Lawyer, Daily Breeze, 21250 Hawthorne Blvd., Suite 170, Torrance, CA 90503.

Study finds nicotine levels in e-cigarettes higher than label reflects

E-cigarettes have become a new trend among many teenagers and younger adults, and a new study says that labeling for these products could be incorrect.

About 50 percent of e-cigarette liquid labels aren’t accurately reflecting the nicotine levels found in the product, according to a recent study by the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy.

The center says that in some cases products were almost 175 percent higher than labeled.

“When consumed in large amounts, e-cigs can cause health issues, dizziness, jitteriness. You know some people are very sensitive to nicotine and it can cause problems if they’re getting more than they think they are,” says Jeanne Prom, ND Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy.

Starting in August, the Food and Drug Administration will ban the sale of e-cigarette and tobacco products to those under the age of 18. This is already a ban in North Dakota.

E-Cigarettes Change Hundreds of Immune Genes

Scientists have known for years that cigarettes alter genes in the respiratory tract that are vital to defend the body against bacterial infections, viruses, and inflammation.

Now, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that vaping electronic cigarettes alters those same genes and hundreds more that are important for immune defense in the upper airway.

The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, suggests that inhaling the vaporized flavored liquids in e-cigarettes has consequences similar to smoking tobacco, at least on epithelial cells that line the upper airway of the respiratory tract.

E-cigarettes have only been on the market in the United States since 2006, and usage has skyrocketed. Teens using e-cigarettes jumped 19 percent within a single year, and now more teens use them instead of traditional tobacco cigarettes.

The more than 7,000 flavors available in e-cigarettes are FDA approved, though that approval process was based on data created for oral consumption, not inhalation. However, the FDA will begin oversight of e-cigarettes in August.

For the study, a group of 13 non-smokers, 14 smokers, and 12 e-cigarette users was recruited to study what effects e-cigarettes have on genes that help our upper airways fight off potentially harmful pathogens. Each participant kept a journal documenting their cigarette or e-cigarette use, and in collaboration with researchers from the University of California at San Francisco, the UNC team analyzed participant urine and blood samples to confirm nicotine levels and biomarkers related to tobacco exposure.

After about three weeks, researchers took samples from the nasal passages of each volunteer to analyze the expression of genes important for immune responses.

The epithelial layers of our nasal passages are very similar to the epithelial layers in our lungs. All epithelial cells along our airways — from our noses to the tiny bronchioles deep in our lungs — need to function properly to trap and dispatch particles and pathogens so we don’t get sick.

These epithelial cells are critical for normal immune defense. Specific genes in these cells must create proteins which orchestrate immune response. It has long been known that cigarette smoking modifies this gene expression, which is one reason researchers think smokers are more sensitive to upper respiratory problems.

Using the non-smokers as the baseline comparison group, the researchers found that smoking cigarettes decreased the gene expression of 53 genes important for the immune response of epithelial cells. Using e-cigarettes decreased the gene expression of 358 genes important for immune defense, including all 53 genes implicated in the smoking group.

“We compared these genes one by one, and we found that each gene common to both groups was suppressed more in the e-cigarette group,” said lead researcher Ilona Jaspers, professor of pediatrics, and microbiology and immunology at UNC. “We found that each gene common to both groups was suppressed more in the e-cigarette group. We currently do not know exactly how e-cigarettes do this.

“I was really surprised by these results,” she said.

“We know that diseases like COPD, cancer, and emphysema usually take many years to develop in smokers,” Jaspers said. “But people have not been using e-cigarettes for very long. So we don’t know yet how the effects of e-cigarette use might manifest in 10 or 15 years. We’re at the beginning of cataloging and observing what may or may not be happening.”

Cigarette market sees 2.4 per cent volume decline

Cigarette sales fell in the world’s largest tobacco market in 2015 for the first time in two decades, according to research by Euromonitor International.

The country’s cigarette market lost some 60 billion sticks last year, Shane MacGuill, head of tobacco research at Euromonitor, said. He attributed the decline to wholesale tax hikes, increased government control on production and greater health awareness in some regions.

“We do not see 2015 as a one off with the Chinese market now projected to lose about 5% of its volumes between 2015 and 2020,” MacGuill said.

Cigarette volumes decline 2.1 per cent

The number of cigarettes sold worldwide fell by 2.1 per cent to around 5.5 trillion sticks in 2015 – the largest global year on year decline in over 20 years, research by Euromonitor International shows.

Global volume was dragged down by the 2.4 per cent drop in the Chinese market, Euromonitor said. The research showed that the Asia Pacific region as a whole recorded a volume decline of 2.7 per cent.

In Russia, volumes fell by 6 per cent. “We now expect [the Russian market] to be a full 100 billion sticks smaller in 2020 than it was in 2001,” Shane MacGuill, head of tobacco research at Euromonitor said.

Western Europe, however, saw cigarette volumes increase for the first time in several years. According to MacGuill, the market grew by just under 1 per cent “as economies there recovered and outswitching to illicit, OTP and vapour products lessened.”

Big Tobacco suspected of dodging EU anti-smuggling rules

Tobacco companies have sold their anti-smuggling system to a third party to comply with upcoming EU rules, but critics say the new owner is a front company.

The track-and-trace system, Codentify, helps tobacco firms and customs authorities to find out where a pack of cigarettes was produced and is used to combat smuggling – a multi-billion euro criminal industry in Europe.

It was set up in the wake of cooperation agreements between the EU and the four major tobacco companies, which required the firms to keep track of their products.

Tobacco companies had previously been suspected of smuggling their own goods in an effort to avoid paying taxes.

Codentify was owned by the tobacco industry until last month.

The cooperation agreements, one of which, with Philip Morris International (PMI), is due to expire in less than three weeks, were non-legislative contracts and did not require the track-and-trace system to be separate from the tobacco industry.

However, new EU legislation, as well as upcoming World Health Organisation (WHO) rules, specify that the system should be independently owned.

The WHO has previously expressed criticism of Codentify, which it said lacked transparency “and might have features that only the tobacco industry is aware of”.

Spokespersons for Philip Morris International, and for the joint venture that sold Codentify, told this website via email on Monday that the system now complies with the EU’s new Tobacco Products Directive and the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The FCTC is an international treaty, also signed by the EU, which aims to curb tobacco smuggling.

“Inexto is fully independent from the tobacco industry,” said PMI spokesman Andrew Cave, referring to the Swiss-registered company that bought Codentify.

Inexto is registered in the Swiss city of Lausanne, at an address that is a fiveminute drive from the offices of Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco Switzerland.

Inexto was founded this year and owned is owned by a French group called Impala, which has several daughter companies specialising in industries that range from energy to manufacturing.

The receptionist at Inexto’s mother company, Impala, said she did not know Philippe Chatelain, Inexto’s managing director, but told EUobserver he would be called back.

This has yet to happen.

Chatelain, and two other top officials of Inexto, have worked for PMI for over a decade. They left the firm just last month.

EUobserver was made aware of the sale and make-up of the new company by Oscar Larsson, a student at the Open University of London. He runs a blog, called Why It’s Bad in which he is critical of the Codentify tool.

“This is not an innocent purchasing of a legitimate technology,” Larsson told this website in an email.

“These are not just former employees from PMI, they are the dedicated core of the whole Codentify concept. Their names are on the patents and they are the inventors of this intentionally flawed system, designed by the tobacco industry to serve the tobacco industry and not the European Union”, he said.

Other critics of the tobacco industry also questioned the motives behind the sale.

Anna Gilmore, director of the tobacco control research group at the University of Bath, said Inexto could not be considered sufficiently independent from the tobacco industry.

“Given the tobacco industry’s long history of involvement in the illicit tobacco trade, a genuinely independent system would be a threat to the industry,” she told this website via email.

“It is therefore attempting to have governments implement its Codentify system by setting up intermediaries and front organisations to promote Codentify,” she added.

Luk Joossens, advocacy officer of the Association of European Cancer Leagues, said the sale was “a predictable move”, adding that tobacco companies will now “pretend” that Codentify is no longer part of the tobacco industry.

The FCTC’s secretariat, which has taken aim at Codentify before, repeated its opposition in a response to this website.

“Whether or not the new company will truly be independent of the tobacco industry, or if it will continue to defend the interests of the tobacco industry with just one more degree of separation remains to be seen,” said Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the secretariat of the FCTC.

She added that even if the track-and-trace (T&T) system was independent, it would still lack transparency.

“If the new company’s purpose is to continue to promote Codentify as a T&T system allegedly in compliance with the protocol, then this independence is irrelevant, since … analyses of Codentify have found it to not be compliant with protocol recommendations on T&T,” said Da Costa e Silva

The Digital Coding & Tracking Association (DCTA), which owned Codentify until 1 June 2016, said Inexto “is fully independent from any tobacco company”.

DCTA is a joint venture by British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco Limited, Japan Tobacco International, and Philip Morris International.

“The three individuals you reference are no longer employees of any tobacco manufacturer and their jobs transferred to Inexto as part of the technology sale,” a DCTA spokesperson said by email, without revealing his or her name.

“Their deep knowledge of the technology, combined with their understanding of the complexities involved in the tobacco supply chain, means they offer Inexto unique expertise which will be necessary as the technology continues to evolve as a world-class, open source solution”.

The European Commission did not respond to requests for a comment.