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November 11th, 2016:

E-cigs ‘no help to youths’

Younger smokers are more prone to the lure of e-cigarettes, a University of Hong Kong study suggests.

HKU researchers interviewed 469 of the 622 participants who joined the Youth Quitline between January 2014 and last April on their knowledge, attitude and practice of using e-cigarettes. About 60 percent have used e-cigarettes, with their mean age at 17.8 years.

Lam Tai-hing, chair professor of community medicine at HKU’s school of public health, said it shows younger smokers are more prone to the threat of e-cigarettes.

It was found they also have lower confidence in quitting and the nicotine dependence level was also significantly higher than for the rest of the youth smokers, which Lam said shows e-cigarettes cannot help smokers quit.

“Basically, other than nicotine, we do not know exactly what other toxic substances may be present,” Lam said, adding that e-cigarettes come in thousands of flavors and whose compositions are unknown.

He called on the government to speed up its work to bring a total ban on e-cigarettes.

Jointly established by the university and the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, the scheme has helped 23.3 percent of participants kick the habit within the six-month follow-up period.

Global anti-tobacco conference to see 50% decline in deliveries

Zimbabwe’s money spinning tobacco sector, one of the main sources of liquidity in the country, could suffer a huge blow with seasonal deliveries seen declining by 50% if the ongoing global anti-tobacco conference in India endorses the mandatory reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes, it has emerged.

By Fidelity Mhlanga

The conference, from November 8-12, seeks to reduce nicotine down to a maximum of 0,4 miligrammes, which is 10% of current levels.

Delegates are intent on reviewing the implementation of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. The meeting comes amid a global lobby against smoking in public places due to rising cases of cancer.

Statistics from Treasury show tobacco exports were only second to gold, valued at US$481 million and constituting 23% of all exports from January to October 2015. Gold exports were valued at US$503 million, indicating the importance of the golden leaf to Zimbabwe’s economic survival.

As at September 2 this year, tobacco weighing 201 million kilogrammes and valued at US$592,5 million was sold, at the average price of US$2,94 per kg.

Office of the President and Cabinet deputy chief secretary Christian Katsande, executive secretary of the National Economic Consultative Forum Norman Chakanetsa and officials from the ministries of Health and Industry and Commerce are currently attending the global conference in India.

Tobacco Industry Marketing Board Chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri said the endorsement of the reduction of nicotine in tobacco would affect tobacco deliveries that have been on an upward trend in recent years.

“Anything that amounts to the reduction of nicotine in tobacco means we will not be able to produce tobacco in the same level,” he said.

Matibiri said tobacco producers could, however, lobby for the use of genetic modification to neutralise nicotine levels in tobacco despite global resistance to the method.

Conference of the Parties (COP7) to WHO FCTC are lobbying for total exclusion, or market access exclusion or differential treatment (punitive taxes, duties, etc) of tobacco and its products on the world trade platform.

Experts say should the regulation sail through, demand for tobacco will decline drastically, by up to 50%, as low-value tobacco will be required by cigarette manufacturers.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Association chief executive Rodney Ambrose said if the regulation is endorsed this will result in tobacco being untradeable on world markets and would make tobacco growing valueless and affect Zimbabwe which exports over 95% of its tobacco.

“We will see tobacco production in Zimbabwe drop by at least 50% along with US dollar earnings, growers’ livelihoods and dependents along with all downstream industries that support two million people will all be at risk,” he said.

“This will negatively impact on yields and growers’ returns, resulting in poor viability of tobacco farmers, forcing millions of Zimbabwe farmers out of tobacco production.”

Only government officials are allowed to attend the global convention. The WHO FCTC refuses to entertain any dialogue with the tobacco industry.

“I am sure you appreciate from the above the devastating impact such regulations could have on our industry if the WHO FCTC is not stopped from making unreasonable, non-consultative proposals. The WHO FCTC should concentrate on health issues, not trade, as there are arms of the UN that regulate trade, ie WTO, who have shown no objection to the trading of tobacco,” Ambrose said.

India, Bangladesh seek alternative crop for tobacco

India and Bangladesh on Thursday called for working towards finding an alternative crop for tobacco and avoiding interference by the tobacco industry in the welfare programmes.

Both countries have put a proposal before all members of the ongoing WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to engage relevant stakeholders and ministries of their governments in working towards the alternative crop.

Taking into account the Article 17 and Article 18 of the convention, the two South Asian countries have also urged the international community to support mobilisation of resources to promote economically viable alternatives for tobacco growers and workers.

Article 17 of the convention includes the provision of support for economically viable alternative activities and Article 18 protection of the environment and the health of persons.

“We urge all the parties to call for policy coherence in the mandates of the governing bodies of relevant intergovernmental organisations,” said the draft copy — a copy of which is available with IANS.

According to Tobacco Institute of India (TII), tobacco is an extremely important commercial crop for the country as it contributes more than Rs 30,000 crore in tax revenue annually besides earning about Rs 6,000 crore in foreign exchange.

Tobacco farming is a source of livelihood to 4.6 crore Indians. Looking at the disease burden caused by tobacco, the government wants to curb tobacco farming.

However, the tobacco growers in the last couple of months have staged a series of protests, demanding that the government provide alternate crops farming for their survival which could equate the income generated by the tobacco farming.

The world’s biggest anti-tobacco convention WHO FCTC commenced at India Exposition Mart here on November 7. It was inaugurated by Health Minister J.P. Nadda and would conclude on November 12.

India and Bangladesh, through their draft, have also proposed the member nations of the WHO FCTC to coordinate with intergovernmental organisations with relevant expertise such as the Food and Agricultural Organization, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to mobilise required support for interested parties in developing pilot projects.

“We want the member nations to promote international cooperation and the exchange of information among interested parties, including South-South and Triangular cooperation,” the draft report said.

“To continue to document experiences and lessons learnt concerning alternative livelihood, organise and periodically update international database of resources, within the WHO FCTC coordination platform, of best practices, instruments and measures to support the implementation of the policy options and recommendations,” said the draft report.

India and Bangladesh have also sought the WHO FCTC to monitor on parties in terms of implementation of the Article 17 and Article 18, and submit the progress reports during the next convention on the implementation of the present decisions, including the experiences gathered before the sessions.

In another proposal, India, Thailand and Uruguay have sought WHO FCTC members to create a forum for the discussions and explore possible legal options, under the auspices of the Convention of Parties (COP) and Convention Secretariat, to minimise the risk of the tobacco industry making undue use of international trade and investment instruments to target tobacco control measures.

The three countries, through their proposal, have also sought creation of expert groups to develop recommendations on combating the tobacco industry’s legal challenge to the sovereign right of the states to regulate tobacco as a public health measure.

“To develop options to provide special treatment of tobacco in trade and investment agreements, in considerations of its unique nature,” said the draft copy.

The three nations have also sought that every party of the convention should nominate members to the expert group, with a maximum of three per World Health Organization (WHO) region, taking into account relevant technical expertise, in particular in treating tobacco uniquely in trade and investment agreements

Some e-cig sweeteners may make toxic fumes at cigarette levels

Sweeteners added to the liquid nicotine vaporized in e-cigarettes may release levels of certain toxins that are as high as in smoke from traditional cigarettes, a recent study suggests.

Many sweetened e-cigarettes list ingredients such as sugar, caramel and honey in the liquid nicotine, researchers note in the journal Tobacco Control. And breaking down such sugars with heat can produce two toxic substances that are also found in tobacco smoke.

For the current study, researchers examined fumes released by e-cigarette liquids with different concentrations of three types of sugars, testing the vapor for levels of two toxins known as furans: 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and furfural (FA), which have been linked to an increased risk of respiratory tract damage in humans and tumors in mice.

In lab tests, e-cigarette fumes sometimes released levels of furans that were similar to traditional cigarettes, if not higher, the study found.

“Furans might be produced when sugar is added to the (liquid nicotine),” said senior study author Najat Saliba, a chemistry researcher at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

“There are a lot of questions about toxicity that are still unanswered and so the question whether electronic cigarette is safer than tobacco cigarette remains open awaiting more investigations and findings,” Saliba added by email.

One factor complicating safety assessments of e-cigarettes is the incredible variety of devices, liquids and nicotine concentrations available, Saliba noted. Users can also mix their own liquids for e-cigarettes, and they can often control the power and duration of puffs for the devices.

“Hence, toxicity might be directly related to the smoker’s behavior and choices,” Saliba said.

In lab tests prior to vaping, none of the liquids showed detectable quantities of furans, the study found.

Lower battery power was associated with higher levels of HMF, while more power was linked to greater concentrations of FA in the fumes, the study found.

Two of the sweeteners in the tested liquids – sucrose and glucose – generally had higher concentrations of furans than unflavored liquids.

With each puff of e-cigarettes in the lab tests, emissions of furans were similar to those found with cigarettes under some conditions, the study also found

Levels of these toxins with the third sweetener tested, sorbitol, appeared similar to unflavored alternatives, however.

Glucose, sorbitol and sucrose aren’t common ingredients in e-cigarettes and they often aren’t used in concentrations high enough to release toxic levels of furans, said Dr. Riccardo Polosa, a researcher at the University of Catania in Italy who wasn’t involved in the study.

The cancer risk of furans isn’t established for humans, Polosa noted by email.

“Obviously, e-cigarettes are not risk free, but there is a tendency to exaggerate potential health risks with little or no consideration for the emerging health benefits of these products,” Polosa said.

Some previous research, for example, suggests that e-cigarettes may help current smokers cut back or quit.

Still, sweeteners that are approved by U.S. regulators as food additives might not be safe when inhaled in e-cigarette fumes, noted Maciej Goniewicz, a researcher at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Our group has previously shown that flavorings used in e-cigarettes, may induce inhalation toxicity,” Goniewicz said by email. “However, we also found that tobacco smoke from conventional cigarettes was much more toxic as compared to e-cigarette vapors.”