ASH Daily News for 3 October 2019



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UK

  • Times letters: Switch to vaping
  • Interview: The UK perspective on vaping
  • Imperial Brands’ Alison Cooper steps down as CEO
  • Pets in smoking households passively puff more than 3,000 cigarettes a year

International

  • US: New research sheds light on cause of vaping-related illnesses
  • US: The Actual Harms of Vaping
  • Australia: New plan to make Melbourne smoke-free

UK

Times letters: Switch to vaping

Sir, John Ashton (Oct 2) asks whether I still support Public Health England’s contention that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than regular cigarettes. I do. If every smoker quit tobacco and became a vaper overnight we would see the biggest single improvement in public health in my lifetime. It is not rocket science, as all ex-smokers whose health has already improved by completely switching to vaping will testify. If you don’t smoke, don’t vape; if you do smoke, switch.

Professor John Britton, Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies, University of Nottingham

Source: The Times, 3 October 2019

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Interview: The UK perspective on vaping

In a ‘Roundtable’ discussion on the Turkish media broadcaster TRT World, ASH’s chief executive Deborah Arnott presents the UK perspective on vaping. She makes the point that, unlike the US, the UK regulates all vaping products through the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and has not seen a rise in vaping-related illnesses.

Also featured on the programme is Professor Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of Tobacco Studies at University College London (UCL), and Sarah Jakes from the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA).

The programme aired on TRT World’s Roundtable segment on 2 October 2019.

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Imperial Brands’ Alison Cooper steps down as CEO

Alison Cooper is to stand down down as chief executive of tobacco giant Imperial Brands after nine years. Cooper, who has worked at the maker of cigarette brands including Gauloise, Davidoff and John Player Special for two decades, will step down once a successor is appointed.

The announcement of Cooper’s departure comes days after the company issued a profit warning after suffering from the growing backlash against vaping in the US. The company’s share price has fallen by almost a third in the last year, and more than halved since 2016. Imperial Brands’ market value has fallen from more than £38bn to less than £18bn over that time.

Source: The Guardian, 3 October 2019

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Pets in smoking households passively puff more than 3,000 cigarettes a year

Pets living in smoking households passively smoke more than 3,000 cigarettes a year, a new study has claimed. When 2,000 pet owners who smoke took a ‘More Than’ pet insurance poll, it was found that the average smoker has nine cigarettes a day at home while their pets are nearby.

This means that pets could be exposed to up to 3,285 cigarettes a year, however, this number could increase if more than one person in the house smokes. 22% of those questioned smoked 15 or more cigarettes at home a day, meaning their pets could be exposed to smoke from 5,475 cigarettes every year.

Veterinary Surgeon Dr Robert J White-Adams, said this week: “Research has shown cats that live with smokers are about twice as likely to develop a malignant lymphoma and dogs that live with smokers are 60% more likely to develop lung cancer. It’s heartbreaking to hear pets are inhaling second-hand smoke and other chemicals… from over three thousand cigarettes each year.”

Source: Metro, 1 October 2019

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International

US: New research sheds light on cause of vaping-related illnesses

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that lung injuries linked to vaping are most likely caused by toxic chemical fumes, likely resulting from contaminants. Researchers looked at lung biopsies from 17 patients who had vaped and were suspected to have vaping-associated lung injury. They found no evidence of tissue injury caused by a build-up of lipids — fatty substances such as mineral oils which some had suspected were a possible cause of the lung injuries associated with vaping.

Of the 17 biopsies that were examined, all of the patients had vaped, and 71% had vaped with marijuana or cannabis oils.

Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies and consultant in respiratory medicine at the University of Nottingham, said: “This helpful study of samples of lung tissue from people affected by vaping show signs of acute damage, suggesting that the vapour they are inhaling includes something causing direct irritation and inflammation of the lung.

“That these samples do not show evidence of lipid accumulation indicates that the cause is not lipid per se, but something else in the vapour. This is a small number of cases so we don’t know how representative it is, but the findings are helpful.

“As in all disease outbreaks, it takes time to narrow down on the underlying cause: and in this example it is clearly something to do with vaping, something that often – but not exclusively – occurs in people who vape THC or other oils, and something that isn’t occurring in countries outside the USA.

“So it is something in US vape fluids, or something about the particular e-cigarettes used by those affected, but remains something separate from vaping more generally and particularly from vaping nicotine.”

Source: Hampshire Chronicle, 2 October 2019

New England Journal of Medicine: Pathology of Vaping-Associated Lung Injury. October 2019

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US: The Actual Harms of Vaping

Writing in The Atlantic, James Hamblin discusses the rise of vaping-related illnesses in the US:

When a deadly virus swept the U.S. in 2009, killing thousands of people, panic felt especially necessary. A variant of the influenza that spreads every year, the “swine flu” made headlines as new reports of deaths rolled in. In fact, the year that swine flu struck influenza killed about 12,500 Americans. The average annual death toll over the past decade has been closer to 50,000.

What made that flu stand out in people’s minds? In part, who it killed. Unlike most years, swine flu hospitalised many young adults. Anxiety is a powerful motivator, but by definition it exists around risks that are not deemed acceptable.

Smoking tobacco, for instance, kills some 480,000 Americans every year. But it does so gradually with cancers and heart disease that strike after decades of use. The annual death toll is now so expected that it does not constitute news.

At the moment, the leading public-health issue in the news is vaping. So far this year the number of people admitted to hospital with vaping-related respiratory illnesses is 805—with a median age of 23. The week prior, 530 hospitalisations had been reported. The number of deaths related to vaping has grown to 12.

In addition to the youth of the victims, uncertainty about exactly what’s causing this spike in sickness has fuelled an emotional public response. A mix of political momentum and genuine will to protect kids has led to calls for bans and absolute avoidance of vapes.

Abigail Friedman, who studies tobacco use at the Yale School of Public Health, points out that the majority of the most popular vaping products have been on the market for at least a few years. The question is not whether vaping itself is safe or unsafe, she emphasises, but what elements of the practice are causing these acute diseases: “An e-cigarette is fundamentally a device, not a substance. One thing that I think is really confusing people is that vaping just means using an e-cigarette. It doesn’t tell you what people put in it.”

To broadly condemn vaping for these illnesses may be akin to blaming injections instead of heroin, or coffee cups instead of arsenic-laden coffee. Some researchers raise the concern that banning legal vapes would make the problem worse, not better. Some nicotine-addicted people would be driven to the black market. Others could switch from vaping to smoking cigarettes.

In a 2015 study, Friedman and colleagues found that vaping bans increased rates of teenage smoking. “Electronic and conventional cigarettes are economic substitutes,” Friedman says. “If the price of one product goes up, demand for a substitute is expected to increase.”

Sunny Shin, who studies tobacco use at Virginia Commonwealth University, says his colleagues are seeing cases of young people switching to cigarettes because they are scared of vaping, a sort of warped perception of overall harms. “This is a good moment to establish the regulatory structure for these vaping products that should have been in place since the beginning,” Shin says.

Source: The Atlantic, 1 October 2019

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Australia: New plan to make Melbourne smoke-free

Cigarettes could be banned in Melbourne if a councillor’s plan for the entire central business district (CBD) to go smokefree is approved. Bourke Street Mall is set to ban smoking on Friday but Melbourne councillor, Beverley Pinder wants the laws to affect the whole city.

She hopes her proposed ban would lead to fewer people dying from smoking-related illnesses, which cause 15,000 deaths in Australia a year.

“I envisage a CBD area that is smoke free,” Cllr Pinder told 3AW. “Smoke free areas will be considered based on a number of factors including pedestrian traffic and existing smoking issues and restrictions.”

She added that smokers are not the only people at risk. “It’s impacting on a whole range of people around them not just themselves,” Cllr Pinder said. Cllr Pinder said the proposal received huge support from the public with 40% of smokers even admitting it would encourage them to quit.

Source: Mail on Sunday, 3 October 2019

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