Most people that are connected with the anti smoking industry (deliberate use of the word industry), are working for all the right reasons; they genuinely want to see people stop smoking, they want to stop people from starting smoking and from harming themselves with tobacco use.
Yet recent discoveries appear to indicate that there are a few within the industry who may not be quite so altruistic, have possibly a little too much influence and can direct the flow of finances. Some it seems, are quite partial to the money flowing towards themselves, as Dick Puddlcoat discovered and published on his website in an article ‘Wheels within Wheels’.
He mentions one smoking cessation group in particular.
Smoke Free South West (SFSW) are a very successful anti smoking campaign group, and from estimates alone for the years 2010/2011, it would appear they have been awarded a staggering £2.5 million of taxpayers money.
Of which a fair few pennies are spent on expensive advertising campaigns.
OK, you might think, I can live with that, as we all need educating and smoking is not the best thing for you.
More information has recently come to light due to the beleaguered South West reviewing their finances. With austerity measures, massive government cutbacks and now serious flooding within the region, anti smoking is no longer at the top of the agenda and that money needs to be spent on more immediate needs – such as shelter and repairs for those who’s houses two months later, are still under 3ft of rancid sewage water.
The financial breadcrumb trail of revealing information starts with SFSW, taking a huge hand out from the government, (approx. 2.5 million) which then moves to a website – Tobacco Tactics.
Tobacco Tactics (TT) is a website funded and founded by Smoke Free South West. TT was awarded £350,000 – (this is a lot of money to set up a website) – of said taxpayer’s money from SFSW to set up and for running costs. TT’s aim is to expose the Tobacco Industry and some of the dubious deals and methods used to get and keep people hooked on cigarettes. The idea behind this website is education; give knowledge to the general public who in return might think anti tobacco is the way to go.
Tobacco tactics work in conjuction with Cancer Research UK and Bath University.
Bath University employ some top anti smoking experts, who are very anti smoking, that have amassed accolade after accolade of anti tobacco smoking awards and medals to their name.
A member of staff at Bath University is also a member of Smoke Free South West Steering Committee and Programme Board. This means they are one of the members that decide where the money from SFSW goes.
As an employee of Bath University, this person’s employer benefits from SFSW funding by working with TT.
A re cap on how this works:
SFSW lobby the government with your tax money, (given to them by the government), to implement the beliefs they have about how you should stop smoking. They funnel that money into institutions they believe in,( and work for?) and the government listen to SFSW and do as they advise.
This is one very broken system.
This system benefits a few opinionated people that know how to throw a proposal together to get funding from the government, and then are given carte blanche to dictate to us how we should live our lives.
We know the government is not keen to endorse electronic cigarettes, we know they have close relationships with the anti smoking industry, and we know the government has chosen NOT to engage with the e cig Industry over regulatory issues.
Yet doesn’t this seem rather incestuous and somehow morally bankrupt, that a group of people can petition the government for money, and then have the government’s ear to their thoughts and beliefs? And then to add insults to injury have the government implement those beliefs, even if scientist and public health experts have proved them wrong?
In real terms there has been no movement forward in reducing numbers of smokers until e cigarettes came onto the market. NRT fail rate is appalling and it is quite right that the myth that it works at all is well and truly exposed.
This week we have found out due to an FOI request that GSK have been lobbying against e cigarettes from the start, and effectively lobbying too. Some of you may remember that Linda McAvan had an image of Nicorette products in her e-mail to all MEPs when she wrote encouraging them to medicalise electronic cigarettes.
E cigarettes are a real and tangible threat to the smoking cessation industry. The sales of e cigarettes have already outstripped the sale of NRT within Europe and this has been a public lead revolution, no governments, smoking cessation groups or NGO´s involved.
Are e cigarettes not only the tobacco industries Kodak moment, but also the smoking cessation industry´s too?
One could argue that the gravy train of smoking cessation has had its time, and it absolutely needs to stop taking the taxpayer for a ride.
Nicotine we have been told is more addictive than heroine, it takes just three cigarettes for you to become a life long addict, and, it is the scourge of the modern day.
But is it?
No one has been able to show in a study how addictive nicotine is on its own, as it’s not considered ethical to get people deliberately hooked on a drug just for the sake of science. They have tried experimenting with rats and mice, but they don’t have quite the conversational nuances that humans do, and it’s not all too easy to quantify the level of addiction in a rodent.
But now, we have electronic cigarettes.
Now that electronic cigarettes have burst onto the scene, we are finally getting the chance to look at nicotine outside of the tobacco context, and what is emerging is that perhaps nicotine is not as bad as we all thought.
Electronic cigarettes have been mainstream for about 5 years. Figures vary from 1 to 1.3 million vapers in the UK alone, and an average of 20,000 to 40’000 people switch from smoking to vaping each month.
This means new evidence is emerging about nicotine use outside of tobacco, and more importantly, the big pharmaceutical companies are not keeping this research under lock and key.
Dr Farsalinos and Dr Lynne Dawkins are just two Scientists that have been at the forefront of this research, and they have discovered many interesting things about electronic cigarettes and their users.
Vapers find their e cigs less addictive than their tobacco counterparts, and they find it easier to stop using pure nicotine, than they did stopping tobacco cigarettes.
E cigarettes deliver less nicotine to the body than tobacco cigarettes, yet users find it easier to titrate their nicotine levels down than they did trying to reduce the amount of cigarettes they smoked.
Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists from vapers about them not craving their e cigarette the way they did their tobacco cigarettes.
From this, it would appear that the ingredients of tobacco cigarettes as a whole, those thousands of chemicals and additives are what make them so addictive, and not the nicotine alone.
Then throw in new research from Dr Bullen, who has concluded that the lethal does of nicotine is actually not as low as we thought it was, and the analogy that nicotine addiction is on par with a caffeine addiction is not too far off the mark.
But nicotine is bad for you isn’t it? Doesn’t it cause cancer?
Well no, not according to this research: (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8614291) and there are actually quite a few benefits to having nicotine in your diet.
But we have to go back to the rodents to see this.
Quiet a few were forced to breathe in nicotine for 20 hours a day over 2 years, and not one of them developed cancer. What the researchers did notice though is that rats that had nicotine in their diet did not put on as much weight as rats without. Many a smoker will testify to this, as they tend to gain weight when they stop the tobacco cigarettes. This weight gain doesn’t happen when you switch to vaping.
Nicotine is good for the memory and improves ones cognitive (thinking) ability. It has been found to stimulated blood vessel formation, it helps to protect against ulcerative colitis, (hands those of you that have friends that have said a cigarette helps their irritable bowel?) there is no increase in cardiovascular risk (thank you again Dr Farsalinos), and it has no serious side effects.
How can I say that last one when nicotine is classed as a poison? Because smokers/ vapers self titrate the nicotine level they need. If somebody takes in too much nicotine then they start to feel nauseous and start to sweat, sometimes with heart palpitations, and this stops them ingesting more nicotine. Once the nicotine is excreted from the body, these symptoms go, there are no lasting side effects.
This does not mean nicotine is safe to leave lying around, as with all drugs classed as poison it is the dosage that is critical, and nicotine MUST be treated with respect and kept out of reach of children.
From the above it is becoming evident that Nicotine is not some raging beats of a drug, just one that has probably been much maligned and misunderstood.
And finally, nicotine can help with depression, but only if patients have more than 3.5mg of nicotine a day.
To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.’ Oscar Wilde.
And it looks very much like the EU has been unbelievably careless. Two scientists that have conducted some very important research with electronic cigarettes have been misquoted.
That may not sound too terrible, it might not even raise a cynical eybrow with you, as we are coming to expect this from those in power, but, when you realize that the misquotes have been used to justify the current proposed EU position within the tobacco products directive re electronic cigarettes, then you realize just how serious this is.
The EU have used scientific research to justify Article 18, and they have done this by twisting and cherry picking words and numbers. This is a gross misuse of not only their work, but also of the scientists themselves.
Dr Lynne Dawkins and Dr Farsalinos are the two scientists involved, and both have now written to the EU complaining.
Here is Dr Farsalinos’ letter in full:
SANCO recently decided that 20mg/ml nicotine levels should be the highest level present in the liquids of e-cigarettes. To justify this decision, they have released a document (reference 1) where they have cited two medical studies performed by me as principle researcher (references 2 and 3). The Commission suggests that my research shows that 20mg/mlnicotine limit is equivalent to the nicotine delivered through the use of tobacco cigarettes and is sufficient for most smokers to completely substitute smoking.
Since my studies are the only scientific evidence quoted by SANCO, it is my duty to inform you that the interpretation of my research is completely wrong.
My research (cited by SANCO) specifically examined nicotine consumption and made absolutely clear that the determination of the upper limits needs to be determined based on nicotine absorption and delivery to the bloodstream (reference 2). My studies on nicotine absorption pharmacokinetics have shown that liquids with nicotine content similar to the upper limit decided by SANCO provides typically less than one-third of the nicotine delivered by one tobacco cigarette (references 4 and 5). We have calculated that a 50mg/ml nicotine-containing liquid is marginally equivalent to smoking one tobacco cigarette in terms of nicotine delivery to the bloodstream. In my second study cited by SANCO, I have clearly shown that 23% of smokers had to use higher than 20mg/ml nicotine-containing liquids in order to completely substitute smoking (reference 3, Figure 1). None can support that 23% of users is a small proportion; however, this has been ignored by SANCO. In fact, this study provides further support that 20mg/ml nicotine content in liquids is insufficient for smokers.
I have always been willing to provide consultation to the regulatory authorities. Regulatory organizations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were more than willing to meet and consult with me on the science behind e-cigarettes and are open for any future meeting to present more research. It is highly important that regulators within the EU also realize the value of proper consultation for an issue which is of outmost importance for public health.
Regulatory decisions based on misinterpreting science are inevitably wrong. The Commission has no scientific justification for its proposed 20mg/ml nicotine limit.
And here is the letter from Dr Lynne Dawkins:
Please Do Not Distort My Words To Justify Your Policy
I am the other scientist named by the Commission in its defence of their proposed restrictions on e-cigarettes in the current version of the TPD.
As with the research of Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, SANCO officials have distorted my words and taken my statement out of context. Let me make it very clear – my research does not provide any justification for proposals to reduce the size of e-cigarette tanks and refill containers.
Common sense would suggest that this would increase the risk of liquid spills as well as choking hazards for children as users would have to increase the number of cartridges or refills used each day.
There is a large volume of science available for any officials and MEPs who want to read it. For instance Burstyn, January 2014 on the safety of e-cigarette vaper; West, December 2013 on limits to NRT efficacy and the Oklahoma study, October 2013 on the gateway issue. Other studies show nicotine is much less toxic than the Commission’s limits assume.
It is for regulators and MEPs to decide whether or not to listen to scientists or to business interests. But it is not for them to claim that there is scientific support for their current proposals. Policy affecting the health of Europe’s smokers is so important that it needs to be built on robust science not fabrications.
Lets hope these robust replies will have the MEPs and Commission sitting up and listening.
But what do you think will happen?
Prof Etter and Dr Chris Bullen, two eminent scientists in the field of Public Health have researched the changes in behaviour of e cig users who also smoke. They studied these changes over the period of a complete year. This is the first published study of its type, and comes up with information most vapers that have been around for a while will recognise – but it is fantastic for us to see it in black and white and published in a a peer reviewed journal – Addictive Behaviours. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306460313003304
The study took place between 2011 and 2013, participants were recruited from e cigarettes websites, and we must point out before you read any further that this recruitment will have caused bias in the study and the authors acknowledge this. There is not enough bias to discredit the study, but enough for there to be a need to state that this study should be replicated and seen as a preliminary study only.
For the study, Prof Etter and Dr Bullen studied 447 vapers over a month, and 367 for over a year.
The average length of vaping was 3 months at the start of study, people took an average 150 puffs per day on their e cig , and the average strength e liquid used by participants was 16mg/ml.
The Results in a nutshell:
98% were still vaping after 1 month
89% were still vaping after 1 year
6% went back to smoking after 1 month
6% went back to smoking after 1 year –(compared to 95% who return to smoking with NRT)
A dual user is the terminology given to people whom vape and smoke cigarettes. Of those studied, 22% had stopped using tobacco altogether after 1 month of vaping, and 46% stopped altogether after one year.
Of those still smoking; their average tobacco intake was reduced to 5 cigarettes per day.
The conclusion of the study? – E cigs prevent relapse back to cigarette smoking.
Now relapse is a word many vapers would not likely use, as relapse feels medical and is Public Health orientated, however what this study clearly shows is that vapers, almost by happy co-incidence, switch almost entirely to vaping, and don’t go back to smoking.
One of the questions this study also set out to answer was – doesn’t dual use prolong addiction?
When addiction is used in the correct context, that is of compulsive use in spite of harm – then the answer is no. Prof Etter stated e cigs are not addictive in that sense – they can be used compulsively – but he believes e cigs are not harmful; therefore long-term vaping is not a problem. In an interview regarding this study he used the analogy of people compulsively chewing nicotine chewing gum. Many people do this for years to no detriment, and he believes compulsive e cigarette use is on a par with this.
E cigarettes are an alternative to cigarettes, and this study shows that people naturally reduce their cigarettes consumption when they start to vape. Dual use should not be seen as a problem, if anything it should be viewed in a positive light, as the longer people vape the less they smoke. Long-term vaping is not a problem.
Trilogue is the ‘secretive’ phase of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) where Council, Commission and representatives of the MEPs meet behind closed doors to discuss, negotiate, horse trade and barter in order to come to a consensus.
What we have learned from these secret meetings,( for that read from leaked documents) has been alarming and dramatically far removed from the amendment 170 that the MEPs voted through on the 8th October.
The latest leak from the 13th December trilogue meeting can be found on Clive Bates blog the counterfactual, but this is essentially the nuts and bolts of it:
20mg/ml nicotine level is the upper limit of nicotine allowed; this has dropped from the 30mg/ml that MEPs voted in.
Flavours are to be allowed, but looks like member states will have the final say on what can be sold in their respective country.
Consistent dosing, testing, notification and nicotine delivery – these are mentioned as required, but more details need to be released regarding what exactly all this will entail. At one point during trilogue e cigarettes were to have more stringent testing and dosing that tobacco cigarettes.
Age restrictions seem to have fallen by the wayside. In 170 there was a no sales to under 18’s. This for some reason has gone, and is now up to member states.
Advertising restrictions – these are not good for vendor or vaper. Advertising would be the same as for tobacco cigarettes, so essentially banned, there are rumours and some interpretations of the law that blogs and forums would also be banned.
The final trilogue meeting about e cigarettes takes place on Monday, 16th Dec, starting at 18:30 Brussels time – which is 17:30 UK time.
This meeting will be between representatives of the MEPs and the Presidency of the European Council, currently held by Lithuania. It is understood that this meeting will essentially agree the text of the TPD to be put back to the MEPs and Council. The MEPs take it back to Parliament, the Presidency take it to the EU Council members, and, if there is agreement on both sides – it becomes law, and just has to be voted through in the Spring of 2014.
However, there is no guarantee that they will agree, there are still a few checks and balances in place, still opportunities for negotiations, and rumours that e-cigs may get thrown out of the TPD altogether, but I stress, these are rumours.
I guess we have to hope that the MEPs will stand firm on the amendment they voted through -170, and any changes to this will be denied. I guess we will know more in the next few days if this apparently EU wide harmonising TPD is really about harmony and health or not.