The next GFN conference in Warsaw is fast approaching, so I hope you are all signed up and raring to go. I’ll be there again as the conference rapporteur, a little more clued up than I was last year about the cut and thrust of vaping and HnB science and politics. I may well come round and grab a few of you for a quick chat, but do come and seek me out and tell me what you think of the column. But if you are going to throw fruit, please make sure it’s organic.

This year’s Michael Russell oration will be given by Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, one of America’s foremost drug reform lobby groups. He will be addressing the synergies between drug and harm reduction delivered I’m sure in his usual bravura style.

I mention this, not only because you shouldn’t miss it, but also because it links to a blog posted on the site of the UK’s main reform NGO, Transform. It was written by Clive Bates, who I didn’t know is a Transform Trustee. His main point is that having failed to curb cigarette smoking, the tobacco control establishment have set their sights of stubbing out HnB technologies before they hit a tipping point of consumption. 

Like Ethan Nadelmann, Clive too makes the links across the two worlds referencing in this blog, an overview article on the subject he wrote for the journal Politique Internationale on the virtues of having a coherent harm reduction policy across drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

As if we don’t have enough reasons for giving up smoking cigarettes, the stubs are polluting our oceans. To acknowledge ‘No Tobacco Day’, International Business Times revisited research published in 2011 to show the damage done by discarded cigarette butts. The research, supported by the University of California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, demonstrated the potential ecological threat to oceans and the aquatic life.

Apparently some 4.5 trillion butts are thrown away each year, many of which end up in the world’s oceans dumping in the process a whole raft of chemicals. One series of tests done by the researchers, the toxic leachate exuded from the butts, much of which is carcinogenic, killed half of all the marine and freshwater fish exposed to it. 

Here is a fascinating piece of statistical mapping from the WHO.

China is the world's biggest consumer of cigarettes, adults there smoke 4124 each a year (11-12 a day). In a close second is Belarus (3831 cigarettes smoked per adult, per year), then Lebanon (3023), Macedonia (2732), and Russia (2690). Guinea smokes the least cigarettes a year, averaging only 15 per adult per year (or one every 24 days). The Solomon Islands (26), Kiribati (28), Uganda (41) and Rwanda (53) are the next bottom four. OK. Hands up who had to Google Kiribati. I certainly did and to save you the bother, it’s an island in the Central Pacific. 

Excellent blog whose main thrust is that the Hippocratic Oath of ‘Do No Harm’ is completely unrealistic when many treatments have side effects which could be deadly, but nevertheless are better for patients than no treatment at all. And then there are interventions such as needle exchange, vaping and HnB which have proven benefits, but which remain controversial to the point where real harm is done in the name of what? So really the oath needs to be updated to Do What You Can To Reduce Harm. 

The heat is already on the new FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb over e-cigarettes.

“We encourage you to prioritize efforts to prevent tobacco-related disease and keep tobacco products out of the hands of children,” wrote senators recently, echoing a goal that Gottlieb too had endorsed during his confirmation hearing.

Yet senators claim that a pause for reconsideration will have “dangerous consequences” for the teens “deliberately targeted” by an industry that plies them with flavours such as “cookies and cream” and “cotton candy.” This sentiment mirrors familiar activist talking points in which a predatory industry uses child-like flavours to hook kids on vaping and ultimately to get them to smoke. It’s a compelling story, but it just isn’t true.