Commentary

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Keeping up to date with the proceedings of the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, in Cape Town recently, I was reminded of the wonderful film, directed by Richard Attenborough - ‘Oh what a Lovely War!’ - which summarises and comments on the events of the First World War using popular songs of the time, many of which were parodies of older popular songs, and using allegorical settings such as Brighton's West Pier to criticise the manner in which the eventual victory was won.

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In the Orwell classic Animal Farm there was a binary notion that the animals lived by – “four legs good, two legs bad”. This eventually morphed into “four legs good, two legs better” as the pigs who became the lead animals began walking on two legs like the evil farmer they had replaced.

Binary thinking has a role in areas like engineering where unless a bridge or building is a certain strength it may fall down. However human biology is not quite as amenable to this approach. Notwithstanding that we are all similar, no two people (even identical twins) are exactly the same.

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Significant progress has been made in reducing smoking prevalence within the United Kingdom but the benefits have not fallen fairly across all groups. Smoking rates amongst those with personal incomes under £10,000 per annum is more than double of those with incomes over £40,000. However, there are other groups with rates higher still, for example people experiencing mental ill health have a smoking prevalence rate double the population average. Amongst those who are homeless or rough sleeping we see even higher rates, in many instances services report that all their clients smoke.

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We already know the benefits to a smoker when they leave smoking behind; vapers are keen to tell us the benefits they accrue. Empowering smokers to transition to these safer products is a huge source of pride for those of us who work in the independent vape industry.

A myriad of studies, evidence reviews and now, replications of previous flawed research, all reinforce that vaping is far safer compared to smoking. The research by institutions such as the Royal College of Physicians, London, Public Health England, St Andrews University in Scotland, Cancer Research UK and many others continue to inform just how much safer. Long term studies by Professor Riccardo Polosa’s team at the University of Catania in Italy even found that smokers with asthma and COPD can reverse the harms caused by their smoking once they switch to vaping. This is all very good news.

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Scientists appeal for conducting India centric research before deciding on any hasty move

India has the second largest cigarette smoking population in the world. Added to which is a large population consuming tobacco in other forms such as the local non-cigarette alternatives including bidi, hukkah and chilam, and tobacco/Areca nut based chewing products. These products have been proven to be major causes of oral, oropharyngeal and lung cancers, as well as other health issues. For an overview of tobacco use in India see here.

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In March the GFN team organised a series of three dialogues in the UK to explore ‘How safe is vaping? Media coverage, dilemmas and solutions in work and social spaces’ These, each hosted by local partners, took place in Leicester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

The format was for a panel of leading thinkers and advocates to give short introductions, followed by a discussion involving the audience. Each event was designed to last for about 2 hours.

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Paddy Costall | 6 March 2017

As one of the organisers of the Global Forum on Nicotine, it is easy to get caught up in the debates that take place around international issues, which arise from FCTC COP meetings, or the responses and campaigning relating to the TPD, the FDA Deeming Regulations, or TGA position on nicotine in Australia. What can get forgotten in all of this is the daily impact of laws and regulations on the lives of nicotine consumers.

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Attila Danko | 6 February 2017

The New Nicotine Alliance, Australia, (NNA AU) last year submitted an application to Australia’s medicines and poisons regulatory authority, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), to legalise vaping with nicotine as a consumer product. The application was to exempt from Schedule 7 nicotine at concentrations of 3.6 per cent or less for self-administration with an electronic nicotine delivery system ('personal vaporiser' or 'electronic cigarette') for the purpose of tobacco harm reduction. On February 2nd this application was totally rejected in the TGA’s interim decision. Interim decisions are rarely reversed at the final decision.

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Attila Danko | 16 February 2017

I wrote earlier this month about the TGA’s rejection of our application to legalise low-strength nicotine for vaping. Since then we have taken our campaign forwards. 

A team of three consumer vaping advocates from the NNA AU, myself, Donna Darvill and Andrew Thompson, along with two specialists in harm reduction, Dr Colin Mendelsohn and Dr Alex Wodak, spent a day in Parliament House Canberra.   We had multiple meetings with Members of Parliament, Senators and staffers from across the political spectrum.

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Clive Bates | 29 December 2016

Sometimes we find ourselves talking at cross-purposes about vaping. Why? Consider three perspectives.

First, a health professional asks: “how should vaping be understood and used (or not) to reduce the adverse health effects of smoking?”