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Nicotine In the News - Nicotine Science and Policy

Nicotine In the News Nicotine in the News

Nicotine in the News is a new NSP column authored by Harry Shapiro.

Harry is Director of DrugWise an online drug information service and managing editor of DS Daily - an online news service on drugs, alcohol and tobacco. He is an author, journalist and lecturer who has written widely on the subject of drugs. He is the author of several books relating to drugs and popular music including Waiting for the Man: the story of drugs and popular music; Shooting Stars: drugs, Hollywood and the movies; Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy; Eric Clapton: Lost in the Blues and Jack Bruce: Composing Himself : the Authorised Biography.

Harry`s Blog 31: Very low nicotine cigarettes or shit without the hit

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

There is a new Holy Grail within the world of tobacco control – the reduced nicotine cigarette which proponents claim will make cigarettes so unattractive that smoking tobacco will be eliminated. This was the thrust of a recent commentary from Scott Gottlieb and Mitch Zeller in the New England Journal of Medicine http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1707409#t=article and is likely to become a major tobacco control policy goal internationally. Scientific evidence is being presented that this works; the Gottlieb commentary cited the FDA-funded study by Eric Donny which has been challenged by Dr Brad Rodhu. No doubt ‘methodologies at dawn’ will be played out in the medical press in the coming months.

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Harry`s Blog 32: Solid foundation, or castle made of sand?

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

No guesses as to the big story of the moment – the announcement that PMI are funding a Foundation for a Smoke-Free World to the tune of $80 million annually over the next twelve years. The interim president is Dr Derek Yach, former WHO director for noncommunicable diseases and mental health where he led the development of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Eyebrows have shot skywards at this appointment leading to inevitable claims that Dr Yach has been won over to the Dark Side.

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Nicotine in the News - 28 August

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

Two contrasting items this week about the idea that celebrities who are either seen to be endorsing drug use or actively campaigning against it, have any influence on decision-making among young people.

The first is an opinion piece by Guy Bentley in the Washington Examiner about the continuing controversy over movie stars smoking on-screen. It was prompted by this report, which showed the use or implied use of tobacco in top-grossing movies rose 72 percent from 2010 to 2016. In PG-13 movies these "tobacco incidents" rose 43 percent, and there was a 90 percent increase for R-rated movies. The researchers included e-cigarettes in their category of tobacco incidents, despite the total lack of tobacco in an e-cigarette. It will therefore come as no shock that one of the authors of this report was one S. Glantz and Bentley goes on to describe why this kind of causal relationship research is deeply flawed.

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Nicotine in the News - 15 August

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

The Washington Post has published a letter from the vice chair of the American Thoracic Society’s Tobacco Action Committee attacking the FDA for its more neutral position on new nicotine technologies, accusing the agency of promoting a switch from one addiction to another, underlining an ideological trope that lies at the heart of much of the response from many national and international so-called ‘health’ agencies.

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Nicotine in the News - 7 August

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

There has been much hum on the wires about the FDA seeming to put reduced nicotine cigarettes (or Very Low Nicotine Content -  VLNC) front and centre of its revised tobacco control strategy. Invariably there are arguments for and against. So here is my brief take on the debate.

VLNC advocates argue that a VLNC will stimulate quitting because the cigarette will not be delivering its essential ingredient – nicotine. There is a hope too that if young people take up VLNC cigarettes, they are less likely to become lifetime smokers again because the product will not be satisfying. And VLNC may be a pathway to quitting perhaps in the same way that moving heroin users onto methadone and then gradually reducing the dose of methadone does help some people become free of drug use altogether.

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Nicotine in the News - 31 July

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

Tobacco harm reduction is on a roll right now – and I don’t mean a roll-up. Let me count the ways.

The big one of course is the announcement by Scott Gottlieb on the FDA’s revised approach to THR. Here is the full FDA news release

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm568923.htm

The FDA has shifted to a more neutral position on e-cigarettes and similar products through a recognition of the role that THR plays in reducing the harms of using nicotine via cigarettes. It is saying that adults who want or need nicotine can get it from much lower risk products; that there will be rules and standards for e-cigarettes; that the Center for Tobacco Products will reconsider aspects of deeming of reduced risk products while pushing back the compliance period for e-cigarettes from 2018 to 2022.

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Nicotine in the News - 24 July

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

Since attending the 2016 GFN Conference in Warsaw, I have heard all sorts of dark tales about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) and the Conference of the Parties (COP). The FCTC adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland on 21 May 2003 came into force in 2005 and seeks "to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke”. The FCA is an international civil society consortium of around 500 organisations, mainly NGOs who act to support the maintenance and development of the FCTC. The COP is an annual gathering of FCTC signatories, the FCA and other observers.

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Nicotine in the News - 17 July

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

This week some further reflections on the links between drug and tobacco harm reduction.

There are many interventions from a public health or health and safety perspective that could be called harm reduction – seat belts, crash helmets, speed limits, safer drinking levels, smoking bans. But as Ethan Nadelmann was at pains to point out at the GFN conference, harm reduction is not just another name for public health or health and safety. It sits at the intersection between public health on the one hand – and human rights and civil liberties on the other.

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Nicotine in the News - 11 July

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

GFN 2017 – report of the rapporteur Harry Shapiro

Being a conference rapporteur is not like taking minutes; it is more impressionistic, trying to pick up threads and themes, getting a feel for the event - and of course, listening in to private conversations. 

It would be hard not to start with Ethan Nadelmann’s impassioned Michael Russell Oration. I’m not going to try and summarise what he said, because you can visit the GFN site to view all the marvellous videos shot and edited by one of the unsung heroes of GFN conferences, Jon Derricott.

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Nicotine in the News - 3 July

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association received widespread publicity as it purported to demonstrate an ‘association’ between teen vaping and later smoking. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2634377

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Nicotine in the News - 26 June

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

For those of you fortunate enough to be there, I hope you enjoyed the Warsaw GFN conference as much as I did. There was a very rich and diverse mix of science, technology, law, public policy, health and advocacy. Something for everyone in an excellent venue where all the logistics ran with quiet efficiency.

My contribution as conference rapporteur will be published later, but here are just a few headline thoughts.

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Nicotine in the News - 12 June

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

Well, not quite ‘in the News’ more my news – or rather vignettes from an ordinary life that have wider implications.
I was sitting outside a café with my wife and the guy on the next table was ‘enthusiastically’ vaping. ‘I hope that’s not toxic’ said my wife as the vapour wafted our way.’ So I put her right on that one and then she said ‘Mind you, it smells quite nice’.

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Nicotine in the News - 6 June

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

As I’m writing this, more news is emerging about the terrorist attack in London Bridge, an area I know well having worked round there for many years, often shopped in Borough Market and frequented the cafes and restaurants in the area. So my mood is not what you would call bright, but even so I thought I’d start this week’s missive with an amusing slot about the vagaries (or should that be vaparies?) of Australia’s e-cig laws.

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Nicotine in the News - 29 May

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

My attention was caught this week by a series of exchanges focussing on whether nicotine was less addictive when delivered via an e-cigarette than a cigarette or whether you were simply swapping one equally harmful addiction for another. The conversation was sparked by Professor Linda Baud seeking materials to use in addressing barriers among smokers to switching away from cigarettes.

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Nicotine in the News - 23 May

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

Now that he has been confirmed as the new FDA Commissioner, the heat is on Scott Gottlieb to torch the FDA deeming regulations that themselves threaten to set a match to America's vaping industry. (OK enough of the inflammatory metaphors). As a consequence of the new appointment, the industry has won a significant reprieve in the administration's decision to delay implementing the new FDA regime.

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Nicotine in the News - 19 May

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

Some weighty issues to consider this week. Top of the list. ' Is it ethical to invest in Big Tobacco?'

Writing for Vice magazine, Martin Robbins told the tale of how he entrusted some inheritance money to a company whose business it is to invest in stocks and shares on your behalf. Having got tired of sitting around waiting to get rich, he decided to check out exactly where his money had gone. “The results were a bit of a shock. In my top ten were BP, Shell Oil, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca. That's Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. All I needed to round out my evil capitalist portfolio were a couple of arms companies and a stake in News International”. His biggest surprise was Big Tobacco, “Tobacco is more of a surprise: it's not just a good investment, it's one of the best. Ten years after Britain's public smoking ban, The Motley Fool recently declared 2017 "the year to invest in Tobacco stocks".

https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/01/04/why-2017-is-the-year-to-invest-in-tobacco-stocks.aspx

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Nicotine in the News - 8 May

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

This cry from the heart from Dr Joel Nitzkin:

“After all this time, we are still dealing with the same mentality within the tobacco control community. To them "tobacco" is the problem, not smoking. To them, the industry is evil and anyone or any paper disagreeing with that perception is dismissed as a tobacco industry spokesperson or someone who has been snookered (taken for a fool and now plays the role of a useful idiot for the industry). To them, the only reason anyone in any tobacco-related industry would ever produce or promote any relatively low risk product would be to addict another generation of teens, who would then, predictably, transition to cigarettes for a bigger and better nicotine hit.

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Nicotine in the News - 24 April

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

Clive Bates received an invitation from China to buy 99% strength USP nicotine. This is what was bound to happen when as Clive points out “the super-caution of regulators over hypothetical and negligible risks can turn out to be reckless abandon in real life”. Excessive regulation of the law-abiding market [will most likely] prompt people to buy their e-liquid over the internet in illegally high-strength concentrations and at very low cost and then to mix their own - or to establish a cottage industry and do it for others”.

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Nicotine in the News - 16 April

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

Top read of the week is Fidela Cook writing in the Scottish Sunday Herald about how e-cigarettes pretty much saved her life by turning her away from a 40 a day cigarette habit. She rightly says that the demonisation of e-cigarettes could backfire dramatically by driving her back to cigarettes. But almost as an aside, she points the finger at Big Tobacco as participants in the campaign against e-cigarettes. It could be that she doesn't realise that the likes of BAT and Philip Morris are major players in the field of HNB technologies, but I doubt that.

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Nicotine in the News - 9 April

Harry Shapiro Director DrugWise

As a student, Professor Ibrahim Al-Marashi wrote a thesis entitled Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation. As revealed by the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war, the thesis found its way into the UK Foreign Office where it was not only plagiarised but also altered, as the British government and intelligence establishment sought to strengthen the uncertain evidence about Saddam Hussein's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

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