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Indiana state capitol building in Indianapolis

BMJ says e-cigarettes “help more smokers quit”

In a dramatic reversal of its previous hostility to vaping, the British Medical Journal has published a new paper showing that electronic cigarettes are helping thousands more smokers quit every year. The study, led by Professor Robert West from University College London, demolishes fears that vaping could make it harder for smokers to give up.

Based on data from England’s Smoking Toolkit Study, which is the most detailed ongoing tracking of smoking rates in the world, the researchers estimated that e-cigarettes had helped an extra 18,000 smokers in England quit in 2015. The figures suggest that the number of smokers who try to give up has stayed roughly the same, but the percentage who succeed has risen.

West’s team stressed that their work is observational and can’t prove cause and effect, but they believe e-cigarettes are the most likely cause of the improved quit rate. Combined with the latest Cochrane review, which backs up the higher effectiveness of vapour products compared with NRT, this should also squash dubious US and Canadian claims that vaping makes it harder to quit.

New corruption allegations in Indiana vape law scandal

An Indiana legislator who supported the state’s controversial new anti-vaping law has been hired by a company that benefits from the rules. In a move that’s now the subject of a federal investigation, Indiana passed a law that says only manufacturers licensed by a single security company, Mulhaupt’s, can sell e-liquid in the state.

Republican state representative Alan Morrison voted for the law in 2015, and for a revised version earlier this year. It’s now emerged that in May he quit his job and started working for Mulhaupt’s. When challenged, Morrison said he doesn’t see how this causes any conflict of interest.

It also appears that Kurt Wilson, a local businessman who helped Morrison get the job with Mulhaupt’s, is connected to three of the six e-liquid companies that have been licensed to sell in Indiana. For these six, the state is now a captive market – the law Morrison helped pass set a closing date for licenses of 1 July 2016. Morrison has previously introduced two bills that, if passed, would have helped Wilson’s businesses. FBI investigations into possible corruption in the e-liquid law are ongoing.

NEJM formaldehyde letter – Experts demand retraction

A tobacco control expert and a cardiologist have formally requested that the New England Journal of Medicine retract a hotly disputed article about formaldehyde in e-liquid. The offending paper, which was submitted as a letter to the editor to avoid peer review, claimed that higher voltages could expose vapers to dangerous levels of formaldehyde. According to the authors the risk was up to 15 times higher than smoking an actual cigarette.

Now Clive Bates, former director of Action on Smoking and Health, and well-known Greek doctor Konstantinos Farsalinos, have sent an official letter asking that the NEJM disown the paper. They set out a formidable argument based on the paper’s misrepresentation of the cancer risk from formaldehyde (which isn’t associated with lung cancer) and the inept experimental technique, which didn’t represent real-world use.

Repeated studies have found that many smokers falsely believe e-cigarettes are at least as dangerous as lit tobacco; Bates and Farsalinos argue that irresponsible publications like the NEJM paper are the main cause of this. Forty other academics and experts are now backing their call for a retraction.

Dutch smoking room ruling challenges WHO authority

A move to ban smoking rooms in Dutch bars failed last week, undermining the authority of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. While not directly related to vaping this is good news for advocates, as the FCTC has been consistently opposed to e-cigarettes and is likely to take an even harder line following November’s COP 7 conference.

Currently it’s legal for bars and cafes in the Netherlands to have a separate smoking room. Lobby group Clean Air Nederland went to court to challenge this, arguing that the law violates international treaties – meaning the FCTC. Now a court in The Hague has ruled that the treaty does not oblige countries to impose total smoking bans so cannot be used as grounds for a case under Dutch law.

Papers released in the run-up to COP 7 suggest that the FCTC will soon be suggesting a series of bans and restrictions on vapour products and where they can be used. This case sets a useful precedent, showing that FCTC recommendations don’t have legal force unless a national government passes an actual law.

  • Tara Caron Antonuccio

    The demand for a retraction from NEJM sounds familiar. I remember a demand for a retraction being denied by a journal, but it may have been a different paper altogether.

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