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Pennsylvania vaper protests continue as state considers tax climb-down

Vaping advocates in Pennsylvania continued their protests against the state’s planned 40% tax this week. Hundreds of supporters gathered inside the state capitol on Monday to make the case that the tax, and in particular the 40% “floor tax” on all stock which shops already owned, would crush hundreds of small businesses. It’s estimated that around 50 of the state’s roughly 400 vape shops have already closed, with their owners saying it’s not worth even trying to continue under such a ridiculous burden.

While many state lawmakers across both parties insist the tax is necessary to protect the health of young people there’s a growing public recognition that it’s just a desperate tax grab aimed at patching up Pennsylvania’s dire budget situation. As many shop owners are saying, this makes no economic sense: A business that’s closed doesn’t pay any tax. Now legislators are looking at an alternative. House Bill 2342, which replaces the 40% cut with a much smaller 5 cent tax on each millilitre of liquid sold, has been approved by a committee and is now making its way through the state house. So far it’s believed around 60 representatives have got behind the bill, and there’s growing hope that the disaster of the original tax can be averted.

Pro-vaping films hit UK and YouTube

The award-winning documentary A Billion Lives will soon be showing at cinemas in the UK. ABL has now been signed up with Demand.Film, which allows anyone to request a local showing; if enough tickets are sold the film will be screened. The minimum booking for each location is around 60 to 70 seats, and seven venues already have tickets for sale. So far, planned locations are Manchester, Preston, Glasgow, Tamworth, Worcester, Lincoln, Hatfield and Greenwich. The Greenwich screening is the night before the third annual E-Cigarette Summit at the Royal Society, which is taking place on 17 November.

Meanwhile another film about vaping has been released direct to YouTube. Produced by Vapexpo and co-presented by Vaping Post, Beyond The Cloud looks at the issues from a more European perspective than ABL. In its first 24 hours online the film had already racked up more than 27,000 views and an overwhelmingly positive reaction.

Canadian anti-vaping study “linked to big pharma”

A recent study from Canada claimed that using e-cigarettes reduced a smoker’s chances of quitting successfully, and was enthusiastically promoted by San Francisco anti-nicotine activist Stanton Glantz – but new evidence suggests that the authors’ conflicts of interest could be far more extensive than they originally disclosed.

The study, carried out by a team from Toronto and published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, purported to show that if smokers vape during a quit attempt their chances of success fall. It isn’t the first study to make this claim, and like the previous ones it doesn’t even try to explain why this might happen. Also like the previous ones, as Prof Michael Siegel of Boston Medical School has pointed out, it has a massive methodological error; the design of the experiment excludes all smokers who did successfully quit while using an e-cigarette. “Skimmed off the top are all the successful quitters who, according to this study, do not exist,” Siegel said.

More disturbingly, while the lead authors both declared having received funds from NRT manufacturer Pfizer in the past, it now appears that Peter Shelby, the senior author, has deep and long-standing connections to the NRT industry. In fact Shelby has worked for all the main NRT manufacturers. It’s possible that the biased study design can be blamed on ignorance rather than conflict of interest, but many harm reduction experts are worried that such poor quality research continues to be published.

Tobacco Free Kids “intimidate” dissident scientists

A prominent researcher who attended the Global Forum on Tobacco and Nicotine in Brussels this week has complained that he received a menacing letter from anti-nicotine campaigners pressuring him to cancel his trip. Dr Christopher Russell, from the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow, was sent the demand by the US-based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention. ENSP is a well-known EU lobby group, but it’s not clear why a US pressure group was trying to interfere a British scientist’s trip to Belgium. Fortunately Dr Russell, instead of caving in, publicised the letter and attended GTFN anyway. However it’s not yet known how many other scientists were targeted by CTFK, and whether any were deterred by this alarming tactic.