21 Nov

Western Australia Leads the Country in Banning E-Cigarettes

Western Australia has led the country in banning e-cigarettes, even those which do not contain nicotine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will hold a tobacco control meeting in Moscow in October to debate the merits of electronic cigarettes, with some doctors arguing in favour of the product.

While many users claim the e-cigarettes, which allow them to inhale a vapour without the smoke, help them to cut down their tobacco habit, Australian health experts are questioning their value.

Last month the Supreme Court of Western Australia ruled that e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine still breached the tobacco control act which prohibits any “food, toy or other product” looking like a cigarette or cigar.

Talkback caller to 720 ABC Perth, Mohammed, said he felt that an e-cigarette had helped him with a 27-year chain-smoking habit.

“About three months ago I switched to the e-cigarette and I haven’t touched a normal cigarette since,” he said.

“My breathing has improved, my sleeping has improved. There is no smell on my clothes or car.

“I’m looking forward to giving up. I have tried all those other things like patches and chewing gum, but they never helped. This is the only thing that kept me off cigarettes.”

E-cigarettes not approved as quitting aids

Dr Tarun Weeramanthri, the executive director of public health at the WA Health Department, said that while further research is welcome, there is no evidence to date the e-cigarettes work any better that other nicotine replacements.

“E-cigarettes have been around since the 1960s but despite the claims for them, they are not registered in Australia as a quitting aid,” he said.

“Some people will say the devices helped them quit, but when we look at the evidence, many more people just keep smoking e-cigarettes and normal cigarettes.

“The long term trials haven’t been that conclusive about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in quitting.”

What has changed, Dr Weeramanthri, is that e-cigarettes have become a bigger business, particularly in Europe, where seven million people use them.

“What has happened in the last couple of years is the big tobacco companies have been buying up e-cigarette companies.

If you look at Europe, where millions of people do use e-cigarettes, they are promoted just like old fashioned cigarettes.

“There is massive advertising and promotion around them and there is evidence that, in some countries, they are being marketed at children.

“That’s what we want to avoid at all costs.”

20 Nov

Big Tobacco Lights Up E-Cigarette Rivalry

Big tobacco is pushing further into the fast-growing electronic cigarette market with Reynolds American’s plan to expand its Vuse brand across the US next week.

Competition for dominance in the $2.5bn US market is heating up, even as regulators and public health groups grapple over the benefits and risks of the battery-powered devices.

Reynolds, the second-largest US tobacco company by sales, began testing Vuse in Colorado last year amid industry-wide moves to step up investment in alternatives to conventional cigarettes. With traditional cigarette sales in the US shrinking an average 3 per cent a year, tobacco companies have come to view e-cigarettes as an opportunity to retain customers.

“The brand’s nationwide expansion is an important step as we position Vuse as the vapour authority, and continue our efforts to lead the transformation of the tobacco industry,” said Stephanie Cordisco, president of Reynolds subsidiary RJ Reynolds Vapor Company. Vuse will be available in stores across the US from June 23.

The fragmented e-cigarette market is just a fraction of the $700bn global tobacco industry, but has drawn attention from big companies facing declining smoking rates. Last week, Japan Tobacco bought the UK’s E-Lites for an undisclosed amount.

Lorillard, the smallest of the big three US tobacco groups, dominates US sales with its Blu Ecigs brand, which it acquired in 2012 for $135m. Last year Reynolds and Marlboro-maker Altria began developing their own electronic products and testing them in various states. Altria, which has about 40 per cent of the US cigarette market, plans to take its MarkTen brand national in the coming months.

“We expect the national expansion of the Big Three into the vapour category . . . should catapult growth of the entire category,” said Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog, who predicts e-cigarette consumption could surpass traditional smoking in the next decade.

Reynolds and Lorillard are in talks over a potential merger, the Financial Times reported in March. Ms Herzog said the tie-up could accelerate growth in the electronic category.

“We think a combined Reynolds-Lorillard could become a global vapour powerhouse assuming a potential strategic partnership is formed with British American Tobacco (similar to Philip Morris International’s and Altria’s partnership) to expand outside the US,” she said. PMI, which sells the Marlboro brand internationally, and Altria struck a deal in December to license and distribute products including e-cigarettes.

Big tobacco’s moves will probably boost advertising for the devices, including on television, where tobacco ads have been banned since 1971. Marketing spending on e-cigarettes more than tripled to $79m in 2013, according to Kantar Media.

Vuse has been running TV ads in Colorado and Utah, while Blu appears on national cable networks. Njoy, a privately owned e-cigarette maker, ran ads in some markets during the past two Super Bowls.

The US Food and Drug Administration left the door open to more spending when its proposed e-cigarette regulations, unveiled in April, did not include curbs on marketing or advertising.

Reynolds’ expanded bet on the category comes amid a debate over the safety of the products. Advocates argue that the devices, which heat nicotine-laced liquid into a vapour that users inhale, are a less dangerous alternative to smoking because they lack some of the toxins found in cigarette smoke.

But others say there is not enough evidence on the potential health risks and that the products risk “renormalising” smoking after decades of success in stigmatising the habit.

In a letter to the World Health Organisation on Monday, a group of scientists, doctors and academics called on the agency to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco, including advertising bans, limits on public smoking and heavy taxes. That followed an earlier appeal from other public health scientists to avoid burdening the emerging category with strict regulations.

“By moving into the e-cigarette market, the tobacco industry is only maintaining its predatory practices and increasing profits,” Monday’s letter said. “Both scientific evidence and best practices are available to support a regulatory framework that will best prevent initiation of use among youth and other non-tobacco users, protect bystanders in public areas from involuntary exposure, regulate marketing, and prohibit unsubstantiated claims.”

13 Nov

World Health Organisation (WHO) Urged Not to Snuff Out E-Cigarette

The e-cigarette has been pushed centre stage ahead of World No Tobacco Day, with doctors and policy experts urging the UN’s health agency to embrace the gadget as a life saver.

With tobacco smoke claiming a life every six seconds, the tar-free, electronic alternative could help prevent much of the cancer, heart and lung disease and stroke caused by the toxins in traditional cigarettes, the 50-odd experts wrote to World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Margaret Chan.

E-cigarettes “could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century, perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives,” the group said.

They urged “courageous leadership” from the WHO in guiding global and national approaches to e-cigarettes, which are banned in some countries like Brazil and Singapore and face increasingly strict restrictions in other countries amid uncertainty about their long-term health effects.

The group fears the WHO plans to lump the battery-powered devices, which release nicotine in a vapour instead of smoke and contain fewer toxins, with traditional cigarettes under its tobacco control policy.

This would compel member countries to ban advertising and use of the gadgets in public places, and to impose sin taxes.

“It would be unethical and harmful to inhibit the option to switch to tobacco harm-reduction products” like e-cigarettes, said the letter.

The WHO is working on recommendations for e-cigarette regulation, to be presented to a meeting of member governments in October.

But it does so in a scientific vacuum on the device’s long-term safety and its true value as an aid to kicking the tobacco habit.

Some fear its use and often unrestricted promotion could glamorise an addictive habit, and hook non-smoking teenagers on nicotine.

An estimated seven million people in Europe alone use e-cigarettes, invented in China in 2003.

Addiction specialist Gerry Stimson, an emeritus professor at University College London who co-signed the letter to Chan, said they have been shown to release “very, very fractional levels” of toxins compared to conventional ones.

“People smoke for the nicotine and die of the tar,” he said.

“If you separate the nicotine from the burning of vegetable matter… people can still use nicotine but they’re not going to die from smoking.”

If it listed e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, the WHO would “preserve the position of cigarettes because it makes it harder or more difficult or less desirable to use e-cigarettes,” he argued.

The WHO says tobacco kills nearly six million people a year, and climbing.