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E-cigarette summit: Day one

  • Michael Landl

Day one of the e-cigarette summit has wrapped up! It is disappointing that we were not able to attend in person, but the e-cigarette summit team managed exceptionally well and facilitated what was an extremely interesting day of discussions on everything vaping.

Throughout the day, scientists and experts from all around the world spoke about topics as varied as EVALI to the faults in SCHEER’s opinion on vaping.

Knowing that many of you will not have been able to follow it all, we’ve put together a short blog of the highlights of the day! We hope you find it useful and please share it widely among your fellow vapers.

We are very much looking forward to day two! Stay tuned to our Twitter account as we continue to live tweet the summit and check out our website tomorrow for our roundup of day two’s events.

Michael Landl

Director, World Vapers’ Alliance

Professor Alan Boobis of Imperial College London gave the first presentation of the day, focusing on the UK’s Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment’s (COT) findings on vaping.

Professor Boobis took us through the COT’s research process and methodology, outlining that the COT came to the conclusion that while e-cigarettes are not without risk, the risk posed by them is “substantially less than that posed” by traditional cigarettes.

Next, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the Cochrane Library presented on the Cochrane Library’s recent findings on vaping in comparison to nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). She spoke about the need for policy discussions to take into account the most up to date evidence on vaping. Interestingly, she said that Cochrane has recently received funding from Cancer Research UK to search for new evidence each month on e-cigarettes over the coming years.

Professor Jacob George of the University of Dundee gave some insight on how vaping is less harmful to vascular health than smoking. Professor George also highlighted flaws with the EU’s scientific advisory committee, SCHEER’s recent negative opinion on e-cigarettes. He said SCHEER’s opinion is “based on very poor quality data” and that some of the studies that SCHEER classify as “strong” don’t even mention e-cigarettes once and he criticised their use of “selective evidence.”

Professor Jacob George

Professor Jacob George

Dr Sanjay Agrawal of the University of Leicester gave some valuable insight from the UK on e-cigarettes, citing the positive position of Public Health England and stressed the importance of “mitigating harm wherever possible” for smokers.

The Science Media Centre’s Press Officer, Tom Sheldon, gave a very interesting presentation on media reporting of vaping. He said “where there’s controversy, there’s media,” and called for journalists to focus more on science and evidence on their vaping reporting and less on “scare stories.”

During the first Q&A session of the day, there were some interesting comments on flavours. Dr Agrawal hit the nail on the head: “You want to make e-cigarettes attractive to smokers who are trying to quit. That’s the point. For many people, adding flavours, and taking away the taste of tobacco is quite helpful for them.”

Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Programme Lead for Public Health England, gave a presentation on future tobacco products regulation in the UK, stressing that the “real challenge” in any future regulation is making sure that nicotine products are regulated fairly.

The second Q&A of the day focused on nicotine and the perception of nicotine by regulators. Karl Fagerstrom, psychologist and president of Fagerstrom Consulting said that nicotine is often “demonised” and does not have a favourable perception around it, in contrast to coffee. When the discussion moved to flavours, Martin Dockrell pointed out that “anything we do to reduce the appeal of vaping” just prevents more smokers from making the switch.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the third session was a presentation from Martin Jarvis of University College London, where he systematically dismantled the “narrative” of a youth vaping epidemic in the US. Using the same data that the FDA and CDC rely on, Jarvis pointed out that they make “no attempt to put e-cigarette use in the context of tobacco use” and that the idea of a youth vaping “epidemic” is just a “narrative in search of an evidence base.”

Martin Jarvis, UCL

Martin Jarvis, UCL

Coming toward the end of the day was a presentation from Robin J. Mermelstein of the University of Illinois on how to best help “dual users” quit smoking and move completely to vaping and a presentation from Professor Wayne Hall on the further crackdown on vaping in Australia. Professor Hall said that Australian legislators, instead of looking at what an effective approach to vaping similar to the UK can achieve, instead just focus on fear mongering and scare stories.

The final event of day one was a last Q&A session. Perhaps the most interesting question focused on what advice the panellists would give to the incoming Biden administration on how nicotine is regulated in the US. Professor Mermelstein said her advice would be to de-politicise the issue, and instead only focus on how we can provide all the options available to smokers to help them quit cigarettes fully and move to vaping. Professor Kenneth E. Warner from the University of Michigan pointed out that it was difficult to have a conversation in the US about flavours, when politicians and regulators are “unwilling to think rationally” about it.

From top-left: Professor Ann McNeill, Professor Alan Boobis, Professor Sanjay Agrawal, Tom Sheldon, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce and Professor Jacob George

From top-left: Professor Ann McNeill, Professor Alan Boobis, Professor Sanjay Agrawal, Tom Sheldon, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce and Professor Jacob George