433 e-Letters

  • Experimental demonstration of the absence of formaldehyde cyanohydrin emission from PLA using a reference standard

    The potential presence of formaldehyde cyanohydrin in the polylactic acid (PLA) filter of Marlboro Heatstick when heated was reported by Davis and al. PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources such as corn starch. This tentative identification is based on the GC-MS analysis of the headspace of a heated piece of PLA, and the subsequent compound identification by mass spectra matching (acceptance criteria >85%) with the spectra library of the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST). However, this was not confirmed by injecting a purchased analytical grade reference standard, in order to unambiguously prove the presence of formaldehyde cyanohydrin. Therefore, we decided to repeat the experiment using headspace injection gas chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry under similar conditions as described in the publication. Our headspace GC-HR-MS analyses showed four peaks, at retention times of 16.38, 16.47, 17.14, and 18.58 min, in good agreement with the reported data reported (figure 4).

    From the analysis of reference standards, we have confirmed the presence of both e-caprolactone (CAS# 502-44-3) and (S,S)-lactide (CAS# 4511-42-6) eluting at 16.47 and 17.14 min, respectively. We identified triacetin (CAS# 102-76-1) at 18.58 min, based on the reference standard, instead of 1,2-diacetin (their EI mass spectra are very similar).
    However, we have demonstrated unambiguously the a...

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  • Please publish full data and provide key specific facts

    The reporting of the results of this study is far from complete, which is concerning given the highly politicised controversy that surrounds this product. I hope the authors should respond to this comment by publishing supplementary material with all the data they collected in a an accessible form such a CSV file and summarised in tables in a supplementary memo.

    In particular, the authors should provide all data on the following:
    + Vaping and JUUL current use (used in past 30-days) prevalence stratified by age, clearly differentiating between 18 and over and under-18s
    + Frequency of use of vaping products and JUUL within the 30 days among current (past-30 days) users, ideally using the same frequency breakdown used in the National Youth Tobacco Survey
    + Breakdown of vaping status by smoking status and frequency of vaping and JUUL use - to help determine the extent to which regular JUUL use is concentrated among smokers
    + Smoking prevalence and frequency

    There is a rare opportunity to gain insights into a live controversy, yet the reporting of the survey is so incomplete it is difficult to draw any serious conclusions from it about the overall effect. For example, JUUL maybe displacing other vaping products used by youth as it is in the market overall. JUUL may be functioning as an alternative to smoking in both adolescents and adults and contributing to achieving smoke-free public health objectives.


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  • The unanswered question....

    The authors state "These stores have largely stopped carrying e-cigarettes at the same time as starting to stock IQOS HEETS (HEATSTICKS), the cigarette-like component that is smoked in the IQOS device,..." but provide no insight into why that is. Are these retailers being incentivised to stop selling e-cigs by PMI?

    While the risk profile of IQOS is uncertain, the product is highly likely to be much more harmful than vaping e-cigs. Commercial tactics that promote IQOS over vaping devices, excluding the latter from retail chains, would be of major concern for tobacco control.

    Can the authors enlighten us?

  • In response to a recommendation

    In the article Potential deaths averted in USA by replacing cigarettes with e-cigarettes (1), a Status Quo model is performed, which suggests that this change will avoid premature deaths of millions. Although the statement is interesting, it´s necessary to mention that, the quantity of cigarettes consumed wasn´t considered. In addition, it´s important to recognize that a controversy still exists about the use of these devices and their toxicity.

    Believing that e-cigarettes are an alternative against the use of cigarettes is tempting, but we have to be cautious. One of the major risk factors for cancer is an excessive consumption of cigarettes. In Müezzinler A et al (2), a dose response between the number of cigarettes consumed and mortality of any cause was seen. Therefore, it is not only if you smoke, it is also important how much you smoke. Nevertheless, since this outcome was not assessed, we assume that risk was uniform. In addition, they classify as “never smokers” any persons with less of forty years that smoke cigarettes. Is possible that a person of thirty-eight years who smoke twenty cigarettes per day for twenty years could be classified like a “never smoker”? We doubt it.

    Currently, the use of e-cigarettes is controversial. As Chen J et al states in their study (3), we should carefully interpret this idea of a substitution. There is a great quantity of information about the risks of conventional cigarettes in estimation mo...

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  • On the importance of using quit-attempters and focusing on why e-cigarettes were used to assessing e-cigarettes role in smoking cessation


    Berry et al (1) report an analysis of two waves of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study focused on the association between the initiation of e-cigarette use by Wave 2 and cigarette abstinence/reduction assessed at Wave 2. They conclude that daily e-cigarette use is associated with both cigarette abstinence and reduced consumption among continuing smokers. While this addresses an important question, we argue that such analyses should be adjusted for the reason e-cigarettes are being used.

    From Wave 1 of PATH (2), we know that ~75% of smokers agreed that e-cigarettes were useful to help people quit. However, ~80% agreed that e-cigarettes allowed someone to replace a cigarette where smoking was prohibited. From the first reason, we can hypothesize that e-cigarette use might be associated with cigarette abstinence/reduction. However, from the second reason, we can also hypothesize that e-cigarettes would be associated with neither cigarette abstinence nor reduction. The recent National Academies report (3) recommended that any assessment of the role of e-cigarettes in cigarette cessation/reduction should focus on smokers who used e-cigarettes to help them quit.
    PATH Wave 2 data does include information on whether smokers tried to quit in the previous year, as well as whether they used e-cigarettes to aid the last quit attempt. Previous research (4) has shown that over half of the smoking population will not ha...

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  • The Tobacco Control Scale: The Emperor’s new clothes?


    Feliu et al’s conclusion “in the European Union countries with the higher scores in the Tobacco Control Scale, which indicates higher tobacco control efforts, have lower prevalence of smokers, higher quit ratios and higher relative decreases in their prevalence rates of smokers.” deserved comment.

    First, it seems a tautology. Tobacco control policies are robustly evidence based. Accordingly, more efforts, less smokers.

    Second, a PubMed search with “"tobacco control scale" only retrieved 27 articles since 2006 and no validation published yet. Obviously, the Scale poorly correlated with smoking rate: r2 being .58 in 2002/3, .15 in 2006/7 and .06 in 2010/11.(From table 3 in 2; n= 11 European countries).

    Third, why make simple stuff complex? This surrogate is complex to calculate and its items are subjective because issuing a decree is useless if no implementation were enforced. In contrast, the smoking rate and its evolution are simple and reliable! How France can be ranked 4th among 28 countries with a 57/100 score (1) while smoking prevalence has been plateauing for so long at more than 30%? In France, from 2004 to 2017 no relevant increase in tobacco taxes, no implementation of the legal smoking ban in cafés or of the ban of sale to minors despite sting operations by NGO showing evidence of serious breaches.(3)

    Fourth, claiming “the European Union should continue implementing comprehensive tobacco control pol...

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  • Jawad et al.'s Policy Recommendations Need Refinement

    This paper’s core findings are quite helpful: (1) Tax/price increases for non-cigarette tobacco products can effectively reduce their use; and (2) Tax/price increases for non-cigarette tobacco products could prompt some users to increase their cigarette smoking if comparable tax/price increases for cigarettes are not done at the same time. But the paper’s related analysis is incomplete, producing misleading conclusions, largely because the paper focuses on cigarettes versus non-cigarette tobacco products without also considering the more important distinction for health-directed tobacco tax strategies between smoked tobacco products and non-combustible tobacco products.

    In its abstract, the paper concludes that the “positive substitutability between cigarettes and non-cigarette tobacco products suggest that tax and price increases need to be simultaneous and comparable across all tobacco products.” But the paper does not appear to consider that the only substitutions that could significantly increase public health harms would be if the tax increases prompted some non-combusted tobacco product users to move to more-harmful smoking or prompted some smokers who would otherwise do so not to move to less-harmful non-combusted tobacco products. As a result, the paper fails to acknowledge that significant tax/price increases for only combusted tobacco products would not prompt any harm-increasing substitution and would directly secure desirable...

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  • Unassisted smoking cessation should be studied, not denigrated

    The paper by Filippidis et al [1] provides data re-confirming the well-known fact that most ex-smokers attempt to quit without using any form of assistance, whether pharmaceutical, professional or via e-cigarettes. Moreover, the proportion of ex-smokers trying to quit unaided increased substantially in Europe between 2012-17 (ex-smokers using no assistance increased from 73.9% to 80.7%), a period where e-cigarette use accelerated in some nations.

    Regrettably however, this study does not permit any comparison of success rates by method, as no data are reported on which method of cessation (assisted v unassisted) was used by ex-smokers on their last, final (and so successful) quit attempt.

    The authors report that those “who successfully quit reported much lower use of cessation assistance compared with smokers who had tried to quit without success” and suggest that this might reflect indication bias, whereby those who find it harder to quit self-select to use assistance, leaving the low hanging fruit of non- or less addicted smokers to fall off the smoking tree using their own determination.

    While this will be true for some, there are many former heavy smokers who quit without assistance. This argument also borrows assumptions from the discredited hardening hypothesis [2], which holds, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that as smoking prevalence falls the concentration of hardened, more deeply addicted smokers increase...

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  • Preventing tobacco Industry interference needs to be included in vaccine

    There is also very clear evidence that tobacco industry interference is either delaying or dumbing down implementation of each of the MPOWER policies particularly in LMICs. The TC vaccine is a good concept but the framework needs to include monitoring, exposing and countering industry tactics.

  • Response to Bashash et al.

    I am grateful to Bashash et al. for raising some important methodological and policy-related issues. Responding to their specific points:

    (1) Very high formaldehyde concentrations may arise in aerosols when atomisers generate excessive heat[1]. Under these circumstances recommended safety limits for formaldehyde may indeed be exceeded and this compound contributes most to the cancer potency summation.

    (2) Goodson et al. [2] provide a framework for assessing whether low dose compounds that are not necessarily individual carcinogens may become involved in carcinogenesis when acting in concert. Although discussed under "Strengths and limitations" synergystic phenomena were not accommodated in the cancer potency model as it is not yet possible to predict the mechanism and magnitude of such interactions in tobacco or e-cigarette aerosols. Under the Goodson et al. model adverse effects reflect adventitious synergystic combinations. These may be statistically more likely in tobacco smoke where the number of different compounds greatly exceeds those of simpler aerosols, however this effect is expected to be minor compared with the exceptionally high carcinogenic potencies of some well-established carcinogens in tobacco smoke.

    (3) Lifetime cancer risk is linearly dependent on the daily volume of vapour inhaled (equation 7) and the effect on risk of increased consumption after switching to heat not burn (HnB) products is directly related to the chang...

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