eLetters

448 e-Letters

  • Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and healthy Indigenous futures: an oxymoron? An Evidence-Based Response

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    Mr. Clive Bates’ response to our article, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and healthy Indigenous futures: an oxymoron?, indicates the need to clarify several issues. In this response, we emphasise two key issues:
    1. Organisations claiming to serve the good of the public, but who receive direct or third-party funding from the tobacco industry, are faced with serious conflicts of interest (COI); and
    2. harm reduction is only part of a comprehensive approach to reducing commercial tobacco use.

    As Indigenous peoples, we have an inherent responsibility to protect the health and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples now and for our future generations. The tobacco industry poses, and has posed in the past, a significant threat to our health and wellbeing. Therefore, we are deeply concerned about the Philip Morris-funded Foundation focusing on Indigenous peoples.

    Philip Morris International, the Philip Morris Funded-Foundation and the Centre for Research Excellence: Indigenous Sovereignty and Smoking
    Mr. Bates states that “There is no credible analysis (anywhere) of the actual, rather than the imagined, relationship between PMI and the Foundation for a Smokefree World”. This is incorrect 1-5. Researchers in journals such as The Lancet and Tobacco Control have analyzed key documents from the Foundation, including tax returns and bylaws that highlighted numerous relationship issues and conflicts of interest 1-5.

    Addressi...

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  • A disappointing and baseless attack on a valuable initiative

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    I hope that Tobacco Control will offer a right of reply to the target of this one-sided criticism. In the meantime, let me put a few points to the authors:

    1. There is no credible analysis (anywhere) of the actual, rather than the imagined, relationship between PMI and the Foundation for a Smokefree World (FSFW - ‘the Foundation’) that suggests PMI exerts material control over the Foundation. Its basic legal documents suggest otherwise. Nor have the authors explained why the Foundation's goal of ending smoking within a generation is somehow a bad thing or insincere.

    2. Nor is there a credible assessment of the relationship between the Foundation and the new Centre for Research Excellence: Indigenous Sovereignty and Smoking (the Centre) that is the subject of criticism in this paper. There are two degrees of separation between the Centre and PMI, and the philosophy of the Foundation is to support centres of excellence and to leave them to get on with their work. The Centre has an excellent (Māori) leader and is quite capable of asserting its independence. How it would somehow do the bidding of PMI is not explained by the authors.

    3. The authors dismiss the Centre’s focus on ‘harm reduction’ and instead emphasise: “the need to shift attention away from individuals to the true source of the problem: commercial tobacco and the companies that sell and promote it.”. While I share the sentiment about individual smoking cessat...

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  • Up in smoke: The reported association between e-cigarette use and wheezing in this study is probably spurious

    NOT PEER REVIEWED

    We read with interest a recent publication by Li, et. al, entitled Association of smoking and electronic cigarette use with wheezing and related respiratory problems in adults: cross-sectional results from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, wave 2. The primary finding, reported in the abstract, was that risk of wheezing and related respiratory symptoms was significantly increased in current exclusive e-cigarette users compared to never users, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.67 (1.23, 2.15). We think the report is misleading for several reasons.

    First, the main multivariable analysis (Table 2) did not adequately adjust for important confounders that impact wheeze, most importantly, cigarette smoking history. In most analyses of medical outcomes in adults, pack-years of smoking has a strong relation to smoking-related diseases, over-and-above current smoking status. Since three quarters of vapers in the main model were ex-smokers, cigarette smoking history is almost certainly contributing to the size and significance of the main reported finding. Other combustible tobacco use and current marijuana smoking would also be expected to exacerbate cough and wheeze. Our bet is that large numbers of e-cigarette users also use marijuana.

    The authors partially addressed smoking history with a secondary analysis (Table 3), in which they stratified by former smoking status. In that analysis, vaping was not significantl...

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  • A different interpretation

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    A key finding of this paper does not find its way into the abstract namely, "no significant differences in wheezing and related respiratory symptoms was found when comparing current vapers who never smoked with never smokers. " This tends to suggest, unsurprisingly, that it is the prior smoking history that is the critical factor in current wheeze. The paper supports the harm reduction hypothesis for switching to vaping completely from smoking as per the conclusion. But the conclusion also states in the first line, "Vaping was associated with increased risk of wheezing and related respiratory symptoms, " which is incorrect without adding "in current smokers." Vapers who previously smoked have lower risk than those who continue to smoke, including dual users, and those who never smoked have no increased risk.

  • Response to Dr. Glantz

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    We would like to clear up some misconceptions in Dr. Glantz’s reply to our recent article (1). First, our analytic approach did not assume linearity as the title of Dr. Glantz’s response implies. On the contrary, we applied a log linear form, which not only better fit the data, but also incorporates non-linearities. Additionally, we also conducted and provided results using a linear form in the supplementary material, which yielded similar results.

    In his reply to our paper, Dr. Glantz claims that we should have started the vaping period in 2009 rather than in 2014 or 2013. However, we feel this criticism is wrong since we provided extensive data in the paper showing that vaping among youth was minimal until at least 2013.
    Consequently, we focused on when vaping became more widespread and, by most accounts, became a concern. Further, we conducted analyses that considered changes in trend for other years and obtained qualitatively similar results when the transition was specified as dating back to 2013 or 2012. We also conducted analyses which allowed for changes in trend in both 2009 and 2014 and found no change in trend from 2009 onward, whereas the change in trend from 2014 onward continued to hold. We understand that Dr. Glantz and colleagues in another paper (2) used 2009 as a base year for vaping. However, we feel this choice was a poor one since virtually no students were using e-cigarettes in 2009, and hence vaping would not be...

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  • PMI's response to this paper comes up short

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    PMI finally responded to my paper in Tobacco Control1 showing that the data submitted in their MRTP application to the FDA to market IQOS with reduced risk claims did not actually support claims of reduced risks.

    Specifically, PMI’s MRTP application included their 3-month study of 24 non-cancer biomarkers of potential harm (which PMI calls “clinical risk endpoints,” CRE) in humans using IQOS compared to conventional cigarettes. These biomarkers include measures of inflammation, oxidative stress, lipids, blood pressure, and lung function. (PMI did separate studies of biomarkers of exposure, several of which are carcinogens.) While PMI’s application emphasizes that these biomarkers generally changed in positive directions, my examination of the data revealed no statistically detectable difference between IQOS and conventional cigarettes for 23 of the 24 BOPH in Americans and 10 of 13 in Japanese. Moreover, it is likely that the few significant differences were false positives. Thus, despite delivering lower levels of some toxicants, PMI’s own data failed to show consistently lower risks of harm in humans using IQOS compared to conventional cigarettes.

    Their undated response, “The Difference between IQOS and Continued Smoking,”2 presents two arguments:

    • The original study submitted to FDA was “NOT DESIGNED to serve as the sole pivotal evidence with regards to CRE’s and to show statistically significant changes in the CREs.”...

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  • The reality may not be linear

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    David Levy and colleagues’ paper “Examining the relationship of vaping to smoking initiation among US youth and young adults: a reality check” used data from all the surveys over time that measured youth and young adult e-cigarette use and smoking and concluded there was a substantial increase in youth vaping prevalence beginning in about 2014. Time trend analyses showed that the decline in past 30-day smoking prevalence accelerated by two to four times after 2014. Indicators of more established smoking rates, including the proportion of daily smokers among past 30-day smokers, also decreased more rapidly as vaping became more prevalent.

    The inverse relationship between vaping and smoking was robust across different data sets for both youth and young adults and for current and more established smoking. While trying electronic cigarettes may causally increase smoking among some youth, the aggregate effect at the population level appears to be negligible given the reduction in smoking initiation during the period of vaping's ascendance.

    The good news is that Levy and colleagues are finally accepting the overwhelming evidence that kids who start with e-cigarettes are more likely to end up smoking cigarettes, the so-called “gateway effect.”

    Now they have fallen back to arguing that the gateway effect is not big enough to overcome the benefits of e-cigs as substitutes for cigarettes.

    The approach they used, interrupted ti...

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  • Sell cigarettes only in alcohol-licensed premises

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    In view of the rising prevalence of adolescent smoking worldwide, it makes a lot of sense to strictly limit cigarette sales only to alcohol licensed premises, particularly, in countries where there are minimum age requirements for buying alcohol. In a previous letter (1) to Lancet Global Health we had argued in favor of the same as we believe that restricting sale of cigarettes or other tobacco products will bring about a decrease in consumption by adolescents.

    Smoking addictions are usually acquired during adolescence and this usually happens due to an apparently unregulated sale of tobacco products. Regulation is difficult when the number of tobacco selling establishments far exceeds the managing capacity of local administration. In India, adolescents have unrestricted access to tobacco products as small vendors, whose only source of income is by selling tobacco products, tend not to compromise on any business opportunity.

    Although there is a positive association between alcohol and smoking, as the authors have pointed out “tobacco sales are not financially important for the majority of alcohol-licensed tobacco retailers”, so it is a win-win situation for preventing initiation of cigarette smoking by adolescents as alcohol vendors will have no incentive to bypass regulations by selling tobacco products to those who do not qualify as per legal age restrictions. In India, smoking and consumption of alcohol are also social taboos and th...

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  • Evidence of the absence of hepatotoxicity of IQOS

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    More than 1,000 participants were exposed to IQOS in our clinical studies. The authors of the letter “Possible hepatotoxicity of IQOS" based their analysis on approximatively 10% of the data instead of examining the data as a whole. For example, for the five-day exposure studies in confinement, they stated that the percentage of participants with elevated bilirubin in IQOS arm was more than three times higher than that observed in the smoking abstinence (SA) arm in the European study (8.8% [7 participants] in IQOS arm, 2.6% [1 participant] in SA arm). However, they missed reporting that this percentage was lower in the IQOS arm than in the cigarette smoking (CC) arm in the Japanese study (10% [8 participants] in IQOS arm, 15% [6 participants] in CC arm). They also stated that the mean increase in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) was higher with IQOS than with CC or SA in the Japanese study but did not report that in the European study, the mean increase in ALT was lower in the IQOS arm than in the CC or SA arm.
    Similarly, for the 90-day exposure studies in an ambulatory setting, they mentioned that the percentage of participants with increased ALT levels after 60 days of exposure was higher within the IQOS arm (6.3% [5 participants] in IQOS arm, 0% in CC arm, 2.6% [1 participant] in SA arm) in the U.S. study. However they omitted to mention that in the Japanese study, this percentage was lower in IQOS arm compared with CC or SA arms after 3...

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  • Clarification regarding FDA authorities relating to modified risk claims

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    This study has some important findings that could, if replicated, guide FDA decision making on applications from manufacturers to make modified risk tobacco product claims. However, while it does not detract from the study’s findings, the article does not accurately describe the standards FDA must apply when evaluating those applications. The abstract inaccurately suggests that tobacco products in the U.S. may make reduced-risk or reduced-exposure claims so long as they are not misleading, and does not mention that any explicit or implicit reduced-exposure or reduced-risk claims may not be legally made without first submitting an application to FDA and receiving a permissive order, which considers various other factors, as well.

    The introduction of the paper does a bit better, accurately stating that the Tobacco Control Act requires prior review by FDA before making lower-exposure or lower-risk claims. But it then suggests that manufacturers can receive that permission if they either demonstrate that the product lowers harm or risk compared with other tobacco products or if they demonstrate that the product is free of or contains reduced levels of harmful chemicals and the related claims don’t mislead consumers to believe that the reduced-exposure means lower risk. While that description is accurate as far as it goes, it leaves off the enormously important requirement, in both cases, that a manufacturer’s application for permission to...

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