eLetters

73 e-Letters

published between 2015 and 2018

  • Transparent and open approach

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    Euromonitor International is a privately held, independent provider of strategic market research with no agenda other than to present the most realistic illicit trade data impartially and within its wider industry context. Subscribers to Euromonitor’s Passport Tobacco database are varied and include tobacco control/ public health groups, academia, retailers, manufacturers of raw materials as well as tobacco brand owners and banks/ consultancies, amongst others.

    These same stakeholders are approached by Euromonitor for comment on industry trends, including those of illicit sales. Euromonitor’s stated sources for illicit cigarettes sales thus include trade press, customs offices, interviews with manufacturers and retailers, government and academic organisations. This is reconciled against local knowledge of the market and illicit trade’s wider context – eg national economic performance, trends in taxation, unit prices and duty paid sales, porosity of borders, law enforcement efforts, and so on. There is no reliance on any one source.

    By its very nature, illicit trade in tobacco products is a contentious area and one that is difficult to quantify – there are often wide discrepancies between various sources on illicit trade, reflecting vested interests in either deflating or inflating figures. In these circumstances, Euromonitor strives to present the most widely accepted and realistic estimate of the illicit market, based on a holistic...

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  • The missing elephant in the room of vaping transition

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    Coleman et al’s important report [1] on transitions in the vaping and smoking status of a nationally representative cohort of American 18+ adults who use electronic cigarettes (EC) from the PATH study provides rich data that can greatly advance our understanding of the natural history of EC use and their potential in harm reduction.

    However, we were struck by the absence of emphasis in the report of what is perhaps its most important finding. If we examine the report’s data and consider the net impact of vaping on the critical goals of having vapers stopping smoking and vaping non-smokers not starting to smoke, the findings are very disturbing and should strong reason for pause among those advocating e-cigarettes as a game-changing way of stopping smoking.

    At Wave 2, 12 months on from Wave 1, of the cohort of 2036 dual users (EC + smoking) only 104 (5.1%) had transitioned to using only EC and another 143 (7%) had quit both EC and smoking for a combined total of 247 or 12.1%. Of the 896 exclusive EC users at Wave 1, 277 (30.9%) had stopped vaping at Wave 2. Together, 524 out of the 2932 EC users (17.9%) followed from Wave 1 might be considered to have had positive outcomes at Wave 2.

    The other side of the coin however, shows that of the 2036 dual users at Wave 1, 886 (43.5%) relapsed to using cigarettes exclusively. In addition, among the 896 exclusive EC users from Wave 1, 109 (12.2%) had stopped vaping and were now smoking, wit...

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

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    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

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    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.

    T...

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  • The unanswered question....

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    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

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    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

    NOT PEER REVIEWED

    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?

    NOT PEER REVIEWED

    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

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    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

    NOT PEER REVIEWED
    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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