Tuesday 23 January 2018

A Big Week For Tobacco Harm Reduction

On both sides of the Atlantic, this week is looking to be one of the most important in the history of tobacco harm reduction (THR) so far.

Firstly, in a flurry of acronyms, tomorrow the US Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) will meet to consider Philip Morris International's (PMI) application for a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) classification for their iQos heated tobacco product. If approved, this could pave the way - if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees with the decision - for PMI to claim iQos is less harmful than smoking. This would be the first time the government has allowed a company to make such claims. This is irrelevant if PMI are not permitted to sell iQos, of course, so at the same time an application is pending for a Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) which would allow the products to be sold in America, theoretically from as early as February. But it all depends on what advice the TPSAC gives to the FDA and whether the FDA decides to go with it or not.

The proceedings are scheduled to run over two days, and last night the FDA issued a briefing regarding PMI’s iQos MRTP (still with me?). You can read it here. Yes it's a long old haul (though not as long as the reported two million pages that PMI's evidence ran to) but what will strike you is the huge percentage reductions in harmful substances claimed for iQos both from industry and independent research.

iQos heated tobacco device
The decline in smoking in Japan and Korea - it's basically fallen off a cliff since heated tobacco from PMI and BAT arrived - has been described as "astounding", which it most certainly is, and long-term THR advocate Brad Rodu today predicted that a positive FDA decision would have a "significant downward effect on American cigarette consumption".

The next day (25th) thousands of miles away at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, Swedish Match will continue to pursue their case - joined by the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) - to have the ridiculous and reckless EU ban on snus lifted.

It is almost a year to the day since this case was first heard in the High Court in London where Swedish Match/NNA were successfully granted leave to appeal to the ECJ.

It is worth remembering that the movement to ban snus was prominently driven on by our very own tax-leeching prohibitionists Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) back in the the 80s and 90s (see documents and news reports of the scaremongery ASH employed at the time at Snowdon's place). In their infinite ignorance, they believed it was vital to make sure that smokers would never be able to lay their hands on a product which has led to Sweden boasting the lowest smoking prevalence and lung cancer rates in the EU by a country mile (an effect now being replicated in non-EU Norway where snus is sold legally). 

Snus. Helps smokers quit, so it's banned
As a press release by the NNA's Prof Gerry Stimson pointed out yesterday, the stupidity of ASH and their nanny state collaborators back then has led to more than just a deficit of choice.
“There is compelling evidence that the EU ban has cost hundreds of thousands of lives,” said the Professor. 
Two academic studies have shown that if snus were available in the rest of Europe it could save between 200,000 and 355,000 lives - every year. (Brad Rodu, 2004, Snus Commission Report, 2017) - see table on page 19 of the Snus Commission Report for annual mortality gap in your country.
It is only an accident of history that e-cigs didn't go the same way as snus considering the methods employed are almost identical to those anti-vaping extremists use now. The only difference is that consumers were able to mobilise effectively with the advent of the internet and social media. If anything, snus presents even less risk than e-cigs so the justification for it still being banned is laughable.

And all this on top of a report on e-cigs released today in the US by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine which largely mirrors the recommendations of the UK's Royal College of Physicians. With the exception of just a little too much overly-gracious faith in the junk science of Stanton Glantz, the report is positive about vaping and categorically states that e-cigs are far less risky than smoking, perhaps the first time it has been said with any degree of certainty by any state-funded organisation in the US.

So what a week! Opinions on the fates of heated tobacco, snus and e-cigs all in a matter of days, from North America to Europe. God speed all of those involved in challenging the hideous prohibitionist status quo. 

All these efforts are worth watching closely. The US and EU have been haranguing smokers to quit for decades, but if they continue to over-burden, restrict or even ban products smokers will choose to do exactly as governments claim to want, how can anyone take them remotely seriously? 

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