As smokers spark up e-cigs to quit, traditional aids suffer

admin   •   January 29, 2015   •   2170

Luna, an electronic cigarette vaporizer, and its components are seen at Thermo-Essence Technologies in San Carlos, California May 2, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/STEPHEN LAM

(Reuters) – When Marty Weinstein decided to quit smoking, he took a friend’s advice and tried electronic cigarettes rather than government-approved nicotine replacement products.

Weinstein, 58, has gone from a pack a day nine months ago to the equivalent in nicotine of four or five cigarettes. The e-cigs have a familiar look and feel, and quench his desire to hold on to a cigarette and puff.

“I fully understand I’m still addicted to nicotine,” said Weinstein, a Connecticut taxi driver who had smoked for more than 20 years. “But I’m now so much healthier.”

E-cigarettes, metal tubes that heat liquids typically laced with nicotine and deliver vapor when sucked, are transforming the market for smoking cessation products and slowing the $2.4 billion in global sales of long-standing aids such as nicotine patches and gums. But their impact on health remains unclear, experts say, raising difficult questions for regulators who are starting to impose limits on e-cigarette use.

E-cigarette makers in the United States are barred from explicitly marketing the products as smoking cessation devices, but have found ways to appeal legally to smokers who are thinking of quitting.

“You never say ‘quit’ because it’s not approved by the FDA as a smoking cessation device,” said Jose Castro, the chief executive of A1 Vapors in Miami, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A1 Vapors runs an ad on its website urging customers to “kiss tobacco goodbye” and give themselves the “gift of your life. literally”, adding a disclaimer that e-cigs are not a smoking cessation product.

E-cigarettes, or e-cigs, have only come into widespread use in the past few years, but have already made inroads into traditional quitting therapies.

About a third of British smokers trying to quit were using e-cigarettes, according to a University College London survey in January of 1,800 people, including 450 smokers.

E-cigs are used by almost twice as many people as government-approved nicotine gums, lozenges and patches, according to the survey. That was a reversal from 2011, when only about 5 percent of people were using e-cigarettes and more than 30 percent used over-the-counter products.

Similar data is not yet publicly available for the United States.

Worldwide sales of all nicotine replacement therapies grew just 1.2 percent last year, to almost $2.4 billion, according to data from commercial researcher Euromonitor. U.S. sales, at $900 million, grew 0.2 percent, and are expected by Euromonitor to drop this year by that amount.

Big tobacco companies like Altria, Lorillard and Reynolds American have rushed into the e-cig market. The entire U.S. market for “vapor devices” such as e-cigs grew in 2014 by 40-50 percent to $2.5 billion to $3 billion, Euromonitor said. The global market is worth $5 billion.

RULES ON E-CIGS TIGHTENING

Mark Strobel, a consumer health analyst at Euromonitor, said e-cigarettes have slowed nicotine replacement therapy sales, along with relatively high prices and a shrinking population of smokers, especially in the United States.

“For some consumers it has been a direct substitution.”

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson don’t break out the data on their smoking cessation products, which are relatively small parts of their sales, but the companies have noted the change.

“It’s definitely taken a bit of our market, no question at all – but there’s a lot of competition in that space,” GSK chief executive Andrew Witty told Reuters in an interview this month.

GSK’s nicotine replacement therapies and smoking cessation products include the brands Nicorette, NicoDermCQ and the medicine Zyban.

There is little long-term safety data on e-cigarettes, although some healthcare professionals say they may be better for consumers than tobacco cigarettes because they have no carbon monoxide and fewer cancer-causing chemicals.

A growing number of states, cities and countries – including Israel and Australia – are considering or have approved legislation to ban or limit the devices or the liquids, which come in exotic flavors from bacon to bubble gum.

California’s top public health official on Wednesday slammed e-cigs as addictive, saying they were leading to nicotine poisoning among children and threatened to unravel the state’s decades-long effort to reduce tobacco use.

Earlier this week, California introduced a bill that would ban the devices in public places, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a similar ban earlier this month.

Last year, the World Health Organization recommended that smokers should be encouraged to try already approved treatments rather than e-cigarettes. The FDA last April proposed rules for electronic cigarettes that would, among other things, ban sales to those under 18, but not restrict flavored products, online sales or advertising.

MAKING SMOKING COOL AGAIN?

Many health experts worry that e-cigarettes will become established as smoking cessation aids before enough research is done to determine their health impact. Another concern is that they may stop people from quitting tobacco completely and deter people from trying potentially more effective methods.

Dr. Albert Rizzo, senior medical advisor for the American Lung Association, said that when patients ask about the products, he tells them it’s good that they are trying to quit but: “We don’t know enough to recommend them.”

Some healthcare professionals said that even if they are not opposed to e-cigarettes, they are concerned about their marketing, especially to young people.

The Federal Trade Commission declined to comment on specific e-cig ads but said “advertising must be truthful, non-deceptive and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.”

E-cigs risk bringing the “cool” back to smoking, reversing the progress over decades in which smoking has become less socially acceptable, said Dr. Robert K. Jackler, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“A lot of us are very concerned about the renormalization phenomenon,” he said. “These glamorize smoking behavior.”

Still, some doctors point to the low efficacy of traditional ways to quit smoking.

“They have better results than placebos, but their rates of success are quite low,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, who said e-cigarettes are an alternative, especially for people who have tried the conventional therapies and failed.

(Additional reporting by Kate C. Kelland and Ben Hirschler in London; editing by Peter Henderson and Stuart Grudgings)

Taiwan braces for typhoon Bailu, flights cancelled

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Boats are tied securely at a fishing port in Taiwan in preparation for the anticipated arrival of Typhoon Bailu.

Taiwan braced for Typhoon Bailu on Friday (August 23), prompting cancellations of domestic flights amid warnings of floods and high seas on the island.

Typhoon Bailu, categorised at the weakest typhoon level by Taiwan’s weather bureau, was expected to approach the island’s southeastern coast early on Saturday (August 24), weather officials said.

Bailu was carrying maximum winds of 126 km per hour (78 mph) as it approached Taiwan, the weather bureau said, adding that the storm could gain in strength and become the first typhoon to make landfall on the island in more than two years.

Thousands of people were moved to safety, most of them tourists on islands off the east coast, while dozens of domestic flights and ferry services were cancelled.

After passing over Taiwan, the typhoon is expected to cross the Taiwan Strait and hit the Chinese province of Fujian, forecasters said. (Reuters)

(Production: Fabian Hamacher)

Florida scientists induce spawning of Atlantic coral in lab for first time

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

(Courtesy: Florida Aquarium)

Scientists in Florida have artificially induced reproductive spawning of an endangered Atlantic coral species for the first time in an aquarium setting, a breakthrough they say holds great promise in efforts to restore depleted reefs in the wild.

The achievement, announced this week at the Florida Aquarium in Apollo Beach near Tampa, borrowed from lab techniques developed at the London-based Horniman Museum and Gardens and used previously to induce spawning of 18 species of Pacific coral, officials said.

Scientists plan to use their newly acquired expertise to breed new coral colonies that can one day repopulate the beleaguered Florida reef system, one of the largest in the world and one decimated by climate change, pollution and disease in recent decades.

The newly cultivated corals should make for even stronger populations than existing colonies because each individual will be bred with characteristics that may be better able to withstand damage, Keri O’Neil, senior coral scientist at the Florida Aquarium told Reuters.

Inducing corals to release their eggs and sperm in aquarium tanks involves controlling their artificial settings to mimic their natural ocean habitat over the course of a yearlong reproduction cycle.

That means carefully regulating water temperature changes from summer to winter, and using special lighting to imitate sunrise, sunset and even lunar cycles that serve as biological cues for the coral in preparing to spawn.

Collaboration between the Florida and London facilities on the project began in 2017 as the situation facing Florida’s reefs grew more dire because of the spread of a new coral affliction dubbed Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.

Atlantic pillar coral, which grows in colonies resembling finger- or column-like structures, has been particularly susceptible to the disease and is already classified as virtually extinct in the wild because remaining male and female colonies are too scattered to reproduce.

Corals are a type of marine invertebrate animal, typically living in colonies of tiny sac-like polyps that feed by filtering seawater through a set of tentacles surrounding a central mouth opening.

Corals are sensitive to major changes in water temperature, and the Florida Reef Tract, like other major reefs around the world, has been under pressure from climate change for years as the sea grows steadily warmer. (Reuters)

Bolsonaro says Brazil lacks resources to fight Amazon fires

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

The Brazilian government lacks the resources to fight a record number of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday (August 22), weeks after telling donors he did not need their money.

Fires in the Amazon have surged 83% so far this year compared with the same period a year earlier, government figures show, destroying vast swathes of a forest considered a vital bulwark against climate change.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro said, without supporting evidence, that non-governmental organisations were behind the fires.

Questioned again on Thursday about those comments, he said he could not prove that NGOs, for whom he has cut funding, were lighting the fires but that they were “the most likely suspects.”

The firebrand right-wing president has repeatedly said he believes Brazil should open the Amazon up to business interests, to allow mining and logging companies to exploit its natural resources.

Brazil is facing growing international criticism over its handling of the Amazon, 60% of which lies in the country.

Earlier this month, Norway and Germany suspended funding for projects to curb deforestation in Brazil after becoming alarmed by changes to the way projects were selected under Bolsonaro.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on his twitter account the fires in the Amazon forest are an international emergency and should be discussed by the G7 summit that will begin on Saturday (August 24) in Biarritz, France.

Although fires are a regular and natural occurrence during the regular dry season at this time of year, environmentalists blamed the sharp rise on farmers setting the forest alight to clear land for pasture.

Federal prosecutors in Brazil said they are investigating a spike in deforestation and wildfires raging in the Amazon state of Para to determine whether there has been reduced monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections there. (Reuters)

(Production: Pablo Garcia, Leonardo Benassatto, Paul Vieira)

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