Just as vapers in several countries began to feel like events may finally be turning in favor of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool, the harsh realities of the global public health movement shattered any optimism.
The World Health Organization is just wrapping its Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, known as COP7, in India and according to professor John Britton, Chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group at the Royal College of Physicians in Britain (RCP), the future for vaping looks bleak.
The RCP, Public Health England and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies have all endorsed e-cigarettes as a vital tool in the battle to end the tobacco epidemic.
Tune in to this special edition of RegWatch and learn why officials from England’s top public health organizations fear that pending WHO regulatory action on e-cigarettes could kill millions of people.
Images and references to alcohol and tobacco in popular video games may be influencing UK teens who play the games and the age restriction system is not working, according to a new study.
Experts from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at The University of Nottingham have carried out the first ever analysis of best-selling video games to find out the extent to which the games include this content and to assess the link between playing the games and drinking and smoking behaviour.
They found that teenagers who play video games featuring alcohol and tobacco references appeared to be directly influenced because they were twice as likely to have tried smoking or drinking themselves.
‘Cut scenes’ on YouTube
The research examined the content of 32 UK best-selling video games of 2012/2013 and carried out a large online survey of adolescents playing games with alcohol and tobacco content. An analysis of ‘cut scenes’ uploaded by gamers to YouTube from the five most popular games was also carried out. All the games studied were from the genres of stealth, action adventure, open world, shooter and survival/horror because they involve avatars that look and act like real people.
The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, found alcohol and tobacco content in 44% of the most popular video games. They also found this content was not reported by the official regulator, the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) system which informs the Video Standards Council age ratings that help parents decide whether game content is suitable for their children.
The researchers used YouGov survey tools to ask 1,094 UK adolescents aged 11-17 whether they had played any of the most popular video games identified as containing either tobacco or alcohol imagery. They were also asked whether and to what extent they smoked or drank alcohol. The study found that adolescents who had played at least one game with tobacco or alcohol content were twice as likely to have tried smoking or consumed alcohol themselves.
Out of the top five most popular games, Grand Theft Auto V & VI contained the highest level of alcohol and smoking content using fictitious brands only. The other top games containing these references were Call of Duty:Black Ops II, Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 3 and Assassin’s Creed III. There was no electronic cigarette content.
Psychologist Dr Joanne Cranwell from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, said:
”Although around 54% of UK adolescents play video games online, parental concern over exposure to inappropriate content while playing video games seems to be lower than for other media, like movies for example. While 80% of children aged 10-15 play packaged or online video games with an age rating higher than their age, more than half of British parents are unaware of the harmful content this exposes them to.
Video games are clearly attractive to adolescents regardless of age classification. It appears that official PEGI content descriptors are failing to restrict youth access to age inappropriate content. We think that the PEGI system needs to include both alcohol and tobacco in their content descriptors. Also, game developers could be offered incentives to reduce the amount of smoking and drinking in their games or to at least reference smoking and drinking on their packaging and websites.
As a child protection method it is naïve for both the games industry and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, who regulate the PEGI system, to rely on age ratings alone. Future research should focus on identifying the levels of exposure in terms of dose that youth gamers are exposed to during actual gameplay and the effects of this on long- term alcohol and smoking behaviour.”
A copy of the full paper is online here: Alcohol and tobacco content in UK video games and their association with alcohol and tobacco use among young people.
GRAND THEFT WARNING – Teenagers who play video games are ‘TWICE as likely to smoke and drink alcohol’ – TheSUN
A new WHO report fails to properly evaluate the evidence on e-cigarettes and could even undermine international efforts to reduce smoking, says a group of UK based academics.
UK academics are calling for better understanding of the potential benefits of e-cigarettes to reducing the smoking pandemic ahead of an international gathering of countries that have signed the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.
The 7th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global public health treaty, will be held in Delhi, India from 7th-12th November 2016. At this meeting, Parties to the treaty (countries and other jurisdictions) will discuss whether similar policy measures recommended to reduce tobacco use should be applied to e-cigarettes.
In advance of the COP the World Health Organisation published a report about Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDDS), also known as e-cigarettes. This aimed to summarise the evidence about these devices.
Academics from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence, have today published a robust critique of the WHO report setting out a series of concerns about the content of the document which, in their view, does not fairly represent existing evidence on e-cigarettes. Their critique examines each element of the WHO report and identifies flaws in the way the evidence is presented and problems with how the report could be interpreted, potentially encouraging countries to adopt excessive restrictions on e-cigarettes which could undermine efforts to reduce smoking.
The UKCTAS critique points to evidence set out in the recent Royal College of Physician’s’ report ‘Nicotine without Smoke’ and subsequent research which recognise that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and that smokers who find it difficult to stop should be encouraged to use them.
The WHO report fails to accurately present what is already known about e-cigarettes. In particular, it: positions e-cigarettes as a threat rather than an opportunity to reduce smoking; fails to accurately quantify any risks of e-cigarettes compared with smoking; misrepresents existing evidence about any harms to bystanders; discounts the fact that e-cigarettes are helping smokers to quit; does not recognise the place of some promotion of e-cigarettes to encourage smokers to switch to these less harmful products; fails to understand that the flavours in e-cigarettes are useful for people trying to stop smoking; mischaracterises the current e-cigarette market and appears to support very restrictive policies on e-cigarettes without including any good policy analysis. In addition, the WHO report does not acknowledge that significant restrictions on e-cigarettes could lead to unintended consequences, including increases in smoking.
Finally, the researchers point out that the WHO briefing is based on four unpublished papers which are still undergoing peer review, which does not allow for open, transparent scrutiny of the evidence. This does not, therefore, provide a good basis for policy making and risks undermining rather than promoting the aims of the FCTC, which is a treaty that was designed to help countries reduce smoking rates and save lives.
‘In this episode of RegWatch hear directly from John Britton, professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and Chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group at the Royal College of Physicians. He led the team of experts that produced the comprehensive report. Get in-depth details on the findings and learn why Prof. Britton says vaping should not be easily dismissed’
Read more on Regulator Watch . com
NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands, Division of Primary Care – PhD Studentship
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A new report released today from the Royal College of Physicians, ‘Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction’ concludes that e-cigarettes are likely to be beneficial to UK public health. Smokers can therefore be reassured and encouraged to use them, and the public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.
Tobacco smoking is addictive and lethal. Half of all lifelong smokers die early, losing an average of about 3 months of life expectancy for every year smoked after the age of 35, some 10 years of life in total. Although smoking prevalence in the UK has reduced to 18%, 8.7 million people still smoke. Harm reduction provides an additional strategy to protect this group of smokers from disability and early death.
Since e-cigarettes became available in the UK in 2007, their use has been surrounded by medical and public controversy. This new 200-page report examines the science, public policy, regulation and ethics surrounding e-cigarettes and other non-tobacco sources of nicotine, and addresses these controversies and misunderstandings with conclusions based on the latest available evidence:
- E-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking – in the UK, use of e-cigarettes is limited almost entirely to those who are already using, or have used, tobacco
- E-cigarettes do not result in normalisation of smoking – there is no evidence that either nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarette use has resulted in renormalisation of smoking. None of these products has to date attracted significant use among adult never-smokers, or demonstrated evidence of significant gateway progression into smoking among young people
- E-cigarettes and quitting smoking – among smokers, e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened, and in a proportion of these to successful cessation. In this way, e-cigarettes can act as a gateway from smoking
- E-cigarettes and long-term harm – the possibility of some harm from long-term e-cigarette use cannot be dismissed due to inhalation of the ingredients other than nicotine, but is likely to be very small, and substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking. With appropriate product standards to minimise exposure to the other ingredients, it should be possible to reduce risks of physical health still further. Although it is not possible to estimate the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes precisely, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure.
The report acknowledges the need for proportionate regulation, but suggests that regulation should not be allowed significantly to inhibit the development and use of harm-reduction products by smokers. A regulatory strategy should take a balanced approach in seeking to ensure product safety, enable and encourage smokers to use the product instead of tobacco, and detect and prevent effects that counter the overall goals of tobacco control policy.
Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group, said:
‘The growing use of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco smoking has been a topic of great controversy, with much speculation over their potential risks and benefits. This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products, and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the UK. Smokers should be reassured that these products can help them quit all tobacco use forever.’
RCP president Professor Jane Dacre said:
‘Since the RCP’s first report on tobacco, Smoking and health, in 1962, we have argued consistently for more and better policies and services to prevent people from taking up smoking, and help existing smokers to quit. This new report builds on that work and concludes that, for all the potential risks involved, harm reduction has huge potential to prevent death and disability from tobacco use, and to hasten our progress to a tobacco-free society. With careful management and proportionate regulation, harm reduction provides an opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people. It is an opportunity that, with care, we should take.’
Alison Cox, director of prevention for Cancer Research UK, said the charity believes e-cigs have a “real promise” in helping to reduce the death toll from tobacco.
She added: “This important report is an accurate summary of the latest scientific evidence on e-cigarettes and will help dispel the increasingly common misconception that they’re as harmful as smoking. They’re not.
“Tobacco kills more than 100,000 people in the UK every year, we should grasp every opportunity to encourage as many people as possible to stop smoking for good.”
And Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said the report highlights the “important role” of e-cigarettes in reducing the deadly harms smoking causes.
He added: “The best thing a smoker can do, for themselves and those around them, is to quit completely, now and forever.
“E-cigarettes are the most popular quitting aid in England and local stop smoking services are the most effective route to giving up, we encourage smokers to combine these, giving them an extremely good chance of quitting smoking successfully.”
Five researchers from the University of Nottingham were involved in the report.
These were Ilze Bogdanovica, research fellow; John Britton, professor of epidemiology; Tessa Langley, assistant professor in health economics; Sarah Lewis, professor of medical statistics; and Opazo Breton, research statistician.
New York Times – Smokers Urged to Switch to E-Cigarettes by British Medical Group
Wall Street Journal – U.K. Report Advocates Substituting E-Cigarettes for Tobacco
Motherboard – Vaping Is About Reducing Harm, Not Being Harmless
Nottingham Post – Experts and doctors believe e-cigarettes should be offered to smokers
British teenagers are being exposed to a high level of tobacco and alcohol images in online music videos, experts warn.
Research from the University of Nottingham suggests girls aged between 13 and 15 are the most exposed.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, analysed 32 of the most popular music videos during a 12-week period.
Experts estimated, using the census and their own data, that the average percentage of viewing of those videos was 22% for teenagers and 6% for adults.
They worked out the total number of depictions (impressions) of alcohol and tobacco in 10-second slots throughout the music videos seen by viewers.
Overall, the videos produced 1,006 million “impressions” of alcohol and 203 million of tobacco.
Trumpets by Jason Derulo, and Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke delivered some of the highest number of tobacco impressions, while Timber by Pitbull, and Drunk In Love by Beyonce, delivered the most alcohol content, the study said.