Congratulations to Suzi Gage for winning the AAAS Early Career Public Engagement Award!

Suzanne Gage, a scientist whose podcast, “Say Why To Drugs,” has received over 264,000 listens, has been chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to receive the 2016 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-09-32-03Gage recently completed her post-doctoral research in the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, and is now a scientist at the University of Liverpool. She also founded “Sifting the Evidence,” a blog on The Guardian’s website in which she examines epidemiology, mental health and substance abuse. She is being honored by AAAS for “her evidence-based approach to public engagement activities and targeting audiences who may not be actively seeking science information.”

Gage is a “highly talented, enthusiastic and energetic young researcher who promises to be a real star of the future,” wrote Marcus Munafò, a professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, where Gage was a post-doctoral research associate until December. Through her blog and podcast, Munafò wrote, “Suzi has worked tirelessly to provide information to the general public about the scientific evidence surrounding the effects of recreational drugs.”

Her podcast, which she was inspired to produce after appearing on rapper Scroobius Pip’s podcast, discusses a different recreational drug in each episode. Gage aims to counter misinformation and myths surrounding various substances. Munafò noted that Pip’s involvement in the podcast has helped Gage reach an audience of young adults who might not otherwise receive the information. Pip emphasized that the program is not meant to condone drug use.

“This is not a pro-drugs podcast, this is not anti-drugs podcast,” Pip explained, “this is pro-truth and anti-myth.”

The podcast has topped the Science and Medicine chart in the iTunes store and has received support on Twitter, including from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. It also won the Skeptic Magazine 2016 Ockham Award for Best Podcast. Munafò wrote that the show has also been used by teachers to introduce their students to evidence-based thinking.

Gage has also traveled across the United Kingdom, speaking at “Skeptics in the Pub,” evening events hosted by local organizations to promote critical thinking. She has spoken at the Royal Institution of Great Britain and music festivals in the UK.

She engaged with younger audiences in 2011 by participating in “I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here,” an online event where students meet and interact with scientists. The scientists compete with one other, answering questions about science and their research that are provided by students, who then vote for their favorite scientist. Gage won in the “Brain Zone” category and used the winnings to start her podcast.

Gage’s work in public engagement was recognized in 2012, when she won the UK Science Blog Prize, and in 2013, when she received the British Association for Psychopharmacology Public Communication Award. She has also written for The Economist, The Telegraph and The Lancet Psychiatry.

Gage’s recent scientific work in studying the relationship between health behaviors and mental health outcomes has included investigating causal associations from observational studies, with particular emphasis on substance use and mental health. She earned a Master of Science degree in cognitive neuropsychology from University College London in 2005 and a Ph.D. in translational epidemiology from the University of Bristol in 2014. Her research also earned her the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Travel Award in 2012. More recently, she received the Society for Research in Nicotine and Tobacco’s 2015 Basic Science Network Travel Award.

The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science was established in 2010 to recognize “early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities.” The recipient receives a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting and reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting to receive the prize.

The award will be bestowed upon Gage during the 183rd AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, Feb. 16-20, 2017. The AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, in the Republic Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

images-duckduckgo-comSuzanne Gage completed her post-doctoral research at the University of Bristol and is now a scientist at the University of Liverpool. She has written for The GuardianThe Economist, The Telegraph and The Lancet Psychiatry.

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Electronic cigarettes could have a huge effect on public health | Marcus Munafo, University of Bristol

June 20, 2016 2.17pm BST – Marcus Munafo – The Conversation

Tobacco still kills 6m people around the world every year. Despite huge public health efforts to help people quit and prevent young people starting, smoking remains the single greatest cause of ill health and premature death. And even with restrictions on tobacco advertising and smoking in public places, many young people continue to take up smoking. The situation is even worse in poorer countries, where support to stop smoking is limited, and tobacco control policies weaker.

So in light of this, how should we view the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes?

image-20160620-8853-1qda1qwThe gadgets deliver a nicotine hit by heating a nicotine-containing propylene glycol (e-liquid) to create an aerosol (usually called “vapour”), which is inhaled. Put simply, they deliver nicotine almost as effectively as a conventional cigarette, but without the vast majority of other chemicals present in tobacco smoke (either from the tobacco itself, or as a result of the burning process).

A whole culture is emerging around “vaping”. Many devices offer a range of power settings, and a vast array of e-liquids is on offer, with varying nicotine contents and flavours. Enthusiasts often apply modifications to their devices, and engage in “cloud chasing” – competing to produce the largest and most interesting clouds of vapour. And yes, young people are experimenting with e-cigarettes (in the same way that they have always experimented with pretty much everything), although at the moment there is no strong evidence this is leading to subsequent cigarette use, or even long-term e-cigarette use.

The rapid growth in use of e-cigarettes, especially among smokers trying to cut down or quit, has taken the public health community and the tobacco industry by surprise. Both are struggling to catch up. Health professionals are hurrying to carry out research to develop evidence-based guidelines and policies. Meanwhile, the tobacco industry is buying up e-cigarette companies and introducing its own products onto the market.

So how concerned should we be about this emerging and disruptive technology?

Should we encourage existing smokers to use e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking, even if this means they continue using nicotine long-term? In the United Kingdom there is some consensus that smokers should be encouraged to use e-cigarettes if they feel they might help, and the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training is supportive of their use. Part of the reason many vapers feel so passionately about the subject (and react strongly when they feel that vaping is being unfairly attacked) is that for the first time, through the use of e-cigarettes, they have felt able to take control of their nicotine habit, stop smoking, and reassert some control over their health, without being medicalised in the process.

But a problem remains in the lack of information on the possible harm of e-cigarettes. This is unlikely to change any time soon, since the health effects of tobacco use can take several decades to emerge, and it’s probable the same will be true for e-cigarettes. Nothing is entirely risk-free, but the vastly reduced number of chemicals present in e-cigarette vapour compared to tobacco smoke means we can be confident that vaping will be much, much less harmful than smoking.

Heartening evidence

As part of the investigation into the effects of e-cigarettes, we investigated how the cells found in the arteries of the heart, known as human coronary artery endothelial cells, responded when they were exposed to both e-cigarette vapour and conventional cigarette smoke. We found the cells showed a clear stress response from the cigarette smoke, but not from the electronic cigarette. This suggests tobacco smokers may be able to reduce immediate tobacco-related harm by switching from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

Many people find it difficult to function without their first caffeine hit of the day. But no one is seriously calling for coffee shops to be dismantled or regulated. Nicotine is addictive, but much less so on its own than in tobacco, where other chemicals enhance its effect. At the doses consumed by vapers the harm is likely to be very low (although we need to continue to research this), and many vapers actually gradually move to zero nicotine content e-liquids, even while continuing to vape.

Of course, we may end up with a large population of long-term nicotine users who use e-cigarettes to deliver nicotine rather than cigarettes, but all of the evidence at the moment suggests that this population will almost entirely comprise ex-smokers. This would produce a vast public health gain.

We must be careful not to restrict smokers’ access to e-cigarettes, or over-state the potential harm of their use, if this will put people off making the transition from smoking to vaping. To do so would deny us one of the greatest public health improving opportunities of the last 50 years.

Original post – The Conversation | More on E-cigarettes from UKCTAS

‘Is nicotine all bad?’ By Kate Kelland

Psychologists and tobacco-addiction specialists, including some in world-leading laboratories in Britain, think it’s now time to distinguish clearly between nicotine and smoking. The evidence shows smoking is the killer, not nicotine, they say.

“We need to de-demonize nicotine,” said Ann McNeill, a professor of tobacco addiction and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, who has spent her career researching ways to help people quit smoking.

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Smoking kills half of all those who do it – plus 600,000 people a year who don’t, via second-hand smoke – making it the world’s biggest preventable killer, with a predicted death toll of a billion by the end of the century, according to the World Health Organization.

Few doubt that nicotine is addictive. How quickly it hooks people is closely linked to the speed at which it is delivered to the brain, says McNeill. The patch is very slow; gum is slightly quicker. But there is no evidence as yet that significant numbers of people are addicted to either. Daniel, who works long hours in London’s financial district, says he chews less on weekends when he’s relaxing, doing sport and hanging out with his kids.

One reason smoking is so addictive is that it’s a highly efficient nicotine delivery system, McNeill says. “Smoking a tobacco cigarette is one of the best ways of getting nicotine to the brain – it’s faster even than intravenous injection.” Also, tobacco companies used various chemicals to make the nicotine in cigarettes even more potent.

Pure nicotine can be lethal in sufficient quantities. There is some evidence it may lead to changes in adolescent brain development, especially to the part responsible for intelligence, language and memory.

Stanton Glantz, a professor of tobacco at the University of California, San Francisco, says the younger kids are when they start using nicotine, the more heavily addicted they get. “This is likely because their brains are still developing,” he said.

Countering that, others say studies have focused on animals and that in any case, nicotine should not be available to under-18s. Michael Siegel, a tobacco control expert and professor at Boston University, says that in the few studies so far, such effects have been seen only in smokers, not smoke-free nicotine users.

Elsewhere, studies have looked at nicotine’s potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and to delay the onset of Parkinson’s.

A study in the journal Brain and Cognition in 2000 found that “nicotinic stimulation may have promise for improving both cognitive and motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease.” Another, in Behavioral Brain Research, suggested “there is considerable potential for therapeutic applications in the near future.” Other work has looked at the stimulant’s potential for easing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

See the whole article here.

E-cigarettes – does type and frequency of use influence quitting amongst smokers?

Dr Leonie Brose, lead author of the first study, from the IoPPN at King’s College London, said: ‘E-cigarettes are still a relatively new product, so this study adds important information about what happens when they are used alongside tobacco cigarettes. We already know that using an e-cigarette in an attempt to quit smoking increases the chances of success compared to quitting without any support. This study did not test how helpful they are as quitting aids because we looked at smokers who were using them for any reason, including just to cut down on their smoking or in situations when they cannot smoke. But it is encouraging to see that even then, regular e-cigarette use was linked to reduced numbers of lethal cigarettes smoked and increased attempts to quit smoking in the following year.’

The second study extended this by looking at not only how often e-cigarettes were used but also what types were used, measured for the first time at follow up in 2013. E-cigarettes in the UK have been classified into two basic types – ‘cigalikes’ and ‘tank’ models. Cigalikes resemble tobacco cigarettes. They are disposable or use replaceable cartridges. Tank models look quite different from cigarettes and have containers that are refilled with the ‘e-liquid’.

cigalike-vs-tank

In the second study the researchers found that of 587 people using e-cigarettes at the one year follow up, 76 per cent used cigalikes and 24 per cent used tank models. Nearly a third of daily tank users (28 per cent) had quit smoking compared with 13 per cent of those not using an e-cigarette. 11 per cent of daily cigalike users and 9 per cent of non-daily tank users had quit smoking, but these were not significantly different from those not using e-cigarettes.

Non-daily cigalike users were actually less likely to have quit compared with those not using e-cigarettes, with only 5 per cent having quit smoking. The researchers highlight this as a cause for concern because many of the most prominent brands of cigalikes in the UK are now owned by the tobacco industry. A recent study carried out at the IoPPN, funded by Cancer Research UK, found that tobacco industry cigalikes were the most prominent e-cigarettes at the point of sale in small shops.

Read more here: http://www.healthcanal.com/skin-hair-nails/62568-e-cigarettes-does-type-and-frequency-of-use-influence-quitting-amongst-smokers.html

Hello from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies!

We are a network of thirteen universities (Twelve in the UK and one in New Zealand) funded by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

UKCTAS aims to deliver an international research and policy development portfolio, and build capacity in tobacco and alcohol research.

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