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A Summary of the E-cigarette Summit US 2017

By Jasmine Khouja

The first E-cigarette Summit US was held in Washington DC on the 8th May 2017. The one-day event brought together researchers, medical professionals and members of industry from all over the US as well as many from the UK (where the organisers have held E-cigarette Summits successfully for the past four years). A review of the safety of e-cigarettes was followed by a review of the regulations that have been proposed in the US. Throughout the day, comparisons were made between the UK and US, particularly in the approaches taken to health messages and regulation of e-cigarettes. In Professor Kenneth Warner’s opening address, he suggested that there are two types of researcher in the field of e-cigarette research: sceptics, who are focussed on potential harm and protecting children regardless of the potential harm reduction for adult smokers, and enthusiasts, who are focussed on potential benefits to public health due to smoking cessation which could outweigh the potential risk to children. By this definition, the majority of researchers who presented evidence appeared to be enthusiasts.

Here are some highlights from the summit:

Evidence Updates

The majority of presentations suggested that previous research has overestimated the health risks of e-cigarettes by using inappropriate methods such as testing the toxicants produced from vaping using temperatures which are not used by vapers. Recently, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and his team have attempted to replicate such findings with maximum temperatures used by vapers and are yet to find evidence that supports the previous findings.

Dual use was also a common theme in the presentations; dual use is the use of e-cigarettes alongside smoking (or other tobacco product use depending on the definition used). However, as Dr Andrea Villanti pointed out, context is key when researching dual use; two people defined as dual users may be extremely different. For example, one dual user may smoke one cigarette a week and vape daily and another may vape once a week and smoke 20 cigarettes a day. With this in mind, Dr Robin Mermelstein’s research focussed on dual users and found that common reasons for using e-cigarettes were using e-cigarettes as a substitute for cigarettes, to cut down their cigarette consumption, to curb their cravings in places they were not allowed to smoke and because they were trying to quit smoking.

Public health

Professor Linda Bauld provided evidence that public health messages can impact the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. In the UK, there is generally a positive stance taken towards the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation among the public health community, however this stance has not been adopted in the US. It was suggested numerous times that consensus among the public health community could help smokers to quit and could help the medical community to provide accurate advice.

Regulations

New regulations for e-cigarettes are being proposed for the US in the Cole-Bishop proposal. Under these regulations, the e-cigarette market would essentially be frozen, preventing improvements to devices in safety and efficacy according to Deborah Arnott. However, Matthew Myers would disagree and sees flexibility in the FDA regulations which he believes are absolutely necessary.

Overall, the summit was extremely informative and highlighted the need to clearly communicate the findings of well-designed research to the public in order to maximise the potential for reducing smoking rates with use of e-cigarettes.

Conferencing in South America: A tale of cocaine, capuchins, cachaça and chupacabra

I have to admit, I’d been a little apprehensive about this trip. This was the first time I’d visited South America, let alone solo, and since that initial invitation to present arrived in my inbox a little over a month ago, my head had been filled with cautionary tales from everyone with whom I’d shared my travel plans.

Now, on the penultimate day of my visit to Belo Horizonte, I can honestly say I am devastated to be leaving. Despite my eleventh hour travel and lodging arrangements and sparse audience (problems exacerbated, or indeed caused, by my woefully inadequate grasp of Portuguese), I can honestly say that I’ve never before had such a rich and eye-opening conference experience.

favela

This has been nothing like the traditional, slick, and sanitised Western conference experience to which I’ve grown accustomed. The programme was no more than a loose hint at timings (Brazilians, I have learned, are very relaxed about punctuality), posters were strung wildly with (what appeared to be) repurposed wire coat-hangers, and there were no lavish spreads of patisseries and exotic teas during symposium breaks (that is not to say, of course, that Brazilian cuisine is lacking – more on that later).

What there was, however, was a gathering of incredibly hospitable and astute neuroscientists, all with a keen interest in a shared cause – drug abuse. A carefully selected programme of speakers, hailing from multiple continents and disciplines, presenting cutting-edge science, was matched by an equally impressive daily schedule of cultural events. These included a moving performance from Orquestra Jovem de Contagem. This is an orchestra of children hailing from the very poorest areas of the city (the favelas), tutored and directed by a Professor of Music at our host institution, the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. Their forthcoming US tour stands testament to their talent.

But enough of the conference. I learnt more outside of the classroom. I spent one evening with my hosts at a beautiful local restaurant discussing Brazilian drug culture and political corruption, being treated to traditional Brazilian cuisine. I sampled my first (and second and third) caipirinha(s). I stayed up until the early hours with six wonderful Professors kind enough to tolerate my naive (but enthusiastic) ramblings, ensconced in an impassioned discussion of science and policy. I was driven to the beautiful Inhotim Institute, a botanical garden and contemporary art gallery, and to Ouro Preto (“Black Gold”), an 18th century mining town famous for its exquisite Baroque architecture, by three American Professors sweet enough to take me under their wing for the week.

Inhotim

 

I was struck by the immediate contrast between first and third world, painfully apparent on even the shortest journey through this city. I watched wild capuchins play in the rafters of a local restaurant, drank freshly pressed sugarcane juice (delicious) and coconut milk (less enjoyable –see picture) by the roadside, and cycled up russet-red dirt tracks into the mountains encircling the city to greet a sunset never to be paralleled. And there may or may not have been a sighting of a chupacabra. Oh, wait, a capybara.

coconut milk

If you’ve persevered through my confused ramblings this far, thank you. If you’ve skipped ahead to what appears to be the concluding paragraph, nice work. It is. So here I sum up: This trip has taught me two things, which I hope to share. Firstly, don’t limit your travel to the ‘Western’ world – you’ll be missing out, you just don’t know it yet (I didn’t). Secondly, embrace opportunities to travel to conferences alone – you’ll make so much more of the experience, and meet so many more people, when pushed outside of the comfortable and familiar. Frederico, David, Colin, Bob, Monica, Sarah, Yael, Analice, Ricardo, Reinaldo – if you happen to stumble upon this, thank you for making my time in Brazil such an incredible and memorable experience. I can’t wait to see you all again. Finally, I want to thank our TARG Prof, Marcus, for very generously letting me travel in his place. This was an incredible opportunity. I hope you enjoyed the cachaça!

caipirinha

 

Obrigado por ler!

 

This article is posted by Jen Ware