27 June 2019
By Dr. Jana Olson
A lot of science
The second day of GFN began with the first science plenary session called “It’s time to talk about nicotine” with presentations by Dr. Lynne Dawkins of London South Bank University, and Dr. Neal Benowitz of the University of California, San Francisco. They described many of the effects of nicotine, taking care to distinguish the effects of nicotine from those of cigarette smoke where possible. Dr. Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London drew parallels between the public health backlash during the introduction of nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) and the current introduction of smoke-free products.
What I really enjoyed was the later session called “Science of safer products: health effects of alternative nicotine products,” because this is where several scientists really dug down into their research to present some new information on smoke-free products.
Dr. Massimo Caruso of the University of Catania described his results showing that e-cigarette liquids stop or slow the growth of 7 disease-causing bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and several others. The agar well diffusion assay involved placing a small volume of the e-liquid into wells in an agar film that also contained bacteria. As the e-liquid diffused through the agar, it killed much of the bacteria or slowed their growth – sometimes with higher effect than the control antibiotic ampicillin. Both the flavors and the nicotine appeared to contribute to this effect.
Dr. Massimo Caruso of the University of Catania presented his research on the inhibitory effects of e-cigarette liquids on bacteria at GFN 2019.
The second presentation, by Dr. Aleksei Trofimov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained that smoking can reprogram neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, in a way that makes them stay in the lungs longer leading to inflammation. Preliminary data suggests that quitting smoking or switching to smoke-free products can allow the immune system to return closer to normal function over the course of a few years.
Another representative of the Russian Federation, Dr. Sayar Abdulkhakov MD of Kazan Federal University, presented research ordered by the government of Russia, which confirmed several of our own findings. Those findings include that Platform 1 is 90-95% less toxic than cigarettes according to laboratory studies, and that clinical study participants who used Platform 1 were exposed to lower levels of harmful chemicals in the study compared to those who used cigarettes.
A pack of posters
Besides the science sessions, there were also around 40 posters being presented in the foyer. Our own Dr. Loyse Felber Medlin, Dr. Smilja Djurdjevic, and Dr. Peter Langer all designed posters for this session. Felber Medlin presented our smoking abstinence study poster, describing how continuous abstinence from smoking markedly reduces exposure to harmful and potentially harmful chemicals. Abstinence also leads to other effects associated with reduced risk of smoking-related diseases, such as reduced coughing. Over 30% of subjects experienced a regular need to cough at the beginning of the 12-month cessation study, and only around 10% experienced this need after 6-12 months.
Djurdjevic presented her poster on the population health impact model web application. The model describes a hypothetical scenario where a smoke-free product - Platform 1 in this case - was introduced to a population in 1990, and the model results after 20 years are compared to real data in terms of smoking prevalence, risk of key smoking-related diseases, and years of life hypothetically saved as a result of introducing the product. This ranged from around 3,000 to over 1.5 million over the 20 years of the model, depending on the disease or gender studied.
Finally, Gizelle Baker presented Langer’s poster describing the result of two cross-sectional surveys in Japan. The general population survey covering almost 5,000 people per year for two years, and the Platform 1 user survey covering 2,000 people each year. The surveys showed that around 70% of the Platform 1 users had switched completely away from cigarettes. Only 2% or fewer people initiated tobacco use with Platform 1, and less than 0.1% of ex-smokers re-initiated with the product.
Dr. Medlin (left) and Dr. Djurdjevic (right) both enjoyed presenting their research to other conference-goers.
A matter of funding
The evening’s debate on funding for tobacco harm reduction research wasn’t so much a scientific commentary like the others, but instead a commentary on science itself. Our own Dr. Moira Gilchrist reminded us that:
"Weaponizing industry research and developing a bullying culture among scientists is not consequence free. Not only does the quality of research suffer, but the real tragedy is in the final result: the billion men and women around the world who smoke today are being denied truthful and accurate information."
Dr. Moira Gilchrist serving as an industry representative in the discussion "Funding Matters" in tobacco harm reduction research.
To read more about GFN, you can find my notes on Day 3 here.