Thursday, December 20, 2012

The future is now: Investing in Harm Reduction

 A couple of interesting articles arrived in my inbox recently:

Are Electronic Cigarette Stocks a Healthy Investment? LO, RAI, SFIO, VPCO, MFST

So-called electronic cigarette or e-cigarettes offer the tobacco industry a potential source for growth with big tobacco stocks like Lorillard Inc (NYSE: LO) and Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI) already players in the industry while small cap electronic cigarette stocks like Smokefree Innotec (PINK: SFIO), Vapor Corp (PINK: VPCO) and Medifirst Solutions (OTC: MFST) are potential acquisition targets for tobacco stocks like Altria Group (NYSE: MO) (which is not yet active in the e-cig space) or as players in their own right. After all, electronic cigarettes, which are nicotine-infused, battery-heated tubes that create vapor rather than smoke, could go from being a $300 million industry right now to become a $1 billion industry in the next three years. April 2012, Lorillard Inc acquired blu eCigs, a leading electronic cigarette company in the US, for $135 million and the move marked big tobacco’s first foray into the industry. 

Reynolds American Inc., the second-biggest US tobacco maker, has also developed a “digital cigarette” using computer chips to replicate smoking a cigarette.


80% of RAI’s resources are still in the combustible tobacco space, 90% of its organizational resources focus on combustibles and 90% of the R&D budget is still centered on combustibles.

...and for good reason: market demand dictates the direction of business. Thus, two things stand out to me after reading this:

1) There is a demand for e-cigarettes, which are ultimately going to replace many or most NRT products that are currently on the market.

2) There is an even bigger demand that remains for combustibles, proving that analog cigarettes are going to be around for some time to come.  90+% of smokers still prefer combustibles; many or most of us smokers would be willing to switch (or at least try) reduced risk combustibles if they were to be made both satisfactory and widely available.

If e-cigarettes are fast becoming a "healthy" investment, then it is a no-brainier to conclude that there are even bigger opportunities waiting to be had in the field of harm reduction.

..and in speaking of investments, markets, and tobacco harm reduction, this also arrived in my inbox at roughly the same time as the above article about e-cigarettes:

Big Stock Alert 12/17/1222nd Century Group (XXII) 

According to SmallCap Network, 22nd Century Group is a tobacco harm reduction company very big stock potential:

When we look for Big Stocks, we want to see a company that has a competitive advantage
in a major investing wave. This wave can be created by disruptive technology, a government mandate...or fortunately for us in this case, both.

I, for one, am very much against government mandates, especially when it comes to the regulation of nicotine, Consumer demand (not the government) should take precedence over forced mandates, but I digress:

Over several years with multiple R& D partners, XXII has developed and patented, genetic engineering and plant breeding technologies that allow for the level of nicotine in the tobacco plant to be decreased or increased. The resulting tobacco is grown and processed exactly like conventional tobacco.
As I have mentioned on this blog before, I personally prefer the idea of increased nicotine and many smokers would most likely agree with me.  However, even though it may not suit my individual preference, it is also apparent that a VLN (Very Low Nicotine) cigarette may be equally as attractive to that (albeit much smaller) segment of the smoking population that may wish to eliminate/separate all or most of the nicotine from the smoking experience, much in the same way that some e-cigarette users choose zero-nicotine cartridges for e-cigarettes. Ultimately, we smokers have varying wants and needs and XXII appears to take this into account. I just wish that I could say the same about the FDA and the NIH.

A Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analyst published a report on Modified Risk Tobacco Products (MRTPs) highlighting the impact that it will have on the $748B annual worldwide tobacco industry.

Because XXII’s cigarettes, due to smoking behavior, reduce exposure to whole tobacco smoke, not just limited smoke toxins, the company expects their cigarette brands will be the first cigarettes to be authorized by the F.D.A .as Modified Risk Products. Why do they feel that confident? They already have a 5-year contract with the government to supply them with modified nicotine cigarettes. The U. S. Government is buying the company’s SPECTRUM cigarettes for research purposes.

Now, this is certainly interesting in the sense that the U.S. Government appears (at least on the surface) to be acknowledging that there is merit in promoting (or at least researching) tobacco harm reduction for combustible tobacco, and thus the idea of there being a dose response relationship with regards to tobacco use and mortality. However, there are some in the world of tobacco control that seem to be pushing vociferously towards the idea of a government mandate that would lower the nicotine content of all commercial cigarette brands in the U.S.:

Harvard Professor of Public Health and former member of the F.D.A. Tobacco Products
Scientific Advisory Committee (known as TPSAC), Dr. Gregory Connolly, is also publicly calling for the F.D.A. to mandate a massive reduction of nicotine
levels in cigarettes to approximately 0.3 milligrams per cigarette.

It's important to note that Dr. Connolly is a former, rather than current, member of TPSAC; this is a good thing, for to mandate such low nicotine levels for all commercial brands would surely be a grave mistake in that it would alienate many smokers (such as myself) while contributing to the continued emergence of a black market. However, this does not mean that I, as a smoker and blogger, am against the idea of VLN cigarettes; it just means that I am for freedom of choice: if this is what some smokers prefer, in addition to there being proof of reduced harm and bio-markers, then so be it. ALL forms of THR need to be explored, for we smokers are as varied in our habits and preferences as one snowflake is to the next in the middle of a January snowstorm.

What works for one, may not work for the next. The future of THR is going to take a varied approach and it appears that many are starting to take this to heart, as is expressed in this recent analysis that was published recently in the BMJ:

Tobacco harm reduction: the devil is in the deployment

The concept of harm reduction in tobacco control is exciting interest among policy makers and industry. Gerard Hastings, Marisa de Andrade, and Crawford Moodie argue that it presents public health with some challenges

The idea of tobacco harm reduction—that smokers who cannot wean themselves off nicotine should be encouraged to adopt less harmful ways of consuming it—has much to recommend it. It avoids the trap of making the excellent (complete cessation) the enemy of the good (reduced harm) and provides a way forward where otherwise there is only a cruel impasse. It also provides a clear focus on disease and premature death—rather than tobacco addiction or corporate power—and this enemy, like so many medical problems before it, will be defeated with rigorous evidence, effective medicines, and skilled treatment. 

It seems like it's taking forever, but things are changing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Case Against a Smoke-Free America

Here is an awesome commentary by Jacob Grier of the Atlantic that I have just stumbled across in my inbox:

More generally, we must stop treating smoking as pure vice. Lost in discussions of the very real problem of how to reduce deaths from smoking is an acknowledgement that tobacco has redeeming qualities, that it can be enjoyed in moderation, and that not all forms of tobacco use are equally dangerous. We can and should educate consumers about the risks of tobacco and tax it appropriately. But we should also respect the rights of consenting adults to gather in private places and decide for themselves what to ingest into their bodies. That doesn't necessitate going back to the days of smoking on airplanes, but it does require fighting back against the extreme measures sought by today's anti-smoking movement. It requires letting smokers have a few rooms of their own and not destroying the tobacco industry with excessive taxes and regulations.

There's a funny legend about Sir Walter Raleigh, the Englishman who helped popularize pipe tobacco brought over from the New World. A servant, seeing him exhaling smoke, concluded that Raleigh was on fire and promptly doused him. Today's anti-smoking activists understand tobacco about as poorly as Raleigh's servant and have acquired some very large pails of water. Let's not allow them to extinguish something wonderful. 

Simply brilliant!!

Read on:

The Case Against a Smoke-Free America - Jacob Grier - The Atlantic

Monday, December 10, 2012

An Open Letter To Clive Bates

A recent blog post from Christopher Snowdon caught my attention the other day. It was about an open  letter to the E.U. from former director of ASH-UK Clive Bates in which he stressed the importance of tobacco harm reduction. Being that this is an issue that is of high interest to me, I took it upon myself to write my own open letter to Clive Davis by way of the comments section that followed. Unfortunately, my comment has not been published, so I will post it here:

jredheadgirl Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Clive,

Thanks to Christopher Snowdon, I have just discovered this blog. First of all, I would like to commend you on your advocacy of THR; however, as a smoker I have become concerned with the lack of attention (amongst some THR advocates) being directed towards ALL forms of THR. While I applaud your pointing out the obvious difference in risk amongst combustible and non-combustible forms of tobacco use, I do believe that tobacco users (such as myself) have the right to be informed of the varying risks that exist amongst combustible tobacco products as well. Combustible cigarettes are not all created equally. The advent (and recent proliferation) of e-cigarettes is promising for sure, and I am equally certain that the technology will improve with time. With that said, 92% of tobacco users still prefer analog cigarettes. This is a fact that cannot be ignored. Many people do not realize that there has been a resurgence towards THR in this field as well. It is my sincere hope that you, as well as that of governing bodies and actors around the world, will soon recognize ALL forms of tobacco harm reduction, one step at a time. For those of us who will continue to smoke, this is of paramount importance.

For example, there have have been many advancements in cigarette technology; here are but a few:

Brand B-The World’s Lowest Tar to Nicotine Cigarette
Researchers Create Healthier Cigarette
Designing A Safer Cigarette

It is clear to see that all cigarettes are not created equally, just as combustibles are not the same as compared to that of e-cigarettes or snus. We smokers deserve to know the truth with regards to all of our options; anything less than the whole truth will result in the continued suppression of science and progress.

Thanks for all that you do. I do hope that those with a conscience are listening.

Now consider these words from the horse's own mouth:

It is interesting to consider if the smokers’ class actions of the future might be directed at Commission officials, politicians and European health groups who conspired to deny them much safer alternatives, with full knowledge of the relative risks, addictiveness of tobacco, and plenty of scientific advice showing that they knew or should have known the harm reduction benefits of these products.

Mr. Bates is of course, referring to e-cigarettes (an invention that shows much promise) and smokeless tobacco exclusively, he conveniently ignores a simple fact: most of us still (and will) continue to use combustibles well into the foreseeable future. Ignoring the largest demographic that makes up the tobacco using population, is to say: quit or die. Same song, same dance as before. If we are to really see a dent in tobacco related morbidity, ALL forms of tobacco use need to be taken in under the umbrella of harm reduction.

Another comment (by someone else with presumably the "right" view) has since been published. It's nice to know that we have such open-minded folks (anti-smokers) speaking on our behalf, isn't it? I am certain that those that purport to care about the health of smokers will take the 90% of us that use combustibles into account when speaking on our behalf. Yeah. Right. We're on our own folks. It's going to be a long, uphill battle, but we will get there eventually.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Place to Avoid

Many of us may want to scratch Boulder, Co. off of our places to go list, for the Boulder City Council has voted unanimously to ban outdoor smoking on the Pearl Street Mall:

Molly Winter, downtown and University Hill management division director, said the city will allow for a transition before police officers start writing tickets, which could carry fines of up to $500 for the first two offenses within two years.

A third offense in two years could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.

Now how utterly "progressive"! Boulder is in a state that just legalized recreational marijuana. .

Several people spoke in opposition to the ban at the meeting Tuesday night.

Ah, Democracy Schmocracy...who needs it when we have health advisory bureaucrats and lobbyists? They are, after all, the all knowing and sole arbiters of what's good for everyone; hence, why do we even need elected officials anymore when we have the Neo Do-Gooders of (Counter) Do Gooderism to guide our officials on how to vote?  Such measures are not draconian; they are necessary for the "health" of the state after all.

"It's easy to imagine someone's vacation being ruined by a $500 fine and going home and telling people, 'Don't go to Boulder,'"....

Gee, you think? I guess they're just assuming that they'll make up for the loss in tourism dollars by investing in pot tourism; but that's assuming that there will be no tobacco smokers amongst the marijuana enthusiasts. In trying to understand the utter insanity of this measure, it dawns on me that maybe this is merely a reaction to keep all smokers away, now that there is yet one more smoking demographic to deal with out in the open.

One thing is for certain: this has nothing to do with health.

Boulder Bans Smoking On Pearl Street Mall

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brand B-The World's Lowest Tar to Nicotine Cigarette

For those of us who missed the news (I did)  last September, here is the latest news on Brand B, which I mentioned on this blog back in April 2012 :

CLARENCE, N.Y.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–22nd Century Group, Inc. (OTCBB: XXII), a company that has developed groundbreaking technology for tobacco harm reduction and smoking cessation products, announced that Dr. Michael Moynihan, Vice President of Research & Development, will present a poster today on the company’s proprietary BRAND B cigarette at the 66th Tobacco Science Research Conference (TSRC) being held in Concord, North Carolina
Slated for submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a modified risk candidate, BRAND B is reportedly the world’s lowest tar-to-nicotine ratio cigarette. Unlike low tar/low-nicotine brands on the market (previously labeled “light” or “ultra-light” before these descriptors were banned in the U.S. by the Tobacco Control Act in 2010), the nicotine yield of BRAND B is not reduced.
Studies of smokers using low tar-to-nicotine (LTN) research cigarettes such as BRAND B have demonstrated that smoking behavior changes and the dose of smoke inhaled by the smoker including “tar” is significantly reduced (Russell MAH 2000). Specifically, compensatory smoking (e.g., more and/or larger puffs per cigarette) of LTN research cigarettes is greatly curtailed.
Dr. Moynihan’s poster, Effect of Smoking Low Tar-to-Nicotine Ratio Cigarettes on Smoke Exposure, explains that incorporating tobacco with a higher-than-typical nicotine content, LTN cigarettes can be made with lower yields of harmful and potentially harmful smoke constituents while maintaining nicotine yields per cigarette similar to popular full-flavor brands. As announced in April 2012, utilizing studies of exposure to smoke constituents and consumer perception, 22nd Century will submit a modified risk cigarette application for BRAND B to the FDA.
Leading U.S. brands have an average tar-to-nicotine ratio of approximately 13 – meaning that approximately 13 parts “tar” is inhaled for every part nicotine. LTN cigarettes with a tar-to-nicotine ratio of 7 or less have the potential to reduce smoke exposure by 50 percent. If smoke inhalation with LTN cigarettes is reduced by 50 percent on average, confirmed by biomarkers in exposure studies, reduced harm is expected. 22nd Century’s CEO, Joseph Pandolfino explained, “A cigarette that reduces smoke exposure by an average of 50 percent is effectively a hybrid of a zero-tar e-cigarette and a Marlboro® Gold. How much would smoking-related disease decrease in the U.S. if all the cumulative smoke inhaled by smokers were cut in half?”
Joseph Pandolfino asks a question that is hard to ignore.

A 50% reduction in exposure to carcinogenic materials is a good place to start. It may not be an e-cigarette, but for those of us committed smokers who are not attracted to e-cigarettes (or to snus, pellets, or lozenges for that matter, etc..), a 50% reduction is a hell of an improvement; therefore, it is of paramount importance that THR (Tobacco Harm Reduction), defines its objective as one that is inclusive to all of the relevant possibilities. This means that combustible cigarettes need to be a part of the overall equation when it comes to reducing the adverse health effects from smoking.

One another note, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Dr. Gio Batta Gori (of whom I have been a fan of for awhile now) appeared as a keynote speaker at last September's meeting for 22nd Century's shareholders:
Separately, one of the original proponents of LTN cigarettes, Dr. Gio Batta Gori, Director of the Health Policy Center in Bethesda, Maryland, will present a keynote address at 22nd Century Group’s annual shareholder meeting at 2:00 pm on Thursday, September 20, 2012. To be held in Clarence, New York, the annual meeting will be open to company shareholders, select guests, and the media. Dr. Gori will speak on the compelling reasons for less harmful cigarettes and their likely significance to the cigarette industry and the entire tobacco economy.
I would have liked to be there to hear what Dr. Gori had to say about Brand B. I'm certain that we will be hearing more from him on this pertinent issue, for the potential to save (and improve upon) the lives of so many smokers like myself is on the horizon.
Dr. Gori is also author of Virtually Safe Cigarettes: Reviving an Opportunity Once Tragically Rejected and a contributor to national research and prevention agendas at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, where he was deputy director of the Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention and director of the Smoking and Health Program. The latter aimed at developing reduced risk cigarettes, an effort for which Dr. Gori received the Superior Service Award of the U.S. Public Health Service.
About 22nd Century Group, Inc.
22nd Century is a plant biotechnology company whose proprietary technology allows for the level of nicotine and other nicotinic alkaloids (e.g., nornicotine, anatabine and anabasine) in the tobacco plant to be decreased or increased through genetic engineering and breeding. 22nd Century owns or is the exclusive licensee of 105 issued patents in 78 countries plus an additional 38 pending patent applications. Hercules Pharmaceuticals, LLC and Goodrich Tobacco Company, LLC are subsidiaries of 22nd Century focused on the company’s (i) prescription smoking cessation aid in development, X-22, and (ii) potential modified risk cigarettes, respectively.
For additional information, please visit:
22nd Century Press Release - September 10 2012.pdf (application/pdf Object)