Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Federal Funds Misspent on Anti-Vaping Research

The Journal of the American Heart Association on February 18 retracted an article by Dharma Bhatta and Stanton Glantz.  As I documented earlier, Bhatta and Glantz published demonstrably false findings.  Details of the retraction were reported by USA Today’s Jayne O’Donnell, Ivan Oransky at Retraction Watch and Alex Norcia of Vice, among others.

The Bhatta-Glantz article states that “This work was supported by grants R01DA043950 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, P50CA180890 from the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products, U54HL147127 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products.”  Those grants, itemized below (Source, NIH RePORTER), probably funded additional research beyond the flawed vape heart attack study.

Federal Support of Retracted JAHA Article By Dharma Bhatta and Stanton Glantz

Federal Grant Number201720182019All Years



The $13.6 million are termed “direct costs,” the amount of money Dr. Glantz was awarded to conduct his research.  Each university negotiates an additional payment from NIH for facility and administrative (F&A) costs.  The rate for UCSF during the period was about 59%.  That means the federal government paid UCSF as much as $8 million more, a significant sum.

Still, that $13.6 million was only a fraction of the $51 million funneled from the National Institutes of Health to Glantz since 2005.  That funding supported 292 Glantz articles recorded in PubMed.

The next chart, courtesy of Clive Bates, illustrates Glantz's annual NIH funding since 1985.  Note the significant increase in 2013, which reflects the start of massive transfers from FDA to NIH of hundreds of millions in tobacco company user fees.

This body of taxpayer-supported work, universally anti-tobacco, anti-harm-reduction, is in keeping with the government’s stated objective “to create a world free of tobacco use.”  This prohibitionist mission supports thousands of NIH-funded researchers, and cows countless more into silence when they could be producing life-saving harm reduction data and analyses.

A true public health agenda would include federal support for honest research aimed at prolonging healthy lives, regardless of lifestyle.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

IQOS Heat-Not-Burn Products Are Drawing Smokers Away from Cigarettes

Tobacco prohibitionists offer a plethora of reasons why harm reduction won’t work for smokers.  One last-gasp argument is that tobacco companies will never sacrifice cigarette sales by selling less harmful substitutes.  A recent report from Philip Morris International (PMI), however, provides substantial evidence that a transition from combustibles to smoke-free products is already happening across the globe.
The PMI chart at left shows that its iQOS heat-not-burn products accounted for 19% (about $5.6 billion) of the company’s 2019 revenues.  As recently as 2015, iQOS revenue was essentially zero.

PMI reports that IQOS is now available in 52 markets worldwide.  The company estimates that there are 13.6 million users, 71% of whom have stopped smoking completely, as seen in the following chart. 


The next chart shows that IQOS market share in key cities around the world varied considerably, from 3-4% in Zurich and Munich, to 14% in Moscow and Kiev, 21% in Tokyo, and 29% in Vilnius, Lithuania.


Although the FDA approved IQOS sales last year, the agency has still not determined whether it is a reduced risk product, two years after an FDA committee unanimously endorsed PMI’s claim that switching reduces smokers’ exposure to toxins.

PMI’s international sales suggest that IQOS will succeed in the U.S., although the product is currently available only in Atlanta and Richmond.

Note regarding use of company estimates: PMI marketing claims concerning IQOS are strictly regulated by the FDA, meaning they must be fully substantiated.  That is a considerable deterrence to inaccurate reporting, a control that does not apply to anti-tobacco activists in government or elsewhere.