Italy’s National Institute of Health Attacks E-Cigs

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Anti-electronic cigarette industry sentiment struck one last blow in 2012 before much of the industry and its advocates could properly respond.  On December 28th, Italy’s National Institute of Health provided a report to the country’s health minister.  The Ministry of Health commissioned the report back in September in an attempt to get answers about the new products.  Just 3 months later, the ISS (Italy’s leading technical and scientific public body) provided a report damning the new devices.

The report seemed of questionable origins at best.  In three months, solid clinical evidence can’t really be expected.  Dr. Riccardo Polosa operates out of the University of Catania in Italy.  He’s been researching electronic cigarettes for a couple years now and can at this point be regarded as an advocate for the industry.  According to Polosa, his attempts to find information about the Institute of Health’s report have been fruitless.  There appears to be no information about the scientific methods or the sources used to arrive at the report’s conclusions.

“It is more likely to be anti-smoking (anti-e-cig) activists’ propaganda in response to the very positive Xmas sales of electronic cigarettes in Italy,” says Polosa.  “The report is likely to be a collection of opinions or a collection of biased references rather than a proper study of adequate scientific quality.”

Polosa’s organization LIAF (the Italian Anti Smoke League) filed a formal request for the document a week ago, but has yet to receive any sort of response.  Coverage of the report focuses primarily on its insistence that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes can help people quit and concerns that the new fashion gadgets will serve as a gateway to conventional smoking.  The report mirrors previous statements from other organizations around the world unwilling to admit the devices show promise.

“It is clear that ISS experts have deliberately ignored the published scientific journal articles on research conducted by our research group…” says Polosa.  “…which show that these products may be powerful tools for helping inveterate smokers to stop damaging their health.”  Polosa’s work and that of others in the field have already proven much of the ISS’s report false or obviously biased.

It is a little surprising to see a national-level health organization outside the U.S. slam e-cigs with unsubstantiated, damning claims.  Admittedly, it’s sometimes all too easy to see the FDA as the only regulatory agency in the world bogged down with biased, slanted, unsubstantiated propaganda and fear-mongering over the new devices that offer up so much promise.  So much of the negative atmosphere comes from misguided concerns for the sake of the children!

If research into the market has taught us anything so far, it’s that e-cigs don’t operate as a gateway, they don’t disproportionately appeal to young consumers (or hardly at all), and they don’t do nearly the harm necessary to warrant the massive amount of guilty-before-innocent assumptions regulators and adversaries exhibit.

Luckily, Italy has a resident e-cig expert on hand to fix these misconceptions: Dr. Polosa.  Hopefully, they’ll call him back.

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