E-cigarettes: Killing Me Softly or Our Greatest Public Health Opportunity?

Organised by Professor Julian Kinderlerer, President of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), reporting to European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso; Emeritus Professor of Intellectual Property Law, University of Cape Town; Adviser to the South African Dept. of S&T; Occasional Adviser to the UN Environment Programme, UN Industrial Development Organisation & World Intellectual Property Organisation. Co-organised by: Aidan Gilligan, Founder, CEO SciCom - Making Sense of Science; Member of the Governing Board of Euroscience.

E-Cigarettes Evidence & Ethics - AAAS 2015
Friday, 13 February 2015: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 230B (San Jose Convention Center)

Session Description

1.3 billion people smoke and this will kill half of them. Not since the Internet has society seen a comparative disruptive technology with the capacity to so fundamentally impact lives as the electronic cigarette. Hundreds of versions have sprung up, specialised shops cannot be built fast enough and Wells Fargo (2013) predicts that sales will outstrip classical cigarettes by 2021. 80% of smokers want to quit, over 50% have tried e-cigs of which 33% continue to use them, but 33% of these actually give up nicotine altogether (ASH UK).

Yet, are e-cigs 'safe’' or simply 'safer'? If the former, shouldn’t all harm reduction advocates welcome them? Or does their nicotine and flavourings-laced vapour risk developing cancer much in the same way that tobacco smoke does? Are they child-proof enough? Are they a gateway to smoking for teenagers? Should we freeze advertising until we know more? And what concerns should we have about the billions of discarded cartridges and lithium batteries?

What is clear is that Regulation is a mess worldwide. This session unites leading US-EU medical, industry and civil society experts to explore the latest data for and against. A common aim is to move on from the 'tobacco war' mind-set and advocate for greater evidence-based clarity, now made possible by unprecedented advances in information gathering, imaging and analysis. A strong focus is the ethical importance of more thoughtful consideration of how information about science and technology and their products is used for societal benefit, evaluated for potential risks, and communicated beyond the scientific community to end users where it matters most – those that live or die on such decisions.

Session Format: Traditional lecture but highly interactive
Session Duration: 1h15 minutes
Target Audience: Scientists, General Public, Policy-Makers
Category: Health & Pharmaceutical Science, Behavioral & Social Sciences, Public Policy
Keywords: Biomedical Research; Disease Prevention, Policy, Public Health and Scientific Integrity

Relevance to the Theme or Special Relevance to the Audience:

This session will appeal to all delegates. It brings together an unrivalled panel with a clear focus on helping better understand the fundamental science behind nicotine addiction, the latest brain mapping research, and new disruptive technologies. In particular, it will help clarify those key factors influencing the many public policy debates happening right now and current legislative and scientific thinking globally.

Diversity Statement:

We the organiser and co-organiser have strived to include at least three female panelists, including a leading American-based products-development communications expert, a well-respected European-based health editor and arguably the most globally respected tobacco harm reduction research charity CEO. The pedigree of the panel is beyond question and is carefully calculated. The necessary inclusion of the chief medical officer of a leading EU-based e-cig manufacturer has also been carefully thought-through with the counter-balance of a top NIH-NIDA issue expert and the EU's top ethical committee official providing a well-rounded view.


Irish Flag Organiser: Aidan Gilligan (IRL),
Founder, CEO SciCom - Making Sense of Science, Member of the Governing Board of Euroscience. 121 Rue Franklin, 1000, Brussels, Belgium. Phone Number: +32 474042602; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
South African Flag Co-Organiser & Moderator: Professor Julian Kinderlerer (SA),
Emeritus Professor of Intellectual Property Law, University of Cape Town, President of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), reporting to European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission, Berl 8/362, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium. Phone Number: +27 826157274; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Irish Flag Discussant: Sir Peter Gluckman (NZ),
Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, PO Box 108-117, Symonds Street, Auckland 1150, New Zealand. Phone Number: +64 9 923 9270; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
German Flag Discussant: Dr. Thomas Hartung (DE),
Professor and Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology, Director, Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing; Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dept. of Environmental Health Sciences. 615 N. Wolfe Street, W7032, Baltimore, MD 21205. Phone Number: 410-614-4990; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Presentation Title: Understanding Nicotine Addiction and its Brain Reward Systems

US Flag Speaker 1:
M.D. M.P.E. Wilson Compton (US)
Deputy-Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health Former Director, Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research. Phone Number: 301-443-6504; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Talk Description:

Smoking kills. Vaping we are not yet sure about. But in both cases users are exposed to nicotine which is the principal reinforcing component responsible for addiction. In this presentation we look at the science. Harm is caused in the lung with any smoking and the liver with moderate to excessive drinking, but addiction starts and ends with the brain. Only very recently, thanks to major advances in brain mapping research, has science really got to grips with understanding substance addictions and their brain reward systems. A much maligned substance, nicotine gets the blame for the harm caused by smoking which is not true. Scientifically speaking, nicotine is a relatively innocuous substance like caffeine that naturally occurs in plants to protect against insects. Medical products containing purified nicotine, for example, are not associated with adverse health effects. In fact, nicotine is used for treating most major mental illnesses. Neither are people becoming addicted to nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gums or nasal sprays. I will go back to the basics and examine what recent clinical and preclinical findings are telling us about variations in our genetic material that can increase our vulnerability to develop nicotine dependence. In particular, I will focus on what the behavioral, molecular and biochemical evidence is telling us about the brain's regulation of the aversive properties of nicotine on one hand, and increases in vulnerability to nicotine dependence on the other.

Presentation Title: E-Cigarettes: What’s the Real Medical Innovation Breakthrough?

UK Flag Speaker 2:
M.D. Kevin Bridgman (UK)
Chief Medical Officer, Nicovations Ltd. 22 Tudor Street, London EC4Y 0AY, London, United Kingdom. Phone Number: +44 2079360600; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Talk Description:

Society at large is unclear what to think or do about e-cigarettes. What is clear is that, according to the WHO, one billion preventable tobacco-related premature deaths are at stake in the 21st they use, accurate labelling, batteries that are safety tested, and vapour that has been risk assessed. My message will be that regulators should resist the urge to apply highly restrictive measures that would have the perverse effect of prolonging cigarette smoking. Instead, they should encourage and oversee the sharing of accurate data on both products and the standards companies operate to in their manufacturing and distribution. The majority of smokers in markets like the US would rather not smoke. They need attractive products that meet their needs, with safety and quality assurances that they, the regulators and the scientific community can all have confidence in. Century. In this presentation we look at the products. My talk will demonstrate the medical breakthrough implicit in e-cigarette technology, describing where we are and what we still have to do. I will show that customer-focused, rigorous and high-quality science is starting to address many of the valid concerns about safety and quality. This technology promises to reduce deaths from cigarettes radically in the future, but only by meeting smokers’ expectations and with rising standards of quality and safety across the category. E-cigarette users themselves are increasingly looking for more information about the products.

Presentation Title: Global Tobacco Control: What to do about E-Cigarettes?

UK Flag Speaker 3:
Deborah Arnott MBA FRCP (Hon) (UK),
Chief Executive, Action on Smoking & Health (ASH). Suites 59-63, 6th Floor, New House, 67-68 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8JY, UK.Phone Number: +44 (0)7976935987; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Talk Description:

Smoking remains the major preventable cause of death in the twenty-first century, as it did in its predecessor, still killing 6 million people annually or 7 times the population of San Francisco. For the first time, a real possibility exists for this to end, and rapidly: ecigarettes. There is little evidence to-date of harm from ecigs, especially in comparison to smoking, but there is mounting evidence of their positive role in increasing total cessation. We should welcome this, no question. But don’t be fooled, ecigs are no magic bullet. Only time will tell if producers, increasingly the big tobacco companies rushing in to buy up the small independents, embrace ecigs as a means to support switching, support quitting and discourage relapse, or as a means to mimic smoking behavior, make it seem socially attractive, pleasurable and cool i.e. roll back years of denormalizing smoking and encourage profitable dual-use. While the jury is out, the global picture from acceptance to partial and total bans is a total mess. While experts for and against mount onslaughts at the WHO, FDA and EU, evidence-based science appears to be taking the back seat. The voice of the smoker/vaper is also weak, against the grain of our much touted ‘patient-first’ health systems. Will the end-game be regulation as a tobacco, consumer or medicinal product? My talk will provide insights into the best policy-making practices and pitfalls encountered world-wide by Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), a front-line campaign organization working for greater harm reduction and product regulation, both inside the UK and internationally. A clear focus will be on counteracting moralistic dogma and separating fact from fiction about what the scientific evidence is actually telling us.