How advocates of harm reduction and the tobacco industry took advantage of the pandemic to promote nicotine

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Scientific work suggesting that smokers with COVID-19 are less likely to be discredited as links to the tobacco industry, research reveals The BMJ today.

Journalists Stéphane Horel and Ties Keyzer report on undisclosed financial links between certain scientific authors and the and the e-cigarette industry in various COVID research papers.

In April 2020, two French studies (shared as prepresses before the formal peer review) suggested this could have a protective effect against COVID-19, called the “nicotine hypothesis.”

The stories made headlines around the world and worried that decades of tobacco control could be undermined.

It has since been strongly denied that smoking protects against COVID-19, and several studies show that smoking, when adapted to age and sex, is associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-related death. -19.

Horel and Keyzer point out that one of the study’s authors, Professor Jean-Pierre Changeux, has a background in receiving funding from the Council for Tobacco Research, whose purpose was to fund research that questioned the dangers of smoking and focused on positive effects of nicotine.

From 1995 to 1998, the documents show that the Changeux lab received $ 220,000 (£ 155,000; € 180,000) from the Tobacco Research Council.

Changeux insured The BMJ which has not received any funding linked “directly or indirectly to the tobacco industry” since the 1990s.

In late April 2020, Greek researcher Konstantinos Farsalinos was the first to formally publish the “nicotine hypothesis” in a journal, in a Toxicology Reports editorial.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Aristidis Tsatsakis, co-authored, as did A Wallace Hayes, a member of Philip Morris International magazine. in 2013, he worked as a paid consultant for the tobacco company.

Another co-author is Konstantinos Poulas, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Immunology at Patras University, where Farsalinos is affiliated.

The lab has received funding from Nobacco, the market leader in Greek e-cigarettes and exclusive distributor of British American Tobacco’s nicotine delivery systems since 2018.

Neither Farsalinos nor Poulas have ever stated this funding from Nobacco in its publication .

Still, Horel and Keyzer show that the Smoke-Free World Foundation awarded two grants in 2018, a nonprofit established by Philip Morris International in 2017, to “Patras Science Park”.

The grants, the amounts of which are not disclosed on the foundation’s website, but according to tax documents, were close to 83,000 euros, went to NOSMOKE, a university business incubator headed by Poulas, which sells an “organic” vaporization product.

Last month, the European Respiratory Journal withdrew an article co-written by Poulas and Farsalinos, among others, after two authors failed to disclose conflicts of interest.

The withdrawn article had found that “current smoking was not associated with adverse outcomes” in hospitalized patients with COVID and claimed that smokers had a significantly lower risk of acquiring the virus.

Horel and Keyzer have said the foundation has invested heavily in the COVID-19 / nicotine hypothesis.

In June 2020, it allocated 900,000 euros for research “to better understand the associations between smoking and / or nicotine use, and COVID-19 infection and outcome.”

His request indicated that the pandemic offered “an opportunity and a challenge for people to quit smoking or the transition to low-risk nicotine products.”

They conclude: “In 2021, in the midst of a global lung disease pandemic, figures from the tobacco industry are increasingly pushing the nicotine narrative as a solution to an addiction they themselves created, with the aim of convincing policy makers give them ample leeway to market “smoke-free” products. That makes studies on the hypothetical virtues of nicotine really welcome. ”


Use of electronic cigarettes plus tobacco cigarettes related to an increased risk of respiratory symptoms


More information:
Covid 19: How advocates of harm reduction and the tobacco industry took advantage of the pandemic to promote nicotine, The BMJ, DOI: 10.1136 / bmj.n1303 , www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n1303

Citation: How advocates for harm reduction and the tobacco industry took advantage of the pandemic to promote nicotine (2021, June 2) recovered on June 2, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06 -reduction-advocates-tobacco-industry-capitalized. html

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