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In today's episode Will Godfrey joins us to bring us the latest updates from the E-Cigarette Summit in Washington DC, USA, where the FDA stirred up controversy and the real impact of restrictive vaping policies was laid bare!


0:00 - Coming up on today's programme
0:32 - Stakeholders gather for E-Cig Summit
1:04 - What's the real impact of shifting vape policies?
2:24 - FDA stirs up controversy!
4:40 - Register for #GFN24 today!


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Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome! I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Today we are speaking with Will Godfrey of Filter about his takeaways from the e-cigarette summit in Washington. Hi Will! What did the event consist of?

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Will Godfrey: Hi, Joanna. It took place in DC on May 14th and drew hundreds of attendees from scientists and regulators to industry representatives, harm reduction advocates and consumers. It crammed talks and panels from a couple of dozen eminent speakers into a single day. I was lucky enough to go and felt that my involvement began early when the Uber driver who took me there told me he'd heard that vapes are worse than cigarettes.

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Joanna Junak: And what were the highlights of the day?

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Will Godfrey: I really appreciated presentations from numerous researchers conducting important work. Among many, Dr. Rafael Meza discussed improved transition rates from cigarettes to vapes, Dr. Abigail Friedman described how policies can shift people's incentives in undesirable ways. And Professor Kenneth Warner presented projections that even with the most pessimistic assumptions about a purported gateway effect, smoking cessation efficacy and vaping harms, the lifetime mortality impact of adolescent vaping on a given age cohort would be negligible. Another highlight for me was hearing Martin Dockrell of England's Department of Health and Social Care describe the genesis and progress of the groundbreaking swap to stop scheme there. This involves providing free vapes to one million people who smoke. Dockrell related how the initial more modest plan was for 100,000, but it came back from the minister with an extra zero at the end. He noted priority populations and praised the on-your-side-not-on-your-back approach of local providers involved. He reported that 420,000 vapes have been distributed through various pathways so far.

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Joanna Junak: Were there areas of controversy at the event?

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Will Godfrey: Yes, inevitably, and much of it revolved around the talk by Dr. Brian King, head of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. He made clear that his agency's proposed US ban on menthol cigarettes, which was indefinitely postponed by the Biden administration at the end of April, will be back. It remains a priority for the FDA, he said, and is a matter of when, not if. The ban, which somewhat divides the tobacco harm reduction community, is opposed by many civil rights groups on the basis of law enforcement targeting of black communities. King struck a defiant note at times, insisting, we do not have a de facto ban on flavored e-cigarettes, despite his department's failure to authorize a single flavored vape. You can say it until you're blue in the face, he said. And while acknowledging the continuum of risk for nicotine products, he emphasized prevention of youth vaping, saying, I am not supportive of a risk continuum argument among youth that will not change while I am in this role. King brushed off some audience questions with responses that he was merely complying with the law and following the science. Whenever we ask questions of the FDA, we are immediately met with some sort of recitation of the Tobacco Control Act, Alex Clark of the Consumer Association Kazar commented afterwards. So obviously we have an issue with federal law. Brian King talks as if he's got this all in hand, but he hasn't, said THR advocate Clive Bates in a later talk. He pointed out how unregulated vapes now dominate a US market that is gradually becoming ungovernable. The EU has authorised hundreds of thousands of vaping products, he noted, while the US has ceded control and Brian King was saying how well the FDA has done to authorise 23. Bates urged tobacco control to work through consent, not coercion. I really do worry about the toxicity globally in this field, reflected Professor Anne McNeill at the end. She called for more consensus building and for better efforts to center people with lived experience.

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Joanna Junak: Thank you Will. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.