Ahead of his presentation at this June's ENDS conference, we spoke to Tanvir Walele, Director of Scientific Affairs at Fontem Ventures, to get his view on the most significant future opportunities, what he thinks are the biggest stumbling blocks and to get a sneak peek of his exciting presentation.
Q1. You will be presenting on ‘Overview of in-vitro methods used to assess ENDS based on “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century” principles’ this June, could you give us a sneak peek of what you will be sharing?
Achieving harm reduction in tobacco relies on our ability to provide consumers with products that pose less risk to their health. Until recently, these have been few and far between and consisted largely of licensed nicotine replacement therapies such as gums and patches, and snus, an oral tobacco product that contains lower toxicants than cigarettes but is not widely available. Now a whole new generation of products is available. They haven’t been around long enough to generate epidemiological data, which looks at health impacts over decades, however, we have encouraging in-vitro toxicology data that confirms the growing consensus that the risks e-vapour products pose are lower than those for cigarettes.
The 21st Century Toxicology framework supports regulatory requirements for more detailed mechanistic information on harm and disease development. We are currently using an Integrated Approach to Testing and Assessments that includes the use of classical toxicology with high throughput, high content and omics approaches to determine subtle biological responses at the cellular and molecular level. By combining advanced analytical and computational tools with these approaches, a causal chain of events linking exposures with outcomes may be deciphered.
I will present some data generated to date and discuss how these tools will greatly contribute to our knowledge and form part of a weight of evidence approach for the evaluation of this category of products.
Q2. What do you think are the most significant future opportunities in this industry over the next 12-24 months?
The e-vapour category already has a strong platform of independent science supporting it as a less harmful alternative to smoking, but the key change in the next 12 to 24 months will be that innovative new devices and liquid formulations will finally start delivering a truly satisfying user experience to the many smokers who have, up to now, shunned the category. In the UK there are 7.6 million smokers of which Public Health England estimate 40% have not tried an e-vapour product, while some who have tried have gone back to smoking. We believe pod-based systems such as the new myblu will hit the sweet spot of convenience and performance that smokers demand in order to make the switch.
Furthermore, standardisation in the industry will play a huge role over the next 12-24 months. International standards committees bring together experts to share knowledge and develop robust, consensus-based standards that support product safety, quality, innovation and regulatory compliance. There are currently two standards bodies working on vapour product standardisation, both established in 2015. At the European level, CEN Technical Committee 437 addresses ‘electronic cigarettes and e-liquids’, and at the international level, ISO TC 126 Subcommittee 3 addresses ‘vape and vapour products’. We consider standardisation as critical to support consumer and regulatory confidence and to maximise the harm reduction potential of e-vapour products.
Q3. What do you see as the biggest stumbling blocks for the industry at the moment?
Despite the strong public health and government endorsement of the e-vapour category, particularly in the UK, trust in the category in the UK, the EU and the US continues to decline. The number of smokers who believe e-vapour products are as harmful or more harmful than smoking continues to increase. Misperceptions of the relative harm of e-cigarettes compared with conventional cigarettes need to be urgently addressed, particularly among smokers who may benefit from switching to e-cigarettes. The frequent misreporting of scientific studies and subsequent inaccurate presentation in the media may be playing a key role in perceptions of the relative risks of e-cigarettes. Educating the general public should therefore be a key focus of the industry and policymakers, and events like ENDS should help drive that process, helping us build an understanding of the scientific consensus on e-vapour among smokers and the general public.
Q4. Why do you feel it is important for people to attend ENDS 2018?
We are open and transparent about our research and ENDS is a great opportunity to showcase our state of the art science for industry and policymakers. As mentioned earlier, the products haven’t been around long enough and therefore it is fascinating to understand how the category evolves year-on-year. ENDS is a fantastic platform to communicate the evolution of the category
Q5. What are you most looking forward to at ENDS 2018?
I’m looking forward to an exciting set of talks; the programme this year is packed full of interesting topics. I’m keen on networking and meeting others working in the industry and just sharing knowledge and continuing to learn from some very smart people at the event!
Tanvir will be presenting as part of the Characterisation, Analytics and Testing - Best Practice Stewardship session at ENDS this June. Other speakers in the session include bibra toxicology advice and consulting, Hall Analytical and more.
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