Industry engagement with the scientific community - why is it important? We spoke to Altria to find out

With the varied and diverse regulations for ENDS in place around the world, and with differing opinions on subjects such as whether ENDS are harmful or not, the industry needs to work with the scientific community to ensure studies carried out on ENDS are robust and factual. 

We spoke with Willie McKinney, VP of Regulatory Sciences at Altria Client Services, to get some insight into how and why the industry and scientific community should be collaborating.

Q1. You will be presenting on ‘Industry engagement with the scientific community’ this June, could you give us a sneak peek of what you will be sharing?

My presentation will focus on the need for more engagement between tobacco industry scientists and the scientific/public health community. In other industries, collaboration between industry scientists and the broader scientific community is common.  In the tobacco industry, due to various reasons, collaboration is not the norm but it should be.  In the US, FDA has stated that it will use science and evidence to make decisions on tobacco harm reduction policies, tobacco products and communications to adult tobacco consumers. Tobacco harm reduction issues are complex and diverse.  Therefore, the collective knowledge of scientists within and outside the tobacco industry is needed to develop robust science and evidence to guide and support tobacco regulatory and policy decisions.

Q2. What do you think are the most significant future opportunities in this industry over the next 12-24 months?

A large number of adult smokers are ready to embrace non-combustible products, particularly if equipped with accurate, science-based information about their risk.  The category is benefiting from improved technologies that may provide these adult tobacco consumers with the sensorial experiences, convenience and satisfaction they seek. Successfully converting a significant portion of these adult smokers to non-combustible/ENDS products represents a significant opportunity for both the ENDS industry and harm reduction.

Q3. What do you see as the biggest challenges for the industry at the moment?

One of the biggest challenges for the industry is the growing number of criticisms about its scientific credibility and ability to share scientific information through the rigorous peer review process.  Many journals refuse to publish data generated or funded by the tobacco industry. Without the ability to publish in peer-reviewed journals, credible and critical science about reduced-risk products will not be available for the scientific community to assess.

Q4. Why do you feel it is important for people to attend ENDS 2018?

What makes the ENDS conference so unique is that attendees and presenters represent a wide range of stakeholders such as professionals working in the regulatory space and scientists developing testing methods, standards and products. You have the opportunity to learn the latest from those working in these areas.

Q5. What are you most looking forward to at ENDS 2018?

Much like last year, I look forward to learning about and discussing publicly available scientific and regulatory information.


Smithers Rapra's ENDS conference aims to unite industry and scientific experts to discuss these issues and find out the best way to move forward. By attending the conference this June, you'll get the latest insights into the regulatory landscape, how ENDS can improve health outcomes for nicotine users, testing methods and standards, market realities and much more.

Willie will be presenting as part of the Driving Confidence and Trust in ENDS session, alongside representatives from Celerion, CORESTA and High Point Clinical Trials Center. The session will also feature a snapshot panel on 'Establishing meaningful product standards in a developing technological landscape' with panellists including Totally Wicked and IBVTA, British American Tobacco/Nicoventures and Imperial Brands.

View the full programme >

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