May 26 2016

World No Tobacco Day

A research round-up

The Mailman School of Public Health is involved in a broad spectrum of research and educational activities around tobacco cessation for World No Tobacco Day: May 31, 2016.

Dr. Amy Fairchild in New York Times Op-ed Says Latest FDA Rule on E-Cigarettes Rightly Presents Challenge to Abstinence-Only Scare Tactics

In response to the latest Food and Drug Administration ruling on e-cigarettes that focuses on ways to achieve prohibition by regulation, a May New York Times op-ed by Amy Fairchild, PhD, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health professor of Sociomedical Sciences, says we must not lose sight of what the new FDA rule states: E-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking combustible tobacco products. While the agency believes that inhaling nicotine-less products are less risky to the user than inhaling nicotine from combusted tobacco products “decades of hostility to anything but a cessation-only approach predictably left smokers believing that e-cigarettes and other noncombustible alternatives to smoking are just as harmful,” noted Fairchild, who is also a co-director of the Mailman School’s Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health.

While the FDA has stopped short of formally endorsing e-cigarettes as part of a harm reduction strategy like the United Kingdom’s Public Health England and Royal College of Physicians have, its ruling makes clear that public health can no longer assert that they are “the new cigarette.” Read the op-ed.

Professors Amy Fairchild and Ronald Bayer, PhD, (Sociomedical Sciences and the Center for the History and Ethic of Public Health) are completing a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant with six case studies on the evidence and policy-making progress on e-cigarette legislation in six cities in the U.S. They are also beginning a collaboration with colleagues in the UK, Australia, and China on a cross-national comparison study on e-cigarettes.

In the New England Journal of Medicine Perspective: “Evidence, Policy, and E-Cigarettes—Will England Reframe the Debate?” Drs. Fairchild, Bayer and doctoral student Sharon Green drew on the history of harm reduction in the UK and U.S., to compare their practices. For example, the UK concluded in 1926 that drug addiction was an illness that should be treated by physicians with safe drug practices versus the U.S. stance of refusing drugs to addicts as a treatment practice. Comparisons like these led the researchers to the question: Do electronic cigarettes work against reducing tobacco smoking or offer the possibility of minimizing harm for those who just cannot quit tobacco cigarettes? Read more.

In addition to having opinion pieces published in The New York Times and Huffington Post, Drs. Fairchild and Bayer are frequently quoted on the topic of e-cigarettes in major media outlets such as CNN, WNYC, and NPR.

A study by Pamela Valera, PhD, ACSW, assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences, provides insight into the smoking behaviors and intentions to quit of justice-involved men and women. Findings based on individual interviews with 60 racially and ethnically diverse men and women ages 21 through 60 who were incarcerated in a New York state prison and Rikers Island jail in New York City showed that 92 percent of those released from a smoke-free correctional facility to their residence in the Bronx resumed cigarette smoking and 8.3 percent remained abstinent. Daily consumption ranged from smoking four cigarettes to 60 cigarettes. The four themes that emerged from the study were: lifetime exposure to cigarette smoking influences smoking behavior; cigarettes help relieve stress and are pleasurable; there is a relationship between access, availability, and relapse; and smoking cessation strategies are available. Social factors, specifically homelessness, mandated court or community supervision programs, stressful housing situations, and negative influences from participants' family and peers emerged as key challenges to abstaining.

Merlin Chowkwanyun, PhD, became the Mailman School of Public Health’s first Donald H. Gemson Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences. Dr. Chowkwanyun, who is also a member of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, is constructing a new dataset and website with millions of once-secret documents on industrial poisons (www.toxicdocs.org). He is also working with the Truth Initiative on content analysis of social and news media statements related to tobacco.

Neil Schluger, MD, professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care at College of Physicians and Surgeons; is senior advisor for Science for Vital Strategies and a co-author of the Tobacco Atlas. The completely revised and updated fifth edition of the Tobacco Atlas, together with its companion website, tobaccoatlas.org, aims to be the most comprehensive, informative and accessible resource on the most important and current issues in the evolving tobacco epidemic.

The Tobacco Atlas was developed to be used by students, teachers, researchers, journalists, advocates, and policy-makers. Moreover, it is an invitation to partners from related communities – including non-communicable disease, environment, equality and development – to join together in this crucial public health fight against the tobacco epidemic and its human tolls.

Peter Messeri, PhD, professor of Sociomedical Sciences, has reported on tobacco use in a cohort of persons living with HIV/AIDS residing in the New York City Region for the HIV Health and Human Services Planning Council of NYC. These results document urgent need for targeting of effective cessation programs for HIV/AIDS populations (CHAIN Report 2012-9, Tobacco Use, Cessation and Medical Provider Intervention, funded under the City’s Ryan White HATEA Grant).

Dr. Messeri, who was part of the original research team to evaluate the American Legacy Foundation’s truth campaign, continues to have this role with the Initiative to evaluate a new truth campaign that was launched in 2015.

Steven Stellman, PhD, professor of Epidemiology, is working with colleagues in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on a study of health behaviors, including tobacco and alcohol use, in adolescents who were exposed to 9/11 as children that has been submitted for publication.