Global Tobacco Laboratory Network Combating Tobacco Epidemic
The fourth meeting of the World Health Organization Tobacco Laboratory Network (WHO TobLabNet) drew to a successful close on Friday 27 March, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
More than 50 international experts in the field of tobacco laboratory testing attended this landmark event hosted and co-sponsored by ANVISA, Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency. ANVISA welcomed international experts from this global tobacco testing laboratory network designed to combat the tobacco epidemic set to kill more than 5 million people every year, with 2 hundred thousand afflicted in Brazil alone.
WHO TobLabNet convened its 4th meeting to discuss issues related to the product regulation provisions of WHO’s first global health Treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The WHO FCTC, to which 164 countries are a Contracting Party, highlights the need for international standards for testing and measuring the contents and emissions of tobacco products as a crucial component of global tobacco control.
The meeting of this group of experts could not come at a more appropriate time for advancing Brazil’s tobacco control efforts. Brazil’s new laboratory facility, whose scale model was unveiled during the meeting, is currently under construction and is expected to be operational by 2010. “The laboratory is crucial for strengthening National Policy for Tobacco Regulation”, states the director of Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (Anvisa), José Agenor Álvares da Silva. Furthermore, the country has been facing numerous challenges in recent months concerning the regulation of a variety of tobacco and nicotine products, including novel nicotine delivery systems such as electronic cigarettes and the increased practice of tobacco smoking through waterpipe, also known as narghile.
According to a 2005 report by the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (WHO TobReg), waterpipe tobacco smoking is associated with many of the same risks as cigarette smoking, including cancer, despite popular belief to the contrary. WHO TobReg determined that using a waterpipe to smoke tobacco poses a serious potential health hazard to smokers, with a typical 1-hour long waterpipe smoking session involving inhaling 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled with a single cigarette.
Another recent product which has recently infiltrated the Brazilian market is an electronic nicotine delivery device termed the “electronic cigarette.” The typical electronic cigarette, which mimics a real cigarette but is not lit and does not produce any smoke, allows users puff on it to produce a fine, heated nicotine mist which is absorbed into the lungs. “The assertion of smoking cessation and other health claims must include rigorous safety and efficacy trials, and review and approval by major drug regulatory authorities,” states WHO Tobacco Free Initiative Director, Dr. Douglas Bettcher. “The scientific evidence is currently insufficient to establish this product as a legitimate cessation aid.”
The public health concerns raised by products such as waterpipe and electronic cigarettes emphasize WHO TobLabNet’s importance in strengthening global tobacco product regulation. Accordingly, the WHO Tobacco Laboratory Network achieved a broad yet important range of outcomes at its 4th meeting. The Network advanced testing procedures and methods for toxic cigarette contents and smoke emissions and exchanged crucial information related to novel cigarette testing techniques and laboratory safety procedures.