The fight against smoking and smoking-related disease starts in Catania: Professor Riccardo Polosa, Chief of CoEHAR, introduced nine research projects related to smoking and smoking-related diseases.
The conference was attended by Ruggero Razza, Assessor of Public Health of Sicily, Dr. Derek Yach, President of the Foundation of a Smoke Free World, and Francesco Purello, Director of the Clinical and Experimental Medicine of the University of Catania.
We are talking about 1 billion smokers in the world. Each year 6 million smokers die from smoking related diseases. The World Health Organization has recently adopted the aim of reducing smoke-related damage in order to deal with this epidemic, and Prof. Polosa intends to “use the same principle to end this massacre”.
Sicily is thus the leader for a unique national and international project: hundreds of researchers from different university departments will explore the study of the health hazards of smoking in a new and innovative way.
Creativity and new technologies will be the driving force behind nine research projects related both to the identification of risk and to the study of eating and behavioral habits that can prevent or cure certain diseases.
On a regional basis, Sicily will launch the Smoke Free Sicily project, which aims to “reduce the number of smokers in the region by 5% in 5 years“.
As Ruggero Razza pointed out, “It’s well known that in Sicily you eat better than in other regions of Italy, but unfortunately, among the younger generations, it is one of the regions with the highest consumption of smoking and alcohol. Specific preventive actions are at the heart of the research projects presented: training of health workers, doctors and nurses, implementation of a regional protocol to encourage activities to combat the fight against smoking, and above all, an intense, but simple and youthful, communication campaign. We would like to be able to convey the idea that we must respect ourselves, and to respect ourselves we must first of all respect our bodies, adopting a lifestyle that can meet the health needs of every citizen”.
The concept behind the projects presented is simple: technological and creative innovation must lead to the identification of increasingly effective and less harmful tactics to prevent the damage associated with the use of tobacco.
Hence the need for analysis of big data and the training of specific personnel to address and coordinate the study activities of the researchers involved in the projects, providing different approaches and ideas compared to what has been accomplished up to now.
In 11 years, in fact, the number of smokers in Italy has remained almost unchanged, confirming that social awareness policies and medical prevention campaigns have not been able to reach the target audience, or smokers themselves.
Dr. Yach hopes that greater international cooperation and greater attention to adult smokers will lead to the identification and creation of mechanisms that lead these individuals to vary their habits, even leading to the definitive abandonment of cigarette smoking.
“We have made significant progress, especially in the most advanced regions. Unfortunately, in many countries like China and India we have a growing number of smokers, a sort of negative trend. In Italy, the rate of smokers is falling, but we have seen increases in subjects affected by mental disorders. We could make significant progress if we were able to prevent, rather than cure,n future deaths and illnesses”.
For Prof. Polosa it is necessary to talk about quality science: everything that is produced by scientific laboratories must be qualitatively high, which is difficult to achieve in practice, since the protocols used in the laboratory are very often far from the normal conditions of use.
What is the influence on young people of celebrities and VIP’s on social media who promote vaping, the use of electronic smoking, and who seem to have thus turned it into a fashionable trend? Prof. Polosa replies:
“The electronic cigarette is a consumer product that can have a high visibility on social networks like any consumer product. I am against the use of nicotine-containing products by children, but it is also true that electronic cigarettes and these new technologies can be an alternative for young people to keep them away from the use of conventional cigarettes. In my opinion, there are so many aspects that are easily trivialized by the media and by some scientific communities, but just looking at the prevalence and spread of tobacco in the United States is enough to understand immediately how effective the electronic cigarette is in keeping young people away from the much more dangerous tobacco smoke”.
The 9 research projects are:
- Smoke Free Sicily : enhance the antismoking consultation services to the hospital infrastructure in the region
- Food Recognition Tech: allow smokers who want to quit to monitor their food intake by acquiring images of the food consumed
- Smile Study: compare the effects of tobacco cigarettes and alternative products on dental health
- EU-PATH: evaluate the consumption habits of tobacco and nicotine products in 16 European and extra-EU countries
- International Summer School on Project Management: train 15 young professionals or graduates from around the world on the methods of managing projects to address harm reduction research
- Replication Studies: replicate for the first time the most prominent studies on reduced-risk products, using standard conditions that reflect the actual conditions of use
- Long Term Health Effect Study: observe the long term health effects and changes that occur in subjects who vape regularly, vapers who have never smoked, and non-smokers
- Diasmoke 2.0: assess the short and long term reduction of cardio-respiratory risk correlated to the use of combustion free products in diabetic patients
- In Silico Science: train researchers on innovative methods for systematic reviews applied to the research on tobacco harm reduction with particular reference to cardiovascular effects, respiratory effects, and weight management