Professor Riccardo Polosa is a tobacco harm reduction advocate and has been described as one of the “most prolific” academic authors in the area of e-cigarettes. He has lobbied governments in favour of less restrictive regulation for potentially reduced risk products and has a history of collaborating with tobacco companies.
- 1 Background
- 2 Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
- 3 Invited Speaker at Tobacco Industry Events
- 4 Conflict of Interests: Lack of Transparency
- 5 TobaccoTactics
- 6 Notes
Polosa is the Director of the Institute of Internal and Emergency Medicine and the School of Specialization in Rheumatology of the University of Catania in Italy. In March 2018 he founded the Center of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR), an interdepartmental Research Centre within the University of Catania.
Polosa works in the field of clinical bronchoprovocation (airway-challenge studies) and has authored more than 300 peer reviewed articles mainly covering respiratory medicine, clinical immunology, and tobacco addiction. In 2014 a fellow researcher dubbed Polosa the “most prolific” academic author in the field of e-cigarettes.
After many years as President of the Italian Anti-Smoking League, LIAF (Lega Italiana Anti Fumo), Polosa now serves as LIAF’s Chief Scientific Advisor. He is also a Special Scientific Advisor to the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations (INNCO). The INNCO was formed in 2016 and represents organisations promoting Next Generation Products such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and snus. It describes itself as “the collective voice for the most influential nicotine consumer organisations in twenty seven nicotine consumer organisations in twenty five countries across five continents who each recognise that there are safer ways to enjoy nicotine consumption than tobacco smoking”.
Moreover, since 2019 Polosa has served on the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board (MSAB) of PharmaCielo, a Canadian company which manufactures and sells medicinal grade cannabis oil. The MSAB is led by Delon Human.
Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
Consulted for British American Tobacco (2018)
After giving oral evidence at the UK Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee hearing into e-cigarettes on 9 January 2018, Polosa wrote a letter to the Committee dated February 2018. In this letter Polosa confirmed that he was working for Swiss-based consultancy firm Health Diplomats, a company founded by Delon Human and which he described as providing “…harm minimisation solutions to the alcohol, food & beverage, pharmaceutical, tobacco and nicotine industries”. Polosa added that his role at Health Diplomats involved “providing consultancy services to subsidiaries of British American Tobacco that are working on researching, developing and commercialising non-combustible nicotine and tobacco products”. In particular, Polosa said he was the “Medical Contact” in “3 BAT-funded clinical trials in respect of its e-cigarette and tobacco heating devices and their potential for harm reduction”. He described his role as helping “with the design of the clinical research protocol, to provide guidance on any medial and safety issues related to study participants, and to oversee with the analysis and interpretation of clinical trial data and the reporting of clinical trial results”.
Harm Reduction Research Funded by Philip Morris International (2017/18)
In 2017 Polosa was awarded €968,708.00 from Philip Morris Products SA, a subsidiary of Philip Morris International (PMI), for “A 12-weeks open label, non-inferiority trial comparing HnB [Heat not Burn] products vs ECs [e-cigarettes] in terms of efficacy and adoption rates, acceptability, tolerability, and tobacco harm reduction in healthy smokers, not motivated to quit”.
The trial was originally scheduled to commence on 20 December 2017, but records from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which houses a clinical trials registry, show that its actual estimated start date was 18 July 2018 with an expected completion date of 18 July 2019. In March 2018 PMI consented to a request to change the study’s Principal Investigator from Polosa to Dr Enrico Mondati, Polosa’s departmental colleague at the University of Catania and fellow member of CoEHAR’s Founders Council. After obtaining “the necessary approvals”, Mondati succeeded Polosa as the study’s Principal Investigator on 30 July 2018.
Collaborated with Tobacco Industry Scientists (2017/18)
In September 2017, Polosa took part in a symposium titled “Approaches for the assessment of next generation products” at the 53rd Congress of the European Societies of Toxicology (‘EuroTox 2017’) held in Slovakia. Polosa presented on “Tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes” and fellow symposium presenters included tobacco industry representatives Manuel Peitsch (PMI’s Chief Science Officer), Chris Proctor (BAT’s Chief Science Officer), and Thord Hassler (Vice President Research and Development Swedish Match). In a paper published in May 2018, first author Peitsch and co-authors Polosa and others summarised the symposium presentations and further promoted the use of next generation products in a tobacco harm reduction approach to health regulation. The article explicitly states that “Riccardo Polosa's research in harm reduction has not been supported by the tobacco industry”. Yet, as we have seen above, only months prior to publication, Polosa was awarded close to €1 million by PMI for a 12 week trial to assess Heated Tobacco Products and e-cigarettes.
Research Funded by Philip Morris USA (2003-2005)
In April 2004, a LIAF press release announced that its President, Polosa, and Philip Morris USA (PM) were to jointly develop a research project on nicotine addiction. Internal tobacco industry documents show that Polosa applied to PM’s External Research Program in August 2002, requesting US$ 281,080 for a research study titled “Cigarette smoke and endothelial/platelet activation: Evaluation of prothrombotic markers during smoke cessation”. The budget was to cover 20% of Polosa’s time as the study’s Principal Investigator, amounting to US$ 19,900 over two years, and would further fund one research technician post and co-fund a fellowship (see Image 1).
The PM grant ran from 1 May 2003 to 30 April 2005, and a signed agreement between PM and the University of Catania confirms Polosa’s key role in the project, deeming his services as “essential to the research being performed”.
Another internal PM document suggests the company eventually awarded Polosa and his team a total of US$ 316,060; US$ 189,575 in the first year, and US$ 125,485 in the second. Under the terms of the agreement, Polosa and colleagues were required to acknowledge PM funding in all papers published resulting from this work.
Invited Speaker at Tobacco Industry Events
In 2015, 2017 and 2018 Polosa was an invited speaker at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum, an annual tobacco industry event previously known as the Global Tobacco Networking Forum. See also the following pages:
- Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum 2018
- Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum 2017
- Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum 2015
Conflict of Interests: Lack of Transparency
Polosa’s conflict of interest statements have been inconsistent, and in general he has been more transparent about his links with the e-cigarette and pharmaceutical industries, than about his links with the tobacco industry.
In a letter to the UK parliament in February 2018, while disclosing his links to the e-cigarette company Arbi Group Srl, the UK Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA), and “BAT subsidiaries” as well as the 2003 funding from Philip Morris US, Polosa did not mention that he was, at the time, principal investigator of a large PMI-funded study.
In 2015, Polosa lobbied the Australian government on the topic of tobacco harm reduction without disclosing any conflicts of interest.
In peer-reviewed publications on tobacco harm reduction, Polosa has frequently disclosed research funding from a range of pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Boehringer-Ingelheim, as well as financial contributions from e-liquid manufacturers. However, while his Philip Morris funding is acknowledged in the publications which originated directly from Philip Morris-funded research, Polosa’s subsequent publications on the topic of tobacco harm reduction fail to declare this.
In his role as a speaker at the 2015, 2016, and 2017 E-cigarette Summit, Polosa declared funding from pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, and that he served as a consultant for Pfizer and Arbi Group Srl , the distributor of Categoria e-cigarettes. He did not declare his funding from Philip Morris.
- Philip Morris International
- E-cigarettes: Mixing Research and Marketing
- Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum
- Polosa has also been a speaker at the Global Forum on Nicotine
- E-cigarettes: Mixing Research and Marketing
- S.H. Zyoud, S.W. Al-Jabi, W.M. Sweileh, Worldwide research productivity in the field of electronic cigarette: a bibliometric analysis, BMC Public Health , 2014, 14:667
- University of Catania, Riccardo Polosa, accessed March 2019
- University of Catania, CoEHAR, accessed 21 March 2019
- P. Berge, E Cigarette Interview with Professor Riccardo Polosa, The Ash Tray blog, October 2011, accessed March 2019
- E-cigarette conference, Professor Riccardo Polosa, November 2014, accessed July 2018
- V. Nicolosi, Riccardo Polosa at the United Nations General Assembly, LIAF, 28 September 2018, accessed March 2019
- INNCO, About Us, INNCO website, undated, accessed May 2019
- PharmaCielo Ltd., PharmaCielo Appoints New and Extended Medical and Scientific Advisory Board, Cision, 9 April 2019, accessed April 2019
- R. Polosa, Letter submitted by Professor Riccardo Polosa (ECG0106), February 2019, accessed March 2019
- PMI Science, Supported Investigator Initiated Studies, undated, accessed March 2019
- University of Catania, Ricerca finanziata da enti privati, archived 21 March 2019
- U.S. National Library of Medicine, Heated Tobacco Products vs Electronic Cigarettes NCT03569748, ClinicalTrials.gov, last update posted 2 July 2018, accessed May 2019
- Session 24: Approaches for the assessment of next generation products. Programme of the Session, Eurotox 2017 website, undated, accessed April 2019
- M. Peitsch, R. Polosa, C. Proctor, et al., Next-generation tobacco and nicotine products: Substantiating harm reduction and supporting tobacco regulatory science, Toxicology Research and Application, 2018, 2:1–12, accessed April 2019
- Philip Morris External Research Program, Application for Research Grant, Riccardo Polosa, 26 August 2002, Truth Tobacco industry Documents, Bates no: 3001592412-3001592413, accessed September 2015
- Unknown, Department of Scientific Affairs Research Contracts, 14 January 2004, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 3006831248-3006831263, accessed April 2019
- Philip Morris USA, University of Catania, External Research Agreement between Tomaselli Hospital, University of Catania and Philip Morris US Inc 1 May 2003, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 3001592402-3001592411, accessed April 2019
- R. Polosa, Philip Morris External Program Summary. Cigarette Smoke and Endothelial/ Platelet Activation: Evaluation of Prothrombotic Markers During Smoking Sessions, 15 April 2004, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no. 3034227269-3034227270, accessed April 2019
- Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum, Look Who’s Talking. GTNF 2015: Voices from ‘The Square’, 2015, accessed March 2019
- Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum, Look Who’s Talking, 2017, accessed October 2017
- Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum, Look Who’s Talking 2018, 2018, accessed August 2018
- R. Polosa, Subject: Inquiry into personal choice and community impacts, submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, 18 August 2015, accessed March 2019
- P. Caponnetto, C. Russo, A. Di Maria et al., Circulating endothelial‐coagulative activation markers after smoking cessation: a 12‐month observational study, European Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2011
- R.R. Cacciola, F. Guarino, R. Polosa, Relevance of Endothelial-Haemostatic Dysfunction in Cigarette Smoking, Current Medicinal Chemistry, 2007, 14(17):1887-1892
- P. Caponnetto, M. Maglia, G. Prosperini, et al., Carbon monoxide levels after inhalation from new generation heated tobacco products, Respiratory Research, 2018, 19(1):164
- R. Polosa, P. Caponnetto, R. Niaura, et al., Analysis of E-cigarette use in the 2014 Eurobarometer survey: calling out deficiencies in epidemiology methods, Intern Emerg Med, 2017, 12:733
- R. Polosa , P. Caponnetto, E-cigarettes and smoking cessation: a critique of a New England Journal Medicine-commissioned case study, Intern Emerg Med, 2017, 12:129–131
- R. Polosa, J.B. Morjaria, P. Caponnetto, et al., Blood Pressure Control in Smokers with Arterial Hypertension Who Switched to Electronic Cigarettes, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 2016, 13(11):1123
- R. Polosa, E-cigarettes: Public Health England's evidence based confusion?, The Lancet, 2015, 386(10000):1237-1238
- D. Nutt, L.D. Phillips, D. Balfour, et al., Estimating the Harms of Nicotine-Containing Products Using MCDA Approach, European Addiction Research 2014; 20:2018-225
- P. Caponnetto, D. Campagna, F. Cibella, et al., EffiCiency and Safety of an eLectronic cigAreTte (ECLAT) as Tobacco Cigarettes Substitute: A Prospective 12-Month Randomized Control Design Study, PLOS One, 2013
- P. Caponnetto, D. Campagna, G. Papale, et al., The emerging phenomenon of electronic cigarettes, Expert Rev Respir Med, 2012, 6(1):63-74
- R. Polosa, N.L. Benowitz, Treatment of nicotine addiction: present therapeutic options and pipeline developments, Trends Pharmacol Sci, 2011, 32(5):281-289
- G. Casella, P. Caponnetto, R. Polosa, Therapeutic advances in the treatment of nicotine addiction: present and future, Ther Adv Chronic Dis, 2010, 1(3):95-106
- The E-Cigarette Summit 2017 Programme, November 2017, accessed April 2019
- The E-Cigarette Summit 2016 Programme, November 2016, accessed April 2019