Centre for Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR)

This page was last edited on at

The Center for Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR), an interdepartmental Research Centre, was founded in March 2018 by Riccardo Polosa at the University of Catania, Italy.12 CoEHAR is one of the multiple “Centres of Excellence” set up with Foundation funding as hubs for research on tobacco harm reduction.

For more information on the Foundation, see our pages on the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and its Centres of Excellence.

Relationship with the tobacco industry

Both CoEHAR and its founder Polosa have significant links to the tobacco industry. Polosa has disclosed that he has worked as a consultant to British American Tobacco. He has also previously received funding from Philip Morris International, Philip Morris USA and collaborated with tobacco industry scientists. More information can be found on our page on Riccardo Polosa.

CoEHAR funded by Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

In 2018, CoeHAR was given two grants worth US$205,805 in total from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), an ostensibly independent scientific organisation aimed at “accelerating the end of smoking”, which is solely funded by Philip Morris International (PMI).3 The official grantee named in FSFW’s 2018 tax return was ECLAT SRL, “a spin off of the University of Catania”.4 The purpose of the first grant was to set up the Centre of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (COEHAR), and the other was to “accelerate and improve smoking precision and detection rate of monitoring the smoking episodes by using the smokebeat technology”.3 The first grant was awarded on 30 May 2018 to the value of US$130,559 and the second grant was awarded on 28 September 2018 and worth US$75,246. The tax return also shows that at the end of 2018, US$22,810 in grant money was still to be paid to the Centre.3

In 2019, CoEHAR received an additional US$8,036,493 from FSFW to:5

“act as a hub for the global coordination of scientific research projects for advancing the science of tobacco cessation and harm reduction.”

Other details of ECLAT projects were given on the FSFW tax return: ECLAT executes 5 primary project types (1) cohort and clinical studies; (2) product characterisation ; (3) wellness studies; (4) technological innovation and (5) knowledge sharing and capacity strengthening”.5

The FSFW 2019 tax return also showed that it had committed a further US$22,928,186 in funding to CoEHAR in the future.5

As of May 2020, the University of Catania and CoeHAR have not disclosed the FSFW funding for CoEHAR on their respective websites.26 Find out more about the Foundation’s Centres of Excellence.

People

The CoEHAR staff page states it employs a group of researchers and administration staff from the University of Catania. The staff at CoEHAR work in a variety of departments at the university such as Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Legal Sciences, Biomedical and Biotechnological Sciences and the Centre for Tobacco Prevention and Treatment.7  Riccardo Polosa is the founder of CoEHAR.7 Polosa was also the Director of CoEHAR up until January 2020 when he was replaced by Giovanni Li Volti, who signed a four year contract with the Centre.87 Giovanni Li Volti is also a professor at the University of Catania in the Department of Biomedical and Biotechnological Sciences.9

Outputs

CoEHAR have launched some of their Foundation-funded research projects, including:10

  • CoEHAR launched ‘Catania Conversations’, a project which aims to connect journalists, scientists and opinion leaders to work together and fill the “communication gaps” around tobacco harm reduction.11
  • In November 2019, CoEHAR launched “REPLICA”, an initiative looking to replicate studies on e-cig and HTP to independently validate industry results.1213 At the first international training Rector Professor Francesco Prioli, head of the Physics & Astronomy Department at the University of Catania, outlined the study’s aim: “Replica will validate the independence of the results of science from any type of external influence”.1314 In February 2020, Serbian national television broadcast a tour of CoEHAR’s research laboratory at the University of Kragujevac with Giovanni Li Volti. Serbia is one of the six partner countries participating in the Replica project which aims to research the damage caused by conventional cigarette smoke. In addition to Italy and Serbia, the other counties participating are the US, Russia, Oman and Indonesia.15
  • In October 2019, CoEHAR launched the International Summer School on Project Management (ISPM) which aimed to support project management skills of young professionals and students.16 Riccardo Polosa and Francesco Purrello, the Director of the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine at the University of Catania, are on the ISPM Committee board.17

Polosa has published a huge volume of research papers, some in collaboration with colleagues from CoEHAR. Some fail to disclose the link between CoEHAR and the FSFW.18 The following are several examples of research publications in which Polosa failed to disclose that he is funded by FSFW:

  • A 2020 article titled Smoking and SARS-CoV-2 Disease (COVID-19): Dangerous Liaisons or Confusing Relationships? critiques a study conducted by Brake and colleagues concerning the relationship between smoking and COVID-19. Polosa and his colleagues argue the original study is highly inaccurate in stating that e-cigarettes are not “safer” than traditional cigarettes.19
  • Another article published in 2020 critiques a study conducted by Reynales-Shigematsu and colleagues concerning the public health impact in Mexico of combustion-free electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Polosa and his colleagues argue that the original study does not recognise the utility of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction alternative for improving smoking cessation.2021
  • A 2019 paper identified as an issue the lack of anti-smoking treatments for e-cigarette or dual users. The article outlines the trial steps to test the efficacy of varenicline, combined with 12 weeks of counselling, on e-cigarette users willing to quit. As of the article publication date, the study proposed in the article had not taken place.22
  • A study published in 2019 evaluated different smoking cessation treatments to estimate their efficacy. Its findings include that different strategies, such as using e-cigarettes, improves the success of smoking cessation.23
  • In 2018, a CoEHAR-affiliated article promoted research on how virtual reality can increase smoking cessation in young adults.24

The conflict of interest statement in the following articles, which are co-authored by Polosa, do state that the CoEHAR has received a grant from the FSFW to develop research projects. A 2020 article, titled “A Report on Smoking Detection and Quitting Technologies”, evaluated the usability and effectiveness of different available smoking detection and quitting technologies designed to encourage smoking cessation and included the following statement: “Produced with the help of a grant from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Inc”.25 In 2019, Polosa and colleagues published an editorial piece entitled “Health Impact of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco systems“ and a narrative review of e-cigarette aerosol emissions and respiratory health, which both promote the relative safety and reduced public health impacts of using tobacco harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes in comparison to conventional cigarettes.2627

Events

  • The CoEHAR Catania Conversation initiative hosts an online masterclass webinar on 29 May 2020, which is World No Tobacco Day.11
  • On 3 March 2020, CoEHAR partnered with the Italian Anti-Smoking League (LIAF) to participate in a seminar during ‘Scientific Culture Week’ at the University of Catania.28 After many years as President of LIAF, Polosa now serves as LIAF’s Chief Scientific Advisor.29
  • In September 2019, the winners of the Conrad Challenge, which is funded by FSFW, travelled to CoEHAR as part of their grand prize. The group of students from the US were guests at CoEHAR for three days and followed a structured visitor programme learning about innovation, technology and excellence at the centre.30
  • On 24 June 2019, a conference, led by Riccardo Polosa, announced the CoEHAR’s nine new smoking cessation and harm reduction research projects. These were: Smoke Free Sicily, Food Recognition Tech, Smile Study, EU-PATH, International Summer School on Project Management, Replication Studies, Long-Term Health Effect Study, Diasmoke 2.0 and In Silico Science.31. Speakers at the event included Dr Derek Yach, the President of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.31 The nine CoEHAR initiatives are being funded by a grant from the Foundation.31

Lobbying

  • Riccardo Polosa successfully lobbied for vape shops to remain open in Italy during the COVID-19 lockdown.32
  • In September 2019, Riccardo Polosa coordinated the first CEN European Standards Committee round table meeting in Catania. Polosa lobbied for tight quality and safety standards for additions to e-cigarette liquids and their design to ensure the safety of the European Vaping Products Market.33
  • In August 2019, Riccardo Polosa travelled to New Delhi to urge the Indian Ministry of Health to reconsider the recommendation of a ban on e-cigarettes in all states. A team of scientists, led by Polosa, explained that the government should instead integrate the promotion of “reduced harm” products alongside tobacco control measures and withdraw their recommendation to ban e-cigarettes.34

Relevant links

TT resources

References

  1. University of Catania, Riccardo Polosa, undated, accessed March 2019
  2. abUniversity of Catania, CoEHAR, undated, accessed May 2020
  3. abcFoundation for a Smoke-Free World, Form 990-PF, 2018 Tax Return, 13 May 2019, accessed May 2019
  4. CoEHAR, ECLAT is looking for partnership to realize international survey, CoEHAR website, 11 March 2019, accessed May 2020
  5. abcFoundation for a Smoke-Free World, Form 990-PF, 2019 Tax Return, 15 May 2020, accessed May 2020
  6. CoEHAR website, undated, accessed May 2020
  7. abcCoEHAR, Who We Are, CoEHAR website, undated, accessed May 2020
  8. University of Catania, The Rector, 31 January 2020, accessed May 2020
  9. Researchgate, Giovanni Li Volti Profile, Researchgate, undated, accessed May 2020
  10. CoEHAR, Projects, CoEHAR, undated, accessed May 2020
  11. abCoEHAR, Catania Conversation is a new CoEHAR project which brings together journalists, scientists and opinion leaders experts in harm reduction from all over the world, CoEHAR, 5 May 2020, accessed May 2020
  12. CoEHAR, Replication Study, CoEHAR, undated, accessed May 2020
  13. abUniversity of Catania, The first international training of the “Replica” at CoEHAR, University of Catania, 25 November 2019, accessed May 2020
  14. University of Catania, Professor Francesco Prioli is the newly elected Rector, University of Catania, undated, accessed May 2020
  15. CoEHAR, Replica Tour: a special for Serbian TV, CoEHAR, 24 February 2020, accessed May 2020
  16. CoEHAR, CoEHAR events, CoEHAR, undated, May 2020
  17. ISPM, ISPM Committee, ISPM-CoEHAR website, undated, accessed May 2020
  18. STOP, Addiction at Any Cost, STOP, undated, accessed May 2020
  19. R. Polosa et al., Smoking and SARS-CoV-2 Disease (COVID-19): Dangerous Liaisons or Confusing Relationships?, Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2020;9(5):1321-1323, doi:10.3390/jcm9051321
  20. R. Polosa et al., Response to “New tobacco products, a threat for tobacco control and public health of Mexico”, Salud publica de Mexico, 2019;61(4):552-553, doi:10.21149/10128
  21. L.M. Reynales-Shigematsu et al., New tobacco products, a threat to tobacco control and public health in Mexico, Public Health of Mexico, 2018;60(5):598-604, doi:10.21149/9682
  22. R. Polosa et al., Efficacy of smoking cessation with varenicline plus counselling for e-cigarette users, Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications, 2019;15(1):1-6, doi:10.1016/j.conctc.2019.100412
  23. P. Caponnetto et al., Multimodal Smoking Cessation in a Real-Life Setting: Combining Motivational Interviewing With Official Therapy and Reduced Risk Products, Tobacco Use Insights, 2019;12(1):1-11, doi:10.1177/1179173X19878435
  24. P. Caponnetto et al., The role of virtual reality intervention on young adult smokers’ motivation to quit smoking: a feasibility and pilot study, Journal of Addictive Diseases, 2018;37(3-4):217-226, doi:10.1080/10550887.2019.1664364
  25. R. Polosa et al., A Report on Smoking Detection and Quitting Technologies, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2020;17(7):2614-2631, doi:10.3390/ijerph17072614
  26. R. Polosa et al., Health Impact of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco systems, Internal and emergency medicine, 2019;14(1):817-820, doi:10.1007/s11739-019-02167-4
  27. R. Polosa et al., The effect of e-cigarette aerosol emissions on respiratory health, Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine, 2019;13(9):899-915, doi:10.1080/17476348.2019.1649146
  28. CoEHAR, CoEHAR participates in the week of scientific culture, CoEHAR, undated, May 2020
  29. The E-Cigarette Summit, Professor Riccardo Polosa, The E-Cigarette Summit, undated, accessed July 2018
  30. CoEHAR, CoEHAR is the Conrad Challenge Award, CoEHAR, 27 August 2019, accessed May 2020
  31. abcCoEHAR, CoEHAR Press Release, CoEHAR, undated, accessed May 2020
  32. CoEHAR, Italy: Riccardo Polosa talks about smoking, vaping and COVID-19, 12 March 2020, accessed April 2020
  33. Quality and Safe Standards: European Vaping Products Market is Safe, CoEHAR website, 24 September 2019, accessed May 2020
  34. India: Riccardo Polosa urges the Government to reconsider the ban on electronic cigarettes, CoEHAR website, 28 August 2019, accessed May 2020