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Letter from the editor | 319

Promises in the wind

Electronic cigarettes originally hit the market with the promise of helping smokers kick their tobacco addictions. But the wide range of aromas and types—as to be expected with gadgets targeted at young people—is not suggestive of a treatment method, just as the colorful and flashy stores in countries where they are sold do not bring to mind representatives of the pharmaceutical industry.

In Brazil, which upheld its ban on importing and selling e-cigarettes in July, young people are the biggest consumer group. An investigation by the National Cancer Institute of Brazil found that 80% of people in the country who have used e-cigarettes are aged between 18 and 34 and more than half of the individuals who have tried the devices had never smoked a conventional cigarette.

The numerous harmful effects of smoking are widely known, while the health problems caused by e-cigarettes are only now emerging as research is carried out, as described in this issue’s cover story. Brazil is recognized for its strict and successful antismoking policies and the number of smokers in the country has been in decline for decades. Given our current knowledge, the restrictive stance is expected to be maintained and so-called vapes, which appear to act as a gateway to addiction rather than a way out, are yet another example of the tobacco industry’s ability to reinvent itself.

Brazilian public health policy is also covered, with a new law shortly coming into force obliging companies to include a warning on the front labels of foods high in sugar, saturated fat, or sodium—the excessive consumption of which is associated with chronic diseases. In Chile, where similar measures have been implemented through advertising restrictions and a ban on the sale of these products in schools, a study shows that families purchased less of these foods, while there was no significant economic impact on companies in the sector.

Following the special issue on the bicentennial of Brazil’s Independence (for those who missed it, see, this issue features a central character in Brazilian historiographical studies on the period: José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva. A naturalist and dedicated public servant for the Portuguese Crown, the Brazilian became a politician late in life, operating as an architect of independence in his position as minister of the new state and conceiving a comprehensive national project for the country. His ideas, which were advanced for the time, included the abolition of slavery and reform of the land system associated with a miscegenation program. Bonifácio proposed that the government acquire unused land to distribute to black and indigenous people, which would be more productive than large estates powered by captive labor. His complex character has been the subject of new interpretations based on documents discovered in archives.

Finally, one of Pesquisa FAPESP’s central aims is addressed: the quest to report on the world of scientific research in understandable and interesting language. Studies show that science has failed to communicate its results, publishing increasingly complex and cryptic articles composed of long sentences, acronyms, and jargon. Indecipherable papers hinder the advancement of science and scientific journalism itself.