Recent Readings in Tobacco Harm Reduction – week of 13 April 2011

By THR.o Staff

Welcome to our new recommended reading / clipping series. Our goal is to provide a concise and organized weekly list of important readings for those interested in THR. We aim to provide enough information that someone just reading our headlines and summaries will understand the significant points of the stories, and can efficiently decide whether to follow the links.

Must reads” is a short list of readings that anyone who is serious about understanding THR should know about (though the summary alone may contain the must-know information). “Worth your time” (we are open to suggestions for what to call this category) are amusing or otherwise edifying readings (or in today’s case, a video) that are not “must reads” but seem worth the time. “Other THR” includes entries that those reading THR news for an hour should consider, listed in roughly descending order of significance. “Related topics” includes a few important stories related to THR but not about THR per se, particularly tobacco policy or research and other areas of harm reduction.

Must Reads

BAT launches Nicoventures
British American Tobacco has created a separately-managed, wholly-owned company called Nicoventures Ltd., with “the aim of providing adult smokers with a variety of non-tobacco based options which would offer the same experience as a cigarette without the real and serious health risks of smoking.”  No details about their product plans are yet available.

Rodu calls on American Cancer Society to be honest, release data
ACS has long had epidemiologic data about Americans that clearly shows how much lower risk smokeless tobacco is compared to smoking.  However, they have demonstrated consistent unethical behavior in the area, cooking their publications to hide the value of THR (though a careful reader can find the truth) and have refused to release the data to other researchers or perform the requested analyses that would demonstrate the truth.

Rodu debunks classic “gateway” paper
Both Rodu and we have written versions of this before but this is a particularly useful debunking of the Haddock (2001) study of Air Force recruits in which the author manipulated his data to support the claim that smokeless tobacco is a “gateway” to smoking.  One thing that was mentioned by Rodu in this is that the most useful scientifically-legitimate information from that study (which we often cite) is that ST use is associated with a constellation of risky behaviors which it obviously does not cause.

Tobacco has highest profile ever at International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) conference
The Beirut conference saw three sessions dedicated to tobacco as well as a talk in the closing plenary session by Carl V. Phillips.  There was strong support (including from long-time harm reduction leader Ernie Drucker who spoke at two sessions) but also some fierce resistance to adopting this topic as part of the “traditional” harm reduction community.  It remains difficult to predict how that will play out.
(links in two entries below)

Worth Your Time

IHRA film festival includes short file about THR
This ESTOC-sponsored short film does a wonderful job of summarizing the case for snus-based THR.  Scientific facts and an interview with Prof. Michael Kunze are embedded in amusing graphics and great pacing.  (Question to our readers:  We believe we were the first ones to really start pushing seatbelts as the best metaphor for THR, as done in the film, rather than condoms or needle exchanges.  Drop us a note to us or THR historian Chris Snowdon if you can support or dispute that belief.)

Other THR

World Medical Association vows to step up campaign against smoking by banning low-risk smokeless alternatives
We are not kidding.  That is really what they said – and it was well after April Fools Day.

Talk from India about banning dip products (tobacco and other substances)
This will probably just turn out to be cheap talk about an absurd proposal, but there is an engineered campaign going on this week with coordinated calls for a ban being made to look like coincidence.  While this seems mostly to be posturing to set up future action, it is possible action could be taken soon if the government and WHO talk themselves into a corner, so it is a good time to invest in organized crime in India.  Not surprisingly, there is apparently no discussion about trying to move Indian products toward being as low risk as Western smokeless tobacco.  (Then again there is also no discussion of the science and that, contrary to the definitive Accepted Official Propaganda, there is not really very solid epidemiology about Indian products being so much more unhealthy.)

E-cigarette company scams customers
Though this says nothing more about the quality of the product category than any other retail scam, look for this to enter the boilerplate attacks on e-cigarettes by anti-harm-reduction activists and regulators.

More about IHRA demonstrated low-risk alternatives to smoking every day at the conference’s new “demonstration space” (photo).  Recordings of some of the major talks will become available online soon and we will post links.  In the meantime, two participants blogged about it: (see entries for Unhealthful News #93-98)

Survey shows role of smokeless tobacco in retailer revenue
The Swedish Match-sponsored study (released as a conference report only so far) found “Moist smokeless tobacco (MST) accounted for 6% of tobacco revenues in tobacco shops, and 9% in c-stores.”  (Context suggests this refers to American retailers, though this was not stated.)
Convenience Industry News

Vaporcast (podcast) interviews Jonathan Foulds, Carl Phillips and Bill Godshall from Philly Vapefest
These interviews were conducted at the gathering of e-cigarette enthusiasts sponsored by National Vapers Club (a biannual event), Philadelphia, March 25-26 (audio only – no transcripts).

Further evidence that smokers have been misled into thinking that nicotine is the problem
A study published in the journal Addiction was primarily a sketchy study of smokers’ perceptions of packaging colors, but it also reported this deadly (because it prevents THR) misperception.

Iowa legislature rejects severe restrictions on dissolvable low-risk tobacco products

Related Topics

New tobacco myth gains traction: Hookah smoking is 100 (or 200) times more hazardous than cigarettes
However, amusingly, the same actors touting that claim also claim that hookah smoking might be a gateway to cigarettes. Wouldn’t that be a huge harm reduction, given their risk claim? It is showing up in the popular press (e.g., Long Island Press). It seems to trace to a WHO report (note: large pdf file). For comments and debunking of some such claims:
Science Topics

Pharmacokinetic study shows snus delivers nicotine a bit better than gum

Placebo-controlled study of smoking measures benefits of nicotine

Siegel calls for removing Chantix from the market as too dangerous

Study shows youth smokers prefer same brands as adults, contrary to “starter product” hypothesis

County health board proposes regulations on smoking in movies
Not a very important story, but is there really anyone who does not think the pendulum has swung too far to one side when local public health authorities presume to constrain free expression in mass communication because they just do not like smoking?

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