Recent Readings in Tobacco Harm Reduction – week of 18 April 2011

By THR.o Staff

Welcome to the second week of 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.

We review many source of information to prepare this, but if you think there is something we have missed in the past or might miss next week, please send a suggestion.

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. (Note that this week none of the stories fall into that category.) Worth your time” (we are open to suggestions for what to call this category) are amusing or otherwise edifying readings that are not “must reads” but seem inherently interesting enough to be worth reading. “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

Nothing this week.

Worth Your Time

Tongue-in-cheek survey of e-cig users provides useful data
Social science research on e-cigarette use is lacking and the quantitative surveys done to date are not very informative, and as co-authors of the first such survey, we admit that. Our coauthor on that survey has collected free-text responses that are not just amusing but actually as good as most data collected on the topic.

Other THR

Including e-cigarettes in a workplace smoking ban
The debate over whether e-cigarettes should be subject to some place-specific bans, like smoking, is just beginning. American e-cigarette advocates call for action to prevent a ban in a recent case:

Good news about increased ST advertising
The authors, from the anti-tobacco extremist Legacy Foundation, presumably wanted to imply this is a bad thing, but their review of magazine ads for smokeless tobacco revealed a trend toward trying to recruit non-ST-users, particularly smokers, as well as an overall increase in ads.

Physicians understand little about THR
This article, purportedly a summary of the science for physicians but actually full of the usual anti-tobacco extremist disinformation about e-cigarettes and “third-hand smoke”, nicely (albeit painfully) illustrates how vulnerable medics are to disinformation about THR, which they often repeat as if they have expertise.

PMI e-cigarettes?
We have heard that Philip Morris International filed for international patents for e-cigarette technology this week. Unfortunately we are unable to identify any related documentation or discussion.

Engineering safer cigarettes
This topic gets little coverage in either THR or anti-tobacco publications, but it might actually generate more honest and practical science than either smoke-free alternatives or prohibitionism. A recent article by BAT researchers is a typical example of attempts at incremental improvement:

U.S. e-cigarette legal battle update
Katherine Devlin comments on a senior U.S. FDA official’s statement (which she characterizes as perjury) that only e-cigarettes bearing therapeutic claims were liable to seizure or had ever been seized. She reports on a pattern of continuing seizures (which she characterizes as contempt of court).

Students fume over “smoking” ban
University of Massachusetts students object to “anti-smoking” rules (which are really also anti-THR). It is good that university students can see through absurd claims that concerns about second-hand smoke justify anti-tobacco extremist measures.

Any e-cigarette publicity is good publicity, for now anyway
Charlie Sheen is boldly using e-cigarettes, which yields a lot of publicity. The entertainment press seems to overestimate the industry, however, referring implying greater organization and product maturity than currently exist.

Uninformative Japanese study of e-cigarettes
This poorly-designed study could only confirm the already-known lack of major adverse events, but we included it because of this: “Each participant was asked to consume one filter cartridge per day (more than 150 puffs per day) for 4 weeks.” Japan seems to have very reasonable human subjects rules (most committees in Anglophone and European countries would reject a protocol that asked participants to consume a minimum amount of a “dangerous” substance, even if it was a huge improvement over the cigarettes they would otherwise smoke) and so might be a good place for future THR research.

Related Topics

Further evidence that claimed miracle effects of smoking bans are junk science
It has long been clear that advocates of smoking bans in pubs and other venues have cherry-picked the data to imply that bans have miraculous effects on population health, immediately reducing heart attacks and other diseases by huge amounts. A study from RAND confirms that when the data is considered in an unbiased way any benefits become undetectable, as any realistic assessment would predict.

Prohibitions and taxes make smuggling an increasingly tempting alternative to working in THR
Serious-sounding calls for banning dip products continue even as the ban on plastic sachet packaging has already created a flourishing black market.
In the U.S., violent criminals are reported to be taking over the cigarette black market.
East African cigarette smuggling shows the absurdity of FCTC supply interdiction requirements.

Concern that FCTC interferes with African development goals
FCTC requirements are at odds with an American program to help develop trade that benefits some of Africa’s poorest countries (story from Zambia).

More evidence of nicotine relieving psych problems
It is a bit buried in the details, but the bottom line from this new study is that nicotine, from pharma products, relieves symptoms of severe schizophrenia. Sadly, the subtext is still, “we obviously have to force psych patients to stop using consumer nicotine products, so should we maybe consider letting them have nicotine patches and gum?”

Safe injection site cuts drug overdose deaths
A study estimates that Insite, the safe injection house in Vancouver, has cut drug overdose deaths in the area by 35%.

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