Recent Readings in Tobacco Harm Reduction – week of 11 May 2011

Must Reads
(anyone interested in THR should at least be familiar with the headline)

U.S. National Cancer Institute to fund snus-for-cigarette substitution study
Via Brad Rodu, who notes that it is not clear that the study will use a good methodology, the limits of its implications (looking at a single substitute product, not smokeless tobacco more generally), and the oddity of pharma-style testing for a consumer product that is already widely marketed. The biggest problem is that the cessation clinic setting tells us nothing about THR that we do not already know, so the knowledge created by this study will almost certainly be worthless (newsflash! some but not all smokers who want to quit find low-risk alternative products to be a good substitute). But, as Rodu suggests, the fact of NCI funding is more interesting, perhaps suggesting that the anti-THR orthodoxy may be showing some cracks.

Press picks up on New Zealand Ministry of Health opinion that e-cigarettes are far safer than smoking
As we reported two weeks ago, this appeared in a Ministry report. Now it has been issued in a statement to Parliament and is in the popular press so the position now is clear to politicians and casual observers.
It is not yet clear whether this will affect the country’s de facto ban on e-cigarettes. E-cigarette industry pundits are not optimistic.

Argentina bans e-cigarettes
Bad news for Argentinian smokers.

Worth Your Time
(not so important, but amusing enough to be worth reading)

E-cigarette manufacturer to market fellow-vaper detector
New packs would detect when another such pack was in proximity. This probably will not work — too brand specific and limited to manufactured product — but someone will eventually succeed in this niche that emphasizes the gear-head and social side of vaping.

Other THR

Australia still trying to kill the e-cig
Queensland Health representative desperately wants people to not use e-cigs. However, the subtext in this news article is that people in Australia have chosen to ignore the anti-health ban on e-cigarettes and are still shipping them in.
Government seems to be pursuing a “reefer madness” scare-tactic approach. A good analysis (and great takedown) of their propaganda:

Vapers Coalition asks anti-tobacco harm reduction groups to end their crusade against the e-cigarette
“A Petition for [a dozen major “public health” groups] to change their policy and support the sale and use of electronic cigarettes as a reduced harm option for committed adult smokers.”

Even in Bhutan, people still use tobacco
Tobacco use is prohibited, but 2.8% of people still admit to smoking and 11.1% to use of other tobacco products. Most extreme possible combination of demonization, high tax, public use ban, advertising ban, etc. leaves well over 10% using (and the black market profiting). Best argument ever for THR?

Related Topics

India ban saga continues
It also continues to get almost no coverage in the West, but the ban on cheap packaging for dip products is perhaps the biggest and strangest restriction of a popular drug ever, and certainly since the US banned alcohol. The Supreme Court, which ordered the ban, does not have a big enough army to enforce this. The results are interesting.

Current draft of next DSM would define “tobacco use disorder” to basically mean “uses tobacco”
While improvements are likely in the current rather silly draft from the American manual that some consider to define mental illness, the clear signal is that any tobacco use will be considered a psychological disease.

New research finds that reduction in exposure to advertising has no substantial effect on tobacco consumption
That is not how the authors spun it — they just observed that there was a substantial reduction in exposure in countries with no substantial reduction in use. Those whose paychecks depend on not noticing the implications of their research often fail to notice them.

Further evidence of the benefits of nicotine for ADD
Again, the reader needs to ignore the authors’ attempt to spin the result so it comes across as anti-tobacco.

Deloitte study concludes that all effects of cigarette package graphic regulations are the unintended
The BAT-sponsored report included an econometric analysis that found no evidence that mandated package alterations, such as graphic warning lablels, affect smoking rates. The report further argues (without empirical analysis) that plain packaging will facilitate counterfeiting and threaten competition.

TPSAC and Siegel opine about menthol report in NEJM, and Siegel about outdoor smoking bans in NYT
These are the typical general-audience fly-over summaries for those who have not been following those discussions. More interesting to experts in the area are some of the commentaries about the commentaries, e.g.:

How close are US prohibitionist drug policies to turning Mexico into a failed state?
Profitable black markets cost the world a lot more than tax revenue.

New York granted permission collect excise on cigarettes sold on Native American reservations
A court granted a mechanism but the state supreme court delays it with a TRO. What is most interesting, though, is whether the lost grey market turns white or black. Unfortunately, that information will probably not be possible to sort out from the noise and time trend.

B.C. Nurses Argue to Keep Insite Open
Insite, the safe injection facility in Vancouver, B.C., is still fighting to stay open, and local nurses have made to effort to support it.

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