Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 25 May 2011

Must Reads

American Cancer Society concedes that smoking rates are not dropping, but what really bothers them is THR
In their major report about cancer prevention, they concede that there was no reduction in smoking 2003-2009, despite increasingly draconian anti-smoking measures. But even as they produce the best possible evidence in support of THR, in the same document they aggressively attack efforts to promote THR. They condemn low-risk nicotine products that do not cause any measurable risk of cancer because… well, it is not really clear. They explicitly lie and claim that smokeless tobacco products “increase the risk of oral, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer, as well as noncancerous oral conditions”, citing this to the notorious 2008 Boffetta et al. paper that has be debunked by numerous authors, including us, Peter Lee, and Boffetta himself. Our favorite bit was, “The products also may discourage use of evidence-based cessation therapies among those who want to quit”; it is difficult to find a “health” organization that has less of a clue about what constitutes evidence. Most organizations with titles that consist of “American”, “Society”, and another noun exist to promote that other noun, which sometimes really makes you wonder…

Rodu reports on THR-promoting (risk-based) tobacco tax policy in Indiana and Kentucky
We reported a rumor of this last week but there was no confirmation available. Brad Rodu provides the missing details and describes his role in bringing it about. Not mentioned is that a similar situation also exists in Pennsylvania (no special excise tax on smokeless tobacco) thanks to similar efforts by Bill Godshall. http://rodutobaccotruth.blogspot.com/2011/05/tobacco-harm-reduction-as-basis-for-tax.html
We do have to take issue, however, with Rodu’s citing of a report by NCPA that we pointed out was total junk science. Credit should go where it is due (to Rodu and Godshall and others who made the case for these policies) and neither credit nor the validity of the points should be diluted by random lobbyists who throw together inaccurate reports.

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

Australian anti-tobacco activists jump the shark?

Other THR

New convenience-sample survey of e-cigarette users
No surprises in the results. Supports what we and others have always been saying and showing.

Snus causes weight gain?
A new study from Karolinska Institute’s anti-snus shop claims that, but it actually appears that being in your late-20s and 30s causes it (and there are some other oddities about the study too).

New South Carolina snus study designed to fail?
The study will give Camel Snus, accompanied by no education about THR, to smokers who are not interested in quitting. Presumably relatively few will switch, and this will be compared to the “success” rates for abstinence-promotion methods. NCI seems to have found a researcher (Matthew Carpenter) who is on board with their plan to spend millions pretending to study THR while not actually learning anything. Sadly, since pointless artificial studies seem to trump better sources of knowledge, the results will probably be taken seriously in Western public health policy. We can only hope that real people know better.

Is this resource helpful to you?
Hello, readers. We think we have created a very useful weekly resource for anyone who is interested in THR but does not have as much time as we do to track down what it takes to be well-read on the subject. But this is a lot of work for us. So we need to know if you find it useful. If the answer is yes for you, please give us a shout-out via whatever medium you find out about this (e.g., retweet or message on Twitter, like or (better still) comment on Facebook, comment on this blog, send an email. If we do not get enough such feedback in the next few weeks, we will probably stop doing this. Thanks!

What does addiction to cigarettes/tobacco/nicotine even mean?
This grossly neglected topic, which is critical to everything from how to promote THR to whether it is ethical to push for abstinence, gets some rare attention this week.

New York smoking ban motivates THR (via Camel Snus ads)
RJR takes advantage of New York smoking ban to point out Camel Snus can still be used in public outdoor spaces. Unfortunately, they still cannot report the comparative risk to encourage smokers to switch completely. And, of course, the people who claim the smoking ban was about ETS attack the move.

Members of Swedish Parliament call for end to EU ban on snus
Naturally they play up the unproven claims about Swedish moist snuff being lower risk than other smokeless tobacco, but they get a lot very right. Plus the computer translation from the Swedish is funny in places.

Anti-tobacco activists seem intent on improving cigarettes rather than replacing them
There is a confluence of recent events that is difficult to see as coincidence. The most cynical interpretation is that the activists know that they will be out of business if smokers switch to low-risk alternatives but their jobs are secure if they can promote slightly-lower-risk smoking. Slightly less cynical interpretations include our extremists hypothesis (that those who want only abstinence/prohibition know they cannot get it if there is a popular low-risk alternative), cigarette industry influence, or an inability to understand what the evidence really shows. We cannot actually think of an explanation that is more positive than those. Evidence includes the discussion at the recent IOM hearing (see last week’s reading list) focusing on reduced-risk cigarettes, a call by the University of Minnesota anti-tobacco shop for chemical changes in cigarettes, which Siegel spins as being interpretable as even worse than its face value.

Related Topics

HRI (IHRA) annual meeting, Australia 2012, cancelled
Harm Reduction International (a recently change from their long-time name International Harm Reduction Association) cancelled its 2012 annual meeting, citing difficulties with their conference planners. Given the full year available to regroup from a logistical setback, however, this seems like a case where they were looking for an excuse to cancel. Did the increasingly prohibitionist politics in Australia make it too difficult to have the conference there?

In other name-change news…
The American Cancer Society has changed its name to the American Society for Cancer. Just kidding. But it is tempting to start calling them that.

Turkmenistan joins the FCTC
We wonder if they read the fine print before signing.

Roswell Park researchers
In a paper published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine (broken into three articles to maximize padding of their CVs) they claimed to show evidence that supports plain packaging and graphic warnings. However, a consumer preference for non-ugly packaging, when given a choice, and knowledge of what package colors mean is not evidence that they will buy less when all packages are ugly or become total idiots who will not know what names correspond to the old colors. Harassing smokers and improving public health are not synonyms.

Alberta reaps the harvest of not supporting harm reduction for STDs
Currently spending a lot to fight the increasing prevalence http://bit.ly/j7XKzH because they refused to address it http://bit.ly/ilpmRR three years ago.

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  • Ryan  On May 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks for your site! Please, don’t stop doing it. I’ve found tons of great stuff in here. It was pretty instrumental in my finding out about Swedish Snus, and switching from American dip to snus. I haven’t bought a tin of dip in 2 months.

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