Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 15 June 2011

Must Reads

Nothing this week (Hey, it happens).

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

Tobacconomics? Really?
Look, ASH made up a word to go with all of their made-up “facts”! Their latest report, an attempt to deny that there are any financial (what they mistakenly call “economic”) arguments against any anti-tobacco policies, may set a new standard for anti-tobacco disinformation even though they are taking on a topic where there actually are a few legitimate arguments to be made. It would take weeks of Phillips’s EP-ology posts or an entire book from Snowdon to rebut all of the nonsense in this report, so if you choose to read it make sure you do not accidentally believe it. Summary and link here:
To give you just one highlight: “A major problem is that the analysis is inconsistent: a high burden of proof and very exacting methodology is applied to evidence that does not support the pro-tobacco position, whilst the bar is set significantly lower for evidence that is supportive.” These guys are hilarious. Watch for their next report, “Night is day; black is white.”

Other THR

Glantz et al. attack e-cigarettes on television and movies
In what can only be seen as a very positive prediction about e-cigarettes (which these geniuses insist on calling “ENDS” rather than using the term everyone else does), the anti-tobacco extremists seem to fear that endorsements by entertainers are a threat to their business model. Michael Siegel rips them, in particular, for trying to imply that the spontaneous appearances are paid product placements.

US National Institutes of Health releases contents of tobacco research time capsule
Not really, but the section on smokeless tobacco in their just published “12th Report on Carcinogens” reads like it was written in 1988 (though, strangely, it has a couple of random more recent citations). Maybe Obama should set aside some stimulus money to hire a couple of RAs for them.

“Smoke-free” policies continue to have stealth anti-THR component
For example, this story of a hospital going “smoke-free” “to create an environment that minimizes health risk, but that actually bans low-risk tobacco with no environmental effect also. Since the unbanned burgers and fries served in the cafeteria represent a health risk at least as great as smokeless tobacco, this policy appears to be the work of anti-tobacco extremists taking advantage of their powerful position over patients to force their prohibitionist preferences on people who have no choice but to obey them.

Study: through 2005 no smoking in workplace did not encourage smokeless tobacco
If you ignore the rhetoric, this is an interesting result. Total and partial switching attributed to indoor bans may only result from bans in pubs and other venues — or it may all really be about THR.

Related Topics

Dutch decide that some anti-smoking expenditures are not cost effective
They did not say this in so many words, but some stop-smoking support was among the items they decided to remove from government-paid health care (people are still free to buy it, of course). Less reported, but perhaps more significant was their defunding of an anti-smoking QUANGO citing ineffectiveness and fear that the government was getting a reputation as a nanny state. With one of the richest countries in the world deciding to stop spending on anti-tobacco efforts that serve only political goals, will FCTC relax its outlandish burdens on poor countries. (Hint: ha!)
Also, in explaining the need for cutting medical spending, many costs are cited; smoking is not one of them.

Russia solidly in the anti-harm-reduction camp
The drug laws are getting seriously draconian to the point that Russia is resuming its 20th century role of making “tough” US presidents look good — even US laws look enlightened in comparison. Drug users will be forced into (bad) treatment or prison.
A new study of Russian bioethics attitudes, with an emphasis on drugs, confirms support for UNODC-style approach and opposition to harm reduction.

Cessation interventions work better in published trials than real life
This is a statement that is obvious to anyone who understands how health research is done and knows a little about the behavior side of economics. But there is a tendency among some in the tobacco world to favor minimally-informative empiricism over more useful analysis. For them there is a new study that shows that the closer a trial is to real life, the less effective pharma quit products are, as nicely unpacked by Michael Seigel here:

Indoor smoking bans shown not to reduce use prevalence in WV USA
The West Virginia state anti-tobacco authorities reported no drop in smoking prevalence over 1.5 decades. It is interesting to speculate why they touted this to the press (it does not read like a reporter doing an investigation). It could be a set-up to call for “tougher” action, or it could be the result of a political faction that objects to the bans. It could be that WV has the only anti-tobacco people in the continent who just think it is appropriate for government to report the truth.

Australia fight over plain packaging continues to be interesting

Lebanese support balanced anti-smoking rules
In smoky Lebanon, where airport employees can smoke on the job, most of those recently polled support smoking bans in indoor public places where one’s presence is not optional. However, only a small minority of those polled favored smoking bans in nightclubs (school children: 36%, adults: 30%), restaurants (38%, 39%), cafés (28%, 27%). Even setting aside the apparent flaws in the research (seriously, they asked children about smoking in nightclubs?) it seems likely these results will be used as if they support the full FCTC agenda.

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