Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 6 July 2011

Must Reads

Champix controversy continues — now it is heart attacks
A meta-analsyis suggests Champix/Chantix causes elevated heart attack risk (details of the result can be found via any of these links). Rather more interesting to the THR world, though are some of the reactions to this. Anti-Champix and pro-e-cigarette activist Michael Siegel declares it to be a monumental scandal:
THR researcher and advocate Brad Rodu focuses on the less dramatic point, how many people in the study kept smoking despite wanting to quit, an argument for THR above all else.
Chris Snowdon, however, provides some scientific assessment of the heart attack result and the serious inherent flaws of this kind of meta-analyses (perhaps stepping up to fill the gap caused by CVP’s EP-ology’s hiatus) questioning the validity of the entire result. (Note to anti-tobacco extremists: Unlike you, we non-extremists point out bad science even when embracing it would help make you look like idiots.)

Nicotine “vaccine” an ethical ticking timebomb
Certain people are giddy about the possibility of giving multiple injections of a drug with unknown side-effects to children to keep them from being able to experience the effects of nicotine. No one else seems to have made the connection yet, but stop a moment and think about the precedent for inflicting a permanent change on the bodies of children so that they cannot experience the pleasure of — and are thus less inclined to engage in — an activity that some powerful people condemn. The obvious precedent is genital mutilation.
That is our quick take on it. You can read Chris Snowdon’s take on it here:

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

UK public health “expert” claims smoking deadlier than car exhaust
We did not cover this last week, though the claim made the rounds, because it just seemed too stupid to mention. But Simon Clark wrote something amusing on it which is worth a few seconds to read.

The Daily Show on the NYC park smoking ban
Another one that made the rounds and is really worth watching. Link to the video segment via:

Other THR

UK NICE refuses to accept comments from THR.o on their THR guidance
After inviting our comments, they declare they will not consider them. Their excuse: As an international organization with strong ties to the UK, we are not English enough for them to want to listen to us. We leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out the real reason (hint: what they want to call harm reduction is really abstinence promotion).

Securities fraud charges for e-cig maker SmokeFree Innotec
Gee, it is almost enough to make you think that most people who are in THR for the personal profit are, like most people who show up for a gold rush, complete dicks. (We would have called them “wankers”, but according to NICE we are not English enough to use that term.)

Godshall comments to FDA re dissolvables

Corporate free speech for tobacco companies?
An interesting commentary suggests that a recent US Supreme Court ruling that corporations have free speech rights might force a rollback of anti-free speech components of the war on tobacco. Others responded that this does not apply to commercial speech (advertising). However, and of more interest to us, it might free them to honestly report the science about THR, which clearly would be political speech given the current regulatory fights. Now we just have to see if they have the balls to push for it. (That sound you hear is us not holding our breath.)

Vapers Club meet in L.A.
To be held July 23, 2011.

Humana expands refusal to hire nicotine users
Whatever trumped up justifications might be offered for refusing to hire smokers, the inclusion of smoke-free users is blatant politics-of-identity discrimination, designed to support extremist anti-harm-reduction goals. The rhetoric is about smokers, but the ban is of anyone with biomarkers of nicotine. They claim they want to send a message. Message received: Humana does not care about public health.

Anti-harm-reduction pseudo-scientist resurfaces to attack Susan Ivey appointment
We thought that maybe Scott Tomar had died or learned something, but no: He popped up to criticize the appointment of former RJR CEO (now named Susan Cameron) to a university board. “Cameron also presided over the introduction of Camel SNUS, a smokeless product that Tomar said keeps people using tobacco even when their workplaces ban smoking.
‘It helps to circumvent some of the benefits of clean indoor air laws,’ he said.” We wonder how many more people Ivey’s efforts saved compared to Tomar’s anti-smokeless-tobacco crusade.

Related Topics

Spiral CT screening appears to reduce lung cancer mortality for smokers
An important but modest benefit from a seriously expensive screening regimen. Maybe smokers will start to get their money’s worth from the taxes they pay, supposedly to compensate for their increased costs.

How badly would full FCTC implementation hurt the people of Malawi?
Consider this analysis of how well they are doing thanks to tobacco as a cash crop in this hard-to-farm country.
For our fairly recent take on FCTC vs the people of Africa, see:

Horrifying graphics just burn welfare
In response to the new US graphic pseudo-warnings, several commentators have observed it is implausible that they convey information. So they are just intended to create “deadweight loss” (a loss to someone that creates no compensating benefit. Based on that, this commentator suggested that they are equivalent to a 17% tax, so just impose the (non-deadweight-loss) tax.

Anti-tobacco activists/”researchers” admit tobacco use is beneficial
In this new junk science study about dependence (hint: you cannot learn much by just taking survey results about perception and attitude that you assert relate to a phenomenon and comparing them to each other; you need to compare to some actual outcome measure of dependence), the authors emphasize measures of the “pleasure” of smoking. While this word is a bit over-simplifying, it is a good reminder that even the more biased authors of scientific literature are forced to admit to obvious truths that are denied in the public activism.

Usage statistics follies
New highly touted claim about smoking prevalence reductions. But since we know that these guys (the anti-tobacco extremist group at American Cancer Society) produce misleading claims in their risk-factor epidemiology, why should we believe this?
Here is a good reason not to believe it (though based on UK data): Many smokers self-identify as nonsmokers.

Great example of how anti-tobacco researchers simply do not know how to think like scientists
Observation: almost everyone who becomes “addicted” to smoking (whatever that means) do so before age 18. Implicit conclusion: do more to stop underage use and there will not be “addiction”. More compelling alternative hypothesis: population that really likes nicotine is what it is; most will discover that before 18, but if they do not they will likely discover it later.

…as long as we are on the theme of really bad research
A Pfizer Australia commissioned study found that 72% of the country’s current smokers overestimate the amount of tar inhaled into their lungs, while about 27% of them underestimate the amount, and that despite this gap in knowledge, current smokers rated tar accumulation as the third most significant reason for them to quit. Seriously? This is what passes for newsworthy and actionable research in this field? Can you imagine diabetes researchers touting the discovery, “most people do not even know what color the pancreas is” as a reason for concern about behavior?

**Note to readers: If you have written something you wish to see included in the weekly readings, or produce a relevant news feed that we might be missing, please call it to our attention. If you think we missed a specific THR story of note in the previous week, let us know and we can include it the following week. Finally, if you figure you are someone whose feed we are using to help us collect stories — you can probably guess who you are — and would like to be sure to get an occasional hat-tip, let us know and we would be glad to do it (and please do the same for us if we are helping you).

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
%d bloggers like this: