Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 27 July 2011

Note: We intend to put this out every Wednesday or Thursday, but we were a bit busy this week, so are late. In recognition of the resulting disappointment, we are giving a discount of half off the regular price

Must Reads

EU report about public comments on tobacco products directive changes
It is “must read” to know about it, though there is not really much useful to read yet. We have not had time to study this in detail, and would hope to get a grant from someone to analyze the data once it is out (hint hint!), but here are a few highlights: In response to comments about possibly changing the snus ban, labeling issues, and other topics, they received over 85,000 comments. This put it beyond their capacity to do much more than total up the “votes” for the specific alternatives they offered, ignoring the free-text entries. But the choices for many of the votes were clearly gamed to be able to only produce results they liked, as we pointed out in our submitted comments, which we posted here:
They claim to have looked at some of the responses, but do not explain how they chose the ones they summarized in their report (suggesting no systematic strategy, probably bias toward their preferences, and no scientific free-text analytic methods). The 85,000 responses are the biggest story (it dwarfs any previous EU consultation), and demand a better analysis than they have done. Most were citizen comments, bu 2320 were from industry, and ours was one of 640 from NGOs. Unfortunately we are not in a position to add much insight just yet (beyond our original comments, linked above), but if you have time to read what the defenders of the status quo (or perhaps they are advocates for making the regulations even worse) wrote about the responses here it is (and if you want to discuss any observations with us, please do):

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

E-cigarette company turns suit by Altria into ad campaign
It is interesting because it is happening, taking a page from the anti-tobacco-industry’s playbook: provoke “big tobacco” into fighting you and turn it into publicity (e.g., our analysis of that here:
The company clearly is using a variation on the “Marlboro” trademark in their marketing, and is trying to turn the infringement suit into marketing. We were not terribly impressed by the “humorous video” they created, but some readers will think it qualifies for this section of our post.
Far more interesting is the drift toward open warfare between the two industries. A similar fight is occurring over RJR’s brands.

Other THR

U.S. Government continues to explicitly lie to discourage THR
From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Some people may think smokeless tobacco is a safer alternative to cigarettes, but experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want to nip that idea in the bud.” Notice the use of “safer” rather than the “safe” they used for years to make their dishonesty literally true — apparently they no longer even feel the need to pretend to be telling the truth.

Annotated bibiolgraphy of propylene glycol studies
National Vaper’s Club has posted this very useful list, valuable for either research or consumer information (far better than anything in any journal article we have seen). It would be useful to know a bit more about the methodology in assembling it, since it should be recognized as scientific scholarship and treated as such by the authors (hint hint!).
(hat tip to “Kate Narkybeast” on Facebook for pointing this out)

U.S. Tobacco companies arguing in court against free-speech restrictions
The lawyer arguing on behalf of RJR, Lorillard, and others (not participating: Altria) noted that the law giving the FDA authority “draws no distinction between the good and the bad…. It impermissibly restricts the adult population to what is fit for children”. The law is strongly anti-THR because it prohibits honest and true claims about comparative risk. It is refreshing to see the industry fighting it.
Associated Press story

The “wherever” appeal of THR products expands to more organized activism: One man’s battle to save Britain’s pubs
An interesting interview with an ordinary guy who discovered the need to become an activist for e-cigarettes.

FDA’s “scientific” panel takes more time to issue opinion about dissolvables
The panel met briefly on the topic and put off acting until November. It is difficult to imagine what additional scientific information they expect to emerge during that period, so presumably the delay is designed to seek more political advice from the anti-tobacco activists and companies that most of the panel members answer to. This is a tough one for them: How can they come out against the low-risk products from tobacco companies while protecting the same-low-risk products from their friends in pharma?

Godshall on FDA panel
THR advocate Bill Godshall has strongly condemned the premises of the adjourned discussions about dissolvables (no link). As he characterized it: “FDA protects cigarette markets and compromises scientific integrity by requesting TPSAC to focus study/report on insignificant and hypothetical risks of dissolvable tobacco products, downplay enormous and proven health benefits the smokefree alternatives provide for cigarette smokers (who switch and/or substitute) and nonsmokers (whose smoke exposure is eliminated and/or reduced).”
He points out: “During July 21/22 meeting, TPSAC member [and rep for the pharma industry] Neal Benowitz repeatedly cites findings of junk science push-poll that deceived youths to believe three new smokefree tobacco products (which most youths hadn’t previously seen or heard of) were candy products (by showing them intentionally deceptive look-alike photos), and then asked the youths if they believed the tobacco products looked like candy, and if they might try using them.

LATimes article on dissolvables
This is the usual weak mainstream journalism, but is about as good as they get. Do not read it for information, but you might want to study it to understand what is pretty much the best-case-scenario for newspaper readers are learning about this topic and THR in general.

For contrast, most of the “journalists” out there just transcribe the tired extremist propaganda. (not actually recommended reading unless you are keeping track of stupidity)

…compare the above responses to dissolvables to pharma industry products
E.g., the recent FDA approval of a cinnamon-flavored nicotine gum. Funny we did not see any evidence that this press release generated counter-statements by red-faced anti-tobacco advocates huffing “won’t somebody think of the children!”

Health Canada defends its anti-THR policy based entirely on technicalities
Citizen advocacy group CAGE gets a response from Health Canada to their plea to revisit the Canadian ban of e-cigarettes. The upshot of the reply was “rules is rules”: these products officially fit into a category that can be prohibited, never mind that their only role is as a much healthier substitute for a popular legal product. http://cagecanada.blogspot.com/2011/07/playing-with-words-health-canadas-reply.html

CASAA presentation to FDA panel
Video of a good presentation by Elaine Keller, vice president of e-cigarette advocacy group Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.

Rodu comments on periodontal disease study
This provides a little more detail than what we reported in last week’s Weekly Reading about the study, which confirmed that snus does not seem to cause dental disease.

Suncoast Vapers Meet
Saturday, August 20th, in Largo, Florida

Related Topics

American public’s backlash against anti-tobacco propaganda or side effect of anti-THR efforts?
These are the only obvious explanations for the tiny down-tick in the belief that smoking causes serious health risks. Given the enormous anti-tobacco propaganda budget and the complete lack of any campaign to convince people that smoking is not so bad (despite the antis’ persistent fantasy that some such exists), how else can we explain this? Either it is because people are sick of being infantilized or the shift to anti-THR has undermined the anti-smoking message. Of course, most reports about this inconsequential shift (from 73.7% to 72.3%) have suggested it is a reason for worry and the antis will undoubtedly use it to justify increasing their actions that probably caused it.
Further evidence of our hypothesis: In Australia, where the anti-tobacco activism is even more extreme, a new survey reports that the portion of the population doubting the claims is even greater.

Speaking of backlash: eco-cigarettes
The antis’ approach of trying to vilify companies, Legacy’s (non)Truth! propaganda about additives and such, naturally generates demand for “clean” cigarettes that are not contaminated by the evil companies, like the latest “organic”, additive-free, cigarette made in an eco-friendly way. Naturally the usual suspects went wiggy about this, and they are right about this one — there is no health benefit of “natural” cigarettes. But they caused the misperception, so it is kind of funny. This will probably not be as big a fiasco as their support for “light” cigarettes, but it is similar.

Prohibitionists push the envelope for their masturbatory fantasies
Wouldn’t that have been a great title for an article? Alas, this BMC Public Health (one of the journals that once was scientific but now engages in anti-tobacco advocacy) article was called “Daring to dream: reactions to tobacco endgame ideas among policy-makers, media and public health practitioners”, which is actually funnier. The authors persist in the fantasy that tobacco prohibition is desired, supported, and possible, and convene a group of self-selected rich people (i.e., members of the minority who might not realize they are nuts) to endorse their ideas. Great science, guys!

NAACP calls for end to war on drugs
The American Drug War, long recognized as contributing to racial disparities, has been officially condemned by the country’s largest racial minority advocacy group. Unfortunately, they only seem to have called for replacing the war with education-, clinical-, and economic-opportunity-based paths toward prohibition rather than harm reduction or decriminalization. This is not a surprising compromise, given the “moralizing” (i.e., pro-temperance, homophobic, etc.) churches that are the source of much of the older leadership of the American black community; perhaps cohort replacement will move them to recognize the value of fully liberal policies.

**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).

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  • Paul Westphalen  On July 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    The issue of E-Cigarettes is very political. I was a twenty year smoker and quit because of E-Cigarettes. I’ve been using e-cigarettes for more than two years and I feel healthier than ever. I’m 42 years old and can run longer and faster than I could when I was in my twenties and smoking. I believe the FDA is regulating e-cigarettes because of tobacco company Lobbiest who want to eliminate their compitition and because of tax revenue. Anyone who understands e-cigarettes, understands the huge benifits of using them in place of tobacco cigarettes.

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