Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 3 August 2011

Must Reads

Analysis of the results of public consultation about revising the EU tobacco products directive
Last week this information has just been released, so we only reported the event without analysis. Since then, there have been several useful analyses of it. Snowdon characterizes the consultation as backfiring spectacularly (based on a reasonable assumption about what the bureaucrats in Brussels wanted) because the responses called for lifting the snus ban and not imposing more restrictions.
Simon Clark contrasted the results with a UK government consultation in which most of the comments came from an orchestrated campaign by government funded anti-tobacco extremist organizations, noting that the authors of the EU report tried to downplay the significance of the anti-regulation sentiment.
In a separate post, Clark mused about the comments from the pharma industry that advocated exactly the policies that encourage people to try to quit — surprise! (Our own comments on that: Moreover, these are policies that cause people to try pharma products but that do not actually reduce smoking prevalence, a perfect combination for pharma. We also note that the pharma industry has no more business weighing in on this than does the auto industry; they are neither a stakeholder nor an appropriate advocate.)
An interesting contrast can be found in the preference by EU governments (in opposition to the citizens they supposedly represent) to keep the snus ban, which prompted the Swedish government to vow to keep fighting it.

Scott Ballin interview
Compared to other longtime THR activists, Ballin is does not publish much, so this interview (conducted by Paul Bergen, working under non-THR.o auspices) is a good chance to understand a broad range of his current opinions, particularly about how regulation is playing out.
For a longer read about his views, what is apparently the forthcoming piece Ballin referred to in the interview just appeared here:

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

Anti-e-cigarette campaigns are not about health
Commenting on one bit of propaganda and an Irish policy initiative blogger Dick Puddlecote offers some amusing observations and points out (as has been one of our main points for nearly a decade) that anti-THR efforts make clear that anti-tobacco extremism has nothing to do with promoting public health.

Other THR

Rodu on new CDC anti-THR propaganda
We commented on this in last week’s reading list. This week, Brad Rodu weighs in with a list of corrections to the CDC lies.

Another survey of e-cigarette users confirms the conventional wisdom
We reported on this two months ago when it was published, but a few people who missed it when it came out have commented recently, so we will address it. It is important to understand that the quantitative estimates from this and the previous three similar surveys are not very meaningful (and we say this as authors of the first such study), despite some commentators implying otherwise. They all used convenience samples with unknown but clearly biased selection properties, so the percentages have subtle meanings with respect to each other, but the simple numbers themselves can only be interpreted as “percentage of those who were self-motivated to respond” rather than what we would like to know (such as percentage of all smokers who tried e-cigarettes). (More technically, for those who try to understand such things, statistics like the confidence intervals are basically meaningless when most of the error comes from selection bias.) Still, there is some knowledge to be found in the fact that substantial majority of respondents suggest that they would be smoking were it not for e-cigarettes, and would be likely to start again if they lost access to e-cigarettes. Those seeking a complete understanding of the social phenomena of e-cigarette us should realize that these surveys are not very useful, but they are about all that reporters and politicians are able to understand, so they contribute politically even if they are weak scientifically.

Rumor of Chinese ban on e-cigarette advertising
Funny what happens when the dominant cigarette company can make its own laws. (For those who do not know, the world’s largest cigarette company is the Chinese government, giving it even more of a stake in preventing THR than Western governments, which take most of the profits available in the form of taxes but do not quite own the industry.)

Mainstream media reporting about dissolvables and THR continues to say “you might as well smoke”
Just another example from an RJR test market, with a reporter that seems uninterested in or incapable of understanding the scientific evidence, and reports only the lies from the anti-tobacco extremists who would rather people keep smoking than switch.
Presumably this contributed to efforts, like those in Florida, to prevent these low-risk products from being sold alongside the cigarettes they are intended to replace.

CASAA counters that trend by pointing out the pro-THR evidence hidden in government reports
Naturally, the extremists who try to discourage smokers from reducing their harms decried the part of that where advertising shifted from cigarettes to low-risk alternatives.

Godshall urges engagement with FDA re “modified risk” products
By the time you read this it will be too late to heed his call (email only, no link) to sign up to speak at the hearings so we will just report a few of his factual observations: “the FDA has invited many tobacco harm reduction opponents to present, but only one tobacco harm reduction advocate” [the aforementioned Scott Balin]. FDA falsely claims, “To date, no tobacco products have been scientifically proven to reduce risk of tobacco-related disease, improve safety or cause less harm than other tobacco products” and “asked workshop participants to focus discussion on more than a dozen questions that deceptively presume/imply that all tobacco products are similarly hazardous and that there is no scientific or empirical evidence confirming that smokeless tobacco products are less hazardous than cigarettes.” Frankly we take this as evidence that FDA is avoiding the evidence, which they could gather regardless of whether it is presented in the hearing, and so there is not much point to participating in the charade — but he is the politico, so we yield to his wisdom on that point and wish him luck there.

Great quote re second-order preferences and why they argue for THR
“I hate being a smoker, but I love to smoke….”

Related Topics

Canadian court protects government from its pro-smoking errors
Canadian cigarette companies asked the court to require the national government to join them as a defendant in certain lawsuits, particularly based on the government supporting “light and mild” cigarettes (the basis of some suits) by helping develop the products and requiring the reporting of related emissions information. It is not clear if they also argued that since the government made most of the profits from the sale of cigarettes (far more than the tobacco companies), they should have to give some of it back if the suits succeed. While the government protecting itself from liability based on legalistic rulings is not too surprising, this is pretty appalling from an ethical perspective (a characteristic that is not unusual for either anti-tobacco or the plaintiff bar, of course).

American Lung Association recognizes they err about donations; if only they cared so much about getting their health advice right
ALA incorrectly listed a California politician as receiving tobacco industry donations, and raced to recant and apologize when it was pointed out they were wrong. Apparently incorrect information about a low four-figure political donation is more important to ALA than claims about the health risks of low-risk nicotine products, which they persist in lying about; no apology is expected for the would-be switchers who they kill by doing this.
Or contrast this with this week’s new ALA abuse-of-survey-research results they are touting, from what is clearly a push-poll designed to convince respondents that legal retailers commonly sell cigarettes to minors. Not surprisingly, respondents who are thus prompted answer yes to a few questions about whether there should be more regulation.

Indian government urging more tobacco purchases (did anyone tell the FCTC?)
In a rather funny setback in the ongoing takeover of Indian governments by the FCTC, the national government’s Tobacco Board urged companies to buy more leaf to help support the farmers who are suffering from a huge price drop.

**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: