Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 10 August 2011

Must Reads

New study confirms switching from smoking to ST common in Sweden
While this has been incredibly obvious to any knowledgeable and honest expert, the new study is so clear that it might make it difficult for even the barely-scientifically-literate and dishonest anti-tobacco extremists to keep pretending otherwise. The results are dramatic and clear evidence that snus is the reason Sweden’s smoking rate has plunged more than anywhere else. The study and Brad Rodu’s analysis of it:

The most important result is something that neither the authors nor Rodu emphasized. They emphasize the age group comparison (40-year-olds in earlier years versus 40-year-olds in later years), which is pretty impressive, but not as telling as the cohort comparison (40-year-olds in earlier years versus the same population over time — that is, the 50-year-olds ten years later). Looking at the cohorts changing their behavior — you can look at the Rodu tables and compare 40-year-olds in the first column to 50 in the last, or 50 to 60, or look at Table 2 in the paper, but it is more complicated — shows not just a trend caused by cohort replacement (i.e., that current people of a given age are less likely to smoke than people that the different people who were that age a decade ago). It shows that about half of men’s smoking cessation during this period was switching to snus for either those first observed at 40 or 50 (people who are now around 55 and 65), and the same is true for the younger group of women. This is more dramatic than the statistics that are emphasized (indeed, the authors even try to spin their results as not supporting the obvious conclusion), though some of those are interesting too, in particular: About a third of all snus users are former smokers, and the the results of the longitudinal subgroup (comparing the same person across time where possible), which shows a similar pattern of switching though somewhat lower numbers.

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

List of weird ways people have quit smoking

Other THR

New survey of e-cigarette users
The new study, by Jonathan Foulds et al., adds to the growing body of formalized inquiry that supports what we know about the e-cigarette phenomenon. As with all of the research so far, this is a convenience sample and tells us less than simply being well-read on the social networks does, but it does summarize the points conveniently. Unlike the other research, the sampling properties are known — it was most of those who attended the first day of the Philly Vapefest, with only the most anti-survey ignoring the repeated pleas by the organizers for everyone to come up to the table participate in the study (it is amazing how fundamentally little we know about a study’s methodology from just reading the article compared to, say, having watched the data gathering in action). But the content of this study is of limited value since, though the sampling properties are known, the population is clearly highly unrepresentative (Vapefest attracts dedicated users who tend to also be hobbyists like cigar users, as evidenced by almost all subjects using “mods” rather than mass-produced products).

Foulds also opined — in the tradition of tobacco research study “conclusions” which usually have nothing to do with the actual study results — that given our knowledge about e-cigarettes, “smokers should be advised to use proven treatments (e.g. counselling and FDA-approved medicines). However, for those who have successfully switched to e-cigs, the priority should be staying off cigarettes, rather than quitting e-cigs.” There is no apparent basis for the first part of that (other than reciting the mandatory absurd shibboleth to stay cozy with the people who control the research funding), but the end is a rare bit of sanity. More sane is Michael Siegel, who who offered the second bit of that in a way that that actually follows from the results, arguing that since most of the subjects had tried “approved” (the euphemism for “made by Big Pharma”) products before switching, these products would be unsuccessful in making them become abstinent and they would likely just smoke if they quit e-cigarettes. Sadly, neither author supported the humanitarian or liberal position, that if someone is engaged in a near-harmless activity that they like, it would be unethical — and frankly a bit insane — to push for them to quit.

Colorado attack on dissolvables (call for action and perfect anti-tobacco extremist quote)
Colorado’s Board of Public Health is attacking the low-risk dissolvables that RJR is test marketing there. It is the usual story, but worth mentioning for two reasons: CASAA is looking for Denver-area THR supporters to present at the meeting on August 17.
It also offers what might be the the perfect confession from the extremist camp. The Board president’s stated justification was: “The public health concern is that the composition, packaging and flavoring may have a particular appeal to kids.” Notice that “the public health concern” includes absolutely no mention of health. Pretty well sums up those “health promotion” people who pervert the concept of public health to be about controlling rather than enriching people’s lives.

RJR also test-marketing dissolvables in Charlotte
The press dutifully parrots the usual anti-THR propaganda, but miss the real concern: The dissolvables deliver too little nicotine to be satisfying, since nicotine that is swallowed before it can be absorbed is mostly lost and the total nicotine in these products would be modest even if they were snus. At least one article ended with a smoker’s desire to use these products to quit smoking, with a concession that these products are indeed safer. Let’s hope others pick up on that, too.

Kessler makes pro-THR statement
Former US FDA Commissioner David Kessler, the virulently anti-tobacco activist who tried to assert FDA jurisdiction over tobacco and the only person to hold that post who ever became even a little bit famous (go ahead: try to name any other former FDA Commissioner, or even the present one), said “there’s no doubt that in terms of risk of death there are some advantages to that substitution.” It is pretty funny to read the verbal contortions he went to insert caveats and doubts about THR into his answer, before ending with a grudgingly truthful (though not honest: “some” advantages — oh, please!) conclusion. Still, grudgingly truthful makes him more honorable than most anti-tobacco extremists.
(thanks to Bill Godshall for pointing that out)

ASH launches new anti-THR campaign
As with most anti-tobacco extremists, ASH is more worried about people using low-risk nicotine products than they are about smoking, since they most fear a world where people have little reason to quit nicotine and their lucrative activism is clearly recognizable as temperance that is not about public health. To that end, they have launched a petition campaign with a webpage that reads and looks like someone was trying to make up a fake ASH page to make them look stupid.

RJR launching new “switch to snus” advertising campaign
Naturally, the anti-tobacco extremists who are more worried about THR than they are about smoking, have condemned the effort. Apparently information (and a contest if you are into such things) can be found at the Camel Snus website, but we are not going to give a link because that site annoys us to no end — we have never actually been able to get past the “are you allowed to see this” barriers to view it.

Related Topics

Aussie permit change accidentally gives economists (and smokers rights advocates) what they have been asking for
Dishonorable anti-smoking activists continue to make the utterly absurd claim that on-premises smoking bans do not hurt pubs or any other business. Honest advocates of liberty (and interested economists) retort that we would see just how wrong this is if we allowed markets to offer the evidence. Well, the Adelaide city counsel has proposed offering a discount on licences for outdoor dining areas if smoking is forbidden as an anti-smoking measure. This will create a market for smoking which, we hypothesize, will demonstrate that allowing smoking is worth paying for, and thus that banning it is costly to the business. We shall see if anyone in tobacco control is smart enough to figure this out and push the city to reverse the move which will generate that pesky real-world data that gets in the way of their assertions.

Australia packaging rules may cause temporary shortage and black market
And, apparently, the anti-tobacco extremists are embracing this. This seems to represent either a cognitive defect on their part, or that their real goal is to hurt BAT and PMI rather than to affect behavior. Exactly who benefits from bolstering the unregulated players in the market?
Related is an assesment about how Australia is bizarrely rushing ahead with this despite legal and diplomatic concerns.

Absurd claim that pub/restaurant smoking bans cause massive reductions in heart attacks again debunked by a new study
This is one of the most shameless lies (other than anti-THR) perpetrated by the anti-tobacco extremists. Chris Snowdon does a great job of explaining the new study results and their significance, so we yield to him:

FCA granted consultative status at the UN Economic and Social Council
The institution that exists to push for the FCTC apparently increases its influence. Or, “this means that the FCA – an unelected supranational quango formed to press for draconian treatment of tobacco – has now been given carte blanche at ECOSOC which is, err, also an unelected supranational quango.”
(That post also contains an interesting aside about how this is the future for alcohol and junk food.)

Lebanon, a smoker’s haven, tobacco control ramps up
The proposal is to instantly implement Western-style regulations in a country where we observed, when there for the IHRA conference, airport employees smoking on the job and restaurant non-smoking sections consisting of “you can sit here — not too many people are smoking right there”. But the FCTC extremists are already whining that this radical change is not adequate (notably because, unlike the strictest laws, it would not require proprietors to enforce the state’s restrictions on their bars and restaurants themselves — which seems it would be a rather extreme demand given the country’s violent history). Presumably those offering this compromise will soon learn that you can never concede enough to satisfy tobacco control activists.

…an example of that “can never go far enough” problem
Not an important story, but a perfect example of what Lebanon can expect: Finland imposed a six-figure fine on Imperial Tobacco for informing customers how the new packaging would look after a mandated change, in violation of …well, presumably some nutty extremist law against non-promotional honest communication, and also apparently because sales did not drop after the change.

Resistance to Western imperialism growing in some places?
Ghana policy group pushes back against extremist anti-smoking proposals that were bankrolled by Bloomberg.

US states’ tobacco control spending continues to be a source of amusement
The states collect huge taxes on cigarette sales, and some people (guess who) think it should all be spent on tobacco control boondoggles. Iowa thinks otherwise, slashing the anti-tobacco unit to help balance the budget, including no longer having a full-time director, which has motivated a legal challenge. Meanwhile, Virginia tobacco commission members are being flown to meetings on a private plane because they are far too important (read: well-funded) to be asked to drive an hour or two, or fly commercial.

Small increase in number of Americans who disrespect smokers
A poll shows that 25% of Americans have less respect for someone if they smoke, which has been interpreted as showing how anti-tobacco is now focused on vilifying rather than helping smokers.
While this is certainly true, it is actually more remarkable that the number is as low as it is, given the intensity of the campaign of hate (just ask an American grade school student what she is taught about how pathetic and horrible smokers are) and the tendency of smokers to insist that they are planning to quit soon to gain social acceptance. A number as low as 25% suggests that the extremists are not any better at creating scorn than they are at reducing smoking.

Scotland study finds 8% of cigarette litter is from black market products

Great take on how nanny-statists fear scientific discussion
We quibble only that the author misidentifies those people as “the public health lobby”.

Recruiting for study on smoking, cessation, and sexual function
The principle investigator is JF Etter, perhaps not yet well known in THR, but was the author of the largest survey of e-cigarette users (see last week’s update) and someone we view very positively.

**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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  • Carl V Phillips  On August 11, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Correction: Bill Godshall informed us that the ASH petition we commented on was actually something they did to try to derail the courts from ruling that FDA could not just ban e-cigarettes (obviously they failed). Someone sent it to us and we did not recall it from way back then, so reported on it. Since it is still up, and it is still stupid in ways that somewhat exceed even the ASH norms, we see nothing wrong with pointing it out as evidence of how dishonorable they are. However, we want to correct the impression that it is something new.

  • Alan Selk  On August 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    We need to keep an eye on this


    It’s a hugh increase in federal tax on smokeless tobacco, plus just about every other type of tobacco out there including electronic cigarettes. So far it has 14 supporters in the senate (all democrats).

  • Roland Gate  On August 19, 2011 at 5:50 am


    BBC publishes misrepresented UK NHS stats for stop smoking services.

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