Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 17 August 2011

Must Reads

Vilification of dissolvables
As we reported last week, the Colorado Board of Health held hearings with an eye to condemning the test marketing of dissolvable smokeless tobacco products there. They heard sensible testimony from from many experts (we called in to testify, but the public hearing phase ran out of time before our turn), notably including this from Rodu:
http://www.mediafire.com/?jhpucdt792ldg22 (seven minute audio)
Here is a pretty good article published before the hearing:
After closing the public comments, the board immediately proceeded to ignore it and return to the knew jerk “think of the children — they look like candy!”. No word yet on when they will be banning the Nicorette products that look just like candy (nor, even, any acknowledgment that Camel Orbs would be about the worst tasting, least appealing candy on the market, except for the Star products and Nicorette which taste even worse). Indeed, we have not heard reports of what they decided to do yet, but are not optimistic.

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids calls for Africans to sell tobacco to China
This is just another throw-away complaint about poor countries not obeying their Western masters (i.e., the FCTC), or it would be except for what the FCTC spokeswoman said when scolding Ghana and Malawi for worrying about what would happen to their economies if they lost the cash-crop value of tobacco. She assured them that they could still sell to “countries like China that had huge tobacco industries wanted to depend on Africa for their raw materials”. So is this a promise that they will not try to discourage Chinese from smoking and will encourage them to buy more from Africa? (Hint: People who will say anything, true or false, to try to get what they want, do not make promises.)

Other THR

American Lung Association continues its campaign to keep people smoking
They would, after all, be out of business if THR succeeded. So they are attacking it with some of the most aggressive anti-THR lies out there, reprising the blatant anti-harm-reduction tactics we documented in the early 2000s. The lying is nothing new, but the fact that they have returned to ten-year-old level of unsophistication is kind of interesting.

The press dutifully reports those lies, and tells us of someone who quit e-cigarettes as a result
She presumably returned to smoking, though of course this was not reported. There are plenty of anti-THR stories by reporters who are either captured by the anti-nicotine extremists or just not competent to be reporting on health science. But even among those, this one stands out, stating that e-cigarettes are worst than smoking.
(The homicidal physicians quoted in that article contrast with a conversation one of us had with a physician recently, who picked up an e-cigarette and casually said: “These things should be in every doctor’s office.”)

U.S. VA makes official anti-e-cigarette declaration
The Department of Veterans Affairs, whose facilities treat more smokers than anyone else in the country, issues a statement condemning e-cigarettes and their use for THR, and suggesting they be treated like smoking. This is presumably part of the current U.S. push to reduce government expenditures, in that it will save substantial medical care costs and pensions for veterans who die earlier as a result of the policy.

On the positive side: e-cigarette success story
This is a great human interest story about someone who successfully quit smoking using e-cigarettes. It is an experienced shared by tens (hundreds?) of thousands of others, of course, but it is still nice to see the story.

Half of all quitters switching to smokeless?
Godshall reports (no link): “After meeting with Reynolds’ management team last week, Wells Fargo Securities tobacco analyst Bonnie Herzog wrote in a 8/15 report “Approximately 1 million adults stop smoking each year and approximately 50% of them end up in the smokeless category.””

Clinical cessation study ignores health differences in contrasting therapies
A new proposed study on whether denicotinized cigarettes or non-nicotine e-cigarettes are the more successful in helping people quit smoking ignores the vast health differences between them. In one case, the same high level of harm is maintained and in the second it is reduced to next to nothing. What is worrisome about studies like this is if that if the nicotine-free cigarette group has greater quitting success it will be widely interpreted by the press and know-nothing public health people as the better product.

Siegel almost admits that smokeless tobacco is low risk
It has long been a oddity that oft-quoted activist, Michael Siegel — who is aggressively anti-smoking, but better known for his opposition to misrepresented smoking prohibitions, discrimination against smokers, and tobacco control’s lies — is pro-THR via e-cigarettes, but as far as we recall has always avoided acknowledging the benefits of ST-based THR. This week he came very close to saying that substituting ST is a good way to quit smoking, though he still carefully avoided clearly acknowledging the facts, so presumably will continue in his out-of-character failure to endorse ST.

Rodu guide to using smokeless tobacco
This advice can be found in various places, but it is not clear that anyone has made it into such a good pamphlet-length piece before. Now we need the actual pamphlet version of it.

Related Topics

Major US cigarette companies sue over graphic labels
The primary issue seems to be their inability to communicate branding or anything else themselves, though they also condemn the misleading “emotionally-charged” pictures (perhaps they picked up our labeling of the graphics as “emotional violence”, nerfing it a bit to be diplomatic). In keeping with the fact that anti-branding protects the market leader, Altria did not join in this suit.
And perhaps this is getting a bit too talmudic about what is usually shoot-from-the-hip anti-tobacco behavior, but it seems the cancer victim graphic bears a remarkable resemblance to Sigourney Weaver, who portrayed a very dedicated smoker in the movie Avatar. Is it possible that the people behind the graphics are the same ones who are loopy enough to believe that smoking in movies causes most smoking, and are trying to take some kind of voodoo revenge?

Swiss court rules that nicotine addiction is a disease
Primarily this means that insurers (Switzerland is one of the few rich countries without single-payer health care) must cover the cost of anti-smoking pharma (but presumably not if used for THR since the “disease” would then persist). While it may not be optimal for courts to be defining what is and is not a disease, they cannot screw it up any worse than the authors of the DSM. Snowdon offers an interesting analysis of the amusing tension this creates for the anti-tobacco extremists, and extends it into an essay on a related topic that is well worth reading:

US states and Altria join forces to protect their profits
High cigarette taxes have made roll-your-own machines very attractive to smokers, since loose tobacco is taxed at a much lower rate. Naturally, those who profit from the sale of packs of cigarettes (the government, and to a lesser extent the cigarette companies) are mobilizing to put a stop to it.

New study shows that there are limitless resources available to research smoking and reinvent the wheel
The reports actually tell us that the very expensive study showed that smoking causes bladder cancer, so you have to read between the lines. We already knew about bladder cancer, and even if we did not, this still would not change anything. What would be useful would be a study that told us what people could do instead that was less harmful — oh, wait, we already know that too.

Is Australia the Eveready Bunny of Prohibition?
They have taken the lead on demonizing nicotine products (all those not controlled by Big Pharma, anyway). [Aside: Snowdon has a nice summary of the “endgame” view that this represents http://www.thefreesociety.org/Issues/Smoking/planning-for-prohibition .]
They are threatening to apply the same mindset to alcohol, the nannies might be aiming at television viewing next. A new Australian study explicitly compares the longevity costs of TV viewing to smoking. Presumably the research quality is comparable to other activist epidemiology, and the researchers pretend to, but fail to, separate out the effects of co-activities (snacking, drinking, and yes, smoking) and rival activities (exercise, being employed, having enough wealth to engage in other leisure). So will we be seeing restrictions on who can sell and buy televisions? We cannot wait to see what “plain packaging” looks like — no posted viewing times, content descriptions or promotions?

…even so, competition is tough for the region’s nanny-of-the-year title
And we are not talking about a tiny monarchy on a mountaintop this time. Carlo Fonseka, of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol in Sri Lanka, is asking TV broadcasters to run continual warning messages along the bottom of the screen whenever scenes involving tobacco or alcohol are being shown. So far, no one has though of requiring viewing a prohibitionist lecture before viewing. Also, murder and rape are apparently still fine to watch. We are reminded of our post (coincidentally, the same one linked above re Avatar) that reported on the Nic Cage movie, 8mm, an incredibly disturbing and graphic portrayal of sexual violence and murder, airing during after-school hours in Bangkok. Fortunately, they pixellated out the cigarettes Cage was smoking, so no harm done.

…though Indonesia seems to be sitting out the competition
Instead, they (along with Mexico) expressed concern about the legality of Australia’s moves and asked to see the evidence about the benefits of plain packaging before considering it themselves. Right now, someone in Australia tobacco control is saying “damn — no one has ever asked that we present credible evidence before”. We will let you know as soon as the evidence is produced.

…and China is discovering that moderate policy changes just generate more demands
China is doubling the size of their text warnings on cigarettes, but local tobacco control people seem to think this will be ineffective because only the FCTC’s magic 30% coverage of the packages with emotional-violence graphics actually changes people’s behavior. Or something like that. It is amazing that in China, one place where educating smokers with genuine warnings (i.e., information, not emotion) could make a big difference in consumption, the activists are more worried about compliance with WHO dictates than education.

Plain packaging could increase cigarette sales
A study out of the Montreal Economic Institute suggests that plain packaging could lead to a marketing emphasis on price (since it reduces the perceived quality differences), making cigarettes cheaper, and thus removing that incentive to cut down. Maybe someone will pay attention to this when it does not come from BAT Australia (for those who do not recall, a similar BAT analysis a couple of months ago was dismissed and spun by the government, and thus the media, as being a petulant threat rather than the economic science that it was).

Breaking incredibly obvious news: stigmatized behavior under-reported
Headline reads Obese Canadians fudge weight data. Just good to keep in mind when reading smoking stats that one of the effects of social approbation is uncertainty when drops in usage are reported.

Breaking rather absurd news: apparently smoking risker while standing or sitting, and before 8pm
What else could explain the city of Ottawa proposing a ban on public place smoking before 8:00pm and Pendletown, South Carolina considering an ordinance forbidding people to stand or sit while smoking in some areas where smoking is allowed. Since smoking bans are supposed to be motivated by health, these must represent some new discoveries about effect modifiers for smoking. It could not just be pure harassment, could it? Pendletown smokers may soon be required to engage in a ritual smoke dance — or maybe they will just take this one lying down.

University of Alberta study suggest obesity is not an independent risk
It is not an important study, but it is an interesting personal note, since we were seriously harassed at UA and by the newspaper that reported this for reporting inconvenient (to the nanny-statists) truths about nicotine and tobacco. Perhaps this researcher is about to become the victim of a harassment campaign, or perhaps this is evidence that obesity is not quite yet “the new smoking” as has been claimed.

**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: