Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 7 September 2011

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

A tool equally suited for good or evil
We are not quite sure how this will play out if taken to its extreme, but it is quite a funny use of the “write your representative” forms (just read it — we cannot do it justice). One promising feature of the approach is that it might force minority zealots to confront their delusion that everyone agrees with their pet cause.

Other THR

US CDC reports trivial drop in smoking during 2005-2010
The 1.6 percentage point drop in adult smoking prevalence, along with an increase in the portion of those smoking less than 10 cigarettes per day, bears a remarkable similarity to the increase in use prevalence for low risk tobacco/nicotine products. That is not how they spun it, of course, not admitting that the reduction was embarrassingly small given the all-out war on smokers …er… we mean smoking (a linear extrapolation gives us the great bumper sticker: “Smoke-free by 2071”) and certainly not that it could probably be explained by THR.

US FDA scientific advisory panel adds Thomas Eissenberg
In another blow to THR and triumph for crappy health science, they unsurprisingly did not add one of the researchers who have devoted their careers to doing good science to improve public health through THR (leaving the count of such members at zero). Instead, they quietly added a supposed expert on reduced risk products whose best known “contribution” to THR research is an article that claimed that e-cigarettes do not deliver any nicotine. When a scientist discovers that his results contradict what hundreds of authors have previously claimed and hundreds of thousands of people seem to have experienced, he tries to fix his methods or writes about how he has found an exception; when an anti-THR “researcher” gets such a result, he publishes it and implies it is universally true. It is getting pretty close to time for us to say, to those who thought FDA control would be good for public health, “we told you so!”

A disturbing quote from Lawrence Deyton, director of the FDA’s Centre for Tobacco Products
When discussing the dissolvable products, Deyton said, “These products will not be safer, but we are required by law to not allow even more dangerous products to cause further harm to those Americans who use tobacco products.” [emphasis added] We are going to go ahead and say “I told you so” now, ok.

…but some of the testimony at FDA’s hearing on reduced risk tobacco products was good
Even though they will probably ignore it, you do not have to.
Jeff Stier and Elaine Keller: http://www.youtube.com/user/CASAAmedia#p/a/u/0/0XuSDCTRmT0
Bill Godshall:
Scott Ballin:

Study shows tobacco products are a rare source of poisoning
Can we expect the FDA “scientific” advisors and their ilk to reduce their use of poisoning risk as an excuse to attack low-risk products? Of course not.

FDA study confirms what we know about e-cigarettes
Though they are presumably setting out to increase fear, the only real caution in it: It would be better if the nicotine dosage was a bit more consistent given stated concentration. Gee, if we only had someone who could regulate products that people want – to make sure they are of high quality. Godshall (via email – no link) put it rather more bluntly: “New lab report by FDA prohibition and propaganda conspirator(s) finds nothing hazardous in e-cigarettes; but abstract fails to acknowledge that finding, while falsely referring to vapor as “smoke” and feigning concerns for e-cigarette consumers.”

South Korean court rules that e-cigarettes have same restrictions as cigarettes
This was a defeat for the manufacturer, who was advertising in ways that were not permitted for cigarettes. But this, along with the explosion in consumption described in the article, suggests that e-cigarettes have a promising future in Korea if they genuinely will not be more restricted than their high-risk cousins. The banning of vaping wherever smoking is banned is not helpful, but there is always room for improvement.

Star Scientific loses lawsuit against RJR
The court ruled that RJR did not infringe on a patent for toxicant-reducing leaf processing for cigarettes. The company’s market cap dropped by about 40% as a result, reminding us that it is functionally a patent holding company, as much as we would like to think of it as a supplier of THR consumer goods.
Meanwhile, Star launched a new product using an alkaloid derived from tobacco that is claimed to have immune system benefits, though we doubt it will make up for much of the patent loss. For those who do not know, U.S. law is odd, freely allowing “herbal supplements” with medicinal properties. Contrary to the ANTZ* canard that tobacco product would be banned if they were introduced now, they almost certainly would be allowed under U.S. law and nicotine would be embraced as one of the great discoveries of herbal medicine.

(*)It is our understand that credit goes to CASAA’s Kristin Noll-Marsh for coining the term “ANTZ” (anti-nicotine and tobacco zealot) which is nicely concise and just too good to pass up. In most of our formal writing we will stick to the term we coined, “anti-tobacco extremists” (sometimes modified as anti-nicotine extremists or anti-tobacco/nicotine extremists) because it is more technically accurate and because it is less whimsical. But look for the much catchier “ANTZ” to find its way into the lexicon.
For those who do not recall and might be interested, the “extremist” construction is a simple descriptive reference to someone who (a) seems willing to pay most any price to eliminate tobacco use (including not caring about the lost benefits to users, social upheaval, crime, discrimination, etc.) and (b) does not make a major distinction between low-risk and high-risk tobacco products (and thus cannot be said to be motivated by health concerns, and thus is clearly just anti-tobacco per se). A good thought experiment to consider the choice between a world free of tobacco and a world where people could enjoy the benefits of tobacco with no measurable risk of life-threatening disease; any humanitarian or true public health advocate would choose the latter, while most of the anti-tobacco community demonstrate their extremism by calling for the former.

Karolinska again manages to create headlines that encourage snus users to smoke
The study was the usual data-dredging exercise (though not by the usual dishonest group of Karolinska researchers — sadly, they seem to be metastasizing), published in a pseudo-science journal (Pediatrics), whose trivial result maybe is of slight interest for further research. Not that it really matters — the claim was that babies born to snusing mothers have a bit more sleep apnea than those born to smoking mothers. Yawn (no pun intended).
What matters, though, is the touting of the meaningless result to incompetent health reporters, which lets these idiots continue to further their attempts to kill snus users (by encouraging smoking instead) with headlines and stories that suggest that snus use in pregnancy is worse than smoking:

…oh, and the new Uppsala University propagandists at it again too
See the last recommended reading for a paper where they teamed with the old established group of unethical “researchers” from Karolinska. This time that group is touting a conference presentation (so nothing but unbacked assertions to analyze) that apparently suggests that myocardial infarction victims who quit using snus reduced their medium-term mortality by half compared to those who kept using snus. If this were true, it would be potentially important and useful information about a subgroup that could see a measurable health benefit from quitting snus, in contrast with the average user. Unfortunately, because these people produce so much junk science, it would be impossible to know if it were true, and thus whether it should be part of honest educators’ advice about snus, just one more bit of damage caused by long-term dishonesty.

Keller commentary on silly “do no harm” rhetoric
A somewhat different approach to responding to the absurd “we cannot support THR because low-risk tobacco products have risk, and we are supposed to do no harm”. We tend to focus on the economic analysis that shows that such an analysis of “do no harm” forbids ever taking any action — since any action might, theoretically, result in a worse outcome than not acting — but also forbids taking no action. A third alternative reply is to simply ask “you are not really that stupid, are you?”, but it turns out this is often not effective.

Related Topics

Harm Reduction International gets major UK government grant
Will this funding for illicit drug harm reduction help HRI (formerly and better known as IHRA) be a more effective independent voice or are they becoming another captured, formerly-independent QUANGO. The best test seems like it will be their policy toward an area of harm reduction that the British government opposes, tobacco. Since government funding has managed to silence most of the former UK supporters of THR who take it, we are not optimistic.

Despite whining, the law and prominent commentators favor PMI’s Freedom-of-Information request
Anti-tobacco extremists (or should we call them anti-good-science activists in this case) erupted in protest against PMI’s court-backed FOI request for Stirling University’s (Scotland) data from a study of teens that the researchers used to promote the plain packaging agenda. The fierce resistance — like that of the Karolinska Institute which is blatantly defying Swedish FOI-type law — is strong evidence that the researchers will be shown to be producing misleading junk science once the data is re-analyzed by someone more honest. We hope this represents a renaissance of tobacco companies spending some resources to fight back against junk science, rather than relying on CASAA to do all the work. Background and analysis:
Big name endorsment:

NYT op-ed chronicles prohibitionism in the context of other politics
It is a very interesting piece by Timothy Egan, as much for what it does not say. His analysis is solid and informative, linking drug prohibitionism to other anti-liberal political efforts. Telling, though, is that he links it (quite rightly) to American right-wing politics, overlooking that most American prohibition initiatives have come from the left. Most tellingly, in decrying destructive prohibition efforts, he somehow manages to completely overlook tobacco/nicotine — and we are shocked! shocked! by this oversight by the NYT (which, in case you do not know, tends to follow the limousine-liberal support for efforts to prohibit of tobacco, junk foods, and most anything else other than alcohol and illicit drugs). Still, it is worth a couple of minutes to read.

Siegel reanalysis shows what FDA data really shows about graphic labels and smoking in Canada
Using a minor variation on the method that FDA used to claim that the data supported the use of graphic warning (sic) labels, Michael Siegel found that the data better support exactly the opposite conclusion. As he points out, this means that the only reasonable conclusion is that the graphics had no effect on smoking (or, more precisely, cannot be said to have had an effect based on this data). This is further evidence of how FDA grasps at straws and embraces junk science in its regulation of tobacco, using a “study” that would not deserve a passing grade as a master’s thesis to make major decisions. (See above for our “I told you so”.)

WTO upholds US ban on clove cigarettes
Though it is acknowledged as discriminatory that clove (almost all imported from Indonesia) is treated differently from menthol (mostly domestic). Indonesia has not given up the fight.

Shocking news: Major corporations seeks to influence policy
Should we be surprised that tobacco companies, closed out of normal channels of discourse and free speech, seek ways to communicate with government? A group of anti-tobacco pretend-researchers, publishing in and anti-tobacco journal, seem to think this is news, and use it as an excuse to condemn genuine attempts to improve corporate social responsibility.

UK doping authority may add nicotine to bad substances in sport
This would be surprisingly good news, representing a major concession that nicotine is performance-enhancing.
Opposition to Philadelphia plan to require point of sale graphic pseudo-warnings
Not such a major story, especially since there is already clear case law that prohibits such local actions, but the effort to turn it around into being pro-THR is interesting. Besides, if we cannot get good policy in Pennsylvania, how can we get it anywhere in North America?

European Harm Reduction network conference in Mareille, France, October 6-7

RJR donates money to local victims of Hurricane Irene
The $250,000 donation to nearby North Carolina communities violates the FCTC. Oh please please please someone object to this and demand the victims give back the money.

**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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  • Elaine Keller  On September 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Re: US CDC reports trivial drop in smoking during 2005-2010

    But the point is that the vast majority of that drop took place in 2010, when the sale of electronic cigarettes took off due to winning the federal court case against the FDA. Too bad the CDC does not bother to ask, “What method did you use to quit smoking.” They keep recommomending more of the same stuff that wasn’t working before. Definition of insanity.

  • Jonathan Bagley  On September 29, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Today, via ASH UK news, I came across this.
    If true, it appears that alpha particles in tobacco explain all the lung cancer risk from 25 years smoking. Have you come across this before? How is that snus does not increase cancer risk? Is the tobacco treated in such a way as to remove the radiactive material?


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