Semi-weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 15 November 2011

Must Reads

Bergen comments on how e-cig researchers ignore what is already known
(see also the link in the comments to Kristin Noll Marsh’s similar post from earlier this year)

RJR petitions US FDA to eliminate misinformation in mandatory ST warning labels
Read Brad Rodu’s excellent summary and analysis. No summary we could write would do it justice.

Other THR

NYT’s Tierney tells some truth about e-cigs
The New York Times’ technology pundit provocateur, John Tierney, devoted his periodic column to e-cigarettes and how it is odd that there is such opposition to them. It is a very good article, though it contains nothing that those familiar with the issues have not known for years (indeed, Tierney is guilty of writing as if he were producing insights when he is just reciting observations that could be found in, say, this blog). What is most interesting about it, though, is what it shows about the way that even sympathetic members of “the 1%”, as it were, tend to think about this issue: as being about the authorities, not the people. Though there is much talk about the choice to consume nicotine, consumers feel absent from the piece. Their preferences are represented by observations by Rodu and Godshall, who are good choices, and the little study by Polosa that we discussed last time (and re that, see the preceding entry above). But in addition, he cites groups that have good messages but are really only just a couple of people (American Association of Public Health Physicians, American Council on Science and Health) while completely ignoring the user community and its much larger organizations. Finally, he treats the fight as being a Democrat-Republican thing, which is typical corporate media simplification, and treats anti-THR activists in the “public health” community as a curiosity, rather than an existential threat, and does not seriously examine their ethics or motives (the motives of users are subtly suspect, but powerful organizations always get a pass in the NYT). Some have said “wow, great, who ever expected this in the NYT” and they have a point; but we say “it is too bad that this is better than the best we can ever expect in the NYT”.

“Prohibitionists still kill”
Dick Puddlecote rails against anti-THR, writes an awesome penultimate paragraph,

The centuries old quest for prohibition isn’t about health, nor has it ever been. It’s still just a bunch of mentally unbalanced psychos adhering to unthinking, and largely unattainable, dogma without care for the deeply anti-social – and regularly lethal – consequences of their actions.

and also offers a somewhat different take on the previous article. It would have probably made our “too amusing to miss” section, but while the post is great reading, the topic is just to sad to be funny.

Rodu’s town-based switching experiment makes the national news
Stories appeared in WaPo and USA Today, as well as numerous local papers. Sadly, the article (there appears to be just one, running in multiple papers), is not great. It leads with the reason this project is a good idea. Unfortunately, anyone who keeps reading will see an emphasis on the controversy rather than the science, and will likely not understand that switching is extremely beneficial.
Google News (note: WaPo no longer hosts copy)
And there is much worse out there, with some articles that still seems to include a THR message containing colossally-stupid comments from the anti-THR activists. When Matthew Myers says “more research is needed before anyone should suggest that the nation’s 46 million smokers would be better off using smokeless tobacco”, you have to wonder if he is afraid to travel because more research is needed about that whole “you can’t fall off the edge of the Earth” thing.

New York Magazine explains the tech, appeal, and benefits of e-cigarettes
The content is simplistic, naive, and dated, as we expect from unhealthful news reporting, but it is mostly right and appropriately positive. This one gets a B+, putting it at the top of the curve for recent old media articles about THR.

RJR reports ST replacing smoking, though not Altria
RJR sales were down about 7% for cigarettes but snus (dominated by Camel Snus) was up about the same percentage. Altria reported cigarettes down but its established (US Smokeless) and unsatisfying (Marlboro Snus) ST brands did not see the rise that Camel did. (pdf)

Even as snus is making remarkable progress in Norway, many medics there are clueless
A study found that only 36% of Norwegian GPs know that snus was much less harmful than cigarettes. More than 15% believed that snus was equally or more harmful than cigarettes.

Godshall writes about Vapercon
His combination personal narrative and press release about vaping is reprinted here.

E-cig merchant launches TV advertising via infomercials
Will it be possible for market incentive to educate about THR where volunteer work simply cannot? V2 Cigs says its 30 minute informercials will inform and educate in a fun way.

Survey finds fairly decent awareness about e-cigarettes
The American Legacy Foundation was undoubtedly distressed to find that over half of American adults surveyed have heard of e-cigarettes, and 5% had tried them. Of those who had heard of them, two thirds knew they were less harmful than smoking. (h/t to Godshall for finding this SRNT poster)

Another ANTZy e-cig study
This is not a terrible study if you just look at the results and not the rhetoric; it is yet another confirmation that e-cigarette use is increasing nicely. Sadly, the authors make every effort to spin this as a bad thing and suggest — in spite of the fact that their results confirm what we know, that e-cigarettes are used by smokers to quit — that youth initiation is a cause for concern. Aside: It is a pretty good clue that if someone uses the term “ENDS” instead of “e-cigarette”, they are either ANTZ or trying to impress ANTZ. Avoiding the established natural term for a product is a thinly veiled way of saying “we are going to show our superiority to those degenerates who use this product by refusing to use their terminology.” Of course it is a pretty good clue when the report is from an anti-tobacco extremist organization (US CDC) and published in an anti-tobacco quasi-journal.
(thanks to Kate at

Anti-smoking pseudo-scientist expands into anti-THR
To quote Godshall,

Stan Glantz claims tobacco morbidity/mortality doesn’t decline (and may increase) when smokers switch to smokeless tobacco or when smokers are informed that smokeless is far less hazardous, grossly misrepresents scientific and empirical evidence, criticizes recent USA Today and NY times articles, defames Brad Rodu, attacks privately funded research, and misrepresents FDA’s false and misleading claims about e-cigarettes and its failed attempt to ban products.

Victory against Seattle proposal to ban e-cig use in public housing
This thread starts out with the problem, one of junk science and class warfare, but by the end of it, a solution has been reached. It is a nice good-news story.
CASAA also won a victory in removing e-cigarettes from a proposed apartment building smoking banAlameda California. But the fight to be able to engage in a low-risk activity with no impact on the neighbors, in one’s own home, continues elsewhere.

Dunworth reports on results of small survey of why e-cig users switched
Like most such surveys, it tells us little quantitatively, but offers interesting qualitative research (i.e., free text answers as case-studies).

Related Topics

US court blocks emotional violence graphic labels on cigarettes
The labels, erroneously called warning labels, were judged to be emotional manipulation that probably would not withstand a constitutional free-speech challenge. Phillips’ analysis, with links to the judge’s full opinion and NYT reporting of the ruling:
And another take on it:

Biotech company attempts to eliminate the benefits of smoking while keeping the costs
The company, 22nd Century Group, has engineered tobacco plants to be almost nicotine free, and are touting these as harm reduction (though you will notice that we did not put this entry in the THR section — quite intentionally). Normally we ignore that company, which giving the Zeller/Hatsukami crowd a run for their money in trying to co-opt and abuse the term “THR”, and even have “exclude if it contains…” parameters for them in our THR web search bots because they seem to send out a press release that includes the phrase “tobacco harm reduction” any time they do anything more interesting than change the toner in their office printer. But they managed to make the NYT. Not surprisingly, that article quotes several anti-THR activists but no one who actually supports THR, and implies that removing the nicotine from tobacco is a good thing. This fits the prohibitionist agenda (no doubt everyone quoted in the story is quietly lobbying for, and drooling about, FDA regulations that would mandate unacceptably low nicotine levels in products) as well as playing on the naivety/propaganda that classifies nicotine as a bad thing.

Researchers look for grand unifying theory of prohibition
First they torture mice to support a claim that nicotine exposure might prime the brain to appreciate cocaine. Then they report that one particular 2003 dataset (of course there is no cherrypicking there) shows that cocaine dependence was higher (whatever that means) when the user smoked before first using cocaine rather than the opposite order, which supposedly supports the claim (because …um… this effect of nicotine magically disappears if it is not used first??). Finally, “Now that we have a mouse model of the actions of nicotine as a gateway drug this will allow us to explore the molecular mechanisms by which alcohol and marijuana might act as gateway drugs,” said Eric Kandel, M.D., of Columbia University Medical Center and a senior author of the study. We would add a joke, but irony is kind of dead here.

Siegel offers clever analysis of how pro-pharma researchers bias smoking cessation study results
By chopping the “cold turkey” category into lots of subsets (“watched a video”, “called a hotline”, etc.) and then including a “none” category that includes only those odd individuals who did not so much as looked at a website, the junk researchers can make the “none” category look bad and suggest that pharma product use is common compared to other options. Michael Siegel, true to form, attributes this bias to pharma industry funding, and in this particular case that is a fairly compelling story. Naturally, there is no mention of THR in the government/pharma methodology, or in Siegel’s critique of it.

Report slams FDA over Chantix
The paper combs FDA’s adverse event reports and concludes that FDA’s method covered up serious problems and that the drug should not be considered an acceptable for “first-line” use, and only should be used after other quit smoking drugs fail. It appeared in a journal that is politically anti-tobacco, and of course there was no mention that none of the pharma products work very well, let alone of the THR option.

Major brewery uses unusual staple food in providing alcohol harm reduction
They are in it to sell a new beer in Africa, obviously, but the cassava brew is expected to displace homebrews which are often dangerous.

Healthy People 2020 = HP2010 with a little white-out
The Healthy People 2020 goals for tobacco use are out. What a surprise, they’ve decided to retain their goal for 2010, hoping that only 12% of people will be smoking in 2020, while neglecting to include the one thing that might actually help them achieve this: tobacco harm reduction. Indeed, they repeatedly try to imply that smokeless tobacco use has a major impact on health.

Naive “smokers all want to quit” message continues to damage public health
An MMWR report making this claim got a lot of press. The problem is that all such survey questions conflate “I want to stop using this drug” with “I wish I could be as happy/productive/focused/etc. as I am while on this drug, but to do so without the drug”, and so lead to the erroneous conclusion that tools to just quit (but not replace the benefit of the drug) are all we need. By their standards, most everyone wants to quit sleeping too, so we should be happy that they do not push psychosis-inducing drugs in support of that too.

Phillips examines why claims of miraculous effects of restaurant/pub smoking bans are absurd
The first of a multi-part series that includes links to others’ recent analyses.

Not content to denegrate science in the name of anti-tobacco, they are now playing with the cornerstone of Abramic religion
An ANTZ group calling itself Physicians and Nurses Against Tobacco introduces a campaign to declare the eleventh Commandment to be “Don’t smoke”, after another fringe group declared cigarettes to be non-kosher. Yes, really. Still looking for a limit to how far these people will go.

Compared to trying to rewrite Exodus, everything else looks pretty good…
…still, this is too dumb to not mention: The state of Missouri gave approval to a group led by the American Cancer Society to create a ballot referendum for a tax increase on cigarettes and a huge increase on smokeless tobacco. Combining the wisdom of the general population in setting tax policy with the ANTZealotry of ACS — what could go wrong?

Why is Godshall recommending a clip from The Daily Show that is unrelated to tobacco?
He did not explain, but the answer is that the same organizations (ACS, AHA, etc.) who lobby against THR also defeated a pro-exercise bill, apparently because it would make people healthier without their involvement.

Australia plain packaging fight goes on
There is a lot of noise, but we will not bother you with details or links. When something actually happens, we will cover it.

Smoking now code for America’s traditional valuing of freedom?
The Herman Cain campaign ad with its not-so-subtle smoking has gotten a lot of press. There is no agreement on what it means, but it might be that “denormalization” of smoking has finally turned it into a symbol of oppression, and that use of smoking imagery is not just teenage rebellion, but a revolutionary symbol about “reclaiming the real America” or some such. It is just so sad that in American politics, concern about liberty is so often bundled with… well, people like Herman Cain.

**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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  • Michael J. McFadden  On November 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I don’t think I’ve left a comment here before, but wanted to say that your weekly/semi-weekly summaries are great! There’s a fair amount of THR stuff that don’t pay much attention to simply because I don’t have the time. But the summaries allow me to spot the highlights in an efficient way and follow up on the ones I want.

    Plus… (and this actually IS a big plus!) … the summaries are fun to read. Whoever’s writing them has a good sense of humor and turns enough words and pops in enough little darts that the whole thing actually makes for an enjoyable read in and of itself!

    OK! Keep on fightin! We may have some different emphases in what we do, but there’s a hard core of crazies out there spreading lies that we BOTH fight!

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  • Rolygate  On November 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Some wonderful wit in this episode. Many thanks to the writers, and keep it up. Shouldn’t be a problem as the raw material seems to be increasing by the week – unfortunately.

  • Wm. Shew  On August 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    I use an alcohol and drug harm reduction program to control my cigar smoking. I smoke one cigar a month, I enjoy it very much, and feel the benefits; relaxation, enjoyment, socialization, hobby interest, collecting, etc. far outweigh the costs; low to non-existent health risk. I have been successful at this regimen for one year.


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