Author Archives: THR.o Staff

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).

Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 23 October 2011

Must Reads

Triangulating on anti-tobacco extremism
Why is an article about cigarette litter a must read? Well, we often argue that anti-THR is primarily motivated by anti-tobacco extremist who recognize that if low-risk tobacco products become popular, then there is no way their extreme goal — eliminating all tobacco use — will ever happen. Thus, they have the incentive to keep tobacco use a deadly as possible (discouraging harm reduction), which also introduces the other side of extremism: Being unconcerned with the damage caused by pursuit of the goal. Chris Snowdon writes about a similar phenomenon, the extremists fighting efforts to reduce the litter caused by smoking. The parallel is quite remarkable: an attempt to increase the damage done, and a willingness to damage valued social institutions (anti-litter or beautification groups) to do it. Not as bad as damaging public health, of course, but perhaps it even better supports our extremist hypothesis that some people still insist is just too cynical to be true.

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

Anti-tobacco researchers are just funny
This week’s amusing publications in anti-tobacco blogs (they call them scientific journals, but we think our characterization is more accurate) include the Minnesota ANTZ farm writing a letter claiming that US tobacco companies could have lowered carcinogen levels in smokeless tobacco products, but did not. So, let’s see: The level of these particular chemicals that are believed to be carcinogenic (though the evidence is hardly conclusive) has come down dramatically, but in any case ST products with higher old levels of the chemicals have not been observed to cause cancer based on extensive epidemiology. So any benefit from this change is speculative and would have to be too small to measure. So what part of this do they not understand? Oh, right, the science part.

From Australia (of course), a screed about how terrible illicit trade in tobacco is, and how health agencies should just do something about smuggling and black markets even though they have absolutely no capacity to do so (for a hint on how well this will work, you might want to read any recent news report from Mexico). But they better not dare cooperate with the companies, who actually have some tools for combating smuggling, because that would mean tobacco control would have to act like grownups and recognize that generally one shares a lot of common ground with one’s opponents, and that they are not actually Voldemort or smallpox. (Note also the parallels between this and the “must read” story above.)

And Prue Talbot “discovered” that off-the-shelf e-cigarettes perform differently from each other, in terms of puffing force and time that is needed and such, and sometimes there is variation within a brand. We are shocked! to learn that e-cigarette users need to exert control over what they do and sometimes vary it in order to make the products work for them; could you imagine if that were the case for, say, food or cars… oh, wait. The concluding call for better quality control would seem much more honest if the ANTZ had not intentionally abdicated regulating e-cigarette quality by trying to ban them instead of helping make them better.

We realize that reporting anti-tobacco researchers’ poor understanding of how science and the world work may be on par with flatulence jokes, in terms of how creative the humor is. We will try to restrain ourselves for a few posts before doing it again. Oh, and we would like to note that we did not mention Stanton Glantz at all, so we did show some restraint.

Other THR

Rodu rips New England Journal of Medicine’s extremist commentary
Rodu points out (not in so many words) that commentary reads like it was written in the dark ages, with an unattenuated “quit or die” message, along with praise for the mythical promise of anti-smoking drugs. We suppose this is not too surprising since most institutions’ (e.g., medics’) understanding of smoking and the future of tobacco use is indeed trapped in a dark age.

US considering ban on e-cigarettes on airplanes
The debate rages about this. There is a good case to be made for banning lots of things in an extremely confined and technologically dangerous situation. We could certainly get behind airplane bans on peanuts (a dangerous allergen that aerosolizes), perfume at a “characterizing” level of concentration, applying nail polish (actually already banned because of flammability, but not well enforced), and not showering. And maybe loudly talking to a stranger about inanities rather than, heaven forbid, actually reading a book. Vapor from an e-cig seems to fit that theme, with possibly unwanted smells and ever-so-slightly dangerous technology. The question is, would the ban be made for the right reason, or is it just a backdoor way to try to prevent people from using low-risk products, like the ban on smokeless tobacco that some airlines were talked into (and that, fortunately, is quite trivial to ignore).

Banning of smokeless tobacco in baseball in the news again
This total non-issue continues to obsess a certain ilk of ANTZ, and they go berserk about it every year at the time of the championship series. This time there is a orchastrated astroturf campaign of hundreds of commentaries and letters, and the campaigners have picked up some prominent politicians. The funny thing is that putting an end to the constant spitting in well-watched close-up television images would probably be a boon to THR, exactly what the ANTZ want to avoid. A few young baseball players might quit using chewing tobacco (which would be fine, so long as they did not smoke instead) but a lot more people would overcome their irrational opposition to snus-like products based on the spitting which they do not require. So all-in-all, if this is how the anti-ST people want to spend their time and political capital, bless ‘em.

Bergen commentary on the pleasures of vaping

Related Topics

We are all smokers now
Snowdon reports on the increasing expansion of anti-tobacco extremism into puritanical anti-free choice extremism about food, alcohol, and other of life’s pleasures.
And he also reports on how anti-alcohol zealots are push-polling children to get their policy “suggestions”. (So we at THRo are declared to be not a stakeholder for UK policy science about tobacco and so they will not even read our advice, but children who cannot buy alcohol are just fine to query. NICE.) In any case, Chris Snowdon is on a tear right now, working a lot from the content of his recent book — buy a copy of that if you are at all interested in these topics.

Alberta government sells its lucrative tobacco stocks in anticipation of even more lucrative lawsuit
Leave it to the Canadian province of Alberta to find a new height in government hypocrisy about tobacco. The government had no problem taking advantage of the market, even beyond their taxes, which at least are defended by the (inaccurate, dishonest) excuse that they pay for the extra cost of smokers. But since the investment might interfere with simply confiscating the industry’s assets (or following the US lead and imposing hidden taxes on smokers and pretending it is a confiscation), it is time to bury it in a memory hole.

**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).

Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 16 October 2011

Must Reads

Kevin Libin sums up hypocrisy of medics who are pro-HR for heroin, but anti-THR
The National Post’s Libin is probably the strongest voice for THR at a major newspaper. (It includes comments from an interview with Phillips, though he apparently declined to include the observation from that interview: That it is a limousine-liberal class issue: junkies are the highly downtrodden that good “liberals” are supposed to look out for; smokers are the proletariat who should just do what their “betters” tell them to do.)

New Polosa et al. study shows the THR effectiveness of promoting e-cigarettes to smokers
The study was more informative than the “smoking cessation trial”-style trials with THR products (the fatal flaws in which we have discussed before) because subjects were smokers without an active interest in quitting and were offered e-cigarettes in what sounds like a fairly real-life manner. A remarkable number of them switched — hooray!
See also Bergen’s interview with Polosa.

Other THR

Petition at US government site in support of e-cigarettes
American? Sign it, please!

Godshall rips US FDA for focus on lists of chemicals
He recognizes that the inventorying of chemicals in tobacco products is required by law, but urges FDA to downplay the results, since claims that fiddling with chemistry reduce harm for cigarettes (or matter at all for low-risk alternatives) are contrary to FDA’s promised science-based approach. This very short, cogent comment would affect the behavior of anyone with shame about making silly scientific claims. In other words, it will be ignored.

British Columbia offering free pharma nicotine
It is kind of an interesting experiment, given that smokeless tobacco is hugely over-taxed and e-cigarettes have to be smuggled in: How much do you have to lower the price of pharma products to make them more attractive for THR. Apparently “free” is sufficient, since there was huge interest on the first day. It will be interesting to see what they do when they figure out that most people taking the offer are not trying to become abstinent.

Pilot studies of what happens when you kinda sorta recommend a THR product
We are not quite sure what to make of this article, in which combined two small studies in which smokers in two countries were offered a small quantity of free smokeless oral tobacco products under very different protocols, without education or recommendation, to see what they would do. We suggest giving the authors credit for getting a summary of data from the pilots out into the world, but seriously question their choice to draw conclusions based on it. (Iin case you were wondering, this was the last THR article accepted by Harm Reduction Journal before Phillips took over as editor for tobacco articles.)

UK grant that claims to be for THR
The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence awards a grant for “guidance development services”, whatever that means. But regular readers will recall that NICE is basically just trying to co-opt the term THR for business-as-usual extremist approaches (and you will recall that they allowed us to be a “registered stakeholder” for these efforts — until they got our comments, at which time they booted us). So it seems safe to decide that the best we can hope for is that nothing comes of this.

US Congressman explicitly compares his attacks on food marketing to his championing of anti-THR
Fortunately for us, even Waxman cannot manage to kill countless people by restricting food marketing, as he has done with anti-THR. Perhaps not so fortunate for food companies, though.

Siegel cleverly challenges disingenuous concern about propylene glycol
In response to trumped up worries about PG exposure from e-cigarettes from several of what he calls “anti-smoking and health groups” (he cannot bring himself to identify the as anti-tobacco extremists), Michael Siegel wonders why they are not calling for a removal of PG in cigarettes. This, of course, is also disingenuous, since the quantity of PG taking in from smoking is much smaller, but that is what makes it such a great “nyah nyah”: force the people who are making anti-scientific claims to try to figure out how to argue the science.

Related Topics

Quebec primed for safe injection sites
Landmark Supreme Court ruling over Vancouver site clears the way for Quebec. Can we expect e-cigarette promotion to follow? Not a chance (see the first article above).

Australian plain package saga drags on
The new cause of drag is the Conservative opposition in the Senate questioning the wisdom of the policy, and so delaying a vote. Supporters of the proposal immediately leaped into full paranoia/denial/Orwell mode, suggesting that any opposition to them must be about tobacco company interests. Meanwhile, the UN is shocked! shocked! that cigarette companies whose core assets (brand identity) would effectively be confiscated by this policy are taking legal action, and this action might discourage other countries from pursuing the same treaty-violating policies. The bastards.

Commentary on how Australia’s costly plain packaging fight is rather silly in light of failure to try THR
David Sweanor does not use most of those words in this brief commentary, but that is the basic message. It contains nothing that our regular readers do not already know, but it is a nice mash-up of the two themes, silly extremist behavior and the basic case for THR.

American Legacy Foundation now funding daydreaming
Arguably even sillier than opposing THR while coming up with controversial policy interventions that have measurable effects only in someone’s dreams, Legacy has skipped the policy and skipped right to the dreaming with their book and associated only discussion, “After Tobacco: What Would Happen If Americans Stopped Smoking?” …. Sorry, zoned out there for a minute, thinking about how nice it would be to get paid big bucks to daydream about what will happen when the extremists stop working to prevent THR.

Mexico’s black market in cigarettes up 400% in one year due to tax increase
In fairness, it only increased from 2% of the market to 10%, so it is still way short of Canada’s and many other black markets. We were just following the lead of the ANTZ, who would use the huge-sounding relative figure if it was a statistic they wanted to create alarm about.{41869f1b-3316-4052-b006-5c8968fea7d3}

Heartbreaking story of the lengths that anti-tobacco-extremists have gone to

This must mean that Big Pharma is marketing to kids, right?
In a study to be presented at this year’s American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, it was found that kids and teachers could not tell the difference between medicine and candy 20% of the time. The study was conducted by two seventh-grade students (not yet inculcated in ANTZ thinking patterns) who came to the common sense conclusion that safe storage was the key rather than removing the medicines from the market.

**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).

Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 6 October 2011

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Steve Jobs

(see also:,26268/ — not so relevant to our project here, but too good not to cite, and arguably it relates to the FDA cite and a few others below)

Must Reads

New Book by Chris Snowdon
The Art of Suppression: Pleasure, Panic and Prohibition since 1800 covers the history of prohibition, similar ground to his Velvet Glove, Iron First.
We will admit that we have not had a chance to read it yet, but anything on this topic by Snowdon is a must read, regardless of the details. Absent out review, here is someone else’s:

Amusing Enough Not to Miss

Their motto: “That didn’t work, let’s do it again.”
Snowdon makes this amusing observation about the prohibitionist factions (the post is related to THR in spirit only, being primarily about anti-alcohol laws in Scotland), but he points out that the observation about the motto certainly applies to anti-tobacco. Hmm, if only there was something that was proven to work — oh, wait, the motto probably extends to “that works, so we had better shut it down”.

FDA “infographic” on their anti-tobacco effort so far
This is not intended to be funny, of course, but you cannot help but laugh at their “historic advances” that represent nothing but sound and fury, including “reducing youth access” (because until FDA showed up, no one thought to make rules that prohibited kids from buying cigarettes, right?). The best is their closer: “Unprecedented knowledge about tobacco products. FDA knows that more than 4,500 tobacco products exist, where they are made, and, for the first time, the ingredients have been revealed to the FDA.” Yeah, that’ll result in beneficial outcomes any day now. Note to Congress: If you put the FTC in charge of tobacco, they will look at advertising; if you put Homeland Security in charge, they will look at smuggling; if you put FDA in charge, they will look at manufacturing. (Also note the last clever caveat in that quote: it is not that the ingredients were not previously revealed, just not to them.) As for THR, there is, of course, no mention. What would they say, after all — “Our efforts to prevent harm reduction have been successful.”?

Other THR

From the “we already knew that, but perhaps others will catch on” department: HPV, rather than, say, smokeless tobacco, has been the trending cause of oral cancer for decades
A recent study provides further evidence to support what the attentive have known for almost a decade, showing the extent to which HPV seems to be causing oral cancer.

Stier-Conley commentary, The War on E-Cigarettes
Emphasizes the malfeasance by US governments in their advocacy efforts (there is no other word for it).

RJR subsidiary working on anti-depressant that uses nicotinic receptors
“Most new depression drugs today work by increasing the chemicals serotonin, or serotonin and norepinephrine, in the brain. TC-5214 targets a different set of receptors, known as neuronal nicotinic receptors.” “It seems clear that nicotine, which activates the same receptors, can have antidepressant effects and boost cognition, Heinemann said. It is thought that many smokers and schizophrenics use cigarettes to ‘self-medicate.’” The relevance to THR speaks for itself, we think. (Thanks to Bill Godshall for finding this.)

Swedish Match study published
We commented on this before, but it is now in final form. The study looks at a snus-based smoking cessation intervention and finds it effective. Unfortunately, this approach is a perfect example of “lamp-post” research, precisely measuring something we do not really want to know (what happens when you try to get a naive population to try snus in very artificial situations) rather than a decent measure of what we do want to know (will people adopt THR when they learn about it in realistic circumstances). But we understand why companies are motivated to pursue such studies, to respond to the anti-tobacco extremists who pretend to believe (or maybe they are really that stupid) that randomized trials are more informative about THR than the overwhelming more relevant observational evidence we have.

Interview with Phillips re e-cigarettes

Interview with Rodu re e-cigarettes (audio)

Ron Borland commentary supporting e-cigarettes
Abstract is at:
The full text is behind a paywall (great way to get the word out, isn’t it), except that information wants to be free:

CASAA call to action against Boston’s proposed restrictions on e-cigarettes

University of East London running online survey on e-cigarettes.
We do not know about the methodology, politics, etc., but here is a link for taking the survey:

Related Topics

FDA-NIH research collaboration announced
It will be a huge longitudinal study of tobacco users to assess effects of new regulations. Since the effects of new regulations — unless there is a miraculous promotion of THR — will inevitably be trivial, watch for hyping of trivial results and aggressive data-dredging and biased reporting to try to hide that fact.

Canada also spending a fortune on evaluating tobacco control policies
Unlike the US case, this might actually find something, since the predominant effective intervention (basic education) is not in place everywhere, and there might be a few places that could see a tax increase without tipping into the black market. Still, I would bet that for less than 1/100th the $7.4 million budget, we could create a fake research report now that would be difficult to distinguish from the one that will eventually come form this (“…proven effective regulations were implemented in many countries…” [with no actual proof they are effective included, of course] “…much more needs to be done…blah, blah, blah…”).–uw-researcher-gets-big-grant-to-continue-global-tobacco-control-project

Australia seeks other goverments’ backing for plain packaging WTO fight
This is a great illustration of the monomania of the anti-tobacco extremists. The WTO has serious flaws that hurt poor people, but some parts of it work as well as we might legitimately hope for, like the parts that push back against pick-and-choose protectionism. But the ANTZ are willing to impose radical and thoughtless change on it to salvage one policy that any sensible analyst realize will accomplish approximately nothing.

Health economist proposes pay-to-quit approach for poor smokers
In an op-ed, Jody Sindelar proposes that smokers who receive Medicaid (the US medical fund for poor people) be paid to quit. What is interesting about this is that it clearly recognizes smoking as a consumption choice and thus changing the cost-benefit calculus can affect it. Also very positive is her proposal that proof be in the form of CO monitoring, and thus adopting THR would count as quitting, as it should. It would be a very interesting experiment to learn how many of these smokers will quit for what price, and thus how great the net benefits of smoking are for them. Not addressed is the problem one of us (CVP) wrote about in his dissertation (and that later became called the “anti-commons” in economics, for those interested): Paying people to give up something they have a right to do, but usually do not choose to do, creates the incentive to “discover” that you want to exercise that right in order to be paid to stop. How long does a non-smoker have to smoke before she is eligible for the quit smoking payments?

Siegel argument supports claim that anti-tobacco organizations will just say anything, but they are just not so smart about what they choose to say
In two recent posts, Michael Siegel predicts that the current lawsuit against proposed US cigarette labels hinges on the whether they constitute forced anti-tobacco advertising and not just fair warning, and that the brief filed by ANTZ groups in support of the government benefits the plaintiffs by arguing just that.

An interesting take on the corner anti-tobacco has put itself in
We missed this interesting column about the rise of activist smokers from Frank Davis during our thin coverage in September. The post (and its interesting comments) picks up on the paranoia of anti-tobacco researchers who justify their suspicious (to be charitable) research practices based on claims of threats. Davis argues that grassroots smoker activism is growing, which might contrast with our observations that the much smaller number of e-cigarettes users have created a more effective sense of identity and social movement.

New American Legacy Foundation report calls for torturing mental health sufferers
The report is about how “tobacco use”, their misleading way of saying “smoking”, is common among those with diagnosable mental illness, which is common knowledge among experts on either tobacco or mental illness. They cleverly avoid pointing out that the reason for this is that nicotine is such a great drug for treating many psychological conditions and demand efforts to make them stop (without, of course, substituting low-risk nicotine). It would certainly be worth looking for cases where use may do more harm than good in this population, but we are never going to get an honest analysis of that from those with a huge obvious conflict of interest (i.e., they are dedicated to the elimination of tobacco). Speaking of COI, it is really interesting in their press release about this, Legacy aggressively acts to hide their huge COI, describing themselves as “dedicated to helping Americans live longer, healthier lives” without saying their real mission is to eliminate tobacco use.

Glantz engages in passive aggressive threats to movie industry
Our catching up on the great writing of Chris Snowdon continues with:
This follows Snowdon putting him in historical perspective in a post that ends, “How strange it is that we have 20/20 vision when it comes to identifying cranks and puritans in earlier times but are so blind to them in the present day.”

New marketing survey about tobacco use, including “dual use”
Some interesting information for those who follow the market — likely better than the “public health” surveys. We notice with amusement that multiple product use is strongly correlated with watching football and NASCAR. Someone needs to tell Glantz — we would just love to see him sending letters to the NFL and NASCAR threatening them.

Louisiana hospital bans “thirdhand smoke”
Perhaps not as destructive as trying to set the precedent for ignoring the WTO, but more troublesome about what it says about the ivory tower of allopathic medicine, a move is afoot to engage in employment discrimination against anyone who has been near smoking. How long until smokers are no longer allowed to visit dying relatives or attend the birth of their baby (we hope that at least the latter prohibition will apply only to the fathers).

**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).

Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – September Cleanup

Dear Readers:
As you probably noticed, we have not kept up our weekly schedule of suggested readings. Unfortunately, we were too busy to keep up and are now too busy to catch up with our usual format of summarizing and analyzing the readings (as you might know, none of us receive any compensation for doing this). However, we want to try to keep a fairly comprehensive list of suggested readings, for the record, so we are catching up now by offering little more than a list of headlines and links, without much analysis for most of them (think of it as being Twitter-style). Chances are that the breadth of our coverage is unintentionally off a bit, in addition to the depth being intentionally reduced.
We hope to resume our usual value-added in October.

Tobacco Harm Reduction

Groundbreaking Rodu project has town in Kentucky USA promoting THR

American Legacy Foundation reports some good news about RJR and Altria snus test markets
29%, 20% and 6% of male smokers aged 18-24, 25-35 and 36-49 respectively tried using snus, that 9% of female smokers aged 18-24 tried using snus. Naturally, anti-tobacco extremist legacy spun this as being bad because it is so high, while those of us interested in public health see it as an impressive level of success.

RJR refuses to stop test marketing its dissolvables in Colorado
In a triumph of actual public health over “public health” charlatans, the Colorado Board of Health urged RJR to remove the products following its kangaroo court proceeding we reported on previously; RJR refused.

RJR has asked the FDA to change a warning label
They would like the label on smokeless tobacco to read: “No tobacco product is safe, but this product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes.”!documentDetail;D=FDA-2011-P-0573-0001

Phillips’ presentation at the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco conference
Carl V Phillips discusses the research behind e-cigarettes.
Also, he discusses his opinion of his session and some of the other sessions on smokeless tobacco that he attended at the conference.!/topic.php?uid=158188647867&topic=16723

Phillips now editor of tobacco articles at Harm Reduction Journal
HRJ Editor-in-Chief Ernest Drucker has appointed Carl V Phillips to the position of Senior Editor in charge of tobacco-related articles. Some interesting related projects are afoot, so stay tuned. The immediate impact is clearing out the backlog, so that tobacco papers submitted to HRJ are now all on a fast-track. (This has been in the works for a while, so some of you who were watching might have thought it had already happened, but it really just started in the past week or two.)

UK’s cabinet-level “nudge” unit endorses THR via e-cigarettes
The influence of that unit is quite limited, but at least it is a vote of confidence.
Paul Bergen’s assessment:

Boston will regulate e-cigarettes as cigarettes.
THR supporters quite reasonably consider this to be a step backward, but the treating of e-cigs like cigarettes (i.e., no worse, so no bans) is a lot better than the worst-case scenarios that the anti-tobacco extremists are pursuing.

Paul Bergen interviews Katherine Devlin of ECITA

FDA’S Deyton suggests he does not understand the desire to smoke, or science
How does he reconcile “I like the pure joy of exploration of applying scientific principles to the good of the population” with making scientifically-honest health-improving THR information and action almost impossible. The article is about him being up for some award, but that part is not very interesting.

Condemnation of US proposal to dramatically raise smokeless tobacco tax
Criticism came from the usual THR media spokesmen (Godshall, Ballin), but also Kathleen Dachille, director of the Center for Tobacco Regulation at the University of Maryland School of Law: “There’s the potential that by raising the smokeless-tobacco tax, you could lead smokers to stick with cigarettes rather than potentially less-harmful alternatives because the alternatives are just as costly.”–ar-1374156/

New Zealand scientists to research whether e-cigarettes are effective in helping smokers quit
Next they will be checking to see if the world is round, which is pretty critical for them in New Zealand since it keeps them from falling off the edge. In fairness, it is possible that such a study can help deal with government red tape that currently results in a ban, but it is still sad that artificial research projects with very narrow implications are considered more useful than the actual evidence.

Surprisingly honest info about nicotine use by pharma company
No, it is obviously not GSK — it is Johnson & Johnson’s information for Canadian Nicorette customers. This bit about addiction is predictably silly, but the rest makes a nice case for THR.

US Department of Transportation on its way to banning e-cigarettes on planes
A reasonable policy as part of their proposed ban on perfumes, failure to bathe, and other possibly offensive outgassing — oh, they are not going to ban those too. Damn. (At least it is not as bad as Delta Airlines’ unilateral and totally pointless prohibition against smokeless tobacco; fortunately it is rather trivial to violate with impunity, but it is still a good reason to seek another airline.)

Cuba claims to have highly effective anti-lung-cancer drug
If true, this could be very annoying to the anti-tobacco extremists, who dislike anything that makes tobacco use less harmful. It also would substantially change the comparative risk calculations, making all those inaccurately conservative pundits who say “…90-95% less harmful that smoking…” close to right (because the denominator would get smaller).

Related Topics

Same source: different results. Two federal surveys differ by over 7 million in adult smoking counts but smoking is in the decline…or is it?
To paraphrase Rodu’s analysis with an eye to THR, the ANTZ use the low number to claim we do not need THR because smoking is going away (which even the low number does not remotely suggest) and the high number to demand more funding for themselves.

What would happen if Americans stopped smoking?
An interesting, and perhaps fairly accurate, economic analysis. Notice that they recognize that any savings in Social Security (general government pension), even without quantifying other pension savings, would largely offset any reduction in medical costs. It would still be good, but it is a myth that it would dramatically reduce resource consumption.

A short simple analysis showing the hollowness of biological “definitions” of addiction

The World Health Organization announces the theme of World No Tobacco Day 2012
Announced on the Facebook page for the Framework Convention Alliance, the theme will be “Tobacco Industry Interference”. Notice that this theme has absolutely nothing to do with improving public health, but at least it is not like the year Henningfield wrote the policy statement (and we launched THR.o in response).!/FrameworkConventionAlliance

…speaking of, Jack Henningfield’s name no longer listed on the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee

…though we could clearly use a bit more housecleaning: FDA TPSAC member Neal Benowitz grossly misrepresents evidence on tobacco harm reduction and smokeless tobacco
Analysis by Bill Godshall and Elaine Keller (scroll down) with link to original op-ed.

For anyone who still thinks that political influence and financial corruption comes primarily from industry…
Glantz et al. received a new $2.6 million grant to study state and local anti-smoking efforts to determine which are most effective (spoiler alert: the best is Utah’s clever tactic of having people raise their babies as Mormons, followed by communities that are clever enough to be rich so that people have easy access to other drugs and sources of satisfaction). Not surprisingly, this is the same pig-at-the-trough who is demanding states spend all of their enormous MSA sales tax on anti-tobacco, based on the absurd fiction that this produces immediate savings elsewhere in the budget.
Meanwhile, Glantz tries to protect the cigarette market by offering testimony against allowing people to be informed about THR, and further demonstrates his complete incompetence as a scientist with various claims.

Bhutan may back off on their futile efforts to make Glantz look sensible by comparison

In other tobacco control humor…
From the journal whose very name admits that their scientific standards are merely those of tobacco control, a study of a whole 18 people for a few weeks, using an almost push-poll methodology and no concrete outcome measure, concluded that plain packaging reduces the desire to smoke. That, of course, did not stop them from issuing a press release as if they had actually learned something.

…yet that not as funny as the study that claims that quitting smoking causes greater willpower compared to those who do not quit

…or this similar one that claims that quitting causes people to have a “better” personality

Cannabis use up in US
The stories are about “illicit drug use” being up, but it is entirely driven by cannabis; this potentially creates more demand for smoke-reducing HR tactics. Amusing is the alarmist remark by the government about not knowing why this is happening, but wanting to do something about this before the users end up in trouble — because we all know that young adults using reefer leads to idleness, loss of motivation, and unemployment …er… is it maybe the other way around.

Jamaica proposed public place smoking ban
Amusingly (see previous story), the news stories consistently fail to answer the question, smoking of what?

Supreme Court of Canada rules in favor of keeping Insite open

No industry or NGO’s allowed to attend International Tobacco Regulators’ Conference
Welcome back to the days of monarchy, when governments talked to each other about how to better enforce their will, and simply did not care what anyone else thought about it.

Australia given more warnings about plain packaging causing a chill to business confidence

Lib Dems in UK back panel that will consider decriminalizing drugs
They will focus on the science behind decriminalization and the effect it will have on drug use.

From the “I am not now nor have every been…” Witch Hunters Department
Even as Britain is hand-wringing over lack of adoptions and the need for more foster care, a couple is turned down to foster children because the husband smoked two cigars at parties away from the home.
In the same vein, the New Baylor Health Care System policy denies work to smokers as well as ex-smokers who are using low-risk and zero-externality nicotine products, even with the intention of becoming abstinent. No word on when they will fire the, let’s guess, 20% of their clinical psych staff who are on drugs to deal with their own mental illness.

UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies launches attacks on alcohol in movies
Portraying life realistically in files declared to be unhealthy for young people. We await the return of portrayals of couples’ bedrooms with two twin beds about five feet apart.

**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).

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:
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).

Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 24 August 2011

Must Reads (For American Readers)

US Senate bill would drastically increase tax on smokeless tobacco
For our American readers, we urge you to contact your senators to inform them about the harm this would cause. For more information and analysis, please see CASAA’s page about this, which also includes links for contacting your senators.

Other THR

Survey results shows low knowledge of low risk from smokeless tobacco and other nicotine ex-smoke
A new analysis of a survey from four anglophone countries confirmed that only a small minority understand that smoke-free nicotine products are low risk. (The exact numbers are, as with any study like this, rather meaningless because they are so sensitive to question phrasing and such.) Sadly, the results showed no time trend toward understanding, but the data ended in 2008 so perhaps there has been some progress since then. The results showed that respondents who answered one question correctly (e.g., saying that smokeless tobacco is lower risk than smoking) were barely more likely to answer the related questions correctly (e.g., saying that NRT is lower risk than smoking); this is interesting because seems to argue against the hypothesis that anti-ST propaganda spills over into ignorance about NRT. Rather, it seems that people’s beliefs are a muddle, suggesting that anti-smoking campaigns have managed to dis-educate people about many of the specifics. However, misinformation about ST was worst in the US, where it is far more popular in the other survey countries, which tends to implicate the anti-ST propaganda.
If you read the paper, we suggest skipping the introduction, which contains some of the usual utter nonsense about the topic (in most cases, skipping the introduction when reading research papers about tobacco is a pretty good strategy, particularly if you want to save time and avoid the urge to delete it before getting to the real content); the rest of it is fairly interesting and seems solid.

Latvia proposes to tax and otherwise treat e-cigarettes like cigarettes
We heard that the finance ministry is proposing this, but cannot find a report to confirm it. It seems credible and is potentially very important, since it would represent a non-anti-THR stance by a national government. (It is not quite pro-THR if the taxes would be the same as for cigarettes.) Unfortunately, Latvia has a recent history of being pushed around by international institutions, so it seems fairly likely that anti-nicotine extremists at the WHO will stop this from happening.

Linn County, Iowa votes down proposal to ban dissolvable tobacco
The article starts off with the usual “think of the children” claims, but ends with some heartening quotes from those who voted to get rid of the bill (including one indicating that underage use of tobacco is a “parenting issue”).

British Heart Foundation declares that smoke-free nicotine is not a major heart attack risk
We knew that, of course, but it is nice to see the endorsement. Before anyone gets too excited about this organization supporting THR, however, note that this came in a discussion of a new biological measure of nicotine that correlates with heart disease risk and read: ‘”People using nicotine replacement therapy should not be alarmed by this study,” said Ellen Mason of the British Heart Foundation, “as it is the other chemicals inhaled when smoking, such as carbon monoxide that cause the risk of heart disease, not nicotine.”’ Still, it is a great example of how it is impossible to say lots of true things about nicotine and tobacco and not implicitly argue in favor of THR.
(h/t to Julie Woessner for finding this gem buried in the article)

Nice response to Australian e-cigarette policy statement from consumer advocacy group
A point-by-point rebuttal by Australian Tobacco Alternatives Consumer Association.

Stier calls for Europeans to learn from the FDA scientific review process re low-risk tobacco products
We cannot say that we agree with his positive view of the FDA process, but he makes some good points, particularly that any semi-open formal process is probably better than no formal process.

Swedish anti-snus group claims that snus increases the risk of heart failure
Since these authors from Karolinska Institute are notorious for producing anti-snus junk science using unethical methodology (and then, in their efforts to cover up what they have done, refusing, in violation of Swedish law, to disclose further information), their claims should not be taken seriously until reviewed in detail by someone else. Caveat emptor if you want to try to interpret the results without the help of someone skilled in forensic epidemiology.

Prohibitionist group issues notice that US Army smoking restrictions extend to smokeless tobacco
Presumably they are right (referring to only their factual claim regarding the regulation — not most of their propaganda, given that the article claims that ST is as harmful as cigarettes). Fortunately we suspect that this will have little effect on encouraging smoking instead of ST use, though no doubt the activists will do everything they can to discourage use of low-risk products.

Denmark has more smoking than Sweden or Norway? Shocking!
This article suggests that the Danish press are unaware of the fact that their Scandinavian neighbors have seen much greater reductions in smoking than Denmark because of the substitution of snus. Or perhaps they just do not want to support proven success, free choice and greater welfare when they can instead call for aggressive restrictions? Maybe Oliver Twist (smokeless tobacco from Denmark, with a licorice flavor that only a Dane could love, and that has managed to fly under the radar of the snus police) can save the day.

Related Topics

A compelling short commentary on addiction
The author notes that addiction needs to be defined in terms of a behavior pattern, a useful message for those who think it can be defined biochemically, let alone those who consider it to be mere consumption of a particular substance. More important, she argues that a critical component of addiction is pleasure flowing too easily from a simple act without investment, which argues against calling thoughtful nicotine use (which THR usually is, and smoking sometimes is) “addiction”.

Czech government openly declares that smokers contribute a huge net benefit for government coffers
This is true across rich countries and is common knowledge to experts, but is hidden from the public to justify further increasing the burdens on smokers, and is seldom acknowledged by government. The analysis by the health ministry shows that smokers pay ten times as much in taxes as their estimated extra medical costs. This apparently does not even consider their foregone consumption (reduction in pension payments and such).

In an epic reversal of cause and effect, BMJ blames industry for human desires
Discussing the upcoming UN summit on establishing a nanny superstate (they call it a summit on noncommunicable diseases, but you have to read between the lines with these people), an editorial in the medical journal suggested that if efforts to curtail the consumption of nicotine, alcohol, and yummy foods fail it will be because of industry interference. In keeping with typical disconnect between the medical and international ruling classes and the other seven billion of us, there was complete obliviousness to the fact that the industries exist because human beings like the things they are supplying. It just does not occur to those people that nannyism is resisted because people do not want its results. Here is the link if you want to read it, but we suggest not:

Russian advocate predicts cigarette tax increase could impoverish people
Anti-smoking activists are usually oblivious to the damage that their policies do. Tax increases are the only policy intervention that has been proven to be effective, other than the most effective two: general education and THR. But unlike the other two, they do a lot of damage. They just cut into the entertainment budget of even lower-SES Westerners, but in poor countries (which Russia increasingly is) they can interfere with nutrition and schooling. Of course the extremists are just going to say “well then, people should just quit”, which is a dressed up way of saying “the children of anyone who will not obey us deserve to get inadequate nutrition”.

Tobacco taxes also create nasty crime problems
An interesting human-interest article about how tobacco smuggling is making Canada’s southern border start to look like the US’s.

If the cannot have taxes, the Russians will just strong-arm their neighbors
For example, pushing the Uzbek airline to limit transport of the local smokeless tobacco, nos, a burden on migrant workers and perhaps a way of discouraging THR (though we have no idea about the risk profile of nos) and encouraging the purchase of cigarettes in Russia.

Guardian repeat’s WHO nonsense that hookah smoking session is equivalent to smoking 200 cigarettes
This patently dishonest claim is based on the volume of air inhaled through the hookah compared to how much is inhaled through a cigarette. So, by WHO methodology, just breathing for an hour is equivalent to smoking about 300 cigarettes — pretty typical of the scientific quality we have come to expect from WHO. At least The Guardian did report, albeit buried, some useful information from Kamal Chaouachi.
For a bit more analysis of the story, see Snowdon:

Australian tribunal denies FOI request about plain packaging policy documents
They could at least have required disclosure of all of the government’s evidence that supports the claim that the policy would be beneficial — after all, disclosing an empty folder is not a burden. Last week we reported that Mexico and Indonesia said they would wait to see Australia’s evidence before doing anything like that, and it appears they will be waiting quite a while. The tribunal claim was that it is not in the public interest to release the information about how the government decided to impose this burden on the people; Australia apparently has an odd definition of public interest.

Commentary demands adult ratings for movies with smoking
Yes, we realize that another repeat of such silliness warrants only a yawn (as does the lack of a similar call for zero tolerance for violence, sexual exploitation, and other staples of PG-13 movies), especially given that it was published by the anti-tobacco and pro-censorship PLoS, a publisher that announced that it would not publish research about THR. The interesting bit is that Simon Chapman wrote the rebuttal, arguing that this would not be useful and was inappropriate censorship. Apparently even a stopped clock correctly interprets the evidence and recognizes an unethical proposal twice an hou… well, maybe more like twice a decade.

Psych study of emotional violence images in anti-smoking messages
This has been cited as showing that that disgusting and fear-inducing messages diminish the uptake of warning information, though it really did not show that since it suffered from the usual problem of pschy studies: the measured endpoint is only vaguely related to what the authors claim to have produced evidence about. Even though the results are pretty meaningless, the counter-propaganda value is there: It stands as a counter to the psych research that purports to show that such images do some good (but really does not, for the same reason noted above). For those interested in the actual evidence, there is no real evidence that such imagery accomplishes what it is supposed to, though no affirmative evidence that it has the opposite effect either; the evidence of lack of effect takes the form of the lack of effect where it has been tried.
James Dunworth (Ashtray Blog) also contributed his own survey on the topic, which if roughly equally informative, though few people will recognize that fact.

Facebook causes teen smoking and other drug use?
Of course not, but it is a textbook example of junk science in action, they type of junk that is the basis for tobacco and other drug policy. The sensationalist headlines resulted from a prohibitionist group’s claiming to have found that the small minority of teens who do not use internet social networking are less likely to consume various drugs, a survey conducted by “researchers” who have apparently never heard of confounding. (We wonder what portion of the “unexposed” group are imprisoned, either literally or de facto, mentally or socially low-functioning, or Amish — seriously.) Here is further analysis of how dumb the claim is:
(In response to this series of VGIF posts, one of us mused that perhaps prohibitionist groups should be classified as religious organizations. That would free them to make whatever faith-based claims they wanted, and save them the embarrassment of the junk science they use to rationalize their views. At the same time, it would allow the public to oppose the actual basis of their claims rather than their rationalizations — “you think the world would be best with prohibition; we disagree.”

**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).

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: (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 .]
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).

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).

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.

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