The first statement of the Hippocratic Oath to which all doctors are supposed to adhere to is ‘do no harm’. But to the best of my knowledge, no such undertaking is required of scientists whose findings are often translated into public policy and legislation which in turn affects millions of lives. This is wrong; scientists should be held to account more than just by having peer-reviewed papers argued over which, as the name suggests, only peers are likely to see.
I raise this due to a recent and inadvertent admission by the American Lung Association (ALA) that: “Scientists have been working hard to debunk the belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes". Excuse me? So the ALA’s view of valid and credible tobacco science is only that which does not conduct independent evaluations of evidence, but which begins with a preconceived notion about the alleged ‘dangers’ of safer nicotine products so that it conveniently aligns with the ALA’s moral compass about these products, and helps perpetuate lies about ‘popcorn lung’ and the claim that vaping causes COPD for which there is zero credible evidence.
A full commentary on this disgraceful state of affairs appears on Dr Michael Siegel’s tobacco blog, at: https://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2019/07/american-lung-association-inadvertently.html - and it clearly pains him to have to point this out, as he says he has worked successfully for many years with the ALA on positive action to reduce smoking. But now he says: “Sadly, the scientific integrity of the American Lung Association has apparently deteriorated to the point that they have become just another denialist organization - like the global warming deniers or anti-vaxxers. Their actions are completely undermining the public's appreciation of the severe health hazards associated with smoking, something I worked for decades with the American Lung Association to achieve”.
And lastly from the world of tobacco control make-believe, the snus Tippex scandal. Pardon? While attending this year’s GFN, it was brought to my attention that during the deliberations over whether or not to lift the EU-wide snus ban back in 2012 before I joined the wacky-baccy world of tobacco harm reduction, the evidence in favour of snus was deliberately redacted.
For anybody unfamiliar with snus, it is a smokeless oral tobacco product manufactured in such a way as to avoid any of the ill effects (primarily mouth and oral cancers) associated with other types of smokeless tobacco products found especially on the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. Its potential to save lives across this part of the world is enormous as smokeless tobacco products are culturally more prevalent often amongst the poorest people who could not currently afford other safer nicotine products.
Use of snus in its Swedish homeland saw that country register the lowest smoking-related mortality in adult males anywhere in Europe, helped reduce Norwegian female smoking down to 1% while 15% of women there were using snus, and would have saved over 300,000 lives across the EU if it hadn’t been banned.
Clive Bates covered the story back in the day, but it’s worth revisiting just to remind everybody the lengths that THR opponents will go to in order to cover up the truth and deny access of potentially life-saving and life-changing nicotine products to millions of smokers wanting a way out.
In a nutshell, in 2003 the European Network for Smoking Prevention (ENSP) was asked by the EU Commission to write a report about Swedish snus. The job was contracted out to a Dutch consulting company who concluded that the snus ban ought to be lifted across the EU. But when ENSP received the document, the contents of which contradicted its own beliefs, the group decided to re-write the report. What they presented instead was a completely different conclusion: that snus is dangerous and causes oral cancer. But noticing they had missed a bit in their Stalinist airbrushing of the truth, they crudely Tippexed out the offending bits which I am reliably informed could still be read by holding it up to the light.
It was highly unlikely that any report would have swerved the EU away from a ban: too much egg would have needed to be wiped from too many faces. And could this happen again? Of course, except you wouldn’t need Tippex these days – just the delete button on MS Word would do the trick.
So as not to be accused of gloating, just a very quick mention that two UK hospitals in the west Midlands are opening up vape shops while our own dear Department of Health endorses safer nicotine products in its drive to become smoke-free by 2030. Not only that but the UK has almost two million fewer smokers than 2012 while use of e-cigarettes has risen by 70% since 2014.
And as an interesting aside, researchers at Bath University believe that smokers with mental health problems are not receiving the best kind of drugs to help them quit. This is an especially important area as smoking rates among those with mental health problems are far higher than the general smoking rates in the UK. But why give them more drugs on top of the ones they are no doubt already receiving? Why inculcate the idea that people struggling with anxiety and depression also have the ‘disease’ of smoking? How much guilt do you want to land on people? Why not encourage the use of safer nicotine products instead? Maybe allow people to take control of their physical health? Or maybe the researchers are a tad worried what their colleagues over at the University’s Tobacco Tactics department might say.
And now in the “be careful what you wish for” department, a paper from the Pediatrics wing of the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that young people might be put off smoking legal cannabis as unlike drug dealers, your local dope shop owner will want to see proof age. Spin that on its head and think about what happens if those young people who want to experiment with vaping find it increasingly hard to buy from legitimate outlets as draconian legislation wipes the products off the shelves. A good guess would be ‘hello, local vape street dealer who might well be offering other goodies as well’.
From the land that recently charged a black pregnant woman with manslaughter after she was shot, killing her baby, and which in some States allows guns to be taken into schools and churches, comes the story of a school in Nebraska which is randomly drug-testing kids for nicotine and then, if they test positive three times, banning them from extracurricular activities allowing them more time for a quick vape behind the bike sheds.
And finally…it became almost axiomatic in the UK that retiring Chief Constables and judges would raise the issue of drug law reform as they now had nothing to lose. In fairness, serving police officers are now saying the same thing. But here is Michael Møller, the outgoing Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva suggesting that the ban on engaging with the tobacco industry be revisited. It is interesting to note that on the same page of the SD document which outlaws any engagement with the tobacco industry, the WHO encourage engagement with the alcohol industry. Here is the note: The role of the tobacco industry in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,