It is first-class public-interest journalism, with some hard messages for Bloomberg but plenty of balancing comment too.
The response. The interesting thing is that this drew a joint response from Kelly Henning of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Robin Koval of the Truth Initiative. See Vaping and Philanthropy: Debating Strategies That Work (web archive). There is a substrate of anger and panic in the letter that suggests that Gunther hit a raw nerve.
What is unusual about this letter is that Henning, Myers and Koval actually try to defend their positions. Normally, they don’t defend their positions, they just assert them with millions of dollars of amplification. It offers a rare opportunity to provide a critique of their stance. So I have taken their response letter, broken it down into 15 propositions, and provided a response to each. Each section starts with a quote from the letter pulled out in a quote box in bold dark-blue. The letter is analysed in its entirety. Continue reading “Holding the Bloomberg anti-vaping propaganda complex to account”
The commentary claims to show the “invalidity” of the statements made by Public Health England (PHE) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) regarding the relative risk of vaping and smoking – in short that vaping is likely to be at least 95% lower risk than smoking. As this is an important harm-reduction risk communication, it is worth asking: how valid is this critique?
I thought this might be a better critique than it actually is. But somewhat to my surprise, it is very poor indeed.
At best, the authors try to show the absolute risk of vaping is not zero and that some harm is plausible. In doing so, they are refuting a claim that neither PHE or RCP make and challenging an argument not used by anyone sensible in tobacco harm reduction. However, not a single word of their paper addresses the supposed foundation of their critique – that PHE/RCP are wrong and the risks of vaping are likely to exceed five per cent of those of smoking. As well as a number of baseless assertions that are not even relevant to the “at least 95 per cent lower” relative risk claim (gateway effects, smoking cessation efficacy and second-hand aerosol exposure), there is just nothing in the paper about the relativemagnitude of smoking and vaping risks. No analysis, no data, no evidence – nothing that discusses relative risk and why PHE/RCP are supposedly wrong. Niente. Nada. Rien. Nichts. Nothing.
I just filed a submission with the Philippines House of Representatives for its Joint Trade & Health Industry Committee hearings on e-cigarettes, to be held 10 December.
The full submission (PDF) starts with an introductory Q&A and then goes on to provide more detail about specific issues with some backup material. I thought the 15 questions and answers might be of more general interest, so I have reproduced it below.
I did a Twitter chat with the Campaign for Safer Alternatives on the typical objections raised to tobacco harm reduction. For those interested in the responses but who missed the live chat or got as confused as I did in trying to follow threaded answers, here is the chat as it unfolded over 15 questions with everything in the right order.
Vaping and other smoke-free products have the potential to reduce the enormous harm of smoked tobacco products. The stakes of getting policy responses to smoke-free products wrong are high, especially if such restrictions stop millions of the world’s smokers accessing safer alternatives. It is disappointing that in its latest tobacco report, WHO clings to outdated orthodoxy when it could embrace innovation. Equating smoke-free products with cigarettes only serves to protect the stranglehold of the cigarette trade on the world’s nicotine users and will nullify the potential of modern tobacco harm reduction strategies.
When senior officials claim that the is an epidemic of teenage vaping or nicotine addiction, what do they actually mean and does the claim makes sense? Most vaping is infrequent, and regular use is concentrated among smokers, where is may be benficial.
I have been following FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Twitter and was alarmed at the threat he issued to vapers and the vaping industry in response to recent trends in US adolescent vaping.
If this is his analysis, @SGottliebFDA hasn’t tried hard enough to understand what is – and is not – a material risk in these youth vaping numbers. Yet he appears willing to put millions of adult lives at risk by imposing regulatory overkill on a life-saving product for smokers. https://t.co/HB64pgtjRJ
I disagree with the FDA’s analysis of what is happening with adolescent vaping and also what should be done about it. So I need to put some flesh on the tweet above and examine some of FDA’s claims in more depth. Please dip to these talking points… it’s a long blog but I hope at least some of it will be illuminating.
Dr Lynne Dawkins of London South Bank University gives her terrific myth-busting lecture on e-cigarettes – see the YouTube video above. Here are the slides (Slideshare) and here below is Lynne’s summary of the key points.
Though short, it is basically right and sufficient: no-one is trying to live forever; everyone is trying to enjoy the life they have; some people like the drug nicotine or don’t want to quit enough to stop using it; smokers die earlier because of smoke; vaping avoids the smoke problem and does not appear to create new material problems; so it follows that vaping should not be illegal. In fact, it should be encouraged. It really is that simple.
The dissenting reports prompt me to raise the issue of simplicity versus sophistry in the debate over tobacco harm reduction. This has bugged me for years. Vaping and tobacco harm reduction is basically simple. The arguments raised against it by anti-vaping opponents are laden with sophistry.
This blog looks at ten forms of sophistry used by anti-vaping activists to fabricate and fuel faux controversy. It is longer than I would like, but the subject is far from exhausted. Please dip in.