I had an excellent conversation with Ethan Nadelmann, the founder of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance for his outstanding Psychoactive podcast series about all aspects of drugs and drugs policy, which I highly recommend.
In this episode, “The E-cigarette revolution”, we covered vaping, nicotine, harm reduction – science, policy, politics and controversy – with Ethan as host putting the challenging questions. Listen via your usual podcast provider (search on Psychoactive)… or via these links.
This session from a California tobacco control conference was circulated on Twitter and caught my eye. To me, it summarises a lot that is wrong with the anti-nicotine crusade and also with the behaviour of public servants and public health professionals in this field. Here was my reaction on twitter, but I decided to go further…
Okay, here are some thoughts on ‘Brexit’ (British exit from the European Union), which is the subject of a UK referendum to be held on 23 June 2016. I’ve added a discussion on implications for vaping and the TPD.
My view… there is a lot to dislike about the EU: it can be unaccountable, incompetent, over-reaching, arrogant, lawless, captured and dishonest. The more you have to do with it, as we saw recently with the EU Tobacco Products Directive, the more appalling it looks. We witnessed the unedifying spectacle of the amateurish drafting of incompetent but irreversible legislation that will affect millions with no apparent concern for science or evidence while blatantly disregarding even the modest procedural requirements of the EU treaties to consult, prepare impact assessments and minimise burdens. Is anyone accountable? If everyone is, no-one is.
So why am I in favour of the UK remaining in the EU?
I recently posted on Public health snoopers detect vapour aerosol at vape conference and fake a particulates scare. I mentioned that I thought the subterfuge involved was unethical and contemptuous, but didn’t really explain why. My main point in that post was to focus on why this was bad science and why there was no basis to justify a policy recommendation to ban vaping wherever smoking is banned. Also, I mostly had a hostile instinctive reaction about it, rather than a fully worked through perspective worth sharing.
I’ve now had an opportunity to reflect on it more carefully. This is partly because I was contacted by a senior figure at the university (someone I respect) pointing out that the study been assessed against a flowchart encoding USDHHS definitions and regulations, and that they had concluded there was no human subjects aspect of this study. Without a human subject dimension, there is no requirement to seek an approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB), a committee that governs the ethical acceptability of research.
Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University, a co-author of the Million Women study who worked closely with Sir Richard Doll, is also the scientist who first calculated how many people this century will die from tobacco-induced cancers. “We have about 30 million new smokers a year in the world. On present patterns, most of them are not going to stop, and if they don’t stop, and if half of them die from it, then that means more than 10 million a year will die – that’s 100 million a decade in the second half of the century,” said Professor Peto.
“So this century we’re going to see something like a billion deaths from smoking if we carry on as we are.
Professor Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney has used his BMJ blog platform to mount a quite personalised attack on my views on e-cigarettes drawing bizarre conclusions from imagined inconsistencies in statements I made about completely different things separated by 15 years and a lot of change. I’ve submitted a comment to the BMJ, but for all I know it will be held in moderation for days while the blog is circulating freely. So here is a copy of my attempt at a dignified response. Continue reading “Response to Professor Chapman’s blog about my views on e-cigarettes”
In a recent column, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera invited Matt Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, to change direction and lead a campaign to exploit the public health potential of e-cigarettes by finding a better form of regulation than that in preparation at the FDA. In a response letter to the NYT, Matt declined this genuine and flattering invitation. Here I take a look at the exchange and then suggest 10 ways Matt Myers’ response letter could be improved. Continue reading “10 ways to improve Matt Myers’ letter to the New York Times”
Public Health England recently published some excellent video commentaries on vaping and e-cigarettes by genuinely thoughtful and engaged public health experts – I have collected them here. These are intended for an English audience, but they deserve a much wider airing because they show what public health could be like if it actually approached the subject with an open and enquiring mind, regard for evidence and an attitude of humility and empathy.