May 29th, 2021

WHO has gone rogue on tobacco policy - millions at risk from tired dogma and a refusal to grasp innovation

WHO has a self-defeating approach to the global burden of tobacco-related death and disease

A message for World No Tobacco Day, 31 May 2021

If you just want to go straight to our unforgiving and detailed letter to WHO – it is here.

>> read the full post

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April 1st, 2021

Holding the Bloomberg anti-vaping propaganda complex to account

An investigative report criticising Bloomberg’s anti-vaping stance draws a petulant response – we review the case

Bloomberg scrutinised. Unusually, a journalist decided to take a sceptical look at Bloomberg Philanthropies and its many proxies and the impact of their war against vaping.  The result is an excellent must-read piece by Mark Gunther (@MarcGunther) in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: Bloomberg’s Millions Funded an Effective Campaign Against Vaping. Could It Do More Harm Than Good? (web archive) (23 March 2021).

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.
>> read the full post

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January 27th, 2021

Will the Netherlands become the next casually negligent ally of the cigarette trade? Twenty-four experts advise a rethink

So let’s make the e-cigs less appealing and see what happens… what could possibly go wrong?

The Netherlands is proposing to ban e-cigarette flavours – what could possibly go wrong?

The government of the Netherlands,  led by Paul Blokhuis, State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, is in imminent danger of fooling itself into becoming an unwitting ally of the cigarette trade.  By taking measures to make vaping less attractive (notably by proposing a ban on all non-tobacco flavours for e-cigarettes), it threatens to degrade the appeal of a low-risk rival to cigarettes, provide regulatory protection to the cigarette trade, prolong smoking, obstruct quitting, and add to the burden of disease and death. All this in the name of protecting youth, while managing to harm both adults and adolescents. Quite a feat for any politician.

The problem is hubris – believing that the world responds to regulation in the way the regulator thinks it should. Experience suggests foreseeable perverse consequences will be the result of the ill-conceived prohibitions of much safer alternatives to smoking, including flavoured e-cigarettes.

It really isn’t difficult to understand why and how this would happen – I can only assume the State Secretary received very poor advice, which would not be unusual in this field.  Nevertheless, twenty-four international experts have set out the arguments and evidence in detail in a submission to the Dutch government, hoping to spare Mr Blokhuis later embarrassment and, even more importantly, to avoid yet more death and disease from smoking in the Netherlands.  It should also be a wake-up call to like-minded politicians and naive policymakers in the United States, European Union, and the World Health Organisation who continue to fail to grasp the impact of low-risk products in the real world.

The case is set out in 30-page submission to a Dutch government consultation on the measure.  The relevant documents are:

To provide a more digestible version of the submission, I have included below the twelve sections of the summary below with a link to the corresponding twelve sections with more detail and references.

>> read the full post

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October 21st, 2020

Twenty reasons to be sceptical about rules lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes - and what to do instead

Well, that rather depends on how you ask the question

To mark the annual US Food Drug and Law Institute Tobacco and Nicotine Products Regulation and Policy Conference (21-23 Oct), where FDA traditionally gives an update on its plans for nicotine regulation, I thought it worth noting that the centrepiece of its comprehensive strategy for nicotine seems to have disappeared.   This would be a proposed rule lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes with a view to making them sub-addictive – persuading adults to quit and adolescents to never start.  The trouble is that consumers, markets, producers, and criminal networks have a way of thwarting such bold measures.

Not in the work plan. The US Federal government periodically sets out its overall regulatory programme (the “Unified Agenda“).  For Spring 2020, the Health and Human Services / FDA list (here) continues to show the absence of effort on rule-making that would reduce nicotine concentrations in cigarettes to sub-addictive levels. This disappeared from the list last year.

The centrepiece of a comprehensive strategy. In July 2017, this measure was announced as the centrepiece of FDA’s strategy for tobacco/nicotine – a multi-year roadmap.  It seems to have run out of road in less than three years, perhaps reaching a dead end with the departure of Scott Gottlieb – its most visible backer (speech, July 2017). It caused quite an earthquake at the time and precipitated a sell-off in tobacco stocks that they have not so far recovered from.

I have always been sceptical about this measure.   Here are twenty reasons to be sceptical. >> read the full post

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October 21st, 2020

Response to the extremely poor European Commission SCHEER preliminary opinion on e-cigarettes

….and another thing.


Further to my 30 Sept blog: European Commission SCHEER scientific opinion on e-cigarettes – a guide for policymakers.

I have made a short submission to the consultation on the European Commission SCHEER Committee preliminary opinion on e-cigarettes.  You can respond to the consultation on this very poor scientific assessment here, where you can find all relevant documentation.  The closing date is just before midnight CET, Monday 26 October 2020. All contributions are helpful, but keep it polite, objective and on the subject – the science of e-cigarettes – and most importantly, in your own words.

In my view, the problems with the report are too serious and fundamental to justify a line-by-line and paper-by-paper incremental review.  I set out the fundamental problems on my 30 September blog:  European Commission SCHEER scientific opinion on e-cigarettes – a guide for policymakers.  So rather than pretend that this dreadful report can be easily fixed with a few more references and some different takes on the evidence, I have reiterated the main themes of that blog in the “Summary” box of the consultation submission form and provided the blog as a link and upload.  I’ve no idea whether they will give this the slightest attention, but they should, because I’ll back when they’ve done the final report.

Update 26 Oct 2020. It’s the closing date and I’ve made an additional submission.

Here’s my response: >> read the full post

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