A really good day for THR (navel gazing)

by Carl V. Phillips

I am assuming that there is no one reading this who did not already see yesterday’s post, so I will not even include a link.  The release of Igor Burstyn’s paper was huge for THR, making clear that the apparent risk from vaping is not only lower than the anti-THR liars are trying to portray it, but probably even lower than those of us who are interested in the truth and familiar with the science thought.

On the same day, we won a victory in the fight against inappropriate e-cigarette bans and learned of an amazing success story about THR in a clinical setting (I am seeking permission to report that story here).  Small scale in comparison to the study, I realize, but it makes for a good day.  And at the even smaller scale and purely personal level, first thing yesterday, before writing the blog post and the release of the study, I did what turned out to be great interview on talk radio.

It all added up to me thinking, “this is one of the best days in the history of THR”.  Not top five, but I found I had a hard time pushing it out of the top ten.  As you might expect, that got me thinking about what other days should appear on such a list.

The top few on the list definitely include the release of the seminal Rodu and Cole paper (Nature, 1994) that was the first major science and ethical statement in favor of THR, and when Judge Leon prevented the US FDA from banning e-cigarettes here in 2009.  I am also inclined (though obviously biased) to include up there the appearance of TobaccoHarmReduction.org, published by my research shop at University of Alberta in 2006 and updated for a few years after that; we got more press about that in Canada than “World No Tobacco Day” (the day we chose to release it) did, and the website is the source of a huge amount of the current popular wisdom about THR, even among many people who got here later and have never heard of it.  (Like the 1994 paper, it is still out there but quite dated now, and yet still is often read — though I would recommend against citing it for any purposes other than historical analysis.)  I am also inclined (and obviously biased) to include the creation of CASAA near the top.

At that point, I decided to crowdsource it.  Any thoughts from biases other than my own?  What are the best moments?  It definitely does not have to be an identifiable day, but I am looking for the relatively concrete and not just general phenomena (i.e., the gradual appearance of e-cigarettes on the market does not count, nor the gradual success of THR in Sweden).

It would be great to include the introduction of specific THR products into particular markets, which does tend to involve a clear moment in time, but sadly most of those efforts flopped (maybe Camel Snus?).  One or more of the moves by big companies into e-cigarettes might prove important, but it is hard to tell now, and for similar reasons hard to be sure something like the founding of NJOY should make the list; in such cases, it is tough to say that something really made the world different, rather than merely being a matter of who edged out competitors that would have been almost exactly the same.

No political victory compares to 2009, but what are the candidates for the list? Defeating the proposed New York ban?  The original MHRA decision to allow THR to be an “indication” for use of a product would surly be high on the list, but for what has come later that seems to make that part of a larger picture that does more harm than good — so include it?  The granting to Sweden of an exception to the anti-health EU snus ban comes to mind, but since Sweden would presumably not have joined the EU without it, it does not seem to count.

What other research publications?  It is really hard to identify many individual publications that had much of an impact.  Rodu’s book from the 1990s or others by him?  There are a few candidates about smokeless tobacco.  The nascent research on e-cigarettes does not seem to offer candidates — there are good and useful studies, but no game changers other than yesterday’s.  I am partial to a few of my other publications, but I can’t say they made much of a splash at the time; my 2006 calculation about comparative risks is quoted constantly without people knowing they are doing so (“99% less harmful”), but it is hard to identify any “moment” for that one

Prominent policy opinion statements?  The first Royal College of Physicians report on the topic is a clear candidate.  (But please do not suggestion Clearing the Smoke — bleah!)  Was there an identifiable moment for Bates launching his backing of THR (I honestly forget — getting old)?  I can’t think of any clear “moment” for Godshall or Stimson, but maybe there was one.  (All three of you read this, so I demand answers!! ;-)  IHRA embraced THR for about five minutes, but we subsequently lost that fight, so no credit there.

So that is my brainstorm.  Should be enough to get some thoughts flowing.  Your turn.

14 responses to “A really good day for THR (navel gazing)

  1. Hmm … Some possible candidates, although some of these would be more appropriate for a Top 25 list

    - Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoes Senator Corbett’s bill to ban e-cigarette sales to adults
    - Illinois committee refuses to pass ban on e-cigarette sales to adults
    - Hawaii Senate kills a bill to tax e-cigarettes at 90%
    - 150+ vapers show up at Oklahoma House to defeat RJR tax bill
    - Muncie, Indiana removes e-cigarettes from smoke-free ordinance

    Okay, the last one isn’t a Top 25 candidate, but it was the first campaign I was intimately involved with for CASAA and I’m proud of it.

    Ohh, I forgot one more.

    - Gregory Conley delivers a speech to the FDA, during which he looks CFTFK’s Matt Myers right in the eyes every time he says the words “liar” or “extremist.”

    • Carl V Phillips

      Thanks. California is a candidate for the top 10, I think. The others are probably further down, as you say. What about the fight in New York (before my time in the US battles)?

  2. I think we’re starting to turn the corner Carl.

  3. Pingback: Breaking News: New study shows no risk from e-cigarette contaminants | Anti-THR Lies and related topics

  4. And the report we received from the service that posted the press release tells us it has had over 3,000 views.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Oh, yeah, I should have mentioned that part of what made yesterday such a good day was that in a matter of hours: >10K views of the post here, >10K views of the press release at the CASAA blog, 4K Facebook shares, hundreds of tweets, and about 1K clicking through reading the paper. That is already more than read a typical tobacco control paper! And as an added delight CASAA has been in the news quite a few times this week, though I suppose most of those do not count for yesterday. Turning the corner indeed.

  5. Julie Woessner

    For me personally, I don’t think anything will top Judge Leon’s ruling in January of 2010. For those of us who were vaping back in 2009, we were living under what felt like a siege mentality. Shipments were being confiscated, and people were preparing for the worst by stockpiling and preparing to go black market.

    I remember when the ruling came out, I felt such a sense of relief and optimism–and incredible gratitude to Judge Leon who, although he may not know it, probably saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives with that ruling.

    And, like Greg, my second top THR moment is being mentioned not because it’s truly No. 2 but because I was so personally involved–the decision in Illinois in 2010 not to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to adults. It was so empowering to realize that when vapers stood up for their rights and joined together, our voice was loud and impossible to ignore. More than 3 years later, I STILL get goosebumps thinking about that extraordinary day where legislators actually listened and did the right thing.

    While there are many “wins” for THR, I think that each success builds on the foundation laid by the previous ones . . . and yesterday was certainly a huge success by any measure.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Implicit friendly amendment accepted: Not clear whether to call the Leon ruling 2009 (the stay and the hearings) or 2010 (the ruling). Illinois is coming up the list — empowerment is certainly a feature of an event that counts.

  6. Eric Manktelow

    For me in the UK it would be MEP Anna Soubry dragged across broken glass and hot coals by the Parliament oversight scrutiny committee (what will come of it I don’t know but hopefully her head on a spike outside the tower of London!)
    I’m also hoping that Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos study when done will be another blow to the naysayers and head in the sand types.
    FInally, the day that a couple of hundred EU vapers travelled to the centre of EU “democracy” in Brussels with the E-cigs save life campaign and popped 2000 black balloons, one for every life lost in the EU a day if E-cigs are medicalised.
    Ok they didn’t swing the EU TPD vote but they did “convert” a few MEPs to our cause and made a hell of a noise! :)

  7. The day in September 2007 when Oliver Kershaw founded ECF.

  8. Pingback: A really good day for THR (navel gazing) re-bloged on Vaper Train

  9. Just found this site. Relatively new to vaping and now enjoined in the fight against the nay-sayers and liars who are trying to get e-cigs banned or treated like tobacco cigs. I was wondering whether Harm Reduction International is a valid organisation that might support THR? They suggest that tobacco is within their scope but currently seem to suggest only NRTs as the harm reduction alternatives. Are they another organisation that has been “seized” by tobacco control and/or big Pharma?

    • Carl V Phillips

      A few of us worked hard to try to get IHRA (this was back before they changes their name to HRI) to adopt THR as part of their portfolio. There was some interest. A few people recognized that it was mutually beneficial (it associates their other issues with the mainstream acceptability and non-marginalization of THR; it associates THR with their more radical policies that are accepted by the very people who attack THR), but they did not buy it. The last hurrah for that was me delivering a plenary talk at the Beirut annual meeting in 2011. It was enormously well-received. It was reviewed by someone who had been following this topic for years as the best talk on THR ever delivered (I just have to throw that in :-). But those pulling the strings quietly (which is to say, without explaining themselves) refused to budge on it.

      Which brings up the question of why. I am not entirely sure, I and I have literally never heard an explanation offered. Capitulating to some powerful interest, as you suggest? Quite possibly. Not tobacco control in this case, pretty clearly. Pharma is conceivable, but just does not seem all that likely. It could have been national governments who they are trying to curry favor with, which possibly means the WHO which controls the health units of a lot of poor or small countries’ governments. (Which in some sense means that perhaps it is tobacco control, though sort of an odd corner of that — not why one might usually mean.)

  10. Oh – and on my top 10 list is 8th Oct 2013, when the European Parliament voted against regulating e-cigs as medicines. (Counteracted by a rather bad day when they voted through the revised Amendment 18.)

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