Author Archives: Carl V Phillips

Quick outsources to Rodu and Grant

by Carl V Phillips

I will resume several more posts about my take on the FDA CTP shortly.  In the meantime…

Read this post by Brad Rodu.  It offers some great additional insight about the failings of the Dutra-Glantz paper that claimed to find a gateway effect from e-cigarettes to smoking. Continue reading

FDA reveals its views on ecigs in new publication

by Carl V. Phillips

The new special issue of the “journal”, Tobacco Control, has already been cited as a comprehensive review of what is known about e-cigarettes.  It is very much not that.  A glance at the table of contents makes this clear (hint: if a collection does not include among its authors any of the leading experts, it probably is not a comprehensive review) and further reading confirms it.  What it is, however, is something far more useful than that, and far more troubling:  It is effectively a position statement by the U.S. FDA, the institutional author of all the papers, about how they feel about e-cigarettes. Continue reading

Sunday scientist lesson: The extra effort required for ethical study of oppressed people

by Carl V Phillips

We are very dependent on the ethics of some groups in society.  Trade contracts exist, and governments exist to enforce them and other regulations, because we assume that many actors would skew transactions to their own benefit, or default on their promises completely.  The failure to impose such regulations on bankers, as if they could be trusted, has caused a bit of trouble.  By contrast, we depend on the assumption that people will act ethically within their family.

We tend to trust scholarly researchers to show the ethical non-self-centeredness we assume in families.  Readers of this blog know how well that works in public health science, and how much worse still it is in for “public health” (the extremist political faction that masquerades as a science).  Anyone who thinks the peer review process solves this problem knows little about how badly peer review works, or is pretending to not know, taking advantage of those who do not know.

Outside of public health, things work rather better.  Continue reading

Why using the term “ENDS” for e-cigarettes is unwise and unethical

by Carl V Phillips

I have previously pointed out that the use of the term “ENDS” (electronic nicotine delivery system) as a substitute for “e-cigarette” is a mistake for THR supporters and an unethical act for scholars.  Most recently I did so in the exchange about the new Nutt paper mentioned here.  But the questions that ensue when I state this make it apparent that I need to write down a more complete exposition of the point.  It is apparently very far from obvious to many readers (which I have to say, I find a bit dismaying; on the other hand, the fact that it is not obvious is one of the reasons it is so insidious). Continue reading

Please don’t cite the new Nutt et al. paper as evidence for tobacco harm reduction

by Carl V Phillips

Some of you may have seen this new paper by Nutt et al. that purports to show the comparative costs imposed by various tobacco products.  There might be some temptation to cite it as evidence of the benefits of switching from smoking to smoke-free alternatives.  But I urge you not to do that for the reasons explained below. Continue reading

New French representative survey: 1% of the population has quit smoking thanks to e-cigarettes

by Carl V Phillips

Most of the time when you see survey results about e-cigarettes, they are based on a self-selected convenience sample.  That is, a call to participate is sent out to people who might be interested (convenience) and only those who are particularly inspired do so (self-selection).  This describes the first survey of e-cigarette users ever published (by me and my colleagues), the CASAA surveys, and several other surveys that are widely discussed in the e-cigarette community. The problem with these is that while you can learn a lot from them, drilling down into the stories of successful and dedicated switchers, they completely fail to answer some questions.  In particular, they are often incorrectly cited to make statistical claims that cannot be supported by this type of survey (e.g., what portion of e-cigarette users are still smoking also).  You cannot answer this because it might be (indeed, probably is) that the most dedicated vapers, who have given up smoking entirely, are far more likely to answer.  Similarly, you cannot infer much about that from testimonials or social media, which represent a very self-selected tiny fraction of the population.  The only way to get numbers like that is to start with a representative sample of the whole population of vapers (i.e., everyone in the population is equally likely to be chosen to participate). For obvious reasons it is not possible to create a list of all vapers, so to get to them you need a representative sample of the whole population that is big enough (the expensive part) to get a lot of vapers.  This also has the advantage that you can estimate what portion of the population is vaping.  There has been relatively little of this to date.  One new addition is this survey from France. (The linked document is in the original French, which I cannot read.  I am working and quoting from a third-party translation that I believe is high quality. But anyone who reads the original and has a different opinion about any of the translation, please note it in the comments.) The survey is thanks to Observatoire Français des Drogues et des Toxicomanies (OFDT; French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction). Continue reading

More anti-THR junk science from UCSF, the new Karolinska

by Carl V Phillips

As I alluded to yesterday, there is another bit of anti-ecig junk science out today.  Once again, it is from the Glantz shop at UCSF.  Glantz did not put his name on this paper (presumably to create the illusion among the naive that this is not all part of a single organized disinformation campaign), but that hardly matters.

The little study (published as a “research letter”) followed a small group of smokers for one year, and compared quit rates for those who had recently tried an e-cigarette at the baseline survey and those who had not.  They found that those in the former group had a slightly lower abstinence from smoking at followup.  Clive Bates does a good job of pointing out how this thin result led to overblown conclusions, and then UCSF created a misleading press release, and this tricked the press into reporting out-and-out falsehoods.  Do read Clive’s post for more — there is no reason for me to repeat it here.  (If the NYT picks up the story, I might respond to that, but I am not inclined to spend any effort responding to random stories from unsophisticated news sources.) Continue reading

New York Times goes “more at 11:00″ with story on ecigs and poisoning

by Carl V Phillips

Apparently the nation’s Paper of Record (*cough*) has decided that going tabloid is a better business model.  Or perhaps even better is to go full local-television-news, with its cut-ins during prime-time programming:  “Six common household items that are planning to kill you tomorrow. We’ll tell you which ones tonight at 11:00.”

The story is part of what they are now calling their series about e-cigarettes, which has seen about story per week for a month — see in particular my analysis of this one.  Hey, better late than never getting to one of the major stories of 2012.  Maybe it took until now for the powers that be to tell them how they were supposed to be spinning it.

The story by Matt Richtel has the tabloid headline “Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes”.  The first sentence reads, “this article is intended to be a silly sensationalistic hatchet job, dictated to us by the tobacco control industry.” Continue reading