Sunday Science Lesson: association vs. causation + knowing the difference between good news and bad

by Carl V Phillips

This article in JAMA, which shows an association between smoking and a cancer-causing HPV infection (oral infection with HPV-16), is not really about THR. So I will post it under my broader and underused “Sunday Science Lesson” series. There is a minor bit of anti-THR lying in it: They bundle in the smokeless tobacco users with the (10 times as many) smokers in their analyses, pretending that those exposures are similar. As a result, they refer to what is really smoking as “tobacco use” (and even worse, “nicotine use”) in the title, press release, and body of the article. But that is not my point today. Continue reading

ANTZ try to redefine “astroturf” to mean “anything they don’t like”

by Carl V Phillips

CASAA is amused, proud, and annoyed (but mostly amused) to be the topic of a new research paper. Of course, we have been mentioned in papers a dozen times before, not including in our own work, and are most proud of being mentioned as the sponsor of Igor Burstyn’s seminal paper. But never before were we the main subject of the study. Of course, the paper was written by ANTZ and so it should come as no surprise that its main claim is a serious lie.

The paper, by Jenine K Harris (Washington University in St. Louis), Sarah Moreland-Russell, PhD (WU), Bechara Choucair (Chicago Department of Public Health[*]), Raed Mansour (CDPH), Mackenzie Staub (WU), and Kendall Simmons (WU), published at Journal of Medical Internet Research, is actually a little bit interesting. Continue reading

Snus in Finland, a brief follow-up

by Carl V Phillips

A few days ago, I mentioned (buried in a longer analysis of another topic) Brad Rodu’s post that reported an estimate of the additional smoking in Finland caused by the EU snus ban. A recent news article (h/t SnusCentral; note that I have not been able to find a more complete source for the results that are reported) reports that personal importation of snus into Finland has increased remarkably in the last year. This is seriously good news for THR in more ways than one. Continue reading

Random observations about e-cigarette policy, terminology, and relationships

by Carl V Phillips

Four items, related primarily because they resulted from my observations over the last few days, though there is an underlying theme to be found.

Item 1: Many of you have no doubt seen this story that appeared in Business Week and various other publications via the Bloomberg feed. At the Global Tobacco Networking Forum, Reynolds CEO Susan Cameron made clear that a much-criticized line in the Reynolds comment on the FDA proposed regulation of e-cigarettes had not been misinterpreted.  The line, which basically called for the banning of open-system e-cigarettes, might have been a trial balloon, but it was certainly not a gaffe. Cameron made clear Reynolds’s support for that position. Continue reading

CDC lying about e-cigarettes again (outsource)

by Carl V Phillips

No time for new analyses here for a few days. You are probably still trying to catch up on the recent deluge anyway. (If you really miss me, you can read the comment I submitted to BMC Public Health about Popova and Ling, based on the previous post.)

In the meantime, I will outsource. Please go read Brad Rodu’s assessment of the latest nonsense and double-talk from CDC.

What is peer review really? (part 4 — a case study)

by Carl V. Phillips

[Update: I have submitted a comment to BMC Public Health that is based on this post. My copy of it can be viewed here.]

[Update: The comment has now been accepted by the journal and appears, attached to the original article, here.]

I interrupt the flow of this series, in which I am currently laying out some common myths about journal peer-review, to provide a motivational case study that makes many points better than any abstract principles can. As I discussed in the previous post, which built on what Clive Bates had already written, a newly published article by Popova and Ling was unethical and misleading, fraught with anti-THR lies. But here is the good news: It was published in a Biomed Central (BMC)  journal. While BMC still basically practices the 20th-century version of peer-review that I have pointed out to be a failure, they do not keep it an anonymous black-box like most journals do. (This is a huge improvement over the standard health science practice — enough so that when I started a journal, I chose to do it at BMC — though still far short of other fields’ real peer review, as I have discussed previously in this series.) Thus, we can review not only the paper, but the “peer-reviews” that caused it to be published. Continue reading

New public health research: lying to people can affect them (as if they didn’t already know)

by Carl V Phillips

A new paper in the normally more-respectable BMC Public Health, by never-respectable ANTZ at the University of California (San Francisco) reports research that mostly showed that, if people were given disinformation claiming (nonexistent) health effects from smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, accompanied by gory pictures, then they will be tricked into to thinking the risk was higher. Surprise!

Well, of course, it is no surprise that people can be tricked and no surprise that UCSF “researchers” would conduct such unethical research. It is rather more of a surprise that the non-ANTZ BMC Public Health would publish it and that an ethics committee would allow it to be done. Ok, maybe not the latter — the ethics committees are pretty much in the pocket of public health. That committee at UCSF probably would never allow, say, Farsalinos’s survey of e-cigarette users, and would trump up some claim that it was a threat to the study subjects, whereas they allowed serial liars Lucy Popova and Pamela M Ling a free hand to tell people they might as well smoke.

Anyway, Clive Bates was first off the block in responding to this travesty, and he covered the breadth of it well, so I am not going to reinvent the wheel here.  Go read what he wrote first. Then come back to this, wherein I go deeper into a few specific points. Continue reading

Why clinical trials are a bad study method for tobacco harm reduction

Following my previous post and my comments regarding a current ill-advised project proposal, I have been asked to further explain why randomized trials are not a useful method for studying THR. I did a far from complete job explaining that point in the previous post because the point was limited to a few paragraphs at the end of a discussion of the public health science mindset. So let me try to remedy that today. Continue reading