ERS position statement – lies, but D-minus work even apart from that

posted by Carl V Phillips

I mentioned that the “European Respiratory Society statement on E-cigarettes and emerging products“, probably written or at least overseen by demonstrated anti-THR liar Christina Gratziou,  might be the stupidest anti-THR statement I have ever seen from a theoretically-respectable organization.  Apparently they are not actually respectable, as demonstrated by the statement looking like something you would expect from some sock-puppet group of high school kids.

It starts out,

The European Respiratory Society, ERS is opposed to the use of all tobacco and unapproved nicotine delivery products such as cigarettes, chewable tobacco, and emerging products that include electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), snus, dissolvable tobacco and waterpipes.

In response to the successful increase in tobacco-free policies, the tobacco industry has developed these new products, allowing consumers to obtain nicotine without the use of a cigarette.[1] In many cases, these new products are claimed and/or perceived to be ‘harm reducing’ or safe alternatives to conventional cigarettes; however, there is no reliable science to substantiate this claim.[2] Rather, available research suggests that these products pose a significant health risk to citizens, placing them at continued high risk for disease and negative health outcomes. [3,4]

I could just write about the simple falsehoods — the claim that the tobacco industry developed the products and there is no reliable science — but this blog is going to get awfully boring if we just keep finding people making such false statements and repeating that they are false, over and over.  We will respond to claims like that when writing formal challenges like our formal complaint about Ellen Hahn, and will inevitably mention them periodically.  But we will try to minimize writing post after post about simple falsehoods in non-scientific statements.

In this case, beyond the blatant false statements there are three interesting and somewhat subtle lies in this position statement that I will cover in three posts.

The first can be found in the “and” toward the end of the last sentence.  There is almost nothing that can be said about this list as a collective entity (as in “these products” in the next sentence) that would be true.  Even setting aside the inclusion of cigarettes in that list, which I will be charitable and assume was a typo, what appears on this list of “new” alternatives to cigarettes with “significant health risks”, brought to you by “the tobacco industry”?

  • “Chewable tobacco” (normally called chewing tobacco), which is probably the original tobacco product, far older than cigarettes, and poses no health risks that are large enough to measure for the forms popular in North America and to a lesser extent, Europe.
  • E-cigarettes, a clearly low-risk alternative to smoking that is quite different from using whole tobacco in many ways, and was entirely an indy development until very recently.
  • Snus, the Swedish word for oral snuff, a product that like chewing tobacco is prehistoric, has been quite popular throughout the modern era (more now than before), and has also not been found to cause measurable levels of risk; alternatively, this word is commonly used in casual conversation to refer specifically to Swedish style snuff, in which case is it not prehistoric, but merely centuries old, with all of the other descriptions remaining the same.
  • “Dissolvable tobacco” (presumably referring to tobacco in a dissolvable substrate — the tobacco does not dissolve) which is a new innovation and is generally believed to pose close to the same very low risk as similar smokeless tobacco products, though there are some possible differences.
  • Waterpipes, another centuries-old traditional product, though one that is a form of smoking, and thus may pose risks that are similar to those from cigarettes (many estimates put the risk a bit lower, but the anti-tobacco industry has taken to saying it is 50 0r 200 times worse than cigarettes).

I trust it is fairly obvious that no statement that tries to generalize about that list, beyond simple statements like “these are all ways of using nicotine and tobacco that many people like”, is bound to be a fail.

But this is not an accidental fail.  It is a new version of the conjunction lie that my colleagues and I documented in what I believe is the first study of anti-THR lies.   The simplest version of this anti-THR lie is to refer to “tobacco” as if that plant name refers to an exposure — a single exposure, no less — and then start quoting statistics about the risks from smoking as if they are relevant to other forms of tobacco use.

The particular version of it that was popular c.2004 was the claim, “smoking and smokeless tobacco cause 75% of oral cancer.”    This was actually a bastardization of the more defensible “smoking, drinking alcohol, and smokeless tobacco cause 75% of oral cancer.”  This was based on a single study or one dataset that concluded that smoking and drinking (alone) were responsible for 75% of oral cancer.  So, add something else to that list that does not seem to cause oral cancer, and the estimate is still 75%.  As in “smoking, drinking, and listening to Mozart cause 75% of oral cancer.”

So, for any list that includes a form of smoking alongside a several smokeless alternatives with no proven risks, it is possible to say that “these” apparently cause various risks and have not been shown to be less harmful than smoking.  (This is even more obviously so if we leave cigarettes on the list rather than assuming it was a typo.)  Obviously any such claim is a lie, meant to trick the reader into believing that the claim is true for everything on the list, when it is actually true of only a small subset of the items on the list.

Those anti-THR liars think that they are just soooo clever.

As a final note, it is now generally accepted that papilloma virus causes a large fraction of oral cancers.  It was actually fairly clear that sexual transmission accounted for a lot of oral cancers back when the 75% claim was originally made, and that 75% was not even close to accurate.  That is now the conventional wisdom.  (I never got around to publish a paper that pointed this out — my bad.)  If anyone is aware of any case where the anti-THR or anti-smoking or anti-alcohol activists explicitly admitted they were wrong about their adamant declarations that “their” product caused most oral cancer, I would love to see it.  I have never seen any such admission of error in spite of this clear disproof of what was once one of their favorite claims.

…to be continued…

4 responses to “ERS position statement – lies, but D-minus work even apart from that

  1. Pingback: ERS position statement – lies, but D-minus work even apart from that | vapeforlife

  2. Pingback: ERS position statement – lies, but D-minus work even apart from that | Tobacco Harm Reduction |

  3. Pingback: Lying via citations | Anti-THR Lie of the Day

  4. Pingback: The “do no harm” lie | Anti-THR Lie of the Day

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