posted by Carl V Phillips
After two weeks and many meetings, I have a lot I want to debrief here and at EP-ology. But right now I face a long flight and accumulated exhaustion, so a simple post to fill the gap — tempting fate by criticizing the US government just before arriving at immigration.
Starting to smoke has immediate effects on oxygen delivery and lung function, and some upper airway effects do not require much accumulated damage. “Greatly”? Well that is perhaps a bit strong, but it does not have a precise meaning, so just call it typical advertising hype.
However, smokeless tobacco use has no such immediate effects. This is obviously true since it is not clear whether it has any serious health effects ever. This is not to say that a child ought to be free to decide to use any of these products. But since — as is the message of the original post — “children” (meaning c.17-year-olds, though the word choice is clearly intended to evoke images of 10-year-olds) are using tobacco products, there are numerous benefits from choosing smokeless rather than smoking. Telling them that they might as well smoke is no better than directing that lie at adults.
In general, any use of the term “tobacco” to refer to an exposure is wrong. Tobacco is the name of a plant. It does not describe any particular exposure and indeed, there are several potentially health-affecting exposures to tobacco that are quite different from one another. It is basically like saying “poplar trees instantly cause your health to decline greatly” — there are ways in which this is true, but it is pretty obviously a dumb thing to say without actually specifying the exposure.
Moreover, many (perhaps most) uses of the term “tobacco” to describe an exposure are not just wrong, but are lies. They are intended to make the reader to falsely believe that (possibly true) statements about the effects of smoking apply equally to THR products. The above statement is pretty clearly an example of that. After all, it does not take any more effort to type “smoking” than “tobacco”. (Yes, the term “smoking” is not technically limited to cigarette smoking. But with absent any modifiers, that is the understood meaning, and that is a useful meaning. That contrasts clearly with use of “tobacco”.)
It is a simple point, but no one is more in need of remedial lessons than the high school intern who writes the embarrassing @FDATobacco twitter feed.