As if to prove my point…

by Carl V Phillips

In the last post, I warned against THR-vs-THR sniping, in which aficionados — or more likely merchants — of one THR product denigrate other good THR products.  Since posting that, I observed various know-nothing remarks about smokeless tobacco by e-cigarette users (many in response to a CASAA tweet about smokeless).  Perhaps it was no more than usual, but I was primed to notice them.

Honest ignorance (and that is what that almost always is at the consumer level) can be cured.  Not-so-honest non-ignorant marketing ploys are a different story. As if to prove my point, the day after my post Kind Consumer (who clearly does not take the time to read this blog) launched an anti-ecig propaganda campaign.

For those who do not know, Kind Consumer is the company that developed the non-electronic e-cigarette variation that BAT purchased the rights to and plans to sell with medicines approval (that is, it will be approved by the UK’s MHRA as a substitute for smoking; note that FDA and other similar regulators do not have such a designation).  The current trade name for the product (to explain the reference in the threads reprinted below) is Voke.  As far as I can tell, this is the only marketable product that Kind Consumer has, so the suggestions in those threads that BAT should be blamed for this propaganda do have an element of fairness (even though they already sell a current-generation e-cigarette, trade name Vype).

And, yes, I referred to the non-electronic Voke as an “e-cigarette”.  I think it is a safe bet that the widely-accepted name will stick for new variants that are not actually “e”.  So the joke is kind of on them.

Sorry for the multiple-chop and not-quite-aligned-paste, but I am trying to get the highlights (and am dealing with the limits of my graphics skills).  You can find the full threads (assuming Kind Consumer does not have the sense to delete their posts) here and here.

KindConsumer1 KindConsumer2 KindConsumer2



The humor of the suggested flavors is the highlight, but I think the summation appears in my comment (the penultimate one, not the snarky one that follows).

Also it is worth noting that even as some commentators criticized Kind Consumer for launching an anti-THR campaign, they still threw in a bit of THR-vs-THR themselves.  For the record, the evidence does not show that e-cigarettes are “safer than tobacco” — they are safer than smoking (by a lot).  They are about the same as smokeless tobacco (and, as I have noted repeatedly, there is no evidence at all that allows comparisons among smoke-free products, though if I had to wager I would guess that e-cigarettes are a bit more hazardous than smokeless tobacco).

17 responses to “As if to prove my point…

  1. You said “For the record, the evidence does not show that e-cigarettes are “safer than tobacco” — they are safer than smoking (by a lot). ”

    just to point out that the twitter threads that you have used are mainly comprised of a UK based group.

    In the UK, there is virtually NO smokeless tobacco available and so the words ‘tobacco’ and ‘smoking’ are taken to mean the same thing in a UK based context.

    • Carl V Phillips

      I understand. But in an international medium it is important to be careful, because in a few places (like here) there is still more ST-based THR than ecig-based, and yet deadly ignorance about the benefits of switching. Even beyond that, it is still a potentially harmful mistake (albeit an honest mistake, a shorthand we have been tricked into using by a very intentional campaign by the ANTZ from long before most vapers had even heard of THR): Don’t help the ANTZ by implicitly conceding their claims, even where they have already won. The ban on smokeless in the EU that causes the phenomenon you cite is the worst crime against THR and public health ever committed — far worse than anything that has been done to restrict e-cigarettes (unfortunate caveat: has been done so far).

  2. I agree with your comment, but refer back to the issue that it does not “prove your point” if you take a UK conversation out of context and apply a USA meaning.

    In the UK, tobacco and smoking are interchangeable words because smoking is the only way that tobacco is used here. The phrase “safer than tobacco” means “safer than smoking” in this context and everyone in that conversation fully understood the meaning and also knew that it did not refer to smokeless tobacco.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Um, you do see that the quoted phrase referred to Kind Consumer’s campaign, not that last aside.

      I have to say I am genuinely astonished by the defensiveness (here and in few replies to my tweet announcing this post). I characterized what was written correctly, even if there was no intention to make what is a common misleading statement (which is in many cases is very much intentional). What is wrong with saying “yeah, oops, ok — we should be more careful about that”? It does not take any more effort to type “smoking” or “cigarettes” rather than “tobacco” (“smoking” doesn’t even cost you any more precious tweet characters).

  3. Carl V Phillips

    I should add that from a natural language or social science viewpoint (not to be confused with regulatory categorization, which is just whatever the regulators decide to declare, regardless of natural language), e-cigarettes, NRT, Voke, etc. are tobacco products. Thus the “tobacco” catch-all includes them in most people’s minds, and quite reasonably so.

  4. It isn’t ‘defensiveness’ – it is simply pointing out that it is not an example of THR vs THR

    When the context and culture are taken into account, these examples do not “prove your point” – a tweeted reply to remember to use the word ‘smoking’ rather than ‘tobacco’ rather than a full on blog post would have been more appropriate.

    It does more to illustrate different cultures using the same language than an example of THR vs THR (which it isn’t)



  5. I think this actually raises rather an important point, certainly the closing comment.

    As the writer of the 2nd response tweet in the first image I think it is important to make clear that you would be hard pushed to find any UK ecig advocate that does not support the concept of harm reduction in its broadest sense. However, for us the battle is far narrower than for many others. Smokeless tobacco is simply not part of our culture and so neither is it part of our lexicon.

    Here it is the perception of harm between ecigs & tobacco and so ‘tobacco’ refers to the combustible form only. Kind Consumer do indeed seem to be conducting a THR vs THR battle with their own vested interests at heart. This is not an accusation that can be levelled at any of the vaping community, even if my tweet could be perceived as that.

    The lesson to be learnt from this is, although you might be tweeting between mobile reception bubbles on a train, your 140 characters can be easily misinterpreted. The world is watching & the omission of a single word changes the context to others in a way you cannot predict.

    Certainly it saddens me to see my name and face on this blog but to make it absolutely clear, the above intimated war is not one you will ever find European vapers fighting.

    Just here in the UK, our options for harm reduction are few indeed and about to decrease by around 100%.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Thanks for the clarification. Again, I think it is important to avoid that shorthand (especially given that it is no shorter than using the precise words) because it still tends to support some of the anti-THR agenda even when there is no such intention. To be sure, this mistake is not limited to the UK — I often need to edit some pro-THR statement by someone who is in favor of all THR, including some written by CASAA, because someone falls into the (deliberately created by the ANTZ) trap of using that shorthand.

      I accept that you do not oppose any form of THR, and that the phrasing was just an example of the vocabulary brainwashing we all have to fight. (Keep in mind my observation that to many, “tobacco” includes e-cigarettes.) Indeed, I will note that I did not suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with your belief that that there is no intentional anti-ST rhetoric coming from the vaping community. I see a lot of overt and unambiguous anti-ST rhetoric coming from vaping supporters. Indeed, that is what caused me to write these two posts in the first place. (I would expect that you would see relatively little of that over there, where the ST is just absent, but there is plenty of it in the U.S. context.)

      Also, I think your appearance on this post was not primarily defined by that one word, but by the LOL comments, “is that seriously the best you can come up with” and brick dust and chipboard (which I assume is some British building material). I would say you are solidly on the win side, all considered. Besides, thanks to this exchange, a few more people will think twice before accidentally using anti-THR phrasing unintentionally, and that would not have happened otherwise.

  6. Quoting you Carl:

    I should add that from a natural language or social science viewpoint (not to be confused with regulatory categorization, which is just whatever the regulators decide to declare, regardless of natural language), e-cigarettes, NRT, Voke, etc. are tobacco products. Thus the “tobacco” catch-all includes them in most people’s minds, and quite reasonably so

    I think that the definition of the word ‘tobacco’ is rather narrow, as I understand it, well, here in the UK, anyway, “Tobacco” refers to the cured leaf of the plant ‘nicotiana tobaccum’. I grow a small number of that plant for my own use. There is no way that I, or anyone else as far as I know, would describe the green leaves growing on the plant as ‘tobacco’.

    There is no need to cure the leaves to extract nicotine from the leaves. I had a link to experiments in Israel re extracting nicotine from both tobacco and green leaves, but I can’t find it.

    If all you want is the nicotine, then ‘nicotiana tobaccum’ is not the best plant to use. since it contains only 2 -3% nicotine. Much better is ‘nicotiana rustica’ which contains 5 – 7% nicotine.

    But I am sure that you are well aware of this!

    • Carl V Phillips

      I am not sure what the legal definition is there, but the collective term gets used to refer not just to the plant or the raw material produced from it, but to the entire range of products and associated behaviors. It is on that basis that I argue that there is no refuge in the “this is not tobacco and therefore…” claims, and that getting tricked into using the ANTZ’s “tobacco kills” language is not wise for e-cigarettes supporters.

      Thanks to the wonders of modern agriculture, there are varietals of N tobacum leaf that get a much higher nicotine yield.

  7. Carl, I agree with you. because this is a global battle, and harm done to us in the EU hurts US citizens – and vice-versa – we all need to consider other people’s needs at this time.

    You might, however, consider the fact you aren’t helping your argument by promoting THR, tobacco harm reduction. If you *sincerely* believed what you are saying, then you would change to SHR or smoking harm reduction. After all, there is little or no measurable harm from tobacco unless it is smoked – isn’t that your argument? It isn’t too late to do that and we can help. You’d be surprised how easy it would be. And don’t make excuses: there are considerable benefits to doing this – think about it.

    Don’t poke the Brits unless you want to stir up a hornet’s nest – or at least get your own house in order first. We are a touch sensitive to hypocrisy here, it’s being rammed down our throats all the time by murderously corrupt liars.

    • Carl V Phillips

      I was not calling for anything difficult or costly. Nor was I poking anyone. It may not be as useful to Brits to remember to type “smoking” instead of “tobacco”, but it is still beneficial for the reasons I pointed out. In addition, you should not surrender the high ground about snus even though there is little hope of winning anytime soon.

      So could we and should we change THR to SHR? I think the answer to the first is definitely no. The term existed even before I started working in the area, though I will take credit (or, in your opinion, blame) for choosing it as the term to use and push to help establish. In 2005, we debated the proper title for our operation and website, and settled on TobaccoHarmReduction with little doubt that it was the right choice. There is no possible way to change it now (in sharp contrast with pushing people to say smoking — and not sweep in ST, ecigs, etc. with a broad term — when they are referring to smoking in a particular statement). It reminds me of the tired pointless debate about whether “e-cigarettes” is the best word; even if it is not, it is not going to change.

      As for whether it would even be right, I say no. Modifiers on “harm reduction” (drug, sexual behavior, sports, automobile…) generally refer to the broad category that includes both the harmful behavior and its less harmful forms, so THR follows convention. More important (and in part the reason for the aforementioned convention, as well as because of it), SHR would tend to imply reduction of the harms that smoking causes, not replacing smoking (which would probably have delighted some in the cigarette industry in years past, though the quest for lower risk combustion cigarettes has largely fallen away). Compare: calling sexual behavior harm reduction “unprotected sex harm reduction”, or drug harm reduction “dirty needle harm reduction”. Also, we should not rule out reducing harm in ways other than just replacing smoking, though of course that is a minor concern in comparison.

      Finally, there is a more to the harm reduction philosophy than is generally understood by most people who have only heard the term in the tobacco context. This includes those supposed harm reduction advocates who genuinely believe (as opposed to just using it as sometimes-necessary political rhetoric) the statement “it is always best if someone does not use tobacco at all, but if they are going to do so….” Sex harm reduction is about letting people have sex with minimal risk, not suggesting that no sex at all is best. And though it is not advertised to outsiders so much, the same philosophy applies to drug harm reduction. Phrasing that suggests harm reduction entirely about what people are not supposed to do, and not at all about helping people do what they want to do with less harm, violates the spirit of HR and, frankly, medicalizes it.

  8. I understand what you mean, Carl. I suppose that I did not clearly say what I mean.
    Cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, ST, snus are clearly, literally, “tobacco products”. NRT and e-cigs are not tobacco products – they are nicotine products (but I am assuming that nicotine is extracted from tobacco plant leaves without going to all the trouble and expense of curing the leaves first).
    What we have seen in the EU recently is a subtle change in rhetoric (and the move to regulate as a result) which equates ‘nicotine products’ with ‘tobacco products’.
    That is bad news for e-cigs.
    The reality is that ecigs are not in direct competition with tobacco products in the sense that one tobacco product is in competition with another. They are in competition with NRT directly, as a commodity.
    The interesting thing about this idea is this. NRT products are massively subsidised by the taxpayer and are provided free for a period of time. Ecigs, on the other hand, are purchased voluntarily. If ecigs are as effective as NRT as a cessation aid in terms of numbers of people achieving reduced smoking, then the fact that they are voluntarily purchased, rather than being received free, has to have a ‘value’ over and above that which the numbers suggest. If I may use a not-very-good analogy, from the point of view of exercise, it is more valuable to walk a a mile uphill than on the flat.

    What I have said does not detract from the suggestion that any harm reduction product is better than smoking, including ST and snus. All these products should be available so that those smokers who want to quit can choose whichever method suits them. Also, if the Zealots (and Government) are serious about ‘helping’ smokers to quit, then all these products should be tax-free.
    Additionally, you can see Big Pharm’s problem. They can always claim, for taxation purposes, that their nicotine products are not tobacco products. Would they not love to see e-cigs classed as tobacco products?
    So you could arrive at this situation:

    1. Tobacco Products.
    Tax levels:
    a) For cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, RYO: high taxation.
    b) For snus, ST: low taxation if any.

    2. Nicotine Products.
    Tax levels.
    a) NRT: no taxation.
    b) E-cigs: no taxation.

    3. Indoor Public Place Bans.
    a) Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, RYO banned.
    b) Snus, ST, e-cigs, NRT not banned.

    I would hold that the above is rational, even though there is no rational justification for any of it in a free society where all men are equal and free to pursue their own happiness (or whatever your constitution says). I feel sure that you are fully aware that SHS danger is a figment of epidemiological time foreshortening. You need only consider intellectually the findings of the Doll Doctors Study regarding the, a) correlation of amount of smoking, and, b) time-lapse effect. Those two concretes indicate that non-smokers would be long dead before SHS had any significant effect.
    Sorry to be so verbose.

    • Carl V Phillips

      The conversation may be outgrowing the forum a bit, but it is a good one, so I will try to reply.

      I do not fully agree about what market niche ecigs are in. They are physically more similar to NRT than to cigarettes or ST, but they occupy the market niche more of the latter products. A few people use NRT as a recreational/lifestyle/consumer drug, but not with the verve that the other products are used. However, I totally agree that they are substitutes (competitors) as smoking cessation tools, though, so your point that ecigs are more popular even where NRT is free and people have to buy the ecigs is indeed telling, and means exactly what you say: They have greater value by at least that difference in the purchase price.

      Yes, the tax on ST, ecigs, etc. should be zero. In fact, it should be negative (a subsidy) by most standards, but that is out the question. I worked the details of that out here: Note that I do that analysis from the premise that the cigarette taxes are set at the “right” level and we are working from there (which is to say, I intentionally do not address the question of whether they are ethical, let alone whether they are really right). The health claims about ETS and the claim that smokers create a net financial burden on the public coffers, on which those taxes are largely based, are largely lies, as you say.

      However, the reason the ETS claims are wrong is not the ones that is often cited by smokers’ rights advocates, that they entire science if epidemiology is somehow invalid. I understand and respect the frustration with the way epidemiology is abused for political purposes, but the flaws do not lie in epidemiology (or in real epidemiologists — those of us who are actual scientists and not just the masses of those who are blindly turning a crank they do not understand). If an exposure has a low but nonzero probability of causing a disease, that can be detected (in theory) by looking at a lot of people for a lot of time. The simple problem with the ETS claims is that they are based on cherrypicking a few study results; the more subtle problem is that the signal is so small compared to the noise that methodological decisions have huge impacts, but anti-tobacco researchers never act like real scientists and perform multiple analysis to check the importance of that. Indeed, few “epidemiologists” (the pretend-scientists who are 99.9% of those doing epidemiology) ever do this, which is a problem I have written about at length. It does make epidemiology (as practiced) largely junk science, but it does not mean that epidemiology (the underlying methods) is faulty.

      As for only one university…, trust me, you really would not want that. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  9. Pingback: The Tragicomedy of ‘Tobacco Harm Reduction’ | Bolton Smokers Club

  10. LoL.
    But, yes, Enough.

  11. Pingback: TVECA letter ups the controversy for THR-vs-THR | Anti-THR Lies and related topics

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