Monthly Archives: March 2014

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

United we stand, because most restrictions on cigarettes will eventually apply to e-cigarettes

by Carl V Phillips

I hate to be pessimistic.  CASAA has done a truly amazing job fighting back cigarette-like taxes, smoking-like usage restrictions, and various administrative hurdles for e-cigarettes — to say nothing of out-and-out bans, in the USA (and not that is not self-praise: I participate in those efforts some, but it is really other people’s department).  Stopping proposed full-on sales bans seems to have been a victory that will stick, but all of the others are only as good as the latest fight.  Like so many bad policies, they keep getting proposed until they happen, at which point they are very difficult to reverse.  Outside the USA, of course, the situation is on average worse, with bans in many jurisdictions (though relatively few punitive taxes — authorities have realized how hard they are to administer).

The problem is the extremely slippery slope from established restrictions and punitive taxes for cigarettes to similar regulations applied to low-risk alternatives.  We have already seen it with punitive taxes applied to smokeless tobacco even though the justifications for such taxes for cigarettes (which are already themselves based on lies) do not extend to low-risk and zero-externality alternatives.  Never mind that free societies adopted the restrictions on smoking only very reluctantly and slowly, recognizing the tension between freedom and the justifications for the restrictions (even among most who favor them).  It should be a very tough decision, made reluctantly and only based on very good reasons, not a casual move.  I have brought up this theme in my recent testimony. Continue reading

Stanton Glantz is such a liar that even the ACS balks: his latest ecig gateway “study”

by Carl V Phillips

Stanton Glantz recently published a paper, Electronic Cigarettes and Conventional Cigarette Use Among US Adolescents; A Cross-sectional Study,  whose conclusions do not even remotely follow from the analysis.  That is hardly news, of course.  In fact, it is probably sufficient to end the sentence with “published a paper”, since the rest is pretty much a given.  But it is interesting to see that this time even some of the semi-respectable anti-THR liars are pushing back against how blatant it is.  I wish I could say that this reflects a new era of tobacco control people consistently calling for honest science, but I seriously doubt that is the case.  Still, it is something.

This is a long post (by the standards of this blog – it is what is needed to do a serious scientific analysis), so I outline it so that you can know what you want to skip if you are in a hurry:  1. The real reason why Glantz’s statistics do not support his conclusion.  2. Addressing a common red herring claim about the ordering of events.  3. Delving deeper into exactly what Glantz is claiming and why it is even worse than the simple headline claim.  4. Coming back to the ACS reference in the title and related press coverage.  5. Some further random technical observations. Continue reading