Monthly Archives: September 2014

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

How the medicalized history of public health damaged its science too, particularly including understanding ecigs (fairly wonkish)

by Carl V Phillips

This week, in my major essay (and breezy follow-up), I argued that the dominance of hate-filled nanny-staters in public health now is actually a product of medic and technocrat influence more than the wingnuttery itself. The worst problem there has to do with inappropriate goals that stem from a medical worldview morphing into a pseudo-ethic. The seemingly inevitable chain of events created by that pseudo-ethic resulted in public health professionals hating the human beings who we think of as the public because we are a threat to what they think of as the public, which is just the collection of bodies we occupy.

But this is not the only damaging legacy in public health of the thoughtless application of medical thinking. The science itself has also suffered, most notably (though far from only) because of the fetishization of clinical experiments (aka RCTs: randomized controlled trials) and denial of research methods that are more appropriate for public health. This is something I have written and taught about extensively. I will attempt to summarize it in a couple of thousand words. Continue reading

Follow-up on how medics doomed public health – case studies

by Carl V Phillips

Yesterday I posted a long essay, a history-of-science analysis that wove in news events and personal flashbacks (hey, what author doesn’t want to be Kurt Vonnegut or Thomas Pynchon?), about why the public health profession ended up being the hate-filled anti-humanitarian institution that it is today. You will recall that it was ultimately the medics, not the temperance nuts, who were responsible for the downfall of public health. Today a case study, and a bit of a second, that provide some further illustration and some comic relief (there is no other way to play it — it is too absurdly horrifying to present as other than comedy). Continue reading

Dear Public Health: the public despises you, so you are probably doing it wrong

by Carl V Phillips

A collection of disjointed, though related, thoughts I have had for days, months, and years have coalesced together in a very interesting way. The thesis here is a theory I have evolved based on experience and focused thought over a couple of decades, not some flight-of-fancy. Still, I grant that this story is necessarily simplified and certainly there is room for debate. Also, as will quickly become apparent, this is not a typical post for this blog, but it is quite relevant.

The title of this post is something I paraphrase periodically in a tweet. But that phrasing is something I would have rejected a decade-and-a-half ago, when I first started working in THR. At that time, I repeatedly objected to the opponents of harm reduction being referred to as public health, which is of course the diametric opposite of what they were and are, assuming we think that public health is about improving people’s health.  Continue reading

CASAA comments on NIOSH proposed recommendations re workplace tobacco use

by Carl V Phillips

Recently the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued a draft of proposed recommendations for employers and it was opened for comments. Their draft can be found here, though you really do not have to read it to make sense of our comment. Basically all you need to know is that they made exactly the same recommendations about smokeless tobacco use as they did about smoking (no amount of ventilation is sufficient for indoor use???). They made no explicit recommendations about e-cigarettes, but included innuendo about them.

As you may know, NIOSH is part of CDC, but they normally do not act like the CDC tobacco office that receives a lot of attention in this blog. They have a lot of genuinely good scientists there.

Our comment follows:

Continue reading