by Carl V Phillips
CASAA (The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association), the publisher of this blog up until today, has decided to focus its resources on mobilizing responses to state and local regulation proposals and it thus cannot devote substantial resources to science and education efforts. The position of chief scientist (held by me since its creation) has been eliminated and thus my role with CASAA has ended. Citing a lack of interest in an organization with this change of focus, Igor Burstyn resigned his membership on the CASAA Board of Directors and is also no longer associated with the organization.
I will be keeping possession of this blog, though obviously nothing from this point forward will be written on behalf of CASAA as the previous posts were. I am not entirely sure what I am going to do with it. For the moment I will keep posting, resources permitting, though I expect I will focus on big-picture and deeper issues rather on critiques of individual bits of bad science (as I have been tending toward for the last several months anyway). While the former is not such great click-bait as the latter, it is important that someone keeps on it. Even though it is not as widely read for entertainment, I notice that the deeper analysis does trickle into the wider conversation. I think my scientific education efforts regarding THR over the last decade, along with Rodu’s, Bates’s and others’, have empowered enough people to be able to do the hot takes on the individual bits of junk science, so my efforts there are not so important as they once were.
Of course, it is possible that whatever I do next (I am still trying to sort that out) will preclude me from continuing the blog and related research and analysis. I might I go off in a completely different direction, such that I cannot keep up with this. Or I might take a position that is not compatible with speaking freely. We shall see.
In 2012, my tobacco harm reduction research and education operation merged with CASAA, under the CASAA banner. This gave CASAA the capacity to address the scientific complexity surrounding fights about e-cigarettes and THR more generally. This contributed to CASAA emerging from among the several consumer organizations as the predominant consumer representative in the space, and allowed it to be a player in the science-based debates and thus better empower its membership. Working with CASAA, I was able to accomplish a lot for the cause, including:
- Conducting scientific research and analysis that has appeared in this blog, scientific papers, and elsewhere.
- Authoring all of CASAA’s comments and testimony on federal regulations affecting e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, including our several comments to FDA and OIRA on the proposed deeming regulation.
- Monitoring and analyzing federal agencies and regulations, and assessing the most effective way the CASAA membership could respond to their actions.
- Conceiving of and launching the CASAA Testimonials project, which now includes 8000 personal stories from people who successfully adopted THR.
- Conceiving of what became the Burstyn study, recruiting the author, and raising the funds for what was the most important study of e-cigarettes (and only recently gained any real competition for that title).
- Designing and conducting the recent CASAA member survey, which provided the best sampling of any vaper survey to date.
- Writing various pamphlets and other educational documents.
- Presenting comments and testimony to the federal government, including being the only consumer representative FDA has ever allowed to be a scheduled speaker at one of their events.
- Delivering oral and written testimony for numerous state and local regulatory and legislative hearings.
- Conducting more press interviews than I could count.
- Building connections between CASAA and the scientific community and major industry players, and generally professionalizing the organization.
My departure will have little impact on CASAA’s continuing state and local legislative mission. While I often contributed to those efforts, my role there has been minimal for a while. CASAA membership has increased from a few thousand when I joined to well over a hundred thousand now, and so the organization is in strong shape to mobilize consumers to make their voices heard in those fights. I a not sure what CASAA plans to do in response to the expected deluge of proposed rules coming out of FDA and other federal agencies following the e-cigarette deeming (or, if we are lucky enough that it gets bounced back to FDA to redo, round three of the deeming fight). We agreed there is a theoretical possibility that they could hire me to do the analysis and comments, but there are a lot of contingencies that would make that impossible.
CASAA has indicated it hopes to still make modest contributions in science and science-based education. I still have one ongoing CASAA-sponsored research project. They volunteered that they would contribute publication fees, if needed, to ensure that my research in progress is open access when it appears in journals.
I am certainly disappointed by this turn of events. I really felt that CASAA could have leveraged its growing membership into providing not just community organization, but also to be the best education and information source, as well as to represent consumer interests in science-based fights. My readers will know why I think it is not in our best interests to concede those spaces to careless chatter and the pro-ecig faction within Tobacco Control Inc. On the other hand, I understand the advantage of specialization and recognize the conflict that sometimes occurs between scientific analysis and political advocacy.