Author Archives: Carl V Phillips

What is a lie?, revisited.

by Carl V Phillips

As regular readers know, I have written a fair bit about the nature of lies. I make a serious study of it as part of the mission of this blog and my larger approach to the politics of harm reduction and real public health. I do this with as much scientific rigor as is possible for such a question. Recently a confluence of events — the ongoing attempts of the press to deal with Trump’s claims, dealing with my ex’s lawyer, and most importantly the “vaping causes seizures” controversy — reminded me that I have not updated my thinking on this for a while. So here goes. Continue reading

New statistics about vape risk misperception (and a subtle extra-bad implication)

by Carl V Phillips

A new paper in JAMA Network Open by Jidong Huang et al. from Georgia State University provides some new statistics about just how effective the war on vaping is, in terms of the average American’s perceptions of risk. Despite working for one of FDA’s pet research shops, the authors make clear their opinion that it is bad that so many people think that vaping is as harmful as smoking or worse. Continue reading

San Francisco is the stupidest place in the world to think of the children

by Carl V Phillips

As anyone who follows the news about vaping policy in the U.S. knows, San Francisco is considering banning the sale of all vapes, on the heels of their ban on “flavored” vapes (which, of course, means flavors that are not identified as tobacco-ish or minty [Correction: I was reminded that this particular flavor ban, unlike most, also bans minty and allows only tobacco-ish]). Not at all surprising, the claim is that this ban is all about protecting the chiiiildren.

Amelia Howard had the brilliant insight to realize that San Francisco simply does not have that many children. She checked it out and posted this image on Twitter: Continue reading

Sunday Science Lesson: phenomena and measurement

by Carl V Phillips

It is a science lesson bonanza this weekend. This morning I did this Twitter thread about the publication bias and the recent new indictment of the health effects of eating eggs. My first science lesson tutorial is also underway at my Patreon page (open access). The present topic is an outgrowth of an exchange I had with one of my patrons, in which I was helping with the interpretation of a critique of a paper.

Most of science is about trying to estimate a specific measure of a phenomenon like “vaping causes people to quit smoking” (the underlying phenomenon). The measure, however, is something like “how many additional quitters were there in the US over the last five years as a result of vaping?” or “how much more likely is someone to quit if they seriously try to switch to vaping?” There is actually room for debate about whether it is meaningful to talk of phenomena apart from measurement, and other philosophical stuff like that. But though I did a fellowship in philosophy of science, I am basically just a simple scientist who accepts the intuitive notion that there are phenomena in the universe, which exist whether we measure them or not, and we are trying to estimate some measure of them. And, moreover, that the measurements are just Platonic shadows of the phenomenon, not the phenomenon itself. This science lesson looks at some of the implications of different ways of measuring the same phenomena.

That brings us to elephants. Continue reading

My first Patreon science lesson tutorial

by Carl V Phillips

I wanted to let my readers know:

1. In case you missed it, I have launched a Patreon account in order to be able to keep doing this blog, my Twittering, and such. Please consider becoming a patron to support my contributions, via my Patreon page.

2. I have started the first science lesson tutorial at that page (more explanation at the above link). You can join in the discussion or just read along with it here.

Re those tutorials at my Patreon page: The first one is open access, but future ones will be the premium content for patrons. I should make clear that donations to my Patreon are primarily about keeping my public writing going. The premium content is an added bonus for supporters, which you can take advantage of or ignore — either way, your support will help keep this blog going.

Even Norwegians do not understand how low-risk snus is

by Carl V Phillips

In honor of my launching my Patreon account a few hours ago…

[Inevitable plug: If you like my work and consider it valuable, please consider becoming a patron. There will also be some premium content for donors. Check it out here.]

…I thought I would write about one of the rare good and useful bits of new research in this space. It is “Relative Risk Perceptions between Snus and Cigarettes in a Snus-Prevalent Society—An Observational Study over a 16 Year Period” by Karl Erik Lund and Tord Finne Vedoy, available open-access (kudos!) here. In it they discover that despite Norwegian population becoming one of the small number of THR success stories, perceptions about the risk from snus (the leading low-risk substitute for smoking there) are still way off.

(This is a workaday research review. If you want something deep and epic, please check out the previous post. If you want something incendiary, please stay tuned [or scroll down to the Update].)

Continue reading

Smoking is not addictive

by Carl V Phillips

Now that I have your attention, this long essay is my response to the frequent requests to summarize my analyses of the concept of addiction, particularly how it relates to tobacco product use. I should note that the headline is based on the most commonly-accepted definition of “addictive”. I will work my way through that to other senses of the word under which smoking might be considered addictive. Continue reading

Tobacco control ratf**king

by Carl V Phillips

Sorry for the silence, though it may get worse. As some of you know, I lost my funding to keep working on THR issues, and I expect I have to fully move on to other work. But I thought I would pop in with some insight from the old guard. After that, I have an epic post that is almost finished (years in the making). These will be good notes to go out on.

For those not familiar, “ratfucking” is a term from the Nixon era that refers to political dirty tricks. The word has had a major resurgence in the age of Roger Stone, Stephen Miller, et al. [Fun fact: I was not sure of the spelling of Miller’s name, so I typed a search for “Trump advisor smug weasel” and his name appeared as the second entry after an article about presidential advisors in general.] The nuance of the word typically refers to sowing false information or allegations to harass and damage the opposition. The acts are usually barely legal (except perhaps insofar as they constitute a criminal conspiracy) or at least are impossible to prosecute, but they are a clear violation of norms of social behavior and other rules of conduct.

In the political arena, ratfucking includes such things as push-polls, doctored photographs, engaging in public bad acts while pretending to be a member of the opposition, and other methods of trying to exacerbate problems that are blamed on the opposition. As practiced by tobacco controllers, ratfucking includes, well, such things as push-polls, doctored photographs, engaging in public bad acts while pretending to be a member of the opposition, and other methods of trying to exacerbate problems that are blamed on the opposition. Continue reading