Category Archives: Aside

Admin notes

In a bit of good news for readers, I realized that I have several posts that I have conceived or that are even mostly drafted that I had been suppressing when CASAA published this blog (either due to the legal problems that might arise from CASAA’s nonprofit status for discussing partisan politics, or because of CASAA’s aversion to disagreeing with anyone who is pro-ecig).  I will be trickling those out, though not at the pace I kept up in the CASAA days.

Also, I have revived my THR science discussion page at Facebook. For the moment anyway, it is my new home for discussing these issues. (Never trust a pundit who lives in an echo chamber and does not engage in such discussions!) I apologize for those who do not do Facebook — I hate it too, but it is convenient. Anyone is welcome to join in; if you read this blog, you are the target audience.

Optional reading

by Carl V Phillips

Readers, I will probably not be posting much this week (as evidenced) or next. For those who miss antiTHRlies, might I suggest reading the discussions in the comments from the previous three posts, which have several posts worth of material in them from me and others. Especially this thread.

And I will post this tweet (which is based on a research result I have discussed before) to further explain why I take the approach I do:

Chinglishization of CVP (utterly trivial)

by Carl V Phillips

I found myself laughing out loud at a series of alerts that showed up in my inbox. I think they are probably link-farm spam sites, though they might be touting e-cigarettes. It does not really matter. They were apparently working from a (presumably unauthorized) translation — into Chinese I am pretty sure — of a sentence that appeared in a mediocre article in Forbes:

“E-cigarettes are part of a larger phenomenon known as tobacco harm reduction,” says Carl Phillips, PhD, scientific director[*] of Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA)

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by Carl V Phillips

It is one year today that we started this blog.  The mandatory basic stats for such a post:

  • 159 posts
  • Just under 90K page views

I was really hoping for 100K views, but disappointment is my penance posting almost nothing for two months of that.  Besides, I will just assume that the difference was covered by those reading on feeds or reblogs, or those reading more than one post when visiting the homepage. :-)

I do notice that some of the oldest posts, some of which are quite significant, accumulated less than 200 views.  I will try to do some archive revisits.

More important than the basic stats is that I think we have put the fear of Truth into quite a few people by calling them out on their lies.  Several of them got very quiet.  This blog is just one little corner of that effort, of course, but the combination of effective archiving and search (unlike chat networks), credibility, and being willing to directly confront the lies (unlike most other credible blogs) give it a unique niche.  And, yes, I have kind drifted away from focusing on the Lies, and I should probably make an effort to start back on them.  The archive project will help with that.

And who knows, maybe there will be fewer lies during the next year.


A really good day for THR (navel gazing)

by Carl V. Phillips

I am assuming that there is no one reading this who did not already see yesterday’s post, so I will not even include a link.  The release of Igor Burstyn’s paper was huge for THR, making clear that the apparent risk from vaping is not only lower than the anti-THR liars are trying to portray it, but probably even lower than those of us who are interested in the truth and familiar with the science thought.

On the same day, we won a victory in the fight against inappropriate e-cigarette bans and learned of an amazing success story about THR in a clinical setting (I am seeking permission to report that story here).  Small scale in comparison to the study, I realize, but it makes for a good day.  And at the even smaller scale and purely personal level, first thing yesterday, before writing the blog post and the release of the study, I did what turned out to be great interview on talk radio.

It all added up to me thinking, “this is one of the best days in the history of THR”.  Not top five, but I found I had a hard time pushing it out of the top ten.  As you might expect, that got me thinking about what other days should appear on such a list.

The top few on the list definitely include the release of the seminal Rodu and Cole paper (Nature, 1994) that was the first major science and ethical statement in favor of THR, and when Judge Leon prevented the US FDA from banning e-cigarettes here in 2009.  I am also inclined (though obviously biased) to include up there the appearance of, published by my research shop at University of Alberta in 2006 and updated for a few years after that; we got more press about that in Canada than “World No Tobacco Day” (the day we chose to release it) did, and the website is the source of a huge amount of the current popular wisdom about THR, even among many people who got here later and have never heard of it.  (Like the 1994 paper, it is still out there but quite dated now, and yet still is often read — though I would recommend against citing it for any purposes other than historical analysis.)  I am also inclined (and obviously biased) to include the creation of CASAA near the top.

At that point, I decided to crowdsource it.  Any thoughts from biases other than my own?  What are the best moments?  It definitely does not have to be an identifiable day, but I am looking for the relatively concrete and not just general phenomena (i.e., the gradual appearance of e-cigarettes on the market does not count, nor the gradual success of THR in Sweden).

It would be great to include the introduction of specific THR products into particular markets, which does tend to involve a clear moment in time, but sadly most of those efforts flopped (maybe Camel Snus?).  One or more of the moves by big companies into e-cigarettes might prove important, but it is hard to tell now, and for similar reasons hard to be sure something like the founding of NJOY should make the list; in such cases, it is tough to say that something really made the world different, rather than merely being a matter of who edged out competitors that would have been almost exactly the same.

No political victory compares to 2009, but what are the candidates for the list? Defeating the proposed New York ban?  The original MHRA decision to allow THR to be an “indication” for use of a product would surly be high on the list, but for what has come later that seems to make that part of a larger picture that does more harm than good — so include it?  The granting to Sweden of an exception to the anti-health EU snus ban comes to mind, but since Sweden would presumably not have joined the EU without it, it does not seem to count.

What other research publications?  It is really hard to identify many individual publications that had much of an impact.  Rodu’s book from the 1990s or others by him?  There are a few candidates about smokeless tobacco.  The nascent research on e-cigarettes does not seem to offer candidates — there are good and useful studies, but no game changers other than yesterday’s.  I am partial to a few of my other publications, but I can’t say they made much of a splash at the time; my 2006 calculation about comparative risks is quoted constantly without people knowing they are doing so (“99% less harmful”), but it is hard to identify any “moment” for that one

Prominent policy opinion statements?  The first Royal College of Physicians report on the topic is a clear candidate.  (But please do not suggestion Clearing the Smoke — bleah!)  Was there an identifiable moment for Bates launching his backing of THR (I honestly forget — getting old)?  I can’t think of any clear “moment” for Godshall or Stimson, but maybe there was one.  (All three of you read this, so I demand answers!! ;-)  IHRA embraced THR for about five minutes, but we subsequently lost that fight, so no credit there.

So that is my brainstorm.  Should be enough to get some thoughts flowing.  Your turn.


If I gave into my urge to cite every parallel between the experience of fighting for THR and Paul Krugman’s fights to get us out of the economics depression — against hoards of powerful and fact-averse opponents who become even … Continue reading

“We were wrong about this” trANTZlates into “we were still right, just for another reason”

by Carl V Phillips

An aside that does not relate to THR, but provides a rare opportunity to observe how the ANTZ act when they have to admit one of their claims was wrong.  It is exceedingly rare because no matter how badly the ANTZ bungle their data or analysis, and no matter how clearly it is refuted, they never admit they made a mistake.  They are not, after all, real scientists; they are marketers who ape science to support their propaganda.  But in this case, a newspaper retracted the data so they had to respond.

A letter to a Japanese newspaper was supposedly from a six-year-old, telling the heartwarming story of talking a merchant into letting her buy cigarettes as a present for her grandfather, the only product that he really cared about.  This story sparked condemnation by the usual suspects about how screwed up Japanese society must be that a young child would be allowed to buy cigarettes for any reason, and that Something Needs To Be Done About It.

It became apparent that the letter was a hoax.  So the ANTZ naturally expressed relief that the world is not such a terrible place.

Ha! just kidding, of course.  What they actually did was publish a commentary in their pseudo-journal official party newsletter, Tobacco Control, that acknowledged the hoax but repeated the conclusion.  They interpreted the fact that the letter was considered a heartwarming story was evidence that Japanese society was screwed up and that Something Needs To Be Done About It.

Yes, life sure is easy in the ANTZ hill.  Not only do you take all the money you could ever want from smokers, providing job security as long as you dutifully recite the party doctrine, but no matter what the data shows, there is never a need to rewrite your conclusions.

In awe of CASAA

by Carl V Phillips

A purely personal aside today.  Some readers of this blog may not appreciate what a truly amazing phenomenon CASAA is.  I write this in praise of my colleagues in this all-volunteer organization, claiming no credit for myself for yesterday’s accomplishments (though obviously I helped out where I could).

Yesterday, CASAA’s efforts succeeded in defeating an anti-consumer regulation of e-cigarettes in Oklahoma that was backed by both anti-THR activists and a major tobacco company.  It seems safe to conclude that the defeat was caused by the efforts of the CASAA legislative team.  At the same time, CASAA organized vapers to testify at hearing in a million-person California county (where I lived for a few years) about restricting use of e-cigarettes, as well as a state government hearing in Rhode Island.  And at the same time, we managed to respond, in time for a hearing that evening, to an apparent plan for an out-and-out ban in a city in Massachusetts that no one even knew about until that afternoon.  (You can see our calls to action page for more details about these.)

In Rhode Island, we also won a victory, with the proposal being tabled for further research (though in theory could be brought back up before the session is over).  Massachusetts turned out to be a false alarm — action was not actually imminent — but we are now on it.  The California county turned out to be one of the very few losses we ever suffer in the US (these stupid local boards are designed to handle little town matters but end up with enormous power over large populations with no democratic accountability, making it hard for the people to fight the public interests like we can at the state level).  It was a very impressive day for our all-volunteer organization and its thousands of supporters.

During the course of my career, I have been part of prestigious universities, I have run major research projects, and I created and ran what was the largest tobacco harm reduction research and education organization that existed before CASAA (the remnants of which I merged into CASAA last year).  I have also spent most of my life working in various areas of advocacy for the downtrodden, fighting those in power.  I mention to make clear quite how strong the following statement is:

I have never been more proud to be part of an organization as I am to be part of CASAA.

’nuff said.