Weaponized Kafkaism

by Carl V Phillips

I think I have come up with a good description of the functioning of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products: Weaponized Kafkaism. The term is fairly self-explanatory, but to unpack it: Kafkaesque is, of course, refers to a system that brings to mind the situations faced by Franz Kafka’s characters, particularly including being trapped by a baffling and inscrutable system (particularly a government bureaucracy), where one is punished for doing something wrong as a result of having no idea what would satisfy the authorities, and as the rules begin to become apparent they are revealed to include self-contradictions, making it literally impossible to comply. (I converted the word to its seldom-used noun form.) Weaponization refers to taking something that in its “natural” state is harmful or potentially harmful, and then intentionally deploying it in order to do harm.  Continue reading

My new paper: Understanding the basic economics of tobacco harm reduction

by Carl V Phillips

In case you missed it, my new IEA paper, Understanding the basic economics of tobacco harm reduction, is available here. You should go read it. The summaries do not do it justice. (Not really joking there — the summaries have picked up on one particular conclusion, but the value of the paper is laying out how to think about the whole issue.) I am posting this here primarily to create an opportunity for comments, since that is not available at the original.

Speaking of summaries, you can find this one at CityAM, which was kind enough to also run my op-ed that was based on the paper. (Needless to say, I did not choose the headline nor the link in the first paragraph — can you imagine me citing the RCP report as if they were the source of that information???)

FDA Center for Tobacco Products (mostly) know exactly what they are doing.


by Carl V Phillips

Clive Bates recently posted about the e-cigarette deeming regulation which started to take effect this week. Most of the post is just the 10,000th thing you have seen, dating back to before the first draft of the regulation was released, about the unfortunate consequences[*]. But in the last line he says: Continue reading

What harm reduction really means

by Carl V Phillips

The best thing I have read about harm reduction in a very long time is this post at The Influence by Shaun Shelly, “The Harm Reduction Movement Needs to Rediscover Its Soul”. The post, the publication, and the author all focus on illicit drug harm reduction, but almost everything in it applies to tobacco harm reduction also. Read it if you fancy yourself a supporter of harm reduction. As I have noted here previously (example), many — I would say a large majority — of those who fancy themselves THR advocates do not really support harm reduction. Continue reading

New paper on CASAA survey results

by Carl V Phillips

In case you missed it, I posted the new paper EP-ology and comments are welcome there. It is an upgrade of the report that appeared on this page a few months ago. Nothing really new, but more detail and analysis.

“E-cigarettes are a gateway” is a genuine scientific claim

by Carl V Phillips

The latest entrant into the Dunning-Kruger gateway follies is ASH Wales, with this report that is headlined, “New research shows e-cigarettes are not a gateway for young people to take up smoking”. What evidence do they present that supports this remarkable claim that a universal negative is true? None.

The gateway claim, that using e-cigarettes causes some would-be never-smokers to smoke, is a legitimate scientific hypothesis. As such, it should not be asserted to be true (to a nontrivial extent) without useful evidence, especially since it is such an unlikely causal sequence, as I have explained elsewhere. The assertions that gateway effects are occurring have been based on evidence that does not actually show that. This is certainly the major problem in this area. But similarly, the claim should not be dismissed with word games or junk science. In this particular case, ASH Wales — like many others before them — seem to not understand a 101-level point from epidemiology, the difference between “not many people are at risk” and “it never happens among those who are at risk.” They claim that because a large majority of e-cigarette users among teens have already smoked, there is therefore no gateway effect. Um, yeah.  Continue reading

Next round of gateway claims

by Carl V Phillips

Tomorrow a new paper about the supposed gateway effect from e-cigarettes will come out of “embargo”. Over the last few days, Clive Bates and Michael Siegel have published pre-rebuttals of it (Clive basically declared as much on Twitter. Mike did not, but the timing seems like more than coincidence.) Sometime I will analyze the paper based on the framework I developed for assessing whether evidence actually supports a gateway claim (which the authors of the paper ignored). For now it is interesting to go meta. Continue reading

My new article in Tobacco Reporter: The Limits of People Power

by Carl V Phillips

You can find it here (PDF; you have to page through to p.32). I thought I would drop this here since most of my readers do not see the trade journals, and also because I always welcome comments and debate and there is no comments section in the journal, so that can be done here if anyone wants.


Social media and enthusiasm about vaping have created an unprecedented consumer voice for tobacco/nicotine product use. Tobacco control messages from government and anti-tobacco organizations are met with floods of opposing responses. Vapers rallied to soften the restrictions on vapor products in the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive. There is a resurgence of smokers’ rights, such as NYC CLASH’s “smoking is normal” campaign, pushing back against “denormalization”. The expanding “nanny state” has inspired wider sympathy for those who were once its main targets. With the exception of smokeless tobacco users, who remain as voiceless as ever, there is a heady belief that a “people power” revolution is changing everything.

Unfortunately, history shows that people power seldom generates more than a show of enthusiasm, and for good reason….

Continue reading