Tag Archives: THR-vs-THR

TVECA letter ups the controversy for THR-vs-THR

by Carl V Phillips

My post about damaging battles among supposed THR advocates, and its unplanned follow-up, were among the least read posts on this blog lately.  I think this is sad and, frankly, a little embarrassing for our community.  Sure, I read the news as much for entertainment as enlightenment as much as the next guy.  But the sharp contrast is troubling, between the few hits on those posts that include actionable thoughts about what those on our side need to do differently, compared to posts about silly liars that are, for knowledgeable readers, frankly just entertainment (they serve a critical practical purpose as a reference to direct honest undecided or not-fully-informed people to, of course).

I have a feeling that this third entry in the unintentional series will change that (though I wish that were motivated by genuine reflection rather than the hatred that is brewing over this one).

[UPDATE: The response to yesterday’s post about NCI’s “tell your quit smoking story” page has included over one hundred tweets and retweets (counting just those that linked to the page or were sent to me, as of 11:30 am Eastern Time today), as well as FOIA filings and proposals to create a competing site.  That is great, but you know what:  It just doesn’t matter much!  It might prove embarrassing enough to NCI that they have to just take down that page (which is what they will do).  It will provide a footnote we can maybe mention in some contexts.  But it is not like that page was really hurting THR.  What I am talking about in this series is hurting THR.]

Today, TVECA, one of the U.S. e-cigarette industry groups, along with European partners, sent a letter to members of the European Parliament supporting the EU’s latest proposed regulation of e-cigarettes.  This was quickly followed by some prominent calls to boycott TVECA members and other companies who supported this move, because it is generally agreed among knowledgeable THR and vapors advocates that the current proposal is a very bad thing.  Clive Bates reprinted the letter and excoriated TVECA (within hours of it being submitted) here, and also reprinted his observations that presented the consumer position.  He points out the contempt and scorn TVECA et al. direct toward the real consumer advocates and their lobbying efforts.

(Note that CASAA does not consider itself expert enough on the EU law and process to become directly involved in this fight, thus the somewhat neutral language of this post.  We are expert on the U.S. law and process, and do not want to play the half-informed dilettante pundit game, as people do when they try to opine about everything in the field.  Personally I trust Clive as the leading expert and best advocate on EU regulation.)

By all appearances, this is a classic case of industry supporting a regulation that gives them a competitive advantage (it hurts the competition more than it hurts them), and while they pretend it represents concern about the consumers, it clearly hurts consumers.  That lack of concern about the consumers also translates into: they do not really care about THR; this is all just making money to them.  It looks no different from NRT merchants wanting to eliminate other low-risk tobacco products, big e-cigarette companies (mostly, but not entirely, the cigarette companies) favoring stringent regulations that only they can meet, or Kind Consumer lying about current-tech e-cigarettes.

I trust this will be properly disillusioning for some of you.  There are genuinely caring people in companies in all of these sectors, and thus units of companies of all sizes and business models that are genuinely pro-THR.  Because of this, sometimes the entire company is genuinely pro-consumer and pro-THR.  But  it is the nature of business (and government) that sociopaths — those who are naturally born and those who evolve those traits through seeing what is successful in business — tend to rise to the top.

The post is summed up best in the comments:

Q: Are they nuts?

CB: The short answer is ‘yes’.  It’s hard to see the public affairs logic of such a crude intervention. … It takes an especially divisive talent to do it as badly as TVECA, and they have yet to explain why they think their companies will benefit from agreement to all the things they list in their letter.

So they might be shooting themselves in the foot too, because they do not understand what they are saying (see above points about dilettantes).  But it seems pretty clear that while they might have accidentally hit their own foot, the fact that the consumers took a direct hit from this was no accident.

On a brighter note from Europe, comes this story about how one smokeless tobacco manufacturer released a product that avoids the ban on snus.  It has long been the case that some Danish manufacturers produced smokeless tobacco products designed for dipping (which is banned) but were able to sell them because they declared them to be for chewing (which is not).  The recent move takes this one step further, creating a minor variant on standard pouched snus and marketing it as pouched chew (yeah, right!).

Now that is the right way to deal with bad laws:  Figure out how to let people reclaim their liberty in spite of the law.  Those who favor tightening laws for their company’s — or their personal favorite products — advantage, please take note.

As if to prove my point…

by Carl V Phillips

In the last post, I warned against THR-vs-THR sniping, in which aficionados — or more likely merchants — of one THR product denigrate other good THR products.  Since posting that, I observed various know-nothing remarks about smokeless tobacco by e-cigarette users (many in response to a CASAA tweet about smokeless).  Perhaps it was no more than usual, but I was primed to notice them.

Honest ignorance (and that is what that almost always is at the consumer level) can be cured.  Not-so-honest non-ignorant marketing ploys are a different story. As if to prove my point, the day after my post Kind Consumer (who clearly does not take the time to read this blog) launched an anti-ecig propaganda campaign.

For those who do not know, Kind Consumer is the company that developed the non-electronic e-cigarette variation that BAT purchased the rights to and plans to sell with medicines approval (that is, it will be approved by the UK’s MHRA as a substitute for smoking; note that FDA and other similar regulators do not have such a designation).  The current trade name for the product (to explain the reference in the threads reprinted below) is Voke.  As far as I can tell, this is the only marketable product that Kind Consumer has, so the suggestions in those threads that BAT should be blamed for this propaganda do have an element of fairness (even though they already sell a current-generation e-cigarette, trade name Vype).

And, yes, I referred to the non-electronic Voke as an “e-cigarette”.  I think it is a safe bet that the widely-accepted name will stick for new variants that are not actually “e”.  So the joke is kind of on them.

Sorry for the multiple-chop and not-quite-aligned-paste, but I am trying to get the highlights (and am dealing with the limits of my graphics skills).  You can find the full threads (assuming Kind Consumer does not have the sense to delete their posts) here and here.

KindConsumer1 KindConsumer2 KindConsumer2



The humor of the suggested flavors is the highlight, but I think the summation appears in my comment (the penultimate one, not the snarky one that follows).

Also it is worth noting that even as some commentators criticized Kind Consumer for launching an anti-THR campaign, they still threw in a bit of THR-vs-THR themselves.  For the record, the evidence does not show that e-cigarettes are “safer than tobacco” — they are safer than smoking (by a lot).  They are about the same as smokeless tobacco (and, as I have noted repeatedly, there is no evidence at all that allows comparisons among smoke-free products, though if I had to wager I would guess that e-cigarettes are a bit more hazardous than smokeless tobacco).

Does the current generation of THR commentators really know so little about smokeless tobacco?

by Carl V Phillips

Not lies today, quite.  But unforgivable ignorance from those who presume to write about THR.  CNBC “reports” (which is to say, runs a free advertisement for Swedish Match; not to suggest that is a bad thing — and indeed, good for them for getting the story — but it is just so blatant it seems a bit embarrassing):

Big tobacco may be scrambling to grab a hold of the e-cigarettes market, but there’s a little-known 700-year old tobacco product from Europe that’s also seen as having big potential.

Snus (pronounced “snoose”) is similar to U.S.-style dipping tobacco. It’s a derivate of snuff with the history records showing its use dating back to the late 1400s. It’s placed inside the upper lip and is either sold loose in tins or in tiny tea bag-style pouches.

Seen as having big potential compared to e-cigarettes?  Even restricting to an inaccurate narrow definition of what snoose means, it has been reasonably popular and constantly discussed for decades, and still outsells e-cigarettes by a lot.  Note to authors: just because you personally only recently learned about something does not mean that it is news.

I trust I do not have to explain that “snus” is just the Swedish language word for snuff (aka dip, oral snuff, moist snuff), and so does not define a subcategory of smokeless tobacco, though it is also used as marketing term for ST products outside Sweden that the manufacturer wants to declare to be Swedish-style.  The author’s failure to understand this results in the later statistics in the article being garbage:  Swedish Match’s share of the U.S. “snus” market is fairly meaningless when you have no idea what the author thinks constitutes the market.  I would guess it refers to all the products whose manufacturer happens to put “snus” on the label.  But that is kind of like looking at someone’s market share for “protein bars” by looking only at products with that phrase in their labeling, ignoring all the various “energy bars”, “nutrition bars”, etc. that are the same category.

The saving grace of the article, for me anyway, was the snarky first sentence.  I can imagine that Swedish Match and the other ST manufacturers who are not in the cigarette business get pretty annoyed at the rhetoric coming from some e-cigarette advocates that suggests e-cigarettes are better than ST because ST is part of “big evil tobacco” while e-cigarettes are independent.  So you can hardly blame them for sniping back.  What many e-cigarette advocates do not seem to realize is that ST (in Sweden, the USA, and elsewhere) was popular long before cigarettes and until fairly recently was dominated by manufacturers who were not in the cigarette business, though that changed with acquisitions and expansions of cigarette brands into smokeless.  (Sound familiar?)  While I am not going to go look up the numbers, it may already be that a larger portion of e-cigarettes sales than ST sales come from companies that also make cigarettes (and if not, it will probably be the case in a year).

My attention was called to that CNBC article by an e-cigarette blogger posting a note asking if anyone had written about snus before.  Really.  I am not trying to give this individual a hard time, because s/he is merely one example of a remarkable ignorance among the e-cigarette literati about where THR came from and why we can be confident it really works (and I want to make sure that individual gets credit for learning about it and writing something, though for obvious reasons I am pretty sure s/he does not read this blog and so will never see that).

Less forgivable still are supposed scientific experts who have embraced e-cigarette based THR without ever repenting for — or even correcting — their history of lies about ST.  The worst — but by no means only — of these is NJOY’s Richard Carmona, whose lies about ST when he was Surgeon General of the United States may have killed more people than any other single anti-THR liar.  He gets paid to tout e-cigarettes now, without ever having corrected or showed remorse for those lies.

All current THR products are great for public health, but no current product is a public health miracle.  ST proved that THR works, both in terms of reducing the health risks and having a large impact in at least one population.  E-cigarettes have proved that there was pent-up demand for THR in other populations, and that new products could serve some of that demand.  But despite optimism from a year or two ago, it seems unlikely that the current version of e-cigarettes will make a much greater a dent in smoking than ST does.  Sure, if the market were frozen now, both would continue to replace smoking and provide more public health benefits than the tobacco control industry could dream of providing.  But new products are needed — and fortunately are in development.

Each new low-risk product should be embraced for what it is (and understood for what it is not — e.g., if it is not quite as low risk as ST).  Inevitably, some companies and going to try to market their THR products at the expense of other THR products (and I am not just talking about pharma), and some bloggers are going to focus on the product aficionado niche.  But these represent a lack of genuine support for THR itself, and potentially harm the cause.  What’s say we all try to push back against this THR-vs-THR balkanization.

[Update:  Related to this, here is a presumably planted article touting PMI’s pending new THR products.  Notice, to their credit, that they do not suggest anything is wrong with the other THR products but merely note that they do not appeal to everyone.  I should also clarify that the Swedish Match planted article also did not denigrate e-cigarettes (except for that “big tobacco” reference).  This is the right path for us all to follow.]