Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Hey! Bloggers, Leave Our Junk Alone!

In an unintentionally amusing article yesterday, the Editor of the BMJ's Tobacco Control Comic Journal, Ruth Malone, along with no fewer than six co-authors has expressed irritation at their policy-driven rag being criticised.
As editors of Tobacco Control we are always pleased to see readers thinking critically about what they read in this journal and using the ‘Rapid Response’ forum to engage in constructive academic debate.
However, the growing use of personal blogs to criticise published articles has led us to reflect on appropriate ways of engaging in such debate and how we as editors should respond to comments made outside the ‘Rapid Response’ forum.
Now, if I've read that right they seem to be saying that criticism of the studies they publish should only take place on their website where it can be subject to posting rules and, presumably if they deem it necessary, censorship.


I've not tried to post a moody red-mist rebuttal to anything there but maybe I'll do so in the future if that is an invitation, not sure how long it would last though.
Tobacco Control provides a valuable forum for analysis, commentary and debate in the field of tobacco control.
Debate? This is the same journal which decided in 2013 to ban entire tranches of research simply based on who wrote it. You could devise a product which cured all known forms of tobacco-related cancer but if the wrong people were behind submitting the research, Tobacco Control would still refuse to publish it. The tobacco control industry strives incessantly to close down all dissent, with policies deliberately crafted to enable them to stick their fingers in their ears. Debate, my arse!
Despite careful review and selection procedures, no journal can guarantee that everything published is accurate, or that all readers will agree with the authors’ interpretation of findings. 
Recent comments posted on some personal blogs impugn the objectivity of Tobacco Control and its reviewers, questioning our motives and the veracity of peer review.
Well yes. Because Tobacco Control itself has judged the peer review process to be utterly useless. Here's what they said about it back in 2013.
Critics may argue—as many did when journals stopped publishing cigarette adverts—that publishing such research does not constitute endorsing its findings and that, as long as funding sources are fully disclosed, readers can consider that information and make up their own minds about the quality of the work. Peer review should prevail, goes this line of thinking: it’s not the editor’s job to make these kinds of judgments. 
However, this view ignores the growing body of evidence that biases and research misconduct are often impossible to detect, and that the source of funding can influence the outcomes of studies in invisible ways.
This, of course, does not stop the BMJ publishing glowing reports on, for example, the efficacy of pharmaceutical products - all {cough} thoroughly peer-reviewed - by people with COIs from pharmaceutical companies which make your eyes water.

As for "inpugn[ing] the objectivity of Tobacco Control and its reviewers", it's the journal itself which has thrown its objectivity and credibility in the gutter over the years. Here are just a tiny few examples.

How about the one in 2015 which declared, from a telephone survey of 8,679 smokers asking them if they had purchased illegal products (see the flaw in that, do you?), that there had been no increase in illicit tobacco following plain packaging. It won't surprise you that the career professional tobacco control industry authors had gerrymandered the illicit brands they chose for the study and that the data didn't fit their conclusions anyway. Incredibly though, they declared their research was more authoritative and objective than a conflicting one conducted by KPMG which involved the collection of 12,000 discarded cigarette packs across 16 different towns and cities covering 75% of the population, to see what was actually being smoked.

Or, consider the one a couple of months later that surveyed 723 flight attendants to find out if they had ever seen someone using an e-cig on a plane or in an airport. Unsurprisingly, quite a few had. The 'objective' Tobacco Control then leapt to the unrelated conclusion that "allowing e-cigarette use in smoke-free places undermines the denormalisation of cigarette smoking" and that "given the growing evidence around passive vaping (yes, really - DP) and air quality associated with e-cigarette use, banning e-cigarettes on aeroplanes and in airports is a needed step-forward for the protection of both passengers and crew.".

Or how about the detached and not at all unhinged Australian Tobacco Control editor who said this in February last year?


Or we could scroll on to September last year where this bizarre research was published by Tobacco Control.
Use of electronic cigarettes in smoke-free environments 
Only 2.5% of those who used e-cigarettes in smoke-free environments reported negative reactions from other people.  
CONCLUSIONS: E-cigarette use in smoke-free environments was common, suggesting that most e-cigarette users do not consider smoke-free laws to apply to e-cigarettes. Explicit laws should be considered if jurisdictions want to prohibit e-cigarette use in public places.
Don't forget the study in October, too, which claimed to have found a miraculous reduction in heart attacks and hospital admissions following a smoking ban in São Paulo despite the data showing quite the opposite.



And, to bring us bang up to date, the claim made in Tobacco Control this month that vaping is “a one-way bridge to cigarette smoking among youth". Never mind that the research actually showed that - out of 347 non-smoking youngsters - they could only find four who had vaped and then smoked up to two (yes, 2!) cigarettes in the following year, and not a single youth who had gone on to become a regular smoker.

We could go on and on. How impossible heart attack 'miracle' junk studies are routinely to be seen in Tobacco Control but studies saying that plain packs "do not change smoking behaviour" will not make the cut. How fantasy nonsense follows incompetent wibbling follows bare-faced lies into the pages of Tobacco Control, unstemmed by any meaningful peer review, immune to reality, and unhampered by shame or embarrassment.

Yet Ruth and her colleagues seem to be saying that these things should only be tackled in the sterile atmosphere of the BMJ's 'Rapid Responses' facility where they can decide which remarks to allow and which humiliating junk debunking to suppress. In fact, so irritated are they at individuals having their say without the control part of tobacco control being able to stop it, that their (rather predictable) response is to withdraw even further into their echo chamber. They've thrown the toys, spat the dummy, and now want their ball back.
As a result of discussion about these issues, the Tobacco Control editorial team has now established a policy that editors will not respond to external blog posts or social media messages about specific studies.
If you've ever tried to engage with a tobacco controller on Twitter, you might look at the length of your block list and piss yourself laughing that they claim to even bother responding on social media at all. But this seems to say that - with the intense amount of execrable bullshit they've been publishing of late - they are feeling the heat and officially removing themselves from the kitchen.

Yesterday's article, funny as it is, tells you quite a lot about the mindset of those at Tobacco Control. They like having the microphone; you are to be spoken to from on high, not to wrestle the microphone from their grasp and go doing your own thing. They do the telling, you do the listening, and if you want to criticise it must be done in the way they direct you to or you are not to be listened to at all.

It's never been about health, and the biased and deceitful pages of Tobacco Control have never been about truth. Objectivity? There's never been any. Credibility? Do me a favour.

UPDATE: 

Further reading on this subject here:

Editors of Tobacco Control admit they publish indefensible junk science - Carl Phillips
Tobacco Control Journal: There Can Be No Legitimate Discussion of Our Articles Without Our Permission - Michael Siegel
Denial of the Echo Chamber - Facts Do Matter
Hey Ruth. This one is for you. - Storm
Open Letter to Ruth Malone - Facts Do Matter (Guest)



Monday, 20 February 2017

How Tobacco Control 'Science' Works #94

Earlier this month, I briefly mentioned merchant of doubt Simple Simon's master class in cherry-picking 'evidence' in The Conversation to claim that truths about e-cigs are actually myths.

The comments under the line have since been quite a story in themselves, with Greek scientist Konstantinos Farsalinos revealing that he is embarking on the task of replicating some of the studies which led to garish scare stories in the media.

Click to enlarge

Established scientific convention dictates that research criteria should be made available to other scientists so they can check the results by exactly replicating the methodology to confirm its authenticity. It would appear that Farsalinos isn't too impressed with what he is finding while doing just that.

He is also having a lot of trouble with the authors of a recent study into flavourings in e-cigs. In short, they don't seem willing to disclose which products they tested, as Farsalinos mentions in the comments at The Conversation.
The authors published  a study showing 10,000-fold higher aldehyde levels in flavored vs unflavored liquids. It is not just the difference that matters; the levels reported are HUGE. Up to 7000 ug/g formaldehyde, up to 3500 ug/g acetaldehyde. If this is verified, i will be THE FIRST to openly and publicly recommend against the use of flavored e-cigarettes. When i say verified, i mean finding similar (not necessarily identical) aldehyde levels. Even 40% or 50% less would still be extremely high, and i would consider that a verification of their findings. 
So, why is the author repeatedly denying to reveal which liquids they tested? Publicly. The main author says that 5 samples are mentioned, but those were cigalikes and only 1 had problems. The crucial issue is to replicate Brand I in their study. Besides the public comments, i have personally sent 2 very polite emails (dates: 11 November 2016 and 25 November 2016) to the first author requesting information about the samples tested. I NEVER received any response, and it is the first time this is happening to me.
In the comments to the research itself, Professor Peter Hajek has also asked why "repeated requests" about the exact brands and flavours being tested are being ignored. The reply from lead author, Andrey Khlystov, either shows a laughable lack of knowledge about the subject matter, or an alarming unwillingness to allow his research to be replicated.
Contrary to what you suggest, there is little value in testing exactly the same liquids. Testing specific liquids or flavors was not the point of our study.
It may not have been, but to replicate the study it is essential that the liquids tested must be revealed. All that Khlystov will say is that they can be bought at this website. There are thousands of different liquid flavourings, all at varying levels of nicotine strength and differing blends of VG, PG, with differing viscosity and behaviour. With the generally piss poor understanding of how e-cigs work amongst tobacco control researchers, it's more that possible that these guys could have been pumping gloopy liquid through a low capacity power source and not even be aware of their fuck up (it wouldn't be the first time). To say, then, there is little value in testing exactly the same product is quite bizarre

You have to wonder why the secrecy. If he's confident in his results, why wouldn't he want the experiment to be replicated?

Not releasing the names of the liquids tested to another researcher is scientifically reprehensible; not releasing the names of liquids - which the study's own conclusions consider dangerous - is morally corrupt and incredibly irresponsible.

Imagine, for example, that one particular flavour is found to be extremely dangerous, someone dedicated to protecting 'public health' should be keen that the warning was spread widely, yet the authors of this study don't seem concerned with that, instead wishing the message to be directed at all flavours.

Do you reckon there might be an agenda at play here? It's almost as if they don't really care much about health at all, huh? It's certainly one to watch with interest. 



Monday, 13 February 2017

What Is 'The Best Nicotine Delivery Device in the World'?

Now there's a question, huh?

If you weren't already aware, there is an event at the IEA on Wednesday 22nd February which will attempt to answer that question via the medium of an entertaining balloon debate. The evening will also feature a short presentation on ‘The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers’ by Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Substance Use Research, which I wrote about over the Christmas period.


It promises to be an interesting night out, featuring these speakers battling it out for supremacy in favour of their favourite nicotine product.
•    Judy Gibson, International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) advocating e-cigarettes
•    Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, advocating heated tobacco
•    Angela Harbutt, founder of Liberal Vision, advocating cigarettes
•    Ranald Macdonald, managing director, Boisdale Restaurants, advocating cigars
•    Chris Snowdon, head of the Lifestyle Economics Unit, advocating snus
•    Andrew Stewart, Pipe Club of London, advocating pipes
There is a (free) drinks reception from 6.15pm, with the debate beginning at 7.00pm.

As I've mentioned before, the IEA's hospitality is always warm (courtesy of Forest and Boisdale for this event), so it's a date you should consider for your diary.  I'll be going along on the night and, I expect, on to a local boozer for a bit of post-debate banter afterwards. The debate lasts about an hour and a half, is completely free, the venue has a pleasant smoking area and is vape-friendly. What's not to like?

I'm sure there are many differing opinions as to which is the best nicotine device, but considering the audience is the judge in this type of debate, why not come along and support your personal favourite? To get on the guest list, drop an email to events@forestonline.org and maybe I'll see you there. 



Sunday, 12 February 2017

Drafting An EU Tobacco Taxation Consultation Response

As regular readers know, we often take part in public consultations here, and there is an important one currently open which ends on Thursday 16th February (yes, this week) which I'd urge you to have a bash at.

The EU is planning to make changes to directive 2011/64/EU which deals with manufactured tobacco products, and one of the proposals is to make e-cigs liable for taxation as a tobacco product category. Obviously this is daft, but there is more than just that in the consultation survey, it also deals with new 'Heat not Burn' products (HnB) along with raw tobacco, cigarillos, cigars, waterpipes and other tobacco category items.

Ordinarily I'd write a guide suggesting how to respond but this time I don't have to, because Vapers in Power (ViP) have written one one already.

This consultation is pretty straightforward and won't take very long, so go read the ViP guide and then click on the EU consultation page here to let them know what you think. Remember, it closes on Thursday so don't leave it too late. 



Thursday, 9 February 2017

The BBC And Suspiciously-Timed Snus 'Science'

Articles on the BBC about snus are about as rare as sightings of Willy Wonka factory tour golden tickets, but just such an occurrence was spotted on Tuesday.

What looks suspiciously like a well-timed piece of trademark tobacco control junk science to muddy the waters in the run-up to a CJEU challenge of the EU snus ban was - as can be expected with a study negative about nicotine - embraced warmly by Nanny Beeb.
Swedes warned snus tobacco raises diabetes risk
Researchers in Sweden have issued a warning over snus - the country's favourite nicotine hit - challenging claims it is a risk-free alternative to smoking.
Stop right there, BBC.

Haven't you been telling us all for decades that smoking is the root of every ill known to man - from lung cancer to ingrowing toenails - but now a tea bag of pasteurised tobacco placed under a person's lip isn't a better choice? I do wish these prurient bansturbators would make their minds up.
A study in The Journal of Internal Medicine found using snus increases the risk of developing diabetes. 
Researchers said that one or more pots of snus per day increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 70% - the same risk level as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day. 
Five to six pots a week - a slightly lower consumption level - increases the risk by 40%. 
Researchers from Umea University, Lund University and the Karolinska Institute followed 54,500 snus users between 1990 and 2013 to compile the study.
40%, 70%, aren't they scary numbers, huh? Well when expressed like that, perhaps, but let's make a comparison.

Using the same terms, Cancer Research UK warns that the increased risk of lung cancer from smoking is 2600%. Yet even after years of stating how many other diseases smoking is supposed to cause, the BBC doesn't see fit to mention the plethora of other problems that snus simply doesn’t produce. Instead focusing on a vanishingly small risk of diabetes which even the authors of this research concede is so lightweight that the margin of error could mean there is no risk at all.

The risk is even more negligible when you consider that Diabetes UK doesn't even list smoking as a risk factor on its website, so why anyone should be concerned about snus being equally benign is anyone's guess.

Worse than that, the BBC also fails to mention that this meta-analysis has come to a polar opposite conclusion to other research that preceded it on the subject of snus and diabetes. In fact, even co-authors of this study - Sweden's pre-eminent anti-tobacco fake science factory, the Karolinska Institute - declared the risk of snus for causing diabetes to be non-existent in June last year.
Aims
It has been suggested that moist snuff (snus), a smokeless tobacco product that is high in nicotine and widespread in Scandinavia, increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Previous studies are however few, contradictory and, with regard to autoimmune diabetes, lacking. Our aim was to study the association between snus use and the risk of Type 2 diabetes and latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (LADA). 
Conclusion 
The risk of Type 2 diabetes and LADA is unrelated to the use of snus, despite its high nicotine content. This opens the possibility of the increased risk of Type 2 diabetes seen in smokers may not be attributed to nicotine, but to other substances in tobacco smoke.
The June report also found that former snus users had a lower rate of Type 2 diabetes than never users, so when all previous studies on a subject say one thing but another says something wildly different, a responsible news source should be enquiring as to why, don't you think? Yet the BBC don't do so and - I could be wrong - I don't remember the BBC ever reporting on any of the other snus studies that dismissed the link to diabetes. A cynic could be forgiven for thinking that, by making a big noise about a rare outlier, the Beeb has resorted to clickbait journalism instead of calm analysis of serious subject matter, eh?

The BBC could also have looked into the meta-analysis itself which was weighted heavily towards extreme consumers in the north of Sweden. An area of the country which is renowned, amongst other dodgy behaviours, for impressive consumption of moonshine. Did this research control for other lifestyle factors such as this? No! No, of course it didn't.

Additionally, if the implication is - as the BBC article tends to suggest - that the nicotine in snus is the cause of diabetes, where does NRT figure in the analysis? It would surely have the same effects, yet has been issued a medicinal license and therefore had to pass through numerous clinical trials, none of which have flagged up any particularly nasty risk of diabetes presumably.

And as for this nonsense:
Dr Sofia Carlsson, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, told The Local: "The current picture in Sweden is that snus is not as dangerous as smoking, and there is some evidence for that too - but importantly, there haven't been that many studies on Swedish snus.".
Haven't been many studies? What does she think this 805 page "review of the scientific literature on snus" was all about then?

You have to wonder why the (EU-funded) BBC seem to have dipped their toe in the scientific debate on snus at this particular time when they haven't before, especially with this particular research which has holes you could drive an Iveco truck through. Did someone say EU ban court case?

Who cares if the study is poorly-designed junk? Who cares that it contravenes a long-held consensus? Who cares that it could have adverse consequences for health?

The establishment that plays together, stays together. 



Wednesday, 8 February 2017

It's A Good Country If It Agrees With Simple Simon

Simple Simon Chapman has been heroically doing his Canute impression at The Conversation by employing global cherry-picking on steroids to pretend a bunch of vaping truths are actually myths. Comical stuff like this for example.
9. There’s no good evidence for e-cigarettes being a gateway to smoking in young people 
Centers for Disease Control data from 2015 demonstrate a concerning sudden cessation and plateau in the previous decline of US high school students smoking tobacco, while e-cigarette use is skyrocketing.
Yeah OK, oddball.


Yes, the whole thing is as shit as that. Y'see, Simple Simon is one of the old guard of tobacco control who lied for decades about smoking and saw a bovine public actually believe them. So therefore now think all they have to do is lie outrageously about e-cigs and - hey presto! - they will again be lauded for protecting society from imaginary danger ... instead of hilariously destroying their ill-gotten reputations in favour of a place in history as an ignorant object of eternal ridicule.

The most interesting thing about Simon Chapman's article though - apart from his increasingly isolated battle with reality - was this exchange in the comments.
Jenny
Prof Chapman said; “But 18 nations ban e-cigarettes outright,…”
To expand on that using the link provided, the 18 countries who have banned ecigs are: ARGENTINA, AUSTRIA, BRAZIL, BRUNEI, INDONESIA, COLOMBIA, JORDAN, MALAYSIA, MEXICO, OMAN, PANAMA, QATAR, SINGAPORE, TAIWAN, THAILAND, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, UAE, including Dubai, URUGUAY, VENEZUELA. 
By contrast the UNITED KINGDOM, UNITED STATES, and the EUROPEAN UNION, along with a few other western democracies are all in the list of countries that permit (and in some cases encourage) the use of ecigs. 
CANADA and NEW ZEALAND are both in the process of liberalising their current restrictions on use. 
I don’t think I need to expand on the meaning evident in this information, but I will say that tobacco harm reduction seems to be favoured by more progressive, western nations.
Fellow commenter Mark haughtily objected to what he saw as disrespectful insinuation.
Mark
From what I can tell from your post you are suggesting that countries in which which legislation reflects your own views on vaping are “more progressive” while those that don’t reflect your views are not.  You should try and explain that.
Yes, what a terrible argument! I mean, who but a fool would dismiss entire nations simply because they disagree, eh?




You don't often see articles where a commenter defends the author while indirectly calling him a bellend, now do you? 



Monday, 6 February 2017

British Vapers Leading Europe

One of the 'Big Four' accounting firms, Ernst and Young (EY), has today released a report on e-cig use in seven 'core' countries between 2013 and 2016. The results are quite interesting, especially for UK vapers ... take a bow boys and girls.
The British public are switching from traditional cigarettes to vaping devices (e-cigarettes) faster than anyone in Europe. In the last four years, the British have switched to vaping at the rate of one person every four minutes.

The EY report shows that 2.2 million British people now use e-cigarettes – this is up by 55% in just three years. In total, 4.2% of British adults vape. France has the next highest penetration at 3.1%.
In your face, cheese-eating surrender monkeys!

There are many other revealing stats in the report, such as how the vaping market has more than doubled in size since 2013 and - much to the chagrin of 'public health' dinosaurs who like to pretend e-cigs are a plot by 'Big Tobacco' to drive tobacco consumption - how dual use is declining rapidly in favour of sole use.

As usual, click the images to enlarge
Meaning that if tobacco companies really are investing in e-cigs in order to encourage dual use and therefore revive tobacco sales - as many deluded (or deliberately doubt-fostering) tobacco controllers claim - their cunning plan looks to be failing spectacularly. Something the industry-hating tobacco control community will duly celebrate, no?

EY also report that over two-thirds of e-cig users prefer to buy 'modular' devices, described as "can be refilled by the user, but also allows the user to regulate the power delivered from the system’s batteries to the atomizer". This must also come as a bit of a blow to tobacco control conspiracy theorists who like to tell the world that 'Big Tobacco' is a majority supplier of e-cigs to consumers; they aren't, because the tobacco industry sells very few devices which fit that description.


However, probably the most damning statistic EY has presented is on the drivers of e-cig use. In the UK, prevalence is still climbing despite furious scaremongering tobacco control junk science being published regularly in the media. However, it has declined in France where the government has been joining in with the hysteria.


The EY report discovered that around half of smokers enjoyed smoking and didn't believe that e-cigs would offer them the same experience, which is understandable. However, the research also revealed that, for around 30% of smokers, "I think e-cigarettes might be harmful to my health" is given as a reason as to why they had not tried, or did not intend to use e-cigs. Now, I don't know what the percentage switch rate is currently, but that means that tobacco control hysterics have convinced between 3 million and 4 million smokers that they should steer clear of vaping because it is equally or more harmful than smoking.

It's never really been about health, has it?

The good news, though - as I've said many times since I first wrote about them in 2010 - is that the more vapers there are, the more shrill and absurd detractors become and the more the public will realise that governments and 'public health' are lying their arses off about smoking alternatives. This EY report has assessed that the e-cigs market is currently worth around £6.1bn, up from £700 million in 2010, and predict that this will increase to around £12bn in 2020.

Just imagine how much that must smart for certain insane moon-howlers in California, Sydney and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, eh?