February 5th, 2016

TPD implementation – maximising harm by going beyond the minimum

julie andrews

Caption contest: the hills are alive with the sound of…

It’s hard to keep up with the public health madness in Europe.  Not content with creating the worst EU Directive ever made, laden with unintended consequences, many member states are now working hard on compounding their error by gold-plating the directive’s wholly unjustified costs, burdens and limitations on e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco with additional measures that go beyond the minimum.

Professor Gerry Stimson and I have made a small effort of resistance – here are two submissions to the Austrian consultation on TPD implementation. Austria proposes to ban internet sales of e-cigarettes and to ban all forms of smokeless tobacco, not just snus. We have tried to place these in the wider context of harm reduction and unintended consequences of poor policy-making. >> read the full post

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January 13th, 2016

Who will be duped by error-strewn ‘meta-analysis’ of e-cigarette studies?


Done badly, meta-analysis can be a neat and scientific-sounding way of aggregating junk to create new and more convincing junk

[Note: backgrounder What is meta-analysis]

The Lancet Respiratory Medicine has been duped into publishing a ‘meta-analysis’ of e-cigarette studies authored by Professor Stanton Glantz and colleague [see Kalkhoran S, Glantz SA. E-cigarettes and smoking cessation in real-world and clinical settings: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Respir Med].

The expert reaction has been swift and devastating: “not scientific”, “grossly misleading”, “a major failure of the peer review system” are amongst the comments from Professor Robert West, Professor Ann McNeill, Professor Peter Hajek, Linda Bauld of Cancer Research UK and Roseanna O’Connor of Public Health England. What’s behind this unusually strong condemnation? >> read the full post

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December 30th, 2015

Credulous or cynical? Science journalists played yet again by e-cigarette pseudoscience and spin

I’ve just written to Sarah Knapton, Science Editor at the once-proud Telegraph titles. She has picked up one of the most idiotic American press releases ever written and turned it one of the most idiotic UK news stories ever written*: E-cigarettes are no safer than smoking tobacco, scientists warn – an outrageous headline buffed up with a subtitle that invokes the spectre of cancer.

Cells exposed to the e-cigarette vapour showed several forms of damage, including DNA strand breaks, which can lead to cancer

Here’s the study and press release:

  • Study: Yu V, Rahimy M, Korrapati A, et al. Electronic cigarettes induce DNA strand breaks and cell death independently of nicotine in cell lines. Oral Oncol 2015;52:58–65. [link]
  • Eureka Alert Press release: Cell harm seen in lab tests of e-cigarettes

See if you can see how the headline can be justified by the study. On second thoughts, don’t waste your time: it can’t.

The UK’s statistics vigilante, Stats Guy Adam Jacobs, has already nominated the Telegraph article the “most dangerous, irresponsible, and ill-informed piece of health journalism of 2015” – Dangerous nonsense about vaping.

Here’s my letter to Sarah Knapton about it. >> read the full post

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December 22nd, 2015

Escaping the EU directive on e-cigarettes


I’ve written  and presented many times on the utter mess the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD 2014/40/EU) has made of regulating low-risk alternatives to smoking: notably Article 20 that regulates e-cigarettes and Article 17 that bans snus.

EU legislation is especially ill-suited to regulating new disruptive and controversial technologies that regulators don’t understand – see my discussion of regulating disruptive technology. Directives are produced by a kind of committee pinball game that reflect prejudices, esoteric beliefs and haggling of people with little knowledge of what they are dealing with and no accountability for the outcome or damage done.  But once agreed, they are really hard to reverse or amend, and they are a good reason to do only what is necessary at European level.

Here’re the escape routes I can think of. >> read the full post

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November 28th, 2015

A billion lives?

A promising new documentary film is on the way to our screens: A billion lives –“a true story of government failure, big business and the vaping revolution”. See trailer above.

It gets its name from the often-quoted figure that one billion lives may be lost to diseases caused by smoking in the 21st Century.  The eminent epidemiologist Sir Richard Peto summarised the outlook in a comment to the Independent newspaper: Smoking will ‘kill up to a billion people worldwide this century’ (8 Nov 2012)

Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University, a co-author of the Million Women study who worked closely with Sir Richard Doll, is also the scientist who first calculated how many people this century will die from tobacco-induced cancers. “We have about 30 million new smokers a year in the world. On present patterns, most of them are not going to stop, and if they don’t stop, and if half of them die from it, then that means more than 10 million a year will die – that’s 100 million a decade in the second half of the century,” said Professor Peto.

“So this century we’re going to see something like a billion deaths from smoking if we carry on as we are.

But where do these numbers come from? >> read the full post

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