May 22nd, 2015

US public health establishment proposes to increase fiscal deaths

WHO World No Tobacco Day

If only it was that simple…

According to the great sage Benjamin Franklin in 1789:

… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes

He probably didn’t envisage deliberately causing death by carelessly designing taxes. But to my surprise and dismay, that seems to be the idea of the public health establishment of United States.  I saw this story today:

Smoking Rates Continue to Drop in Many States: CDC – Doctors’ Lounge

It seems the apparent good news in the title is not worth celebrating however, because the miserablist view is that people may be reducing smoking but they are not playing ball because they are using smokeless tobacco products or vaping. So it’s not a real public health win. CDC apparently believes that this could be addressed by raising taxes on smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes.

“We know that increasing the price of tobacco is the most effective method to reduce consumption,” [Brian King, acting deputy director for research translation in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health] said. “Since smokeless tobacco is taxed lower in most states along with other products like e-cigarettes, this could be contributing to the lack of decline in use,” he said.

The American Lung Association also seems to think that a tax hike on these other tobacco products – i.e. the ones that don’t do much harm to lungs – would be a good idea.

Dr. Norman Edelman, senior consultant for scientific affairs at the American Lung Association, said the association agrees that states spend too little on helping people quit tobacco.

“Smokeless tobacco is cheap,” he said. “States have not raised taxes on it the way they have on cigarettes, and high prices are one of the best tools we have in combating the use of tobacco,” Edelman said.

To state the obvious: because of the low price elasticity of demand for nicotine products (due to addictiveness, dependence or whatever you care to call it), the dominant effect would be realignment of demand between products within the nicotine category, not quitting nicotine. Given that smokeless tobacco or vaping is around 95% lower risk than smoking, the realignment of demand through tax changes proposed by CDC and ALA would be from lower harm to higher harm products. “Fiscal deaths” (increased mortality arising from a change in tax policy) would surely follow.  I guess it is unlikely that any of the desk-based perps cited above would be held to account – but let their economic naivety be recorded here.

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April 20th, 2015

Louise Ross: why shouldn’t people with poor mental health have the same opportunities as everyone else?

No vaping allowed

Does this give people with poor mental health the same opportunities as everyone else?

A new guest blog from Louise Ross, Leicester Stop Smoking Service Manager, showing the way with humanity, empathy and humility (previous posts: Let there be light! and Who’s health are we talking about?).  Her new guest blog starts now:

>> read the full post

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March 31st, 2015

Alarmist survey on teenage vaping misses the point – reaction

The BBC, GuardianTelegraph and others report on a new study, Associations between e-cigarette access and smoking and drinking behaviours in teenagers,  that “showed one in five had tried or bought e-cigarettes“.  The researchers put out a forthright press release and concluded e-cigarettes were the “alcopops of the nicotine world” and need tougher controls. Nice soundbite, but have the researchers, journal editors, peer reviewers and journalists really interpreted this survey correctly?

I think this study is being widely misunderstood or spun …It may actually may be showing something that is a good news.  Let’s examine four things that must be considered when assessing the implications of this survey – then some expert reaction and consumer reaction: >> read the full post

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March 24th, 2015

Latvia consults on protecting the cigarette trade by crushing e-cigarettes with hyper-regulation

Latvia within European Union

Latvia: aiding bootleggers and big tobacco


More pernicious creeping back to medicines regulation within the EU.  Just as a parliamentary review in one country that applies it, Canada, recommends going the other way, Latvia consults on making it mandatory. This post has my response to Latvia’s consultation, which closes 24 March.  The relevant implementing law mostly follows the anti-scientific requirements of the Tobacco Products Directive, but throws in a near total ban on vaping in public places for good measure.  However, it also goes further than the TPD by making medicine regulation mandatory for e-cigarettes, an option the Commission has indicated it believes is open under the TPD – but cannot be compatible with free movement of goods in the EU internal market or a harmonising measure. The egregious text on medical regulation is here:  >> read the full post

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March 14th, 2015

Canadian dawn

Vermillion Lakes near Banff

Some good news at last from Canada. The Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Health has produced a report, Vaping: Towards A Regulatory Framework for E-cigarettes [report PDF]. Here is my response.

>> read the full post

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