September 30th, 2020

European Commission SCHEER scientific opinion on e-cigarettes - a guide for policymakers

“C’mon… we’ll never get away with that

Introduction

The SCHEER opinion on e-cigarettes

On 23 September 2020, the European Commissions’ Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) provided its Preliminary Opinion on Electronic Cigarettes (context & abstract, preliminary report PDF).  This opinion is important because it is one input to the report on the implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EC, under Article 28 of the Directive.  This review should complete by 20 May 2021, and it may form the basis for a further revision of the Tobacco Products Directive.  The Committee’s mandate (Request for Scientific Opinion) sets out its terms of reference.

Consultation

The preliminary scientific opinion is open for consultation responses until 26 October 2020. The consultation system is here: Public consultation on electronic cigarettes and looks designed to deter responses to the extent possible. ETHRA, European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates, provides guidance on responding here.  However, that is not the only way to respond to it, though responding directly is important.  Another way is to approach the people who are intended to make sense of and use the opinion – policymakers in EU member states and European Commission, politicians in the EU legislature, and stakeholders in the political policymaking process. This post is for them.

This post

In this post, I discuss why the SCHEER preliminary opinion offers no useful analysis or relevant insights to policymakers. It is not that the committee has not reviewed a lot of literature: it has. It stems from a more fundamental problem: a failure to frame the scientific knowledge in a way that will assist policymakers in considering what, if anything, to do next.  Though policymakers should be the primary audience, the report also provides little of value to other communities of interest – smokers, vapers, parents, public health or medical practitioners, or businesses.

It starts with reproducing the report abstract and then groups my advice to appropriately sceptical policymakers under ten headings. >> read the full post

July 23rd, 2020

Canada takes a wrong turn after a flawed paper induces moral panic about youth vaping and smoking

Canada takes a wrong turn after a flawed paper induces moral panic

Summary

In June 2019, an influential and well-respected research group published a paper in the BMJ showing both a sharp rise in youth vaping in Canada between 2017 and 2018 – mirroring the rise in the United States.  But the truly shocking finding was that there had also been a sharp rise in youth smoking (not seen in the United States).

Starting from well before publication, the paper had a strong negative influence on Canada’s approach to tobacco harm reduction, causing a reversal from a promising and insightful pro-public health approach to making ad hoc responses to a mounting moral panic.  Yet it turns out the smoking figures were wrong – a consequence of a flawed weighting procedure.

By July 2020, a correction had been issued in the BMJ noting that with revised weighting, smoking had, in fact, fallen.  But, absurdly, the correction was buried in a statistical supplement and the published paper still states, inaccurately, that youth smoking increased in its results and conclusion.  The discussion section of the paper continues to discuss an increase in smoking that never happened. Given the political salience of this paper, a proper correction or retraction and resubmission is essential.

In this blog post, I unpick what happened and when. I finish with thoughts on lessons for researchers using this type of research to promote regulatory policies. >> read the full post

July 8th, 2020

The past is not the future - what lies ahead for tobacco and nicotine?

“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future” – Niels Bohr, Physicist

Let’s have some debate on the future of tobacco, nicotine, tobacco control and the tobacco and vaping industry. Here are three provocative pieces to get things moving. >> read the full post

June 11th, 2020

Louise Ross: Pragmatism versus dogma: freeing the inner vaper in smokers - Michael Russell Oration 2020

The highlight of this year’s Global Forum on Nicotine will be the Michael Russell Oration given by the superb Louise Ross on 11 June 2020.  Louise has kindly given permission to reproduce the text of her oration on this blog. This joins the collection of outstanding writing by Louise we host here on the Counterfactual.

My reaction on Twitter…

So here it is, the tex as given… and if you prefer, please see video below. >> read the full post

May 30th, 2020

International experts in tobacco policy say WHO is blocking innovation and wasting opportunities to save millions of lives

WHO NCD poster

WHO Tobacco Free Initiative and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – you have one job!

As the World Health Organisation’s World No Tobacco Day takes aim at low-risk alternatives to smoking, several international experts have made critical comments in response. >> read the full post