Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can we make smoking safer by reducing TSNA?

A new “scientific” study from anti-smoker researchers concludes:”We found no indication that any meaningful attempt was made to reduce or at least control TSNA levels in the new varieties of the popular brands Marlboro and Camel introduced over the last decade. In light of the recently granted regulatory authority to the FDA over tobacco products, regulation of TSNA levels in cigarette tobacco should be strongly considered to reduce the levels of these potent carcinogens in cigarette smoke.”

The researchers are calling for the US FDA to dictate a reduction in the levels of TSNA (tobacco specific nitrosamines) in cigarettes. This follows a WHO (World Health Organization) proposal to mandate a lowering of selected “toxicants” in cigarette smoke published in the journal Tobacco Control in 2008.

Study authors are claiming that higher levels of TSNA in cigarette smoke are associated with a higher risk of cancer, and that reducing TSNA will have an unspecified beneficial affect. “Modification of tobacco curing methods and other changes in cigarette manufacturing techniques could substantially reduce the levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNA), a group of potent carcinogens, in cigarette smoke.”

The inference is that reducing the levels of TSNA in cigarettes will reduce the alleged health risks of smoking; that mandating lower levels of TSNA will, in fact, result in safer cigarettes.

The problem, of course, is that the specific chemicals, or chemical compounds, (the toxicants) responsible for the alleged risks related to tobacco smoke are unknown. So, following the logic of the anti-smoker crowd, there can be absolutely no scientific evidence that reducing or even eliminating specific constituents in tobacco smoke will reduce its overall toxicity.

If the specific constituents in tobacco smoke responsible for lung cancer are unknown, it follows that no safe level of exposure to those unknown constituents can be determined.

In fact, that is just what the US Surgeon General has stated unequivocally; that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. And, if there's no safe level of exposure, just how in hell will forcing the cigarette companies to reduce levels of specific tobacco constituents improve public health?

The researchers are highly critical of the tobacco companies, blaming them for their failure “to reduce or at least control TSNA levels.” But, obviously, if there is no such thing as a safer cigarette, as the anti-smoker zealots contend, then reducing the levels of some chemicals in tobacco is a complete waste of time, effort and money.

This latest study ignores the fact that it was anti-smoker zealots who were responsible for the termination of research into potentially less hazardous cigarettes. In fact, for 30 years, the anti-smoker cult has categorically rejected the possibility.

In the late seventies, the Smoking and Health Program was administered by the National Cancer Institute in the US; charged with the task of developing a less hazardous cigarette. Among those researching the possibility of less hazardous cigarettes were such notables as Gio Batta Gori and Ernst Wynder, both of whom opposed smoking.

Dr. Gori, who received the U.S. Public Health Service Superior Service Award in 1976 for his efforts, maintained that a less harmful cigarette could be developed. He did not envision a “safe” cigarette, but rather a safer cigarette, one which would reduce the risk(s) associated with smoking even though it might not eliminate those risks in their entirety. Focusing on harm reduction, Gori asserted, could substantially reduce the morbidity and mortality for which tobacco was thought responsible.

In 2002, Gori wrote: “One-fifth of humanity smokes with little indication they might soon quit, too many public and private interests benefit handsomely from the trade, and an illegal market stands eager to fill an uncontrollable demand should taxes and prices be set too high or should cigarettes be made illegal. Hence, the sensible and ethical public health policy would be to continue efforts to persuade smokers to quit, and to consider ways to reduce the risks for those who keep on smoking.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Gori's harm reduction approach to tobacco use was discarded in favour of the zealots zero tolerance policies and research on less hazardous cigarettes was terminated circa 1980 when the prohibitionists announced they could end smoking by the year 2000.

So how can the WHO and the anti-smoker zealots insist, on the one hand, that less hazardous cigarettes are neither feasible nor desirable, while on the other advocating a reduction of TSNA and other toxicants, ostensibly to facilitate some kind of health benefit to smokers?

If the anti-smoker crowd were genuinely concerned about the health of smokers, they would embrace the concept of harm reduction. They would actively promote all products with the potential to reduce the alleged hazards of smoking, including snus and the electronic cigarette, not just those products on offer from the pharmaceutical industry.

Instead, the anti-smokers stridently attempt to discredit those tobacco products, with dishonest claims and blatant misrepresentation of the facts.

This latest study, and the proposals from the WHO which preceded it, must be considered disingenuous at best. Just more bullshit and bafflegab from the disciples of the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Smoking is . . . is not, an addiction

There's been a lot written about smoking and addiction on the blogs and websites dedicated to such issues this past week. It's actually a difficult subject to discuss because there's no longer any real definition of addiction; the meaning has become rather vague, lost actually, with the parameters seemingly changing to suit the occasion.

John Banzhaf, one of the high priests of the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker, has pontificated that smoking is not an addiction. The addiction, he claims, is to nicotine. And, since nicotine addicts can get their fix from any number of sources or delivery systems, including the patch, gum or electronic cigarette, then smoking becomes a choice.

And, it naturally follows that, if smoking is a choice, then it is fair and reasonable to discriminate against smokers by refusing medical treatment, among other things.

Anti-smoking activist Michael Siegel, takes exception to Banzhaf's decree, claiming that smoking is indeed an addiction; smokers are as much in need of the rituals involved in smoking as they are in the hit of nicotine.

Siegel's main concern is that, if smoking is viewed as a choice rather than an addiction, then legal action against the tobacco companies, dependent as they are on the proposition that people don't quit because they can't, becomes that much more difficult. The contention that the tobacco companies compel smokers to use their product by making it addictive becomes a somewhat specious argument.

If nicotine is the addiction, and there are other sources of nicotine available, then the case against the tobacco companies goes up in smoke. The anti-smoker strategy of painting smokers as the helpless victims of “big tobacco” falls apart and smokers become the authors of their own misfortune.

In the US, the patch became available by prescription in 1992, and over the counter in 1996. Other alternative nicotine delivery systems have been developed and marketed since then. So, if nicotine is addictive, then Banzhaf has a point. And, the smoker has ample access to an alternative supply of nicotine. In addition, there are now a number of relatively safer tobacco products available, including the electronic cigarette and snus. Plug (chewing tobacco), cigars and pipes have also been shown to be less hazardous in comparison to cigarettes.

So, can either smoking or nicotine be properly considered an addiction?

Reviewing the smoking prevalence statistics from Health Canada's last SAMMEC report, we find that 44% of Canadians over the age of fifteen (roughly 8 million) are former smokers. So, if either smoking or nicotine is an addiction, obviously neither requires a herculean effort to break. Certainly neither is in the same league as heroin or cocaine addiction.

To me, that suggests the anti-smoker claim that 75% or 80% or 120% of smokers want to quit but simply can't because of their addiction is just so much bullshit. If they really wanted to quit, they'd join the 8 million Canadians who have already done so.

As a layman, I have to rely on common sense to distinguish between addiction and habit. For example, if I run out of smokes and knock on my neighbours door to beg a fag, I'm entertaining a habit. If I kick in his door, beat him about the head with a blunt instrument and take his fags, then I'm feeding an addiction.

That may be considered a simplistic analogy, but the scientific (medical) definition of addiction has become meaningless. I read of addictions to chocolate, sex, Big Macs, computer games and pale ale, among other things. The growing list of addictions has become something of a joke. Every time I read about some new addiction, I find myself wondering just what the fuck they're talking about.

No two people are alike. Like their fingerprints, each individual is unique. Some will have a much more difficult time in giving up their habit(s) than others. But, that does not make them addicts. Some people will use addiction as an excuse for not giving up a habit, but it's just as likely that they haven't really made the commitment required to quit successfully. Because, deep down, they don't really want to quit smoking, or eating chocolate or drinking pale ale.

So, it appears that one faction of the anti-smoker cult wants to paint nicotine as the culprit. That way they can lobby government to promote NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) as the cure for “nicotine dependence” and provide free NRT for those poor helpless souls who, according to the zealots, just can't quit any other way. And, greater sales of NRT will, not coincidentally, put a smile on the faces of their financial backers in the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition, if nicotine is the addiction, they can continue to attack all forms of nicotine delivery from alternative tobacco products such as the electronic cigarette and snus. To the anti-smoker cult, pharmaceutical nicotine is the only acceptable form of nicotine.

The opposing faction wants the act of smoking itself identified as the addiction. Going down that road leads to more legal action against the big, bad wolf as symbolized by the tobacco industry. They can continue the charade that smokers, because of their addiction, are simply incapable of free choice.

Neither construct fits the classical definition of addiction; both do a disservice to smokers who may actually want to quit. Those individuals are being convinced by anti-smoker zealots that quitting is hopeless without the intervention of the cult; that the road to salvation (giving up the habit) lies only in following the dictates of the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker.

Dictates . . .dictator . . . anti-smokers . . . that's why I'll never be a former smoker.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kentville – No smoking Down in the Valley

Kentville is a small town in the picturesque Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia with a population of about 6,000. I haven't been down that way in years. Better make that decades; time flies when you're having fun.

In a recent news article, Bob Gee, owner of Mader’s Tobacco Store in Kentville, said freedom of choice is being limited, with regulations slowly eroding constitutional freedoms and rights. He was, of course, talking about the plethora of anti-smoking legislation passed by the province in recent years by gutless politicians folding under intense lobbying by the lunatic fringe of the anti-smoker cartel.

I've written several articles over the past couple of years to update the status of Bob's fight with the province over the tobacco displays in his shop. Back in 2007, Gee was ordered, under Nova Scotia's Tobacco Access Act, to cover up the tobacco displays in his store. He refused.

In 2008, he was charged with improper storage and display of tobacco products. Bob entered a plea of not guilty, thereby initiating a lengthy, and ongoing, legal battle with the province.

To the best of my knowledge, the constant delays have originated with Crown persecut . . . er, prosecutors, who always seem to need more time to prepare their case.

Last year, Provincial court judge Claudine MacDonald ruled that the provincial legislation breached Gee's right to freedom of expression under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The question now before the courts is whether the law is a reasonable means of protecting some compelling public interest which would override Gee's right to freedom of expression.

In October of 2010, the crown was still asking for more time to prepare their case. Bob's next court date is scheduled for June of this year. Unless, of course, the Crown needs still more time to prepare. I believe it was William Gladstone who used the the phrase: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Maybe the Crown is just trying to wear him down. They have all the time in the world, and all the power of the state behind them. And, the province certainly has much deeper pockets than he has.

But, Bob does not seem intimidated by the power of the state; men of principle seldom are. He shows no sign of capitulation, despite the odds.

Back in March, Bob Gee wrote a letter to Kentville Mayor Dave Corkum and town council criticizing a recent by-law banning smoking on all town-owned and -leased property, including streets and sidewalks. “Kentville’s bylaw does not reflect the larger issue at hand, which is really about how we as individuals educate ourselves, our families and one another so that the freedom to choose does not become hindered through a state of dictatorship.”

He noted that he has provided a service to the public and government by collecting over $20 million in (sales) taxes over the 35 years his shop has been in operation, and that he has conducted his family-run business in a way that gives back to the community. “It saddens me to realize that this same consideration was not returned to us and many of the customers that support us and the Town of Kentville when the town council decided to put this by-law into effect.”

And, he noted the government's reluctance to make tobacco illegal, but instead to set rules and regulations on smokers. Punishing rules meant to denigrate and demean, I might add. And, he has a valid point.

If smoking causes the damage the government and the anti-smoker zealots claim, then they are criminally negligent in the discharge of their duties and as much responsible for any morbidity and mortality attributed to smoking as the tobacco companies. If smokers are the victims of the tobacco companies, as the anti-smoker cartel maintain, then the government has a responsibility to end the victimization, not profit from it through the imposition of punitive sin taxes.

And, if the anti-smoker zealots want to punish the tobacco companies, why are they insisting that smokers and small business owners who cater to them pay the price.

Dave Reid, owner of another Kentville shop, DM Reid Jewellers, sees smoking, as a matter of choice - not something you can legislate. “Businesses pay the consequences for the decision if customers are staying away from town,” he said. “There was no consultation before making the decision.”

“How far do we go to legislate lifestyle?” he asks. “They have to use common sense and be realistic.”

Mayor Dave Corkum says the by-law isn’t an attack on smokers, but that “Kentville” just doesn’t want people smoking on town-owned property. Kentville . . . the whole damn town? And, the litter issue seems to be on everyone's mind these days. The mayor also notes that town staff don’t enjoy picking up cigarette butts. Maybe he should consider public ashtrays. Or . . .

Maybe smokers should take their business a few miles up the road; to Wolfville, maybe. Somewhere they'll be treated like the decent, hard-working people they are instead of being segregated like refugees from a leper colony.

They just don't want people smoking on town property? Shit.

Monday, May 16, 2011

New York smoking ban; a ban too far

A recent New York Times op-ed piece by Dr. Michael Siegel has drawn over 400 comments to the online version of the article. Dr. Siegel is a professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health and an enthusiastic anti-smoking advocate.

In his article, Siegel expresses his opinion that the smoking ban in city parks and on city beaches, which becomes effective May 23 in New York City, is carrying things a little too far. And, in that at least, he's right.

Smoking is still a legal activity. Smokers are taxpayers too and have as much right to use the parks and beaches as anyone else. And, there is scant scientific evidence to justify such a ban on public health grounds. Even anti-smoking activist Siegel admits: “. . . no evidence demonstrates that the duration of outdoor exposure - in places where people can move freely about - is long enough to cause substantial health damage.

But Siegel's opposition to the New York City smoking ban is not based on the injustice to smokers which it represents. Instead, he is concerned that the reasoning used to justify the outdoor ban “runs the risk of a backlash that could undermine the basic goals of the anti-smoking movement.” Uh-huh.

For example, Michele Bonan of the American Cancer Society says “We think the risk is greater than Siegel implies” and asks why “we” should take any risk at all. After all, she notes: “more than 80 percent of New Yorkers don’t smoke, and two-thirds support outdoor smoking bans”.

Of course, following that logic means that as long as two-thirds of non-smokers support herding smokers onto box cars and shipping them off to re-education camps, then it's a perfectly acceptable solution to the smoker problem.

The City's Health Commissioner, Thomas Farley, notes that: “Parks and beaches are special places, built and maintained with tax dollars for the benefit of all New Yorkers. Glass bottles that can break, amplified sounds and alcoholic beverages are prohibited, not because this would save lives, but to keep parks and beaches safe and enjoyable for everyone. Smoking doesn’t belong there either.”

So, the smoking ban isn't meant to save lives, but to protect some non-smokers from something they perceive as an annoyance; and an opportunity to punish smokers for their reluctance to submit to the tyranny of the majority and give up their habit. Parks and beaches are special places; special places that are to be reserved for non-smokers.

Other reasons enumerated to support the ban are equally frivolous. Thomas Farley: “Children in parks or on beaches should be learning how to play baseball, bike or swim, not how to smoke.”

So children are to be protected, not from any real hazards of secondhand smoke exposure in the great outdoors, but rather, from the very sight of a smoker. Like watching a character smoking a cigarette in a movie, a child seeing a smoker light up in a park might be lured into a lifetime of sin and depravity. Watching wanton acts of violence or sexual promiscuity, on the other hand, have no affect and are perfectly permissible.

Such anxieties are not driven by real science; they are founded on an irrational fear of cigarette smoke and unbridled hatred of smokers; fear and hatred encouraged and blatantly promoted by the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker which perceives smoking as an immoral act.

But, it is neither the vilification of a sizable minority of the population, nor the malicious persecution of smokers which apparently disturbs Dr. Siegel. “To make matters worse, in trying to convince people that even transient exposure to secondhand smoke is a potentially deadly hazard, smoking opponents risk losing scientific credibility.”

The Surgeon General's claim that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke is absurd. Even the discredited EPA report released in 1992 is predicated on an assumption of a lifetime of chronic exposure to secondhand smoke. Transient exposure such as might be encountered in a park or on a beach has never been demonstrated to be a health hazard; simply a nuisance to some non-smokers.

Thus smoking bans in the outdoors are based on scientific evidence which has likewise been manipulated to the point of absurdity.

Dr. Siegel's real fear is that the public, confronted with this outrageous persecution of smokers, might recognize the absurdity of smoking bans in outdoor environments and begin to question not just the science behind the fatuous smoking bans in outdoor environments, but the entire body of evidence supporting smoking bans in general.

And, they may find out that his claim that the anti-smokers have science on their side is a distortion of the truth; that the scientific evidence is neither as clear nor unequivocal as he implies.

To be fair to Dr Siegel, it should be noted that he has criticized many misrepresentations of fact from tobacco control researchers on his blog, The Rest of the Story. And he has been vilified by his colleagues in the tobacco control movement for doing so. The “movement” does not tolerate dissension within its ranks.

In this instance, however, I must question his motivation.

And, if protecting the public from the health consequences of secondhand smoke was the objective, then there were (are) compromises available which could have achieved that result without the blatant bigotry directed at smokers. But smoking bans are not intended to protect public health; they are intended to punish smokers.

The problem was (is) that the High Priests of the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker demand capitulation, not compromise.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

E-cigs are out in the land down under

Sophie Dwyer, Executive Director of the Health Protection Directorate of Queensland (Australia) Health recently advised Queenslanders that:“E-cigarettes are illegal in Australia.”

They are illegal because they contain nicotine. And, nicotine is classified as a dangerous poison. Says Ms. Dwyer: “If used inappropriately – or if children get hold of the liquid nicotine – the consequences can be fatal.”

A May 5, 2011 press release from Queensland Health notes that: “The World Health Organisation’s International Program on Chemical Safety advises that 10mg of liquid nicotine can kill a child within five minutes of them swallowing it.”

It's true of course. Pure nicotine is indeed poisonous. That's why farm workers harvesting tobacco wear protective clothing to protect them from exposure and the green tobacco sickness which it may cause. And, there can be little doubt that precautions are needed to protect children from accidental consumption.

The problem with the warning from Ms. Dwyer and Queensland Health is the means by which they seek to accomplish their goal of “protecting the children”.

The fact is that there are any number of consumer products which could have serious consequences if “used inappropriately” or “if children get hold of them”. These include most common household cleaners, prescription and over the counter drugs, beauty products, etc.

Even my tube of toothpaste contains the warning, “Do not swallow. Children under the age of six should use only a pea sized amount and be supervised while brushing.” There is an additional warning on most labels to get medical help if more than a pea sized amount of toothpaste is accidentally swallowed.

But we don't ban toothpaste, despite the fact that it contains a poison, fluoride. Nor do we ban Easy Off oven cleaner, prescription drugs or aspirin; all of which could cause serious harm or death to children and adults alike if common sense is not applied in their use or if precautions aren't taken to keep them out of reach of inquisitive toddlers.

The electronic cigarette is designed for adult use. The cartridges used with the device contain a dose of nicotine approximating the dosage found in nicotine replacement therapy sold by the pharmaceutical industry.

According to Dwyer, “They (electronic cigarettes) contain vials of liquid nicotine, which is a very dangerous poison.” But, that's a dishonest statement which highlights the disingenuous nature of her argument.

Electronic cigarettes do not contain vials of liquid nicotine; at least, not any I've ever seen.

As noted previously, the cartridges contain measured amounts of nicotine. The liquid vials are purchased separately by “vapers”, as users of the e-cig refer to themselves, looking to save money by refilling their empty cartridges. But, if it's the vials of liquid nicotine which are causing all the concern, then why not simply ban the sale of liquid nicotine and allow the electronic cigarette, with the prepared cartridges, to be sold to those adults who choose to use them?

Another less than honest claim by Ms. Dwyer is that: “There is no evidence e-cigarettes are effective in helping people to quit smoking.”

While there may be no formal clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of the electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation, there is a substantial body of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the electronic cigarette is an effective tool to help people quit. In addition, many prominent anti-smoking advocates promote the device, both as a harm reduction tool and a means of achieving smoking cessation. .

Even the New Zealand Ministry of Health recently acknowledged publicly that electronic cigarettes are "far safer" than smoking tobacco. So why do they consider the e-cig an unapproved medicine and regard their distribution as an offence?

One statement by a Health New Zealand spokesperson sheds some light on the matter, “It (the electronic cigarette) does raise issues about the social approval of such devices and does run counter to one of the objectives of the [Smokefree Environments] Act and this bill, which is to de-normalise smoking." Uh-huh.

The objective of Health New Zealand is not to rescue smokers from the alleged hazards of smoking; it's to denormalize smoking and turn smokers into social outcasts. The anti-smoker crowd obviously sees the electronic cigarette as an impediment to that goal.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, Ms. Dwyer is busily shilling for the drug barons. “There are a range of safe products people can use to help them quit smoking, including nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or sub-lingual (under-the-tongue) tablets.”

Uh-huh. Nicotine is poisonous. Nicotine is a menace to children. Nicotine is evil. You must buy only government approved nicotine from your government approved nicotine pusher. We insist. The law is on our side; because we make the law. And, the law says smokers are to be punished.

According to the press release, “Queensland Health is committed to making Queenslanders Australia’s healthiest people . . .” Uh-huh.

There appears to be no end to the bullshit and bafflegab being spread by the anti-smoker cartel!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ban smoking in movies to save lives

Hyperbole is defined as an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally. Of course, with comments originating from anti-smoker fanatics it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference between hyperbole and plain old bullshit.

Take, for example, the following statement: “God knows how many film-goers died from watching Lauren Bacall smoke.” Are we really expected to believe the sultry siren from the age of the silver screen caused untold numbers of mysterious movie deaths just by blowing a little smoke?

No. I don't think so. That's an obvious exaggeration; an extravagant statement. And, just as obviously, it's not intended to be taken literally (or seriously). It's hyperbole. Surely the Guinness people would have kept a tally if movie-goers were kicking the bucket in great numbers while watching Lauren Bacall light up on screen. Hell, it would have been front page news if even one movie buff had died from watching the sexy screen star caressing her Winston's.

But why single out Bacall? Does she deserve all the blame for any mysterious movie deaths which may have previously passed without notice. Was it only Bacall's surreal cigarette smoke which surreptitiously slipped from the screen to slay unsuspecting movie-goers. I mean, God only knows how many film-goers died from watching Bette Davis and the chain-smoking characters she often portrayed. If watching someone smoking on screen really killed people, then, together, those two would have qualified as a weapon of mass destruction.

At any rate, the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health apparently has a new study which claims “the very sight of a character lighting up on the screen is enough to encourage a new generation of smokers.”

Shit. More hyperbole. I think.

But, I don't believe many teenagers sit up to the wee hours of the morning, being led astray by Bacall or Davis; lured into a lifetime of degradation as chain-smoking cigarette fiends? Nor do I believe watching Bacall on the small screen has the same deadly impact as watching her from front row seats in a real theatre.

So, perhaps the hyperbole prone Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health is talking about more recent films.

Yes. That must be it. They recently handed out their Ashtray award for the Quebec film with the most scenes of smoking on screen. The award, intended to communicate the disapproval of the anti-smoker zealots for on-screen antics involving smoking, went to a film titled “Les amours imaginaires”, directed by Xavier Dolan (who also co-starred in the film).

Dolan, in his early twenties, is considered one of the most gifted of the current crop of young Québécois film makers. His first feature, “J’ai tué ma mère”, won several awards at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It also won Dolan the Toronto Film Critics Association Jay Scott Prize for emerging talent.

None of which matters to the censors of the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health. To the anti-smoker zealots the quality of a film is not based on the truth and humanity which it reveals, or the number of laughs it produces, but rather the number of tobacco occurrences in the film.

And it's not at all surprising they have a scientific study to support their argument.

The scientific study, conducted by researchers from Université du Québec à Montréal, counted 116 “tobacco occurences” in the film which they estimated, with great scientific precision, at one occurrence every 59 seconds. Uh-huh. One tobacco occurrence every 59 seconds. They counted them. On their fingers and toes. Which suggests the film was reviewed by at least six scientific cigarette censors. Or, maybe they used a specially modified scientific calculator.

At any rate, after rigorous scientific analysis, the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health, which commissioned the study, concluded that “by glamorizing smoking, the movies encourage teens to smoke”. Uh-huh.

In addition, after reviewing a similar study of American teens, carefully extrapolating the data to the Quebec population and allowing for potential confounding factors such as language and the consumption of French-Canadian pea soup, the council estimated that “about 40% of young Quebec smokers start the habit because of what they have seen in the movies.”

It is unclear whether or not the “young Quebec smokers” were ever exposed to Lauren Bacall or Bette Davis movies. When asked, most of the kids responded: “Who?”

Also unclear is the number of tobacco occurrences to which a teenager must be subjected before trotting off to the nearest First Nations reserve to get his/her first fix of the noxious weed, then plummeting into the depths of depravity and ultimate death caused by their newly acquired addiction.

However, it has been rumoured that the US Surgeon General plans to announce that there is no safe level of exposure to on-screen tobacco smoke. One over-zealous zealot named Whinnykoff proclaimed alarmingly “If you can see it; it can kill you. Third, er . . fourth, er . . . fifth hand smoke is even more deadly than active smoking. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.”

The Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health is quick to point out that they are not calling for outright prohibition of smoking in the movies, but rather they contemplate giving movies which depict smoking an automatic “18A” rating. Given that, in La Belle Province, this rating is usually reserved for hardcore pornography, this would place Casablanca (with Lauren Bacall), and “Les amours imaginaires” (with Xavier Dolan), in the same classification as Deep Throat (with Linda Lovelace) and Debbie Does Dallas (with Bambi Woods).

How I know the names of the stars in the latter two movies is in no way germane to the issue. But, I should note that they surfaced only after serious scientific research.

I have only one question . . . who are these fucking clowns?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

E-cigs a “tobacco product”; help or hindrance

Anti-smoking activist Dr. Michael Siegel noted on his blog (The Rest of the Story) a few days back that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US has decided not to appeal a ruling by the DC Court of Appeal. That ruling declared that electronic cigarettes were to be regulated as tobacco products, rather than drug delivery devices; the drug, of course, being nicotine.

This could be good news for the hundreds of thousands of smokers who have successfully used the e-cig to cut back on their smoking habit or quit smoking altogether. Unfortunately, I believe it's premature to begin celebrating in the streets.

The reason for my (very) cautious optimism is that the FDA has yet to clarify how they will regulate this new “tobacco” product. And, it could be several years before FDA guidelines are actually put in place.

The pharmaceutical industry has invested heavily in anti-smoker campaigns intended to demonize tobacco in all its forms, as well as denormalizing and stigmatizing tobacco users. Their payoff has been increased sales (and the enhanced profits generated by those sales) of smoking cessation products; the nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers, etc.

They will not take kindly to any competition which might jeopardize their return on those investments.

And, while the FDA may have to justify any restrictions placed on the electronic cigarette, the anti-smoker zealots are under no such restraints. For example, they have already convinced legislators in several jurisdictions in the US, to include electronic cigarettes in their smoking bans. They have accomplished this objective despite the fact that there is little or no evidence of any deleterious effect whatever from using the e-cig.

They oppose the device, not because of any real hazard associated with the it, but simply because it looks like users are smoking. And, of course, if smokers are permitted to substitute the e-cig for pharmaceutical nicotine, funding from the drug lords in the pharmaceutical industry for their war on smokers may not be as bountiful as it has been in the past.

I noted in a previous post on the subject that one of the reasons the anti-smokers were unwilling to accept the electronic cigarette as a legitimate means of smoking cessation was that they hadn't yet figured out how to extort tax revenue from the users. And, since the zealots also depend on money extorted from smokers through sin taxes (and, in the US, the Master Settlement Agreement) to fund their war on smokers, that source of funding is also threatened.

If smokers turn to the electronic cigarette in any great numbers, to cut back or quit, tobacco sales will decline thus adversely impacting tax revenue and consequently the finances of the anti-smoker cartel. With the electronic cigarettes now designated a “tobacco product”, the anti-smokers can press for sin taxes to be imposed on the sales of the devices, even though many anti-smoking advocates consider the e-cig a far less hazardous product than real tobacco cigarettes.

Another point to consider is the marketing methods used to generate sales of the e-cig. The product has been sold primarily through the internet with orders delivered through the mail. Mail orders sales of tobacco products have been severely restricted in recent years. And, some credit card companies have even refused to handle such transactions.

This provides another opportunity for the zealots to delay the introduction of the e-cig into the open market. Of course, that may change if the e-cig is permitted to be sold through regular retail outlets..

In Canada, a number of convenience stores have begun carrying a line of e-cigarettes. Unfortunately, the cartridges must remain nicotine free. Health Canada has restricted the sale of nicotine to a format and dosage consistent with the nicotine products sold by the (legal) drug industry.

On a personal note, I invested in an e-cig about four months ago from a local convenience store. My original e-cig was confiscated by Customs and Excise Canada because the carts contained nicotine. But, even without the nicotine, I've managed to cut back from a pack and a half of native brand cigarettes a day to a large pack a week. And, no, I have no intention of quitting.

My cardiologist is still screaming bloody murder, but I can live with that.

It's unfortunate that Health Canada has elected to join forces with the anti-smoker crowd in their efforts to eradicate tobacco and those who choose to use it. They should focus more on reducing the harm tobacco allegedly causes although I don't see that happening any time soon..

Did I say unfortunate? That's an understatement. I consider what they're doing fucking criminal.

In addition, retailers will not be permitted to promote the “theraputic” properties of the e-cig, or advertise the device as a less hazardous substitute for cigarettes, at least, not without the prior approval of the FDA. And, since that will not be acceptable to the anti-smoker crowd, FDA approval should not be expected anytime in the near future.

The facts are that regulating the electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product may not be as beneficial as some people expect. Tobacco is, arguably, the most heavily regulated product in history, and it is definitely the most heavily taxed in most jurisdictions. Tobacco products, including reduced risk products such as the electronic cigarette and snus, are anathema to the zealots.

So, there's one thing of which we can be sure; the anti-smoker fanatics will continue their vehement opposition to the electronic cigarette (and all other forms of harm reduction tobacco products). Because it's a “tobacco” product. Because it so closely resembles smoking. Because it represents a threat to their funding sources. Because it interferes with their overall objective.

They're fanatics driven by an unhealthy obsession with eradicating tobacco and tobacco users, especially smokers.