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.
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). 
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. 

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