Tuesday 29 November 2022

When The Comments Section Lets You Down ...

{Taps microphone} Is this thing still on? 

Well, well. It appears so. Everything from the inside of this looks very different though, a bit snazzy even. I must admit it looks a hell of an improvement, I'm knocking on the walls in a virtual sense to see how robust they are. 

Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned. It's been two years since my last blog submission. I shall submit myself to 12 Hail Mary Poppins and see where posting random thoughts gets me for now.

I've still been writing elsewhere though, and noting the ever-growing - and increasingly wild and hysterical - library of tobacco control lies prevalent across the world. It really is quite astonishing.

Which brings me to why I have dusted off this old thing. Well, it's because I'm old enough to remember when blogs were new and raw. They were also quite consistent, and excelled in beating the mainstream media on standards quite often. One of the early adopters was Irish blogger Slugger O'Toole, but sadly the blog has published a load of arrant tripe this weekend. 

An article entitled "Vaping: We're being fooled again" turned up there which is a boilerplate rehash of all the crap that $1bn of Bloomberg cash is intended to promote. Written by a pharmacist from Belfast, it is astonishingly ignorant about the vaping debate. What's more, it is written by someone whose previous blogs rightly ridiculed COVID conspiracy theorists. 

"[I]t seems no matter how good a scientist you might be when you become convinced of something and you become committed as a believer that faith is next to impossible to change. Even when the data has been shown to be flawed or fraudulent or simply wrong you retain your original position."

But the Belfast pharmacist is fully taken in by conspiracies about reduced risk nicotine products like e-cigarettes. He has swallowed the Kool-Aid willingly and enthusiastically. Perhaps even, intentionally. 

Slugger's about us page states that: 

"We believe diversity of opinion is essential to building a reliable view of any single problem, great or small."

Yet my response to the article has not been published despite others since having been. Perhaps it contained too many references to sources which make the author's claims look a bit fanciful, who knows? 

It is rather sad that the avalanche of misinformation designed to fool the naive and gullible has reached a naive and gullible Belfast pharmacist, but more so that a formerly decent blog seems happy to censor comments which could better educate its readers that they were being fed information designed for the naive and gullible. 

So, for the record, this was the comment that Slugger's blog didn't publish. 

Sorry, but this article is nonsense from start to finish. Where to begin!

How about this? "the evidence does not support the claim that e-cigarettes are a tool for stopping smoking". Pretty poor timing really. The Cochrane Library, considered the gold standard of evidence reviews, published an estimate just last week that vaping is twice as effective as NRT for helping smokers to quit:

"There is high-certainty evidence that ECs with nicotine increase quit rates compared to NRT ... We did not detect evidence of serious harm from nicotine EC"

The claim the author of this article makes that vaping products are not a tool for stopping smoking is contested by the Tobacco Control Lead at the Office for Health and Disparities (OHID), Martin Dockrell, who has gone on record saying "the claim that e-cigs can't help smokers quit is now so plainly false that anybody making it not only discredits themselves but, worse still, undermines public confidence in science". Now, I know it's a tough call, but I tend to trust the opinion of a guy who is leading tobacco control at the government's highest public health agency over that of a Belfast pharmacist.

The article also plays up an increase in use of vaping by youths but fails to mention that the linked ASH report states clearly "Of 11-17 year old never smokers ... 0.5% use e-cigarettes more than once a week". The vast majority of under 18s who vape are or were smokers and considering OHID confirmed in September that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking, what is the author's problem?

The article also states "we now know that e-cigarettes are a gateway to tobacco smoking due to their growing popularity among young people" but can the author please point out any jurisdiction where vapes are sold legally where youth smoking is on the rise? The opposite is true, with UK youth smoking declining rapidly as vaping use rises. It's not difficult to understand why considering they are direct substitutes. In the US, more youth vaping has led to a situation where cigarette smoking is so rare amongst youth that the most used product is cigars! Could the author explain the mechanism of how youths supposedly start with a cheap, pleasant tasting product which is orders of magnitude less harmful than combustible tobacco then decide to move on to a massively more expensive and dangerous product which tastes only of burned tobacco leaves? Are there also instances of kids throwing away their mobile phones in favour of using a call box?

Cancer Research UK has repeatedly condemned the prevalence of irresponsible misinformation about vaping and commented on how it is having a detrimental effect of public health. This article is exactly the kind of thing they are so concerned about. And that's the most alarming thing about it ... that it has been written by a pharmacist who should know better. How many customers has he turned away from vaping who have continued to smoke, half of whom will die as a result. Good grief!

There, I got that off my chest. 

It's quite comfy in here, maybe I should come back and write more often, eh?