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Could the increasing popularity of harm reduction products impact cigarette consumption?

July 10th, 2012 Posted in Government, health by

Not if the Public Health Industry has its way

One obvious failure of the 2006 Health Act is the fact that the much vaunted smoking ban has had no impact on smoking prevalence in the UK. Not that those people who rely on the mainstream media for news would necessarily be aware of this as the pampered public health industry has gone to some lengths to hide the negatives and is even now clinging to patently false claims of alleged benefits. Sadly the media seems quite happy to indulge this penchant for deceit and the DoH has gone out of its way to ensure the outcome of a “review” by paying a tobacco control activist to come up with the “right” conclusions.  Harsh words perhaps, but how else does one explain a scientific advisor with no science qualifications and a less than objective public profile?

Despite the poisonous environment created by the media, the public health industry and the DoH, harm reduction alternatives seem increasingly popular and may therefore be more likely to impact on cigarette consumption than tobacco control inspired crack downs.  These alternatives will certainly not appeal to all smokers but the evidence from Sweden is that significant numbers of people choose safer forms of tobacco given the option. Sweden does not have especially low levels of tobacco consumption but the popularity of oral tobacco in the form of snus mean that it does have a low incidence of male cigarette consumption and also the lowest incidence of lung cancer in the EU

Although the Nordic tradition that contributes to the success of snus in Sweden does not exist in the UK where less harmful tobacco formats are in any case banned, legal smoking alternatives such as e-cigarettes do seem to be increasingly popular as evidenced by the fact that mainstream retail outlets like WH Smith are now promoting them. In a country where government is actively pursuing policies of denormalization and intolerance towards smokers it is perhaps unsurprising that a product that mimics some of the pleasure obtained from cigarettes but can be enjoyed in public is a potential winner. After all, as the marketing blurb says, e-cigs can be enjoyed legally anywhere. This is not strictly true as e-cigs are specifically banned on Virgin flights for example, but as water vapour shouldn’t trigger smoke alarms, vapers might risk a crafty one in the toilets.

Faced with the obvious benefits of harm reduction, we might expect the politicians, the media and the likes of CRUK to embrace snus and e-cigs as safer alternatives to smoking.

They don’t.

CRUKs otherwise often informative Web pages barely mention e-cigs and contain only a short ill-informed and misleading section on snus. This low key and dismissive attitude typifies tobacco control output and partially explains the EUs collectively miserable record on harm reduction which gives Clive Bates former head of ASH cause for concern. Bates criticises public health failure under 3 headings:

  • Public health science ignored and abused
  • Ethics and consumer rights violated
  • EU legal principles disregarded

Jean King, CRUK’s director of tobacco control says:

“There has been little research into how safe e-cigarettes are. And there’s also very little regulation to control these products or their marketing. The only way to be sure of any risks or benefits is through rigorous testing.”

As a product lacking known carcinogens is likely to be relatively beneficial, one would expect the public health industry to have mobilised its vast resources to perform at least some testing as a matter of urgency.

It hasn’t.

The industry is apparently much more interested in its on-going war with “big” tobacco and smokers as evidenced by the vast amount of effort and (public) money it has put into vanity projects such as shop display bans and plain packaging campaigns.  If our divided, fear ridden society is genuinely concerned about exposure of children to the very sight of age restricted products why not consider selling such products in age restricted shops or sections within shops? That way, children don’t see displays or packaging, adults can choose their product without feeling like they are buying a class A drug and our money could be spent on something more useful.  I am not necessarily advocating this policy but I am suggesting that it has not been considered because it is insufficiently aggressive towards the tobacco industry and not as humiliating for smokers as the tobacco control preferred alternatives.

It is hard not to believe based on the available evidence, that the public health industry is motivated more by its hatred of certain other industries and its constant need to satisfy its own justifiably  fragile ego than it is by any genuine concern towards us as individuals. How else can one explain the myopic adherence to its “quit or die” dogma and the breath-taking arrogance of continuing this one-dimensional approach in the light of the historical evidence and human experience?

It is noteworthy that “big” industry in the form of tobacco companies and major retailers are popularizing harm reduction alternatives while the public health industry and UK government pointlessly pursue “plain” packaging apparently as part of a utopian project for a brave new smokefree world.  Utopian projects are, as they always have been, fundamentally and necessarily illiberal.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:  Smokers-State Aprroved hate and Intolerance is UK policy,   Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step” , Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation?What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists and Public Health Success?

3 Responses to “Could the increasing popularity of harm reduction products impact cigarette consumption?”

  1. Jonathan Bagley Says:

    The drug companies maybe don’t fund the anti smoking industry directly, but they do indirectly. For example, ASH UK receives money from CRUK, which receives receives financial support from drug companies; the University of Bath TobacoTactics website acknowledges support from CRUK. Even if it wishes to, it is difficult for CRUK to promote ecigs as they are are proving to be a far more enjoyable and efective nicotine delivery system than the gum or patches manufactured by their supporters. Drug companies also sponsor Tobacco Control conferences attended by employees of the anti tobacco industry.
    In addition to the financial considerations, promotion of ecigs and snus by the anti tobacco industry would severely compromise its aim of eventually eradicating tobacco use. Ecig and snus users can continue using these products indefinitely, with very little risk, and perhaps occasionally smoking cigarettes or cigars at home as a treat, again with very little risk. In Sweden, there are many users of both snus and cigarettes. If one was asked to dream up the worst nightmare of the anti tobacco industry, it would be an odourless (safe for work – at worst out of sight, at best used openly), inexpensive, almost harmless product which produced “smoke”, delivers nicotine efficiently, is very difficult to tax or ban, isn’t more generally disliked, has no guilt associated with it, can be used interchangeably with cigarettes and is fun to use. Well, I’m afraid it’s arrived.

  2. Chris Price Says:

    People don’t seem to realise that the anti-harm reduction position promoted by the tobacco control industry is funded mainly by the pharmaceutical industry. It only exists at all because pharma funds it.

    Do you think they are happy that their hugely-profitable chemotherapy drugs, COPD drugs, cardiac drugs, vascular drugs and other treatments for sick smokers are going to take a 50% hit, as happened in Sweden? Pharma needs you to be sick – and the more the better. This is why we have strong resistance to anything that will substantially reduce the number of smokers, and we we only promote ‘solutions’ that have virtually no effect. After all, the Swedish scenario is pharma’s worst nightmare: a 40% reduction in smoking because people switched to Snus, followed by a parallel reduction in smoking-related sickness and death.

    Sweden is pharma’s worst country in the EU for profits, because there are so few smokers there. Sweden has about half the smoking-related death rate of the EU average. The spread of the Sweden scenario would be an intolerable situation for pharma, and they fund any attempt to protect the status quo. What else would you expect from the world’s biggest criminal fraudsters and corrupters:


  3. Nostradamus Says:

    Rather than get to involved in the pros and cons of
    draconian measures against “unhealthy” lifestyles,let us
    consider an hardly discussed aspect of the last 5 years
    anti smoking hysteria
    The cost ?
    The hospitality sector has lost near 20,000 venues
    The job losses could be as high as 120,000
    The loss of income tax,NIC,alcohol tax ,VAT,rates etc
    The resulting outlay on benefits
    The Advertising costs,National and Regional
    The cost of useless drugs and prescriptions
    The Health Professionals fees
    Smoke Free Promotions
    £3 billion PER YEAR lost TO SMUGGLING
    Just to mention a few
    Since the smoking ban came in 01/07/07
    A figure of £29-35 billion would seem reasonable
    naturally if anyone has a different set of figures they
    are most welcome to forward them.
    We await .