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Harm Reduction: Cliff Notes

I’ve been searching for quite a few years for someone louder in the tobacco control and public health sectors, for a hero. Someone to correct easily repeated disinformation and outright lies. Someone with balls. Cliff Douglas notes harm reduction with precision.

In a surprising tweet, Cliff Douglas did just that. How? He released a document titled “It is Time to Act with Integrity and End the Internecine Warfare Over E-Cigarettes” in a tweet (here) on March 4th, 2021. It’s about damn time.

In dealing with e-cigarettes, he explains the tobacco control community is “letting down tens of millions of adult smokers, their families and friends”, along with “healthcare providers, and government decision-makers.”

He calls to “pursue rational, social justice-oriented approaches to tobacco harm reduction” and later states: This is clearly a social justice issue.”

opposition to even considering positive scientific findings related to the promise of vaping for cessation and harm reduction is widely reinforced by confirmation bias“…

Crafted with direct language to his colleagues, he’s quick pointing out valid concerns for vaping products not being ‘approved’ by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but states the issue is “factually separate from whether these products are in fact helping a significant number of adult users quit smoking“. That’s harm reduction.

Also discussed is the rise in cigarette sales due to a massive “negative coverage on e-cigarettes” and bans on “all flavors” in e-cigarettes because of youth use (<– that’s an important link), while ignoring adults wanting to choose safer alternatives.

Not mincing words on the 2019 “Evali” fiasco, he states: “To be clear, EVALI is caused by vitamin E acetate added to illicit THC vaping products“, adding his niece returned to smoking because of the misleading headlines.

“Stop skirting the truth when it feels inconvenient”


Is this statement from Cliff Douglas too late?

I certainly hope not. During the middle of a real health crisis – the covid pandemic, politicians are distracted by pushing for a vape mail ban to restrict access to adult consumers, and because of pubic opinion of a fake ‘epidemic‘, outright flavor bans are still being pushed to ban less smoking by politicians like Senator Mitt Romney and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi for products children cannot legally obtain.


Blackballing – Blacklisting

With the leadership Cliff Douglas portrays, I hope to see others willing to have the courage to speak out. I say that because fear of being shunned – literally blackballed by their professional peers for explaining data, research, and science, is a thing.

I say again, blacklisting that’s a thing in the public health sector. I’ll let two examples from professionals – where they will turn, with vile contempt, on themselves…

In 2009, Dr Michael Siegel explained his experience of stepping out of line with the anti-smoking narrative:

“Importantly, only one perspective on this issue was presented to us in the trainings. There was no room for disagreement or challenge. These ideas were presented as scientific facts, not subject to debate. In fact, if we were to challenge the ideas, the implication was that we – ourselves – might be accused of working for Big Tobacco or receiving secret payoffs.”

Dr. Siegel’s statement is found here.

Highly respected public health warrior, Dr. Marewa Glover, (Centre of Research Excellence, Indigenous Sovereignty & Smoking) – knows all too well how vindictive the community can be. After decades dedicating her life, well respected experience, the damage already done, she was eventually given an apology (here).

She also gave Patrick and I keen insight to fundamentalist anti-tobacco stigmatization – cynical optimists I call them, who use deliberate behavioral methods – to ‘help’ and manipulate smokers with cognitive dissonance, projecting a ‘spoiled identity’, “barbarian whipping school” style – on Smoke Free Radio last year (here).

What about employees of big, bad tobacco companies? Do they get their say? Well, personally, as much scrutiny as they’re always under, (and public health isn’t), I trust them way more than you might think.

Thanks to Skip for the next two links:

Speaking of being under a microscope, Dr. Gilchrist, the head of Scientific and Public Communications for Philip Morris International… Her twitter says she’s an “Advocate for “better”. Science Lady” (who I admire and follow on Twitter):

I can think of countless times when others in the scientific community have been afraid to support us publicly – despite supporting our smoke-free vision and the evidence – because they feared for their reputation, job or funding if they were to do so.

Dr. Gilchrist’s quote is found here:
Speaking out when it’s not safe – for your reputation

Next, from Nicotine Policy, Neil McKeganey and Christopher Russell:

There is a real danger here of creating an academic environment in which allegation or suspicion has supplanted proof when it comes to scientific misconduct.

This quote can be found here:
Tobacco Industry Funded E-Cigarette Research and the Rise of Academic McCarthyism

Like most of my regular readers, I’ve searched for – and found – a few individuals in the public health and tobacco control sectors willing to stand up, unabashedly state facts, call out the preposterous junk science, and stop the manipulation of information about vaping products.

Then they’ve been ostracized. Who wins? Certainly those valuing their pride overrides the very public’s health they’re paid by and employed to, to “protect”.

Consumers need the truth

If less smoking “at any cost”, is the “end game”, and is their only goal, they’ve done a piss poor job of trying to convince me and millions of smokers and families looking for answer(s) buried in their constant attempts to be the “popular kid” on campus spewing contrived sociopolitical and pseudo “science”. That’s not harm reduction.

My hope is this powerful statement by Mr. Douglas encourages others in all facets of leadership roles in public health, to do the same. I’ve revised my statement: “I’m for whatever works for the informed consumer. Patch, gum, Heat Not Burn, vaping, snus, acupuncture, books, hypnosis, counseling, Hale, Juul, etc. Do I “like” them all? No. It’s not about or me, or what “I” like. What may work as a choice for a consumer is first.” That’s harm reduction.

I implore EVERYONE in public health to consider what Mr. Douglas asks in his tweet below. His paper is linked for your convenience just below his tweet.

Here’s Cliff’s Paper:

It is Time to Act with Integrity and End the Internecine Warfare Over E-Cigarettes


I’ll repeat myself: If less smoking, “at any cost”, is the “end game” and is their only goal, the words in the tweet below should be used at all times. “No neighbor left behind”. That’s harm reduction.

I’ll be covering You Don’t Know Nicotine again very soon.

I’ll paraphrase Skip Murray (I affectionately call her #CrankyOldBroad). None of this should be “us” against “them”. It shouldn’t be about who’s “winning”. It should be about helping one another. Period. That’s harm reduction.

Like my last blog, it’s a matter of public health, and it’s personal.

Let’s get to work, public health.



Added March 10th, 2021:

This is Philippines, not USA...

but gives insight to the obvious influence of “non-profit” “charitable” organizations…

“Suansing noted that in addition to receiving funds from the Bloomberg Initiative, the FDA also admitted to soliciting and accepting funding from another anti-tobacco and anti-vaping organization, The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).”

Suansing calls ‘deplorable’ FDA’s premature issuance of vape, HTP regulations

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Keep ON #Vaping On.

Kevin

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