When prior assumptions trump current evidence.

So how’s everyone holding up in this time of tribulation? As nice as it is to be considered an essential worker, those of us who are..?? (is ‘surplus to requirements‘ a bit harsh?) ..stuck at home are the ones finding our limits for housework, gardening and digesting news. We are finding out how little time we want to devote to stuff we used to wish we had more time for.

As hard as it is, we are coping well sitting down, staying socially distant and obsessively washing our hands. All good humored and surprisingly compliant. Shows how important good information is.

Our public health system is stretched to it’s limits. Every available health worker is shoulder to the wheel fighting this pandemic. Well, all the useful ones are.

Their are exceptions who decided a campaign of misinformation was the best contribution to make.

On the first of March the HSE announced the first confirmed case of Covid 19 in Ireland. On the 6th of March the Irish Medical Times ran this; https://www.imt.ie/opinion/guest-posts/vaping-crisis-unfolding-public-health-disaster-06-03-2020/ . Warning of an Unfolding Health Disaster.! Not the Coronavirus pandemic but vaping. This Gish Gallop of an argument came from the University of Limerick’s Dr Suranga Senanayake.

Kinda makes you wonder if there was a touch of being asleep at the wheel about the IMT.

As we know Corona virus turned out to be exactly what was being warned of by the W.H.O. and doctors on the ground in China. Tobacco control being about as much use as an ashtray on a motor bicycle had nothing to contribute during this crisis but couldn’t reallocate themselves to something useful. Instead Prof Luke Clancy got himself and his Tobacco Free Institute of Ireland some attention in the Irish Times. In an article written by Luke Clancy himself, he claims “We know smoking and vaping are associated with an inflammatory process in the lining of the lungs, the very place that Covid-19 causes its most serious damage” In fairness to Luke he is careful with his words, implying stuff that is lacking in the data without directly claiming anything.

“In the US, the question of vaping as a cause of the high prevalence of illness in young adults has been raised but full data to confirm this is not available yet. It would not be surprising, as we know smoking and vaping are associated with an inflammatory process in the lining of the lungs, the very place that Covid-19 causes its most serious disruption and damage.”

With the weasel words “but full data to confirm this is not available yet.” to keep his arse out of the eighth circle of hell.

In a time when clear factual information is vital, Luke Clancy and his Institute decided instead to muddy the water

As Luke is well aware, the cause was tainted T.H.C., and it was last year. Nothing to do with with C19. This is typical of Luke’s misinformation. The entire article is similarly vague on details and strong on innuendo. In a time when clear factual information is vital, Luke Clancy and his Institute instead decided to muddy the water and staying just short of straight out lying, demonize vaping.

The Irish Heart Foundation decided that their share of the Covid spotlight was being stolen, so they put their oar in on smoking and vaping with this in the Irish Examiner. https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/smokers-not-cutting-down-despite-covid-19-risks-993412.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

This time a reporter has their name attached so the IHF could be misrepresented but I doubt it. “Quitting smoking helps build a person’’s natural resistance to all types of infections including coronavirus said Tobacco Free Ireland Programme lead Martina Blake”.

The Irish Heart Foundation’’s medical director, Dr Angie Brown, said

“nicotine itself might increase the risk of Covid-19 as it potentially affects lung tissue making it easier for the virus to enter cells.There is concern that vaping might also increase the risk of complications with Covid-19, she pointed out: “In the US, the question of vaping as a cause of the high prevalence of illness in young adults has been raised but full data to confirm this is not available yet.”

Funny how both the IHF and TFRII parrot the same mistruth with the same phrasing. Oddly the reporter didn’t catch this lie either.

But this is obvious” I hear you thinking, “Smoking must be a factor in catching Covid, it stands to reason.” It seems plausible and I would forgive any bar-stool virologist for saying it, but I will not forgive the TFRII or The IHF . They are charged with public health and in this case they are not just wrong but are demonstrably wrong and have failed to do research and due diligence before spreading theories with the evidential support of 5G mast conspiracy theories.

If either of these esteemed organisations had looked at the data they would know smoking reduces the risk of catching Covid19 and there is no evidence it increases the severity if you do catch it. In fact, contrary to Dr Angie Brown assertion, nicotine’s affect on lung tissue makes it harder for the virus to enter, nicotine is currently being looked at as a preventive measure for Covid. https://www.qeios.com/read/article/581

Heres some links to actual research;

French study; the study ‘strongly suggests that daily smokers have a very much lower probability of developing symptomatic or severe SARS-CoV-2 infection as compared to the general population’.

https://www.qeios.com/read/article/574

American study based on NYC stats; data from 4,103 Covid patients in New York City, a team of researchers found that a history of smoking was associated with a 29 per cent reduction in risk of being hospitalised with Covid-19 

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.08.20057794v1

And this from the BMJ. ‘the simple use of nicotine patches should be urgently considered and discussed’.

https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m406/rr-25

Notice the date, Jan 31 2020. I guess the IHF and TFRII don’t read the literature.

I can post several other studies showing the exact same phenomena, smokers are underrepresented in Covid 19 patients. I could link the study alluded to by the IHF and Luke Clancy but as its based on poor data and the specific one on smokers being of greater risk for severe symptoms had only 5 subjects, I won’t bother. I, unlike them, don’t do junk science. Which is why I offer no information on vaping, as their is zero data. I could risk an opinion that if nicotine proves a benefit in this case, then vaping is a good option for smokers and patches for everyone else but as this is currently only a hypothesis, I won’t.

Though Christopher Snowdon has some fun with the possibilities in his Spiked column, which I’ll link here. It’s a fun read. We need more fun in these times.

https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/04/23/smoke-fags-save-lives/

Envi, the green monster.

Ever wondered how the EU does business? Ever wanted to see how our elected MEP’s present themselves on a day to day basis? You can, you know. Because the EU being a transparent democratic institution, broadcasts its goings on on the web. https://multimedia.europarl.europa.eu/en/home That’s nice of them. It’s not exactly riveting viewing, in fact it counts as a sedative or possibly tranquilizer if consumed in large enough doses. Better to stick to small pieces at a time.

This week one of the highlights for me was the ENVI Committee Meeting, specifically item 16. Yes, we have a exciting life here in our house. No Netflix needed when the EU committees are available. https://multimedia.europarl.europa.eu/en/envi-committee-meeting_20200218-1430-COMMITTEE-ENVI_vd

In all seriousness, I watched this because item 16 was “an exchange of views on e-cigs by members” or some such title. They gave 40 minutes or so to the subject and to be frank very little was to be learned from this. Little apart from how poorly informed MEP’s are and that they seem to depend on crib sheets a lot, sheets which they seem to have received just as they walked in and hadn’t read or understood. I say most because their were notable exceptions. There were also exceptions who didn’t care what information they were provided, they were going on a solo run anyway.

I’ll recap the highlights and get to the point of this as quick as posible because I don’t want to inflict on you the suffering I went through watching this waste of time.

Cesar Luena Lopez from Spain chaired the meeting and introduced Andrzej Rys from Poland who brought us up to speed on e-cig regulation in the EU, he did a good job of covering how the EU’s regulation had saved us from the EVALI outbreak as happened in the US. However he failed to mention that THC was a major component of this ‘outbreak’ .

Next up was our own Mairead McGuinness, (VP EU Parliament). Mairead’s performance was disappointing to say the least, she reiterated all the anti points, youth use, health problems in the US, again not mentioning THC’s role. She puts on the green jersey and gives a mention of the Coombe study on pregnant smokers versus pregnant vapers but I got the impression this was for the home audience. Mairead knows the facts, her office is well informed and I was disappointed she never offered any of this information to the committee. An exchange of views should include some pertinent information instead of framing everything as a question.

This questioning seem to be the order of the day as all the speakers asked questions, none asked directly about the EVALI but one guy Peter Liese – Germany did directly ask if the commission had anything to offer about the US situation. I got the impression he knew the answer and was asking for it to be ‘read into the record‘. However even he didn’t mention THC or cannabis. Someone tried to shut him up but he insisted he had lots of time and continued. Fair play.

The chair studiously avoided answering his questions, instead saying CBD may be tainted with Vitamin E and CBD needed to be brought under the TPD or some guff. I’m getting suspicious that mentioning THC or cannabis has been forbidden by someone.

Veronique Trillet-Lenoir – France, Basically read her crib sheet and sat down. Obvious she hadn’t a clue because several of her talking points contradicted each other, e.g. e-cigs have contributed to a 6 % drop in smoking, followed by we should ban them from public places. Yeah, it almost sounds like you want to protect smoking.

Then Michele Rivasa from the Greens spoke. Oh lord! Not only did she not know anything about e-cigs but she wants a full ban, a flavor ban, a tax, whatever and generally she doesn’t like them. She did waive her arms about a lot and seemed to get quite excited. She’s the solo run I referred to earlier, at least I hope it was a solo run and not green policy because it came across as ill informed prohibitionism.

The rest just repeated the same questions we had already had and also studiously avoided mentioning THC or cannabis though all mentioned CBD. Hmmmm..

Then back to Andrzej Rys to round up the answers and offer some information to the muppets… sorry, MEP’s who attended. Again he defended the TPD as it stands, admitted the current panic is driven by the situation in the US and half mentioned cannabis, though he lowered his voice and quickly moved on after ths slip.

The EU is miffed about this as they want the tax revenue due on tobacco products.

One interesting piece of info from his answer was the fact the FCTC has classed heated tobacco products as E-Cigs. In a way they are right, it’s not smoking but it’s also not a vaping product in the sense e-cigs are. It contains tobacco so is an actual tobacco product. The EU is miffed about this as they want the tax revenue due on tobacco products. The EU is consulting with the ‘best people’ the FDA and the WHO as to the scientific evidence.

Not promising as all these are staunchly anti vaping. What can I say? If this is the level of ‘views’ then it’s not encouraging. Our MEP’s seem to be ignorant of any fact, fed nonsense by their advisers and have no hope of getting correct information as no one would mention the elephant in the room; THC pens. This is part of the wind up to the TPD3 so it doesn’t look good. Along with the push from various cancer, respiratory and lung bodies for an all out ban. Vaping could be in trouble come 2022.

Time to contact your MEP and set them right, remember TPD3 will be adopted by a vote of the EU parlament, we stopped medical regulation last time by contacting MEP and we will have to do it again. This time there are far more of us.

Was drink involved?

We all make mistakes, sometimes we are just under too much pressure, say a deadline we can’t make. So we just scribble some stuff and hope it gets by in the mix. I’ve done it lots of times and in fairness gotten away with it almost as often. I imagine if I were asked to make a presentation to a room full of academics at a conference I would pay some attention to what I was doing, spend long hours writing my presentation, checking it’s facts and rechecking. If notice was short I might dig out an old presentation and rejig it’s content, nothing radical and the safest option.

Well I’m never going to be asked to do this so I’m guessing at what might have happened, trying to find excuses for this;

I came across this on twitter when the ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation held their 12’th annual conference.

https://ottawamodel.ottawaheart.ca/sites/default/files/2020_program_-_web.pdf

They Invited Stanton Glantz as the keynote speaker. His presentation E-CIGARETTES: BACK TO THE FUTURE included the above slide. I have no idea what the entirety of his presentation was and tbf I may be misrepresenting him …No I’m not. Fuck it. The man is a danger to public health at this stage. For the last few years his output has been abysmal. Deeply flawed and unfit for publication. Not even mentioning his ‘me too’ moment. I, for the life of me, cannot figure why Ottawa thought he was the best option to make the keynote presentation. Which is why I harbor the suspicion the real speaker became unavailable and Stan was asked to stand in at the last moment hence his ridiculous bullet points. Note what atendeed would learn at the end of the presentation!

Of course their is another option, Stan was pissed out of his head.

Let’s look at that slide, “Combustion is not as important as we though” Oh for fuck sake! How in the name of all that holy can he make that claim? Everything we know about tobacco tells us that combustion, the burning of tobacco leaves is the reason tobacco causes most of the damage. This is not in dispute, it’s not even up for debate. Nothing comes close to combustion for creating a cocktail of carcinogenic chemicals. And not just in cigarettes, burning a piece of toast has the same result, burning fuel to heat your house, it’s why we have chimneys. How does he not get this? If I were PMI I would be using this on our government mandated warnings. “Tobacco causes several fatal illnesses but smoking isn’t as important as we used to think, smoke ’em if you got ’em”

Promoting progression to cigarettes” More evidence free claims. If this were true we would see a rise in smoking prevalence, we don’t ergo it’s false. Stan is just saying stuff at this stage. Not exactly a new thing for him but as part of a keynote speech, he should at least try to be somewhat circumspect in his claims. That way they can’t be dismissed as easily as I just did.

All look, sure what’s the point of going through this bullshit, Stan gona Stan and nothing we can do. However the real issue is that Stan got to Stan and got paid handsomely to do so by the UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA HEART INSTITUTE who don’t seem to have a fucking clue what evidence based means. They claim they follow ‘evidence based smoking cessation treatment protocols‘ and yet here they are giving a platform to this charlatan. Why? are they stupid? Are they so enamoured of Stans reputation? his anti smoking one not, the other one.

Could it be that the OMSC is compromised in it’s ability to judge vaping? If they claim that industry corrupts evidence by funding even at third hand, how can they remain impartial and evidence based when they are funded by pharma?

To add insult to injury OMSC then proceded to block anyone tweeting contradictions to this garbage.

https://twitter.com/jkelovuori/status/1218698051205857287

Ironic as one of the commitments of OMSC is;

To acknowledge people as the main health resource; to support and enable them to keep themselves, their families and friends healthy through financial and other means, and to accept the community as the essential voice in matters of its health,”

Fuck ’em and the horse they dragged Stan in on would be the easiest reaction. But OMSC is a big deal and we can’t ignore them, well we can but health departments won’t. We have to continue to refute rubbish like this and in doing so make OMSC seem idiotic which is a pity, because OMSC should be our allies and friend.Instead they have chosen to be the enemy. Not our doing and not iridemiable. The growing body of evidence is on our side and eventually OMSC will have to admit ” Stan was drunk! What can we say” by way of apology as they ask us for help.

Focus you fack!

Breath deeply and count to 10

Sometimes I can get slightly irate, sometimes slightly more than irate and sometimes, well let’s just say you don’t want to be around. It never helps when I’m in this state to hear the words “breath deeply and count to 10 dear” to be honest I think it’s said to see if I will literally explode as opposed to figuratively.

Oh my, Monday!

I heard it said to me several times before I finally exhausted myself and fell into a fitful sleep. I had spent most of Monday cutting firewood, removing fallen trees after the previous nights storm. I was away from TV, radio and internet’s most of the day. So I missed the big presentation by the Irish Heart Foundation and Cancer Society on ‘E-cigarette packaging and Flavour research’. Once I did hear of it I checked it out and could not believe the bullshit that these two charities thought to pawn off as research. Ok OK, breath deeply and count to 10……….

Flavours and teen use of e-cigs is a hot topic right now and some research would help. This is what really offends me about this PR stunt. They did no research, they made no effort at research and they instead used the topic to take a swipe at e-cigs. Of course they bloody did. Using the example of American tactics, they weaponised kids and using leading questions got the replies they wanted. This is a despicable level of lobbying by orgs supposed to be in the area of public health. The heart foundation state “We campaign to influence Government policy in order to improve care for patients and to prevent premature deaths” Remember this when they rattle their can under your nose next time, they openly admit they campaign to influence gov policy. They do sweet fuck all to advance public health other than acidentialy. The Irish Cancer crowd claim ” to be the independent and informed voice of those affected by cancer. We represent people affected by cancer and make sure that people who shape cancer policy and provide cancer services hear their voice.” What in the name of all that’s holy has teen vaping got to do with cancer? Odds are it prevents teens from smoking and as such lowers the risk of cancer. This is misguided at best, downright self defeating at worst.

Lobbyists lobby

Anyway why would I be so angry because lobbyists lobby? Because they do it so shoddy that’s why! The ‘research‘ as they termed it turned out to be a sample of 16 kids from a single area, given a set of samples and asked to give their opinion. A focus group it’s called. Jesus wept. No indication whether any of the kids ever used an e-cig, no idea or clue what the full questionnaire was apart from the cherry picked stuff they use in the powerpoint slides they linked to as the ‘research‘ online. I’m not joking, they actually linked to a set of powerpoint slides when asked if the full research was available online.

The media coverage was of course fulsome, RTE’s main evening news show Drivetime covered it, giving the IHF an opportunity to push their agenda and the presenter claiming she had no knowledge of the Healthy Ireland survey from the previous week. Which she also covered. The IHF muppet claimed there were no figures since 2015, she let that one slide without question but when the VBI spokesman referred to the HI survey, she said “I’m not aware of those figures, where did you get them?”

The Irish Times also covered the story. Including this paragraph

 “Categorising the products into four types of flavouring, they said only one, associated with existing tobacco products, could be expect to appeal to current smokers or those looking to quit. The other three were linked to food, fruits and sweets, and were considered to be appeal to young people as they were often found in the foods and drinks that appeal to them.”

Except this is not what the ‘research’ says. I’ll quote with a screen shot of the actual presentation.

Can the reporter at the IT not read? Or was he lied to by the IHF when being given a quote? I have no idea, I suspect it was some idiot who lost his notes and tried to do it from memory without the common sense to check. Yes I’m being kind, I’ve calmed down since monday.

OK, while very little information can be gleaned from a sample of 16, it does tell us something, it tells us that branding and packaging is the biggest creator of perceptions around e-cigs and advertising adds to this. But this is not something unknown, in fact it’s exactly what the vaping retailers have been telling the regulators for over 5 years, asking for guidelines around packaging and urging advertising exclusion zones similar to those proposed for alcohol, another adult product. Why the gov have persistently refused to consider this is a mystery, almost as big a mystery as why they forgot to include an over 18’s clause in the TPD in 2016.

As a cynic I have to suspect these omissions were deliberate, designed to create a problem they could then rush in on a white charger to save us from. “I’m about to call a stop to this,” Simon Harris said. Of course it won’t be easy the minister told the gathered crowd, “their may be obstacles” but he was sure he could save us. “So industry we’re on to you. We know what you’re up to. And we’re going to work together in 2020. And to make sure we shut down this dangerous, dangerous situation.” Gobshite!

The minister said he did not believe the industry when it states that candy floss and bubblegum flavoured products are aimed at getting the “60-year-old man who smokes 20 a day” off tobacco. Several others have spoken about this mythical 60 year old as well, I wonder if they all think all smokers are over 55? Perhaps they do, after all if the presenter of a show which covered the Healthy Ireland survey is not aware of the figures why should a Minister for Health who currently oversees the largest number of trolleys recorded, and the largest budget overruns know anything about the facts. He doesn’t know his arse from his elbow, how can he know what the profile of a typical smoker is.

Who would know, is the Irish Heart foundation who run ASH Ireland, I have to assume they are the ones informing the minister on this issue as they didn’t feel the need to correct him. So they either mislead the minister or they failed to act professionally and inform him. Just for the record the profile of a typical smoker in Ireland is a person between 18 and 35, lower economic status and lower educational achievement. They started smoking at around 20 years of age and if current trends continue will smoke for around 35 years before quitting. That’s the bulk of smokers.

Oh hang on, I think I see it now, Simon is basing his 60 Year old not on a typical smoker but on the typical quitter. Which Simon see as the only customer for e-cigs. Not sure why Simon wants to continue this trend considering the health cost of smoking. Not sure why he refuses to see the benefit of attracting younger smokers and having them quit before damage has accumulated. Can’t think of any reason at all, at all,

Tax hike on cigarettes and tobacco worth extra €68.1m in year

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/tax-hike-on-cigarettes-and-tobacco-worth-extra-68-1m-in-year-1.3657867

Forget about smoking.

This post may ramble a bit but bear with me, there’s a point to this.

With all the talk about vaping, vaping epidemics, vaping deaths, vaping illness, you would be forgiven for thinking that vaping had replaced smoking as the new cause of all the world’s ills. You pretty much can’t open a news paper, turn on the news or check facebook without some story about vaping. Most of them about the harms, the addiction, the huge use among youth and deaths from using e-cigs. Doctors claiming vaping is worse than smoking and alcohol combined, health bodies advising people not to use e-cigs and politicians calling for bans, plain packaging and ironically a call for regulations from the very politician who oversaw the first set of regs. A lot of these stories are repeats of stories from last week and one in particular is from as long ago as 9 years.

Collective amnesia.

I think some sort of collective amnesia has taken hold of our media, medical community and politicians. Discussing one of the calls for a ban on a radio show, I brought up the fact that smoking was still the most risky way to use nicotine. “Forget about smoking for a minute” replied the presenter. I was shocked tbh as without smoking their is no need for vaping or more specifically without the health toll from smoking, vaping is a bit pointless. However I do understand her urge to forget smoking, why confuse issues when smoking is no longer an issue in our new tobacco free society, right?

The leader of the opposition (or is he; ) 😉 Deputy Micheal Martin got up on his hind legs and in a leaders question asked the current Taoiseach about vaping and included this statement “We had been really succeeding in terms of getting young people away from the whole idea of nicotine addiction” I have to wonder if anyone is paying attention to the reality around them. Oh if you read the linked transcript, be warned, it’s full of misinformation, half truths and political grandstanding. I’d love to know who wrote it for him?

Over in America where this all started, they seem to be having the same memory problems. Though in their case there’s an excuse, the devils lettuce, jazz cigarettes or cannabis as we call it. For some reason the anti tobacco effort in the US seems to be entirely focused on vaping. Being driven to panic and knee jerk legislation. The Truth Initiative cite vaping and flavors as their top issues. This is an organisation set up to;

Truth Initiative is America’s largest nonprofit public health organization committed to making tobacco use a thing of the past.

Lets see if we really can forget about smoking. Is it a ‘thing of the past’? Are we now at the end game for a tobacco free society, 5%? Are young people turning away from nicotine addiction? Is vaping the threat it’s being presented as?

Well according to Action on Smoking and Health in the US, 13 people die every minute from a smoking related illness. Bear in mind so far around 30 people have died from vaping since 2008 and most of those confirmed as black market THC vaping. I know which one I would focus on but for some reason that’s best forgotten about.

In Ireland smoking is at around 20% prevalence. Smoking prevalence among youth, the 17 to 25 age group is 19%. That’s the people Michael told us we were so successful in getting away from nicotine addiction.

Vaping is 4% and among non smokers less than 1%. That’s the group everyone is losing their shit over!

So smoking is forgotten while the focus is on vaping. Why? Could it be because vaping is new and ‘visible’ while smoking is so common we hardly notice it anymore? Is it because, for the people driving this panic, smoking is actually down around the 5%? They don’t see people smoking among the circles they move in so for them it’s less of a concern? This is known as Salience and need a bit of unpacking.

From Wikipedia;

The salience (also called saliency) of an item is the state or quality by which it stands out from its neighbors. Salience bias (also known as perceptual salience) is the cognitive bias that predisposes individuals to focus on items that are more prominent or emotionally striking and ignore those that are unremarkable,

So that kind of explains why some people are freaking out about vaping, for them it’s new and scary and obvious, due to its newness. However the people paid to deal with smoking, the anti smoking groups should not have this bias, after all, they have the data available to them, they are paid to focus on smoking. Salience doesn’t excuse it for them. They don’t have the excuse of not being reminded of the prevalence of smoking. They don’t have the excuse of thinking because they see some few vaping that it’s an ‘epidemic’. If they are ignoring smoking to focus on vaping it has to be something more. Perhaps vaping is a new danger we should be cautious of? Unfortuniatly the anti smoking people don’t seem to be convinced of this because instead of telling us why it’s a new danger, they chose to lie about it.

You may ask why I accuse them of lying? Lying is a strong accusation, You need to be cautious about calling someone a liar. But when all of the claims about vaping being an epidemic, causing death and the rest are demonstrably false. You have to suspect they are lying, or stupid. If they truly had reason to think vaping was a danger they are duty bound to inform us, instead they only engages in deception, obfuscation, and a whole pile of ; ‘could’, ‘might’, ‘may’ and ‘we don’t know’.

So much so that someone pointing out the actual proven risk from smoking gets told ” Forget about smoking”

I guess once a moral panic grips a society, rational thinking goes out the window. It becomes a hysterical witch hunt. Which this seems to be right now. Claims without any evidential support are given free rein, Accusations of ‘colluding with the devil‘ or being a ‘tool of Satan‘ are tossed around. When fighting an enemy sometimes paranoia is a good thing but when you turn on potential allies then you have lost the plot or forgotten the reason your fighting in the first place.

Forgotten about the toll on health, lives and the human misery caused by smoking.

I was framed!

Framing, it’s not just for houses and pictures, though it serves the same purpose, sets parameters and presents the ‘picture’ in a specific way. Television works the same way. You may think what you see is unedited and almost raw footage when watching a live broadcast but it’s not. They may not be able to control the direction a discussion takes but there is too much at risk to leave everything to chance. Professional broadcasters ‘frame’ discussions, they present an argument using specific words and images, they choose the panellists and they can chose the audience. Both the ones who are asked to give an opinion and the rest, the silent seat fillers. They chose the vocabulary of the presenter and the words that get used. This is the editorial position and it creates an impression on the viewer at home, an impression the producers intend. Framing is the mood music. The screeching violins that make you jump in a horror movie.

So what’s all this about you ask? Clair Byrne Live is what, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0913/1075711-vaping/ and last Mondays segment on vaping. Specifically should we ban flavors. Following Donald Trumps call for a ban on flavoured vapes the show lost not a minute in suggesting we do the same here. They promoted this on twitter and the shows website. I responded to a tweet and got asked would I like to come on the show. Well yes, quite eager to contribute to this discussion. I was called back and we discussed what I might contribute and the issue in general. So roll on Monday night.

“You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

To be honest I was very nervous, never having had to speak on live TV before but as I am part of the New Nicotine Alliance Ireland and no one else was available….Now I know how some backbencher feels when he has to turn up if some controversy is too hot for the Minister.

I need not have worried, as time ran out before they came to me . I never got to speak, arriving and being set up with a microphone was wasted on this face made for radio. I did however get to observe and as the segment progressed I started thinking about the ‘framing’ being used.

An Audience filled with teenage girls. One of whom spoke very well and her observations were on point. It’s a pity her question “we want to know are these (e-cigs) actually safer than smoking?” went as good as unanswered. Instead professor John Crown took the opportunity to imply they were not, 50 years to discover smoking caused cancer, chemicals, lifetime of addiction,etc. John might be a good oncologist but when it comes to current research on vaping he is hopelessly out of date. He also has a preference for research from America and doesn’t seem to realise that the regulation in the US is not anything like here in the EU. In fact their is close to zero regulation in the US, some states have some, some states have others and most are waiting to see what the federal gov will do. He’s wasn’t the only one, both the concerned mammy’s talked about the US situation.

Anyway back to the framing. OK, we have a primed audience to create the impression in a casual viewer that this is a kid centred issue. Fair enough if we actually discussed a ban on non-cigarette flavors but we didn’t. Instead we got a moral panic based on anecdotes of addiction, crime, satiating craving, that old chestnut; gateway to smoking and, clutch your pearls, ladies, DRUGS! Using and repeating words like this is classic framing.

Two ladies in a moral panic about vaping because they heard some stories of kids vaping and suffering withdrawal from nicotine. Prof Crown, a cancer specialist (more clever framing) did nothing to allay fears. Instead John added to them, citing the deaths in the US. Though he did qualify that by mentioning the cannabis carts but undid that by qualifying his qualification.

On the pro vaping side, notice how this is framing is working, not pro and anti flavor bans, but pro and anti vaping, on the panel we had Vincent Jennings of Vape Business Ireland and from the audience Declan Connolly of ezSmoke.ie , an independent retailer. Both did well. Vincent gave as good as he got and Declan saved the day by bringing it all back to the real issue, the prevalence of smoking.

However with 2 to 1 on the panel and 1 to 1 in the audience, the pro vaping side were a man down. Not an accident of who was available but a deliberate choice on the part of the producers. I was in the audience mike’ed up and ready to go but never asked. I had raised my hand several times but still no. I guess my view didn’t fit the framing.

From where I was sat, it looked subtle enough but reading the twitter and Facebook reaction I wasn’t the only one to notice the framing. “Hatchet job” and “Russian State TV level propaganda” were among the terms used to describe the segment. Maybe not so subtle.

Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

This framing is annoying not just because we are being manipulated, but because it cost us consumer representation . Never once have consumers had a chance to contribution to any discussion other than in a vox-pop and on this occasion the producers had a chance to give them that, instead they chose to give experts, industry reps, and talking heads the air time. Again the ones most adversely affected by these framed discussions were kept out. Public service or government propaganda?

Well I hope I ‘framed’ this blog well enough to leave you with at least the suspicion it was propaganda.

One funny thing at the start. Clair held up two containers of vape juices in so called teen friendly flavors, she told us the juices did not contain nicotine and that you add them to the device to get your nicotine hit. This folks, is what happens when regulations demand that battery’s carry this warning.

LOL!

I told you so!

US health officials report first death linked to vaping

Scary headlines the last few days. RTE, BBC, CNN all carrying the same story; a current outbreak of ‘vaping’ related illness including one death. All neglecting to mention the most plausible cause and all claiming this is the first related to vaping.

https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2019/0824/1070622-potential-cases-of-severe-lung-illness-tied-to-vaping/

Now I don’t know about you but when I see the word vaping I assume it refers to the use of e-cigarettes as a replacement or alternative to smoking. I’m pretty sure this is what was intended to be conveyed to the general public reading these articles. Vaping is causing severe lung problems which lead to death. A necessary warning given the prevalence of vaping right?

Unfortunately it’s not exactly true. Yes people have developed lung problems from vaping but the key fact which the media left out is that they were vaping THC oils.

“In light of this disease, we discourage vaping of any cartridges with THC,” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel.   “People who have trouble breathing or experience chest pain after vaping – in the weeks or months prior to the development of these symptoms – should seek immediate medical attention.” Said the New Mexico dep of health

https://nmhealth.org/news/awareness/2019/8/?view=787

“Probably not directly correlated to the vaping itself opposed to what these individuals are vaping,” said Doctor Marc Estes of the Indiana dep of health.

The Health Department said these cases are a result of dabbing. A new way many people are smoking marijuana, using oils, extracts, or concentrates.

“The only connecting factor that tied them all together was a history of vaping THC or CBD or some combination of that,” Kings County California public health officer Dr. Milton Teske said, referring to compounds in marijuana. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis, while CBD, or cannabidiol, is a component being promoted to ease various conditions, from anxiety to epilepsy.”

More significantly, all the vaping products were purchased on the street from unlicensed vendors.

https://www.kqed.org/news/11769070/21-cases-of-lung-disease-linked-to-vaping-cannabis-bought-on-street

The strange thing is while the various health Dep in the affected states did include this information, the various federal health bodies, CDC, FDA ,chose to not include it. Instead went on an “I told you so!” frenzy of pronouncements about how vaping was causing this. True but a downright lie at the same time.

Not informing people of the salient facts has left people in danger. Without clear information some will continue to use the dangerous product, in this case illegal THC oils which are not regulated and can be contaminated with any number of highly dangerous adulterants.

On June 18, Doja’s Instagram and Facebook accounts ran a photo of a Dank Vape packaging alongside a test result from BelCosta Labs showing that it tested positive for the fungicide fenhexamid

https://www.inverse.com/article/58581-dank-vapes?fbclid=IwAR3mn259t3ek74foc32JV28ee4D5bvbkHWetNkR4raBCFtUBRMeKjXQrC38

It makes you wonder if these health bodies and regulators are honest agents. Let’s face it, they have skin in the game. They are trying to regulate e-cigarettes out of existence. All this summer they have ran with the epidemic of teen vaping causing huge panic in ‘concerned parents’ around the world. When they eventually did publish the figures, it turned out the ‘epidemic’ was little more than a slight sneeze, less than 6% of never smoking teens had tried an e-cigarette and less than 0.2% had went on to frequent or regular use.

Opportunistic bad taste

I know it can be frustrating to lack the evidence to justify your moral crusade but using a genuine health issue to do so is not just opportunistic bad taste. It’s straight out endangerment of the public and reckless public health practise.

It seems the anti nicotine zealots will stoop as low as necessary to achieve their aims. The ironic thing is this crisis is mostly caused by prohibition which results in the market being supplied by unregulated, unscrupulousness manufactures. That they use the ill effects of their policy to expand prohibition to another product is unconscionable.

Here in Ireland these products are probably just as available as in the US, maybe not as popular, yet, so you would expect the Irish health bodies to issue a warning as they would do when a ‘bad batch’ of pills becomes known.. Instead the Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Cancer Society and the Respiratory Society of Ireland all remain silent. Perhaps as vaping was implicated by the media ASH Ireland should clarify things but again silence. In fact Prof John Crown took the opportunity to say “Remember how long it took to work out smoking was dangerous. ” in reply to a tweet about the story.

It is of course possible that John is not aware of the full facts but as someone who talks a lot about this I suspect he did know and choose instead to put the boot in.

This is what happens when ideological blindness drives people to stay silent or worse increase misinformation.

People die.