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/

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