Hoodwinked health committee falls for junk science

“I’m not angry as much as I’m disappointed in you” has been the most feared reaction from any Irish mammy. After the report from the Public Health Committee (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products Bill), I have to admit it was my first reaction. They didn’t even ask the main stakeholders in this bill, the users of vaping products, to give evidence. The NNA Ireland has reacted to this report, you can read that here

They felt we should put up with what they decided and be thankful they are looking out for us.

They claim the aim of this bill is “to ensure a smoke-free future for younger people growing up today and to assist smokers who wish to quit a life-long addiction” and “achieve a Tobacco Free Ireland by 2025 which would mean a reduction in smoking levels to less than 5% of the population by 2025.”

This is not going to happen, smoking prevalence is currently around 17 to 19%, and theirs’s not a snowball in Hell’s chance we can reduce it by 13% in 3 years, as it stands the closest we can get is 2035 even with the current slightly favorable legislation for e-cigarettes. Without that, we are back to the tobacco control policies that would result in a date of 2052 before we reach a daily smoking prevalence of 5%.

Apart from the fact most people don’t want to quit a lifelong addiction, they want to avoid the illness and shortened lifespan associated with smoking, the fact that they specifically say smoke-free should make smoke-free products a benefit. The committee doesn’t seem to realize this or doesn’t care.

Setting out the rationale for this bill they state that “tobacco costs the Irish exchequer €10.6 billion every year and that 6,000 deaths a year are caused as a result of smoking”. As the only tobacco product available in Ireland is combustible tobacco, we can take it that this cost is entirely attributed to smoking. The committee in their wisdom focus on non-combustible products.

The committee agrees that a restriction on nicotine products for those over 18’s should be enacted. How we got to 2022 without this in place is a mystery, it’s the one thing all parties agree on and should have been implemented in 2016 when the TPD was transposed into Irish law. This needs to be done as soon as possible. Adding another layer to the legislation, especially a flavor ban will only delay this as that will involve a consultation with the EU. The EU is also erroneously considering this and the whole bill may end up lingering until the EU decides. Leaving Ireland the only EU state without an age restriction.

The committee cast doubt on the efficacy of vaping as a smoking cessation method by citing a study that showed

“that after one year, 18% of e-cigarette users were abstinent from smoking versus 9.9% of NRT users. The same study found that among those abstinent after one year, 80% of those in the e-cigarette group were still using an e-cigarette versus 9% of NRT users still using NRT.”

That’s twice as effective as NRT, remember that while 80% of e-cigarette users were still using e-cigs at follow-up, 90% of NRT users had gone back to smoking.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland said;

“We do not feel there is a sufficient body of evidence to show people can successfully transition from e-cigarettes to nothing, whereas there is evidence for NRT and other safe, effective products that have been shown to help people to quit tobacco.”

Why is transitioning to nothing the goal, when smoking not nicotine is the cause of all the harm? Why abandon the huge reduction in disease in pursuit of nicotine abstinence? This is ideology, not public health care.

“The Committee also noted evidence which found e-cigarettes might increase the odds of erectile dysfunction and stroke at middle age and numbers of people with difficulties with their eyesight as a result of electronic cigarettes.”

Jesus Wept! ED and blindness? There is no evidence of this anywhere outside the fevered imaginations of tobacco control. The committee is either gullible or working from bias if they believe any of this.

“The Department also told the Committee that there is also evidence that smoking during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment in later life”

This is nonsense, if it were true we would see it in the age cohort that grew up in the ’50s and ’60s when smoking was at its most prevalent. We don’t, because this claim is based on in vitro studies and mouse modeling where cells in Petri dishes or mice in cages are exposed to levels of nicotine unsustainable by human users.

Of course, the Public Health England finding, that vaping was 95% safer than smoking was attacked, claiming it was methodologically unsound and outdated. No mention of the fact the Royal College of Physicians in the UK also backs this figure as a good estimate of the potential risks based on the currently available evidence. They also revisit this estimate annually and have seen no reason to change it.

“The Irish Cancer Society told the Committee that a mixture of affordable alternatives and practical hands-on peer and behavioral support is required in order to make it possible for people to quit cigarettes”

This is exactly what specialist vape stores provide. The ICS claim only Quit.ie can provide this, and they do their best, with a helpline, a quit kit of leaflets, and once-a-week clinics in 9 towns. There are approximately 200 vape shops open 6 days a week, offering advice and support to smokers looking to switch at zero cost to the exchequer. Perhaps the HSE would do better to cooperate with this free resource rather than trying to eliminate it.

And eliminating it is the clear goal here as banning flavors is the main point the committee makes.

The committee wants a full ban on all flavored vaping products apart from tobacco. The rationale for this is the old trope of ‘Kids like flavors ergo flavors are for kids‘. The department of health did say a balance has to be struck between keeping children from using these products and the needs of adult smokers who use e-cigarettes.

The report cites Finland and Estonia as examples of countries that have banned flavors without any significant decrease in e-cig use, noting that in Finland black market products are available and users use food flavorings as substitutes. So either they are endorsing black market supply as a safety valve to the damage this ban could do or they are oblivious to the effect this has on the policy they recommend. Neither do they mention that Finland has access to Snus, a smokeless tobacco product that is credited with giving Sweden its smoking prevalence of under 5% (Familiar figure, wonder where I seen it before?) No one mentioned the fact smoking rates went up in Finland after the flavor ban or that vaping was as low as 2% and has remained at that. The smoking rate was at 11% and has stagnated there since then. Estonia repealed its flavor ban and removed the tax they applied to vape products. No one mentioned that either.

A ban on flavors is a body blow to vaping business and their customers, flavored products are the choice for most vapers who are former smokers looking to escape the taste of tobacco. Without flavors, the market falls entirely to the suite of products produced by tobacco companies, (mainly tobacco, menthol, and mint pod systems), who have the financial clout to accommodate the reduction in sales. Not that they will shed any tears as most of that reduction will be compensated for by sales of combustible cigarettes. This is what happens when flavors are banned; cigarette sales rise. If the committee had intended to increase the rate of smoking they are doing a good job, however as they claim to want to achieve a smoke-free – sorry tobacco-free society, they are causing more harm than good. Idiots.

On top of this, they want to add plain packaging to vapor products. We all agree guidelines are needed to avoid overly childish-looking packaging, but plain packaging has a specific meaning in law. It mandates a single specified font, a single specified color, and specific graphic warnings. I have no idea what graphic warning will apply to vaping products as there is no recorded disease attributed to nicotine vaping and featuring anything else would be misinforming the public.

Perhaps;

Warning! Shinyitise is a known side effect of vaping.

“The Irish Heart Foundation told the Committee that another consideration was the health effect of second-hand aerosols from e-cigarettes”.

There is none and that should be the end of that. Even they admit there is no evidence, apart from the oft-promised ’emerging evidence’.

“Similarly, e-cigarette consumption in the public realm can also normalize these products for younger people.”

Yes, it’s called normalizing NOT SMOKING! That’s also known as denormalizing smoking.

To support its argument the committee cited the WHO statements on e-cigarettes. Clive Bates has torn that apart here and the SCHEER report which I tore apart here If I can see the problems with that, why can’t the TDs who shamelessly put their names and faces to this report. Which BTW I suspect is as much as they contributed to the final report. It reads like it was written by the Tobacco Policy Group. An arm’s length government quango that was set up to oversee Irelands Tobacco-Free Policy.

The Committee also heard that there may be a need to introduce no-smoking zones outside school gates and hospitals. The committee seems blissfully unaware of the smoke-free campuses that currently exist on all hospital, school, and college grounds and which naturally includes e-cigarettes. Yes, these are voluntary and as a senator of the Oireachtas once told me “You can just ignore that!” Perhaps they want the force of law applied. That’s going to make all the difference.


When e-cigs were driving down smoking rates to a historic low, the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society along with the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland all went on the attack against vaping, using the unconnected THC-related events in the US and cautioning people against vaping. People do listen to this and in due course, people went back to smoking. Though it has to be said, there was also a pandemic, and data was confounded by the restriction on gathering. Even Healthy Ireland cautioned against using the resulting 1% rise (within the margin of error) as evidence of a resurgence of smoking prevalence. So maybe people don’t listen to this nonsense anymore.

Tobacco Control ignored this warning from HI and instead sought to use this blip as evidence of a need to restrict safer products while keeping the most deadly form of nicotine consumption as available as ever.

That’s not exactly accurate, they do want to ban vending machines and sales of all nicotine products at festivals and from temporary structures. Of course, smokers can still buy 3 or 4 packs when going to a festival so it’s more about inconveniencing smokers than helping them.

It becomes obvious at this stage that the various so-called health bodies are not trying to reduce the health burden of nicotine consumption which they do not bear, that falls on the smoker, they are desperately trying to keep it as harmful as possible. They need cancer and emphysema and heart attacks to justify their jobs. They need sick and dying smokers to exploit for their campaigns in their misguided crusade toward a nicotine-free world.

Like some form of Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy, tobacco control need the harms of smoking to keep itself in the spotlight.

If they were concerned with the health toll of smoking they would use every available tool to reduce this. Instead, they want to continue with a set of policies that have reached the end of their usefulness. They discourage the uptake of safer alternatives as much as possible and blame the resulting rise in smoking on the safer alternative.

If they get their way with this set of proposals and we see the inevitable rise in smoking, will they express regret? Admit their error? Reverse course? Of course not, they will double down on what has failed and blame everyone but themselves for the reversal of the decline in smoking. All the while trousering the funding they will beg for ‘to fight the scourge of nicotine-related illness.

So what can be done? Well, that got me thinking and I think there’s another blog post in that.

One thought on “Hoodwinked health committee falls for junk science

  1. I actually believe these (See you next tuesday’s) are short of any common sense at all, they refuse to listen and deliberately opt to ignore the users point of view. This is why they should all be ignored and told to Eff Off!

    LFB

    Liked by 1 person

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