Harm Reduction

Beginning in May of this year, all cigarettes sold in the UK must be packaged to standards regulating material, size, shape, opening mechanism and more importantly with plain packaging.

And by plain packaging, I mean a "mud-green box" stripped of all branding. Like this: 

 

 

 

 

The tobacco companies argued that plain packaging was ineffectual. But as the Financial Times notes

"The argument that plain packaging was ineffectual was...

It's only logical to assume that cigarette substitutes that supply nicotine (e.g. e-cigs, nicotine patches, lozenges and such) would provide less or none of the carcinogens that make inhaling cigarette smoke so deadly. But logic isn't scientific proof, so we were pleased to see the release of a study that supports that conclusion.

Led by Dr. Lion Shahab from University College, London, a group of investigators from the UK and US compared the exposure to nicotine and the products of tobacco combustion in groups of smokers and ex-smokers. Smokers included those who only smoked cigarettes, smokers who also used nicotine replacement products (NRTs), and smokers who used both regular and electronic cigarettes. Levels of...

A new study estimates that adding an MRI test - a short-term cost in increasingly stretched government health care budgets - would yield savings because 27 percent of men could avoid an unnecessary biopsy and also reduce over-diagnosis by 5 percent. An over-diagnosis is when a patient is diagnosed with a cancer that does not go on to cause any harm during their lifetime.

Currently, over a million prostate biopsies are performed in both the US and Europe each year. They are scheduled when men experience symptoms of prostate cancer or have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test showing high levels of the PSA protein in their blood. Yet prostate cancer can be aggressive or harmless and tissue samples taken at random cannot confirm whether a cancer is aggressive and may even miss...

Doctor checking BP

When we check our blood pressure, we usually do it in one arm or the other. But there is a good reason to check our blood pressure in both arms. A large difference in systolic blood pressure between arms – defined as ≥ 10 mm Hg - may be a sign of increased cardiovascular disease – and even the threat of death.

That is because when blood pressure is higher in one arm, it may be because of  narrowing in a blood vessel, called “artery”, in that arm.  The most common cause of blood vessel narrowing in the body is atherosclerosis (buildup of cholesterol); and, since atherosclerosis tends to affect blood vessels throughout the body, it can impede blood flow to vital organs like the heart and the brain, causing a heart attack or stroke. 

Mild Inter-arm systolic blood pressure...

Smoking is bad.  Bad for mom.  Bad for unborn and born baby.  Now, yet another study reveals its adverse effect on the developing child.  

This time the focus is the kidney and the resultant damage.  

Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan set out to clarify the association between smoking during and after pregnancy in the home with the risk of proteinuria at age 3 years old of the child.  

Proteinuria refers to the spilling of protein into the urine.  This can occur in a benign fashion when it is in trace amounts and due to orthostatic proteinuria (aka protein appearing in the urine upon standing due to a positional or postural shift).  When it is sustained and present in the urine in increasingly significant amounts, it can reflect underlying disease or...

 

“An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away” has been the mantra for prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) since the early 2000s, but that seems to be changing in some cases.

It is well documented that taking aspirin helps prevent the recurrence of heart attack, stroke, and other vascular events after they have already occurred - known as “secondary prevention”.  But there is debate over the benefits of taking aspirin in people without a history of prior cardiovascular disease - primary prevention.  The current consensus advocates using low-dose aspirin, for primary prevention, in certain high risk groups: those with advanced age, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking etc.  Not so, says a new ...

The United States Food and Drug Administration has informed Swedish Match, the makers of the snus tobacco product, that the product will not be designated as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product - MRTP. Last year, the FDA Center for Tobacco Products reviewed the "pre-market tobacco application" for snus and approved its continued sale in the U.S because the company showed it contains lower levels of harmful constituents than other smokeless products on sale in the United States. Had the MRTP application been successful, it would have allowed the Swedish...

A dangerous practice

It's now almost one year to the day that the Food and Drug Administration publicly recommended that teenagers be prevented from using tanning beds. It was a compelling and worthwhile statement based on science that would save thousands of young lives.

"Indoor tanning is a known contributor to skin cancer, including melanoma (its most deadly form), and other skin damage. Yet, 1.6 million minors indoor tan each year, increasing their risk of skin cancer and other damage," the agency stated on Dec. 18, 2015. "According to the American Academy of Dermatology, those who have been exposed to radiation from indoor tanning are 59 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned...

One of my extended family members is a former smoker. Nagging him to stop did little good. Warning him against its health dangers produced similarly poor results. He was addicted, and he appeared to like smoking, anyway. 

Then e-cigarettes came along. After giving them a try, he quit cigarettes for good. No nagging was necessary. He received the same kick from vaping minus all the nasty smoke that makes cigarettes so dangerous. His blunted sense of smell and taste returned to normal and breathing became easier. 

His story is not unique. Many former smokers credit e-cigarettes with changing their lives for the better. A study in the journal Tobacco Control concluded that...

If you are over the age of 50, your doctor has most likely advised you to get a colonoscopy- the gold standard procedure for early detection and removal of growths called polyps, that can potentially turn into deadly colorectal cancer (CRC).  But despite its proven effectiveness, the idea of getting a colonoscopy invokes dread and apprehension in many people.  Understandably, no one looks forward at the thought of drinking a gallon of gag-inducing bowel-prep and spending hours running to the bathroom, which is prelude to having a tube inserted through the rectum and snaked through the intestinal tract, while a camera looks for suspicious growths.  But it is actually not as terrible as it sounds.  In fact, the preparation is more unpleasant than the actual procedure which is done once...