Harm Reduction

There is good news and bad news from the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The bad news is that teenagers are still smoking and 3.9 million of them are current tobacco users (having a tobacco product in the past 30 days) - a number made even more upsetting by the fact that nine out of ten cigarette smokers first try smoking by age 18. As we have long said, smoking is a pediatric disease and if we can end it in kids, few adults will take it up.

The good news is that that use dropped from 4.7 million in 2015.

The usage of most products decreased to some extent but there was a significant decrease in the usage of vaping products...

During the 1990s and 2000s, opponents of the legalization of marijuana (be it recreational or medical) argued that it served as a "gateway" to harder drugs.

While the gateway hypothesis cannot be entirely ruled out, it is also unlikely to be true. Most people who smoke marijuana do not move on to injecting heroin or snorting cocaine. The likelier explanation is that when people decide to do something rebellious, they begin by picking the "low-hanging fruit," such as alcohol, tobacco, or pot.

Put another way, if a person who uses hard drugs first started with marijuana, that does not mean that marijuana caused him to use those hard drugs. Just because A...

It seems like the important message about the dangerous effects of indoor tanning is getting through.

Between the years 2010 and 2015, there's been a significant decrease in the number of American adults who use tanning beds, according to results of a recent study. By analyzing voluminous survey data, researchers concluded that use dropped 33 percent during that five-year period. 

In 2010, 11.7 million adults of both sexes in the United States declared that they used tanning bed, but in 2015 that figure dropped to 7.8 million – a noticeable and welcome difference. Put another way, over that span the percentage of all adults in the survey reporting use of these devices fell from 5.5 to 3.5. (see first line on below table, courtesy study's...

A new, comprehensive report on breast cancer avoidance reached two important conclusions regarding how women can manage their risk: one focused on ways to reduce it with exercise, and the other showed, conversely, how light – but steady – alcohol consumption increases this cancer risk.

The paper, incorporating data on 12 million individuals from nearly 120 studies, showed that engaging in vigorous exercise – such as running and briskly-paced bicycling – cut risk by as much as 17 percent in pre-menopausal women, and 10 percent in post-menopausal women. Those figures were as compared to those classified as "least active." 

Meanwhile, the second main takeaway showed "strong evidence that drinking the equivalent of a small glass of wine or beer a day (about 10 grams alcohol...

The word is spreading around the world — electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vaping devices) are a much safer source of nicotine than are combustion cigarettes. New Zealand just announced the legalization of nicotine e-cigarettes and nicotine e-cigarette liquid.

Rather than burning tobacco, and creating smoke with up to 5,000 toxic chemicals, 70 of which are linked to cancer, vaping uses diluted nicotine vapor. Studies have shown...

As the grocery stores start to sell out, school districts and offices announce closures and group discussions become preoccupied with the arrival of Snowstorm Stella, there is no better time to remind everyone of ways to avoid unnecessary injury and hardship.

Of the weather-induced causes of death that amounted to 2,000 per year between 2006-2010, 63% were due to excessive natural cold, hypothermia or both. For further review of winter hazards and how to avoid them, read Winter is No Wonderland.

Let’s address some basics for the purpose of prevention:

What is Hypothermia?

It is a dangerous, medically urgent condition where the body temperature has dropped too low as a...

Dr. Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, a member of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and an endowed chair in tobacco harm reduction research, was an early adapter of abandoning the "quit or die" approach to cigarette addiction, and embracing all avenues for smoking cessation. He also said we need to be more compassionate toward the smokers still remaining and advocate "harm reduction" while we get them to quit.

There's no question his approach – we adopted it as well, and he is on the American Council on Science and Health Board of Scientific Advisors, based on the strength of his arguments and research – has worked. Smoking has...

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...