harm reduction

As a physician, I can unequivocally say that about 70 percent of the illnesses I have encountered has been either directly or indirectly related to cigarette smoking.  It is without a doubt an awful habit, and one whose psychological grip on the user is frighteningly powerful.   

At the American Council on Science and Health, we have always championed measures that improve public health outcomes – chief among them, advocating the use of electronic cigarettes.  We have written countless articles on the utility of e-cigarette use and its role in harm reduction.  This is why it was with great excitement when I read the new ...

E-cigarettes are "effective in helping people quit smoking" and "95% safer than smoking."* Additionally, there are "no health risks to bystanders."

What evil, conniving, greedy, Big Tobacco-loving, propaganda-spewing group of shills says that? The UK's National Health Service (NHS).

On its website, the NHS discusses a report issued by Public Health England (another UK government agency) that examined the available evidence on e-cigarettes. The report is unambiguous in...

The King County Health Department, which serves mostly the city of Seattle and its suburbs, has recently earned a reputation for being driven by politics rather than by evidence-based medicine or common sense.

Last month, the county decided that crisis pregnancy centers that don't perform abortions aren't "real healthcare." According to its website, Care Net -- a crisis pregnancy center in the Puget Sound region -- performs pregnancy tests, STD screens, and ultrasounds and provides prenatal education. Because such crisis centers are often faith-based, what they don't do is perform or encourage abortions.

That's anathema to Seattle, a city whose residents and politicians have little use for religion or...

Under the new director, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the Food and Drug Administration just announced a new "comprehensive regulatory plan" to decrease the plague of tobacco-related deaths. While we're pleased to see the FDA continue to pay attention to this totally preventable cause of death, we're not sure that the steps they've outlined will all be effective in doing so.

One of the more questionable aspects of the new plan is the possible encouragement of producing cigarettes with lower nicotine levels as a way to make them less addictive. While we certainly agree that nicotine is highly...

Nicotine is one of the most addictive and widely used drugs in the world, bar none. And that's a big part of why it's so difficult for smokers to quit cigarettes. Of course, that's not the whole story, since there are replacement products that supply the drug without the damaging effects of inhaling smoke. However, these don't seem to be as satisfying since they don't mimic the movements and mode of nicotine delivery that accompany cigarette smoking.

Enter the electronic cigarette, or e-cig. The device can look like a cigarette (or cigar or pipe), but instead of burning tobacco, it provides a nicotine-containing vapor that the user inhales, thus getting a "hit" in the same way one would get from smoking. So, as a harm-reduction tool — to get smokers away from the deleterious...

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...

What goes up must come down.  There is no top without a bottom.  Two sides to every coin.  No front without a back.  A lid without a pot.  My cliche list is endless.  So, I will stop torturing you.

Just know, most arise from kernels of truth.

Alcohol is good and bad.  Makes some happy.  Others sad.  Amplifies joy.  Or, exacerbates decline.  It alienates.  It coalesces.  De-stresses and stresses.  It calms.  It kills.

You are the variable.  As is the dose.

Is ‘Moderation’ sexy? 

For those whose health benefits from moderate drinking exceed their drawbacks, it is.  Like most things, there are no absolutes or guarantees. No one size-fits-all.

According to the...

Courtesy Richard Levine/Corbis Courtesy Richard Levine/Corbis

A recent op-ed in the Sacramento Bee issues a strange warning about e-cigarettes, saying that they may cause hearing loss among teenagers. The piece was authored by Dave Fabry, identified as the vice-president of audiology for Starkey Hearing Technologies in Eden Prairie, MN.

While the urge is to simply view this as fear-mongering by someone who does not understand nicotine modes of action (and confuses it with smoking, which...

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: Shutterstock

In the September 1906 issue of the North American Review, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) popularized the phrase, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

More recently, and relevant to the increasing use of statistics in science and health issues, statistician Stephen John Senn wrote on Twitter

Over 18 million young people, 68.9 percent of middle and high school students, see some form of e-cigarette advertising, according to a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report based on self-reported surveys.

And that worries them.

Should it? It depends. Kids are rebellious, that is why so many marketers cater to that theme, and e-cigarettes are certainly a fad for some because they are counter-culture, but CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden is framing the issue inaccurately when he says, The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes.

What industry...