Smoking (and european regulation) kills — matt ridley

My Times column is on harm reduction, Swedish snus and e cigarettes

Is this the end of smoking? Not if the bureaucrats can help it.

Sweden s reputation for solving policy problems, from education to banking, is all the rage. The Swedes are also ahead of the rest of Europe in tackling smoking. They have by far the fewest smokers per head of population of all EU countries. Lung cancer mortality in Swedish men over 35 is less than half the British rate.

Have they done it by being more zealous in ostracising, educating and shaming smokers in that paternalistic Scandinavian way? No they did it through innovation and competition. In the 1980s Swedes developed a tobacco product called snus, which you put under your upper lip. You get the nicotine but not the tar. Snus is the most popular and effective way of quitting smoking in Sweden (and Norway).

You will not have seen snus on sale in Britain, for the simple reason that the EU banned it. When Sweden joined the EU, it negotiated a special opt out. To this day, despite abundant evidence that snus is saving Swedish lives by the bucket load, despite advice from experts, and despite a devastating critique of its own feeble defence of the policy, the European Commission remains committed to the snusban.

You may think this is rather an obscure topic with which to occupy such a prominent opinion pulpit as this page but it is a vital background to the debate about electronic cigarettes for, if snuscan halve smoking and lung cancer deaths, imagine what electronic cigarettes could do. These are objects that mimic the actions of smoking but are maybe 1,000 times safer, and whose sales are doubling each year,without any government encouragement or medical prescription. E cigarettes may wipe out smoking in a couple of decades. Professor David Nutt of Imperial College describes them as the greatest health advance since vaccines .

Tobacco sales are falling in Europe and America and the industry fears it is facing in electronic cigarettes its Kodak moment as when digital photography destroyed a dominant film camera firm in a flash. Wells Fargo in the USA predicts that
e cigarettes could out sell cigarettes within ten years.

Surveys show that e cigarettes are now the most popular method of quitting smoking, despite a lack of encouragement from the authorities. Pick up a leaflet from your chemist on how to quite smoking and you will find they are not even mentioned. When I made a speech on this topic in the House of Lords, I was stunned by the enormous response I got from vapers , enthusiasts for e cigs. What was especially startling was how many of them told of trying to quit for decades, then finally succeeding.

Yet, instead of welcoming this technology, the powers that be, in Brussels and Whitehall, are determined to throw obstacles in its way. Last week the European Parliament voted in support of the Commission s proposal that bans reusable electronic cigarettes and those with a nicotine concentration over 20mg/ml. Our own government is intent on translating these EU restrictions into British law, egged on by the British Medical Association and the big pharmaceutical industry, which burble on about protecting children from a new threat and not wishing to see the renormalising of smoking.

Why are public health officials so resistant? The European Commission frequently displays a precautionary bias against innovation, weighing any risk of a new product, however small, but not the risk of an old product it might replace hence its attitude to genetically modified crops. In raising the unknown (but small) risks of e cigarettes, the public health establishment is missing the point. What counts is harm reduction, not perfect utopian safety. Don t let the best be the enemy of the good, said Voltaire. The ban on strong e cigarettes, the ones preferred by those trying to quit smoking, could prevent the saving of 105,000 European lives a year, according to modelling by London Economics.

And there s the Dunning Kruger effect, whereby incompetent people are too incompetent to see incompetence. An EU official with a lower second class degree from the University of Malta so badly mangled the results of 15 scientists on harm reduction by e cigarettes that they all wrote to correct him.

The British government s medical regulator, the MHRA, sticks obstinately to its belief that medicinal regulation will improve technological progress in e cigarettes, ignoring reams of evidence that high barriers to entry inevitably stifle innovation. Doctors, represented by the BMA, seem to hate the idea of people buying, rather than being prescribed, products that stop them smoking. Worse, some of the firms advertising e cigarettes and selling them through Boots are now subsidiaries of Satan itself the tobacco industry. Not wishing to emulate Kodak, Big Tobacco is rushing to buy up e cigarette makers.

Big Pharma wants regulation of its rivals because it makes a packet out of nicotine replacement therapies (patches and gums), which have a poor track record of helping people to quit. And politicians? Well, they just seem to enjoy banning things.

In short, says Professor Gerry Stimson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the public health response to e cigarettes has been dominated by attempts to regain ownership of the issue from a consumer led self help movement. Not invented here the old bureaucrat s cry.

The reason these cynical campaigns have succeeded at all is that most of us confuse nicotine with smoking. As far as anybody can tell, nicotine is harmless at the doses present in cigarette smoke. It s the tar that kills. Nicotine is addictive, but so is caffeine, and a cup of coffee has a lot more potentially dangerous chemicals in it than an e cigarette. Vaping could well be less risky and antisocial than coffee drinking.

Yet so brainwashed are we into thinking that nicotine is harmful that we cannot see an advert for vaping without a Pavlovian revulsion, and spouting a load of tosh about protecting kids from a possible gateway into (rather than out of) smoking. And that ignorance is being exploited by the reactionary opponents of this disruptive and life saving innovation. They would apparently prefer that smoking continues its very slow, but doctor supervised, decline over the next 50 years than all but vanish in 20.

Why do so many europeans smoke cigarettes? (life, country, dangerous) — city-data forum

02 06 2009, 04 04 AM califantastic 332 posts, read 1,051,524 times Reputation 221 Why do so many Europeans smoke cigarettes?


Why do so many Europeans smoke cigarettes?

Whenever I travel in Europe I am always amazed by the extremely high percentage of Europeans that smoke cigarettes. This seems strange to me considering that people in Europe tend to be better educated and more affluent that people in many other parts of the world. I would think that the more educated and affluent a person is the less likely they would be to smoke. But this is clearly not the case in Europe.

A couple explanations I thought of Herd behavior (people in Europe smoke because everyone else does), Europeans do not care as much about their health, they are more concerned with enjoying themselves than living a long healthy life.

If you have any opinion or insights into why such a high percentage of Europeans smoke please let me know your thoughts.
02 06 2009, 05 20 AM pigeonhole 3,655 posts, read 4,635,730 times Reputation 2151 Why do so many Europeans smoke cigarettes ?

Because they are STUPID

(from an European who doesn’t smoke cigarettes, only reefers in my salad days…) 02 06 2009, 06 01 AM Scotslass Location Axarquнa, Andalucнa, Spain 2,946 posts, read 4,699,149 times Reputation 1657 As Europe is a continent it depends which country you go to rather than «tarring the whole continent with the same brush» Spain, Italy, France has alot of smokers compared to here.

But you’ll find that not everyone smokes. I myself am disgusted by smoking and would never ever try it. 02 06 2009, 08 01 AM acrylic Location AZ 1,379 posts, read 2,377,315 times Reputation 622 Lots of people in former Yugoslavia smoke. It’s quite saddening. I’ve told a couple of them about how bad it is, and they get so mad and defensive. Including my mom. sigh 02 06 2009, 05 42 PM BRAZILIAN Location Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 568 posts, read 686,191 times Reputation 370 Quote Originally Posted by pigeonhole Why do so many Europeans smoke cigarettes ?

Because they are STUPID

(from an European who doesn’t smoke cigarettes, only reefers in my salad days…) Why stupids my friend? I am not european but I am cigarettes’ smoker and I don’t feel a stupid.
I think smoke cigarettes is less dangerous than
Drive high speed
Parachutes
Bung jump
Radical sports
Smell diesel smoke
Heavy traffic
Air pollution, water pollution
Live near nuclear plant
Walk at night (or day) some cities streets
Fire guns
Politicians
Political economist
Etc…, Etc…
How you can see, have many, many things very much dangerous in the world than Smoke Cigarette. 02 06 2009, 06 27 PM acrylic Location AZ 1,379 posts, read 2,377,315 times Reputation 622 Quote Originally Posted by BRAZILIAN Why stupids my friend? I am not european but I am cigarettes’ smoker and I don’t feel a stupid.
I think smoke cigarettes is less dangerous than
Drive high speed
Parachutes
Bung jump
Radical sports
Smell diesel smoke
Heavy traffic
Air pollution, water pollution
Live near nuclear plant
Walk at night (or day) some cities streets
Fire guns
Politicians
Political economist
Etc…, Etc…
How you can see, have many, many things very much dangerous in the world than Smoke Cigarette. Hmm. No.

You’ll see… it doesn’t per say affect you right away, but when it does, it’ll be a lot worse than sitting in heavy traffic, firing a gun, or anything to do with a politician. You’re just killing yourself slowly. 02 06 2009, 07 17 PM green mariner 24,119 posts, read 19,118,264 times Reputation 6746 I don’t know if this is the case for Europe as a whole, but I read about a case in Germany. It isn’t so much that Americans smoke less than Europeans, but in the USA, smoking in public is frowned upon, but in Europe, smoking in public is accepted, therefore, people will smoke in cafes and the restaurants. 02 06 2009, 07 35 PM K Luv Location Maryland not Murlin 7,102 posts, read 12,866,495 times Reputation 4245 Quote Originally Posted by califantastic Why do so many Europeans smoke cigarettes? Why are Californians so obsessed with health even though they live in one of the most polluted states?

Quote Originally Posted by califantastic Whenever I travel in Europe I am always amazed by the extremely high percentage of Europeans that smoke cigarettes. This seems strange to me considering that people in Europe tend to be better educated and more affluent that people in many other parts of the world. I would think that the more educated and affluent a person is the less likely they would be to smoke. But this is clearly not the case in Europe. The few times that I have been to Europe I didn’t notice an excessive amount of smokers, even when I was in France and Italy. Yes, I saw many smokers, but not any more than I see in the states. The reason why so many Europeans smoke is that it is relatively socially acceptable, and unlike the US, most Europeans do like to have the government tell them how to live, let alone some health nut. Besides, if two world wars, numerous smaller wars and countless uprisings/revolutions were waged in your front yard, back yard and living room, you might be a little bit more relaxed with the idea of smoking. Anyways, to answer your question it is a cultural thing just like how in the South (US) they love to eat excessive amounts of fried and greasy food.

Quote Originally Posted by califantastic A couple explanations I thought of Herd behavior (people in Europe smoke because everyone else does), Europeans do not care as much about their health, they are more concerned with enjoying themselves than living a long healthy life. Herd behavior? That is a pretty ignorant statement.

There is an old George Carlin joke that goes, Eat right, stay fit, and die anyways. A good friend of mine watched his dad pass away of cancer a few years ago. His old man was only in his fifties, eat healthy, played racquet ball a few times a week, never smoked, and blah blah blah. If you are concerned about the ill effects of smoking then I suggest that you do not live in a city. Aside from the general amount of pollutants in the air, car exhaust is just as carcinogenic as cigarets and diesel exhaust contains the most highly carcinogenic substance known to man. Just breathing city air is the equivalent of smoking at least half a pack a day.

Quote Originally Posted by califantastic If you have any opinion or insights into why such a high percentage of Europeans smoke please let me know your thoughts. My thoughts are that Europeans do not smoke any more than anyone else. It is a stereotype and a generalization. 02 06 2009, 09 52 PM orangeapple Location Southern California 2,883 posts, read 4,013,774 times Reputation 3645 There’s some overly defensive smokers in denial in this thread 02 06 2009, 10 03 PM Greatday Location Pinal County, Arizona 25,105 posts, read 22,236,399 times Reputation 4783 I might add that MANY Asians also smoke cigarettes. As do Russians. As do many in South America and Africa. Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

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