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Anti-prohibition news from over the world

Collected live from our allies' blogs.
Note: All opinions expressed below are those of the authors only, not necessarily TICAP's.

Minimum pricing isn't working

Published on 2022-08-03 09:53:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Promises, promises

Minimum pricing of alcohol in Scotland is not going well. Self-styled public health advocates are baffled.

Now in its fifth year and facing a subset clause next year, the Scottish government’s own evaluation has made grim reading for those who claimed that setting a floor price of 50p on a unit of alcohol would be a game-changer in Scotland’s relationship with The Drink.  
In October 2021, the evaluation of the impact of minimum pricing on crime found

Full article

The fantasy world of public health modellers

Published on 2022-08-02 12:01:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Remember the study claiming that the Transport for London ban on 'junk food' advertising had let to London households consuming 1,000 fewer calories per week? It was execrable rubbish and now a study based on it is claiming that nearly 100,000 cases of obesity have been prevented by the ban.

It's all pure fantasy, as I say at Cap-X... 

Regardless of what you think of this particular policy, it is worrying that public health policy-making has become so divorced from observable reality. Policies are proposed on the basis of modelling, evaluated on the basis of modelling, and the modelling is carried out by advocates of the policy. At no point are facts allowed to intrude. A rise in chocolate consumption becomes a fall in chocolate consumption. A rise in obesity becomes a fall in obesity. Activist-academics have created a world of pure imagination and are exploiting the broken peer-review process to drag us all into their land of make believe.

Full article

Nicotine use, past and present

Published on 2022-08-01 16:06:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Earlier today I mentioned a study that is a go-to resource for e-cigarette evidence. I now present you with the definitive short-read about the future of nicotine written by Clive Bates. 

So, here is the interesting question. What if nicotine use is no longer all that harmful? What if the real problem was always the inhalation of toxic smoke while trying to consume nicotine for its benefits? As early as 1991, the leading medical journal The Lancet reflected on how the nicotine landscape might look after the year 2000: “There is no compelling objection to the recreational and even addictive use of nicotine provided it is not shown to be physically, psychologically or socially harmful to the user or to others.”

Full article

E-cigarette facts and evidence

Published on 2022-08-01 10:44:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Colin Mendelsohn and colleagues have written a very nice response to a barking mad report commissioned by the Australian government about e-cigarettes. As you might expect from the Aussies, the report was a hatchet job on vaping. It made such claims as...

There is conclusive evidence that the use of e-cigarettes can cause respiratory disease 
(Based on the EVALI outbreak which had nothing to do with e-cigarettes.)

And...

There is strong evidence that never smokers who use e-cigarettes are on average around three times as likely than those who do not use e-cigarettes to initiate cigarette smoking.
(A claim that ignores the large decline in smoking rates among young people since vaping went mainstream and ignores common liability.) Mendelsohn et al. conclude that:
 Contrary to the conclusions of the Banks review, the evidence suggests that vaping nicotine is an effective smoking cessation aid; that vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking tobacco; that vaping is diverting young people away from smoking; and that vaping by smokers is likely to have a major net public health benefit if widely available to adult Australian smokers.
I doubt that this will come as a surprise to readers of this blog. The main reason I recommend the article is not for its conclusion but because it is a succinct summary of the evidence.  It is difficult to keep up with e-cigarette research. More than 50 studies are published every week and a lot of it is junk science from the USA. Mendelsohn et al. is a handy, up-to-date reference point for anyone who wants to find the key studies on the main issues of risk, smoking cessation, the 'gateway' effect, the EVALI nonsense, etc.
It's one to keep in your back pocket if faced with spurious arguments against vaping. It's paywalled but I daresay the authors will give you access if you ask them on ResearchGate

UPDATE

Within minutes of posted this, I saw on Twitter that the lead author of the Aussie report has been given an award. Because of course she did.

Congratulations Professor Emily Banks AM FAHMS, recipient of the prestigious @ama_media Gold Medal for her outstanding service to medicine, including ground-breaking research establishing evidence of the significant harms of e-cigarettes.@ANUPopHealthhttps://t.co/gY0uWnU8Wo

Full article

A reasonable question and a sensible answer about the Covid vaccines

Published on 2022-07-30 19:44:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


This graph has been doing the rounds recently…  It is based on an Office for National Statistics (ONS) dataset which the vaccine hesitant have been getting excited about. Toby Young, editor of the Vaccine Sceptic Daily Sceptic mentioned it a few days ago… 

The latest ONS data show that 93% of Covid deaths in April and May were of vaccinated people, in a population that is 93% vaccinated, suggesting zero protection. The same is true in each age group. https://t.co/6uNQmMsLB9

— Toby Young (@toadmeister) July 27, 2022  

And the rapper Zuby has been tweeting images like this

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Trussonomics and Sunakonomics

Published on 2022-07-29 09:04:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I was on the Sky News podcast this week with Miatta Fahnbulleh from the New Economics Foundation discussing the economic policies of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. You can listen here.


Full article

How to deal with the cost of living

Published on 2022-07-27 12:54:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


 


The IEA has a new paper out today titled Cutting Through which looks at six areas where the government should act to address the cost of living and/or reduce inflation.

Full article

Immortal time bias strikes again

Published on 2022-07-26 09:11:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


 

I don’t write much about e-cigarette junk science because there is too much of it and it is just too depressing. But I just came across this effort, which I missed earlier in the year, because I saw someone tweet about it. It’s worth looking at as a cautionary tale about statistics.

It’s the first study I’ve come across that purports to show that vaping gives you cancer. The headline claim is: 

The e-cigarette users have lower prevalence of cancer compared to traditional smoking (2.3% vs. 16.8%; P < 0.0001), but they were diagnosed with cancer at a younger age.

Even the suggestion that vapers have a (much) lower rate of cancer than smokers seemed doubtful after they did a regression analysis

Full article

A swift half with Clive Bates

Published on 2022-07-22 09:35:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


The new episode of the Swift Half is a lively discussion about tobacco harm reduction with Clive Bates (formerly of ASH, Greenpeace, etc.). Be sure to watch...


Full article

Nanny state round up

Published on 2022-07-21 11:23:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


You may fondly recall the activists at Stirling University producing a study - i.e. an online survey - pushing for cigarette-style labelling of alcohol in April.

The same state-funded puritans were back yesterday with another piece of alleged research in the same vein, this time based on focus groups of fifty people, as reported by The Times... 

Alcohol packaging must be regulated or come with health warnings similar to cigarettes, say campaigners after a study illustrated how beer and spirits were designed to appeal to young people.

Full article

Delusional anti-vaping ignoramuses

Published on 2022-07-20 11:21:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Australia is a basket case when it comes to vaping. Reading newspaper op-eds from Down Under, you would think the country had been completely cut off from the rest of the world. Its health establishment is so detached from reality that all you can do is laugh at it.

So let's do that, starting with this amazing editorial from a chap called Dr Sukhwinder Singh Sohal and a lady called Dr. Kathryn Barnsley. The former is a medic. The latter is best known for working for various anti-smoking pressure groups in Tasmania and recently did a PhD in Tasmanian tobacco control.

They begin by noticing that the prohibition of e-cigarettes in Australia has been accompanied by a black market in e-cigarettes. This is a stupefyingly predictable outcome of prohibition, but as far as the two doctors are concerned, the ban would have worked fine had it not been for a shadowy force at work

Full article

Smoke without fire?

Published on 2022-07-19 12:13:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


A study titled 'Should IQOS Emissions Be Considered as Smoke and Harmful to Health? A Review of the Chemical Evidence' was published two weeks ago. The study comes with a big red flag:

The authors acknowledge the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products funding (www.bloomberg.org). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. The authors also thank Prof. Anna Gilmore and Sophie Braznell from the University of Bath and Dr. Ed Stephens from the University of St. Andrews for valuable discussions and reviewing the content of this article.


Why anyone would ask advice from Anna Gilmore and one of her PhD students when writing about chemistry is a mystery that is only partially solved by the knowledge that they are also on the Bloomberg gravy train. Gilmore is deeply involved with Bloomberg's 'Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products' (STOP) front group. How can the funder be said to have had no role in the analysis when she reviewed and commented on the study? I guess different rules apply in 'public health'. The authors report no conflicting interests.

IQOS is a heated tobacco product produced by Philip Morris International (PMI). It doesn't burn the tobacco, it heats it. Consequently, there is no smoke and the products are considerably safer than combustible cigarettes. This has been acknowledged in the UK by the Committee on Toxicity and in the USA by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA allows IQOS to be marketed as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product, an honour that is rarer than hen's teeth and requires an abundance of evidence to earn.

Mike Bloomberg and his minions loathe reduced risk nicotine products and are determined to crush them, even if it means turning scientific terminology on its head. One strategy is to portray the emissions from heated tobacco products as 'smoke'. This has regulatory implications in many countries and this new study seems designed to be printed off by campaigners and laid on the desk of gullible regulators. It concludes:

The HPHCs [harmful and potentially harmful compounds] present are the same as in conventional cigarette (CC) smoke, albeit in lower concentrations and formed at lower temperatures, analogous to the emissions from the earlier generation of HTPs [heated tobacco products], which were classed as smoke. Also, IQOS emissions contain carbon particles with most of the compounds released being formed by chemical reactions provides further evidence that IQOS emissions fit the definition of being both an aerosol and a smoke.

 

Unlike Anna Gilmore, I am happy to admit that this is beyond my expertise so I invited Dr Roberto Sussman from the Institute of Nuclear Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico to write a guest post. Here is what he has to say...

 

“Must a name mean something?” Alice asks Humpty Dumpty, only to get this answer: “When I use a word

Full article

Is drinking "never good" for people under 40?

Published on 2022-07-15 10:36:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


In 2018, the Lancet published a study from the 'Global Burden of Disease Alcohol Collaborators' which claimed that there was no safe level of alcohol consumption. This was widely reported and was naturally welcomed by anti-alcohol campaigners. The BBC reported it under the headline 'No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms'. (Note the cheeky use of the word confirms, despite the finding going against fifty years of evidence.)

The study wasn't based on any new epidemiology. Instead it took crude, aggregate data from almost every country in the world, mashed it together and attempted to come up with a global risk curve. 
As I said at the time:
The study contains no new evidence and uses an unusual modelling approach based on population-wide data from various online sources. If you look at this massive appendix you can see the kind of data they were using. The figures are extremely crude.

The authors don't dispute the benefits of moderate drinking for heart disease but they claim that the benefits are matched by risks from other diseases at  low levels of consumption and are outweighed by the risks at higher levels of consumption. Some diseases which have been associated with benefits of drinking, such as dementia, are excluded from the analysis entirely. They also ignore overall mortality, which you might think was kind of important. A typical risk curve for alcohol consumption and mortality is J-shaped. It looks like this...  
But the GBD's risk curve for "all attributable causes" looked like this...

You will notice that there appears to be no protective effect at moderate rates of consumption in the GBD's curve. One important reason for this is that they associate alcohol consumption at any level with tuberculosis. Tuberculosis remains a serious health problem in much of the world, but not in Britain. So what relevance does a global risk curve have to us? None. 
Moreover, TB is not really an alcohol-related disease and is only viewed as such in this study because (a) drinking might weaken the immune system and (b) because people who go to bars and clubs are more likely to catch an infectious disease. I kid you not.
Today, the Lancet has published a new study by the same team using an improved methodology which comes up with a more conventional curve.

As yet, there has been no report from the BBC to set the record straight. In fact, most media outlets have ignored the study. On exception is the Guardian which - taking its cue from the press release - has focused on the finding that the health benefits of moderate drinking only apply to people over the age of 40. Take a moment to savour the headline and sub-heading, for they tell us a lot about the world in which we now live.
 Alcohol is never good for people under 40, global study finds

Largest project of its kind concludes young people should not drink at all but small amount may benefit older adults

Full article

A swift half with Eamonn Butler

Published on 2022-07-14 08:43:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


There's a new episode of The Swift Half out, this week featuring the indefatigable and unflappable Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute.


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How the nanny state blob beat Boris

Published on 2022-07-13 08:43:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist



I've written a postmortem of Boris Johnson's premiership for Spiked, focusing on his failure to stand up to the nanny state blob. 


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Are 409 suicides a year caused by problem gambling?

Published on 2022-07-11 08:41:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I've set up a Substack because Google has pretty much given up on Blogger and hasn't made any improvements in years. Substack also allows you get new posts delivered straight to your in box. I will still be posting here, but most of the Velvet Glove content will also be available on Substack, so if you want to subscribe (it's free) you can do here. That's the link to my first cross-posted article which goes like this...

 

It is becoming common for any article about gambling in Britain to include a claim about suicide: 

A Public Health England study published in September estimated that there are more than 409 suicides a year in England associated with problem gambling. (The Guardian)

The statistics are stark and brutal – between 400 and 500 people die by suicide related to gambling issues in the UK every year (The Telegraph)

The Gambling Commission has looked into just nine deaths since 2016 – a tiny proportion of the total number. Yet there are thought to be 409 gambling suicides a year in England alone (Daily Mail)

 The same statistic has been quoted by Chris Philp who, until a few days ago, was the gambling minister at DCMS. 

We now have evidence, including a Public Health England report, which identified 409 gambling suicides a year. It is imperative that we respond to that. Change is certainly needed.

 Campaigners against gambling advertising have even made some T-shirts.  

A minute’s silence in memory of all lives lost to gambling before we set off on our walk to Liverpool

There are 409 gambling suicides each year in England alone – let’s kick gambling ads out of football

Sign the petition: https://t.co/Rjt6fe8kPf pic.twitter.com/41v8ITO3Ha

— The Big Step (@the_bigstep) July 8, 2022  There is no doubt that some problem gamblers commit suicide and that gambling and gambling-related debt can be an underlying cause of suicide.

But 409 suicides is a curiously specific figure for something that is not recorded on death certificates and for which the UK collects practically no data.

A variation of this estimate was used in the closing stages of the campaign against fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). In October 2018, the government announced that it would be cutting the stake limit on FOBTs to £2 from October 2019. Sports minister Tracey Crouch claimed that this was an unacceptable delay and that the government had previously promised to enforce the new law from April 2019. The government had never said any such thing, but she nevertheless resigned over the matter and ultimately pressured the government into bringing it forward to April 2019.

In her resignation letter, Crouch claimed that two people committed suicide every day ‘due to gambling related problems’, thereby implying that there were 700 gambling-related suicides a year.

When the government capitulated and brought the stake reduction forward, she said

‘There was never any excuse for delay. Bringing forward by six months the day maximum stakes are capped will save an estimated 120 lives.’

 This implied that 240 suicides took place every year as a result of FOBT gambling alone. I have no idea where she got this figure from. I suspect it was rectally sourced. At around the same time, Nicky Morgan MP said of the Chancellor’s explanation for the 12 month ‘delay’: 

‘it doesn’t really help the expected 300 people who may end up taking their lives, suffering mental health problems from gambling addiction’.

 Insofar as these claims were based on evidence, they seem to have come from an unpublished estimate by the pressure group Gambling With Lives. Based on extrapolations from three studies from the UK, Hong Kong and Sweden, they estimated that there were between 250 and 650 gambling-related suicides per annum. They later described their workings in a submission to a House of Lords Select Committee, but it has a back-of-an-envelope feel and is far from being an official estimate.

The official estimate of 409 suicides per annum comes from a 2019 Public Health England report. This was one of the last things it published before it was dissolved and the methodology is frankly terrible.

The figure is entirely based on one study from Sweden published in 2018. The study looked at 2,099 people who had been diagnosed with gambling disorder by a doctor while receiving inpatient or outpatient care (but not primary care) in the Swedish health system between 2005 and 2016. Of these 2,099 individuals, 67 subsequently died, including 21 who committed suicide. This suicide rate implied that these people were 15 times more likely to kill themselves than members of the general population.

Public Health England arrived at their estimate by working out how many problem gamblers were in England in 2019 (based on a prevalence rate of 0.4%). Adjusting for age and gender, they then extrapolated from the suicide data in the Swedish study and applied it to England’s problem gambling population to work out how many gambling-related suicides took place in that year. They did not show their workings and described their methodology in a single paragraph: 

The ONS age-standardised suicide rates for 2019 (42) are multiplied by the prevalence of problem gambling in the general adult population (0.4%, sourced from the HSE (3)) to first estimate the number of gamblers who died by suicide in England for all persons (25; 95% CI 14 and 44). Multiplying this figure by the age-standardised SMRs (sourced from Karlsson, and others (36)), produces an estimate of the expected number of suicides (434; 95% CI 257 and 746). Calculating the difference between these figures results in the estimated number of deaths by suicide associated with problem gambling only (409; 95% CI 242 and 702).

 You can’t do this! You can’t take a prevalence estimate from one group of people and apply it to a totally different group of people. I don’t mean that Swedes and Brits are totally different - although there may be important differences - I mean that a group of 2,099 people who are seeking medical help are very different from the several hundred thousand people who are estimated to be problem gamblers in England.

These are the questions in the survey used to estimate problem gambling in the UK:

Thinking about the last 12 months

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Last Orders with Claire Fox

Published on 2022-07-04 15:16:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


On the latest episode of the Last Orders podcast, we welcomed back Claire Fox (Baroness Fox). Her ladyship discussed smoking, gambling, Steve Bray and abortion. Tune in!


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15 lousy years

Published on 2022-07-02 07:00:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of England's smoking ban. I tweeted about it in the morning, noting that it marked the point at which everything started to go terribly wrong, and was pleased to see a good deal of agreement in the replies (alongside the usual people who don't like washing and think the world should revolve around them), so when Spiked asked me to expand on it, I wrote this... 


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Meet the British Medical Association

Published on 2022-07-01 09:50:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Aseem Malhotra, Croydon's part-time cardiologist, was given an award this week by the Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA). Malhotra, whose Twitter feed has been teeming with anti-vax dogwhistles for months, was - incredibly - honoured as a champion of preventive health.

Despite being handed the gong by the Chair of the BMA in front of the BMA logo, it turned to have nothing to do with the BMA, as the BMA was eager to point out. 


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Do three year olds recognise the McDonalds logo before they know their own name?

Published on 2022-06-30 11:01:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist



 I was at a sugar industry conference yesterday on a panel with somebody from Jamie Oliver's pressure group Biteback 2030. I'm afraid that some of the things he said made me laugh out loud, none more so than his claim that more three year olds recognise the McDonalds logo than know their own name.

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Frank from June 2019

Published on 2022-06-29 10:09:12.
Website: Frank Davis


The Pink Floyd comment raises a smile. Some years earlier Frank had been drinking in a pub in Bristol and had been lost in conversation with a guy at the bar. As time wore on, he remembered he was going … Continue reading →

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A swift half with Mark Schrad

Published on 2022-06-27 12:56:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


I wrote a somewhat critical review of Mark Schrad's book Smashing the Liquor Machine a few months ago so I was delighted when he accepted my invitation to come on my little YouTube show to discuss it. Watch below...
      

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Minimum pricing continues to go wrong

Published on 2022-06-23 09:46:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


"Minimum pricing is one of the stronger policies the Scottish Government has come up with"
 Minimum pricing in Ireland has very predictably led to people driving to Northern Ireland to buy booze, as the Irish Times reports.... 


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What lockdown tells us about alcohol policy

Published on 2022-06-22 10:12:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist



I have a new study out today with the IEA looking at the extraordinary social experiment of lockdown and what it tells us about alcohol policy. According to contemporary 'public health' ideology, harmful drinking is the result of 'commercial determinants', especially advertising, affordability and availability. If you clamp down on those then alcohol consumption will decline, and if alcohol consumption declines then harmful drinking will decline because - as the influential epidemiologist Geoffrey Rose put it... ‘

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Alcohol consumption is at a historic low, temperance lobby demands action

Published on 2022-06-21 09:47:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist


Public Health Scotland has just published the alcohol consumption stats for 2021. With the country in lockdown for much of the year, consumption remained unusually low, but it was not zero and therefore not low enough for the temperance lobby. From the Scotsman... Scots still drinking too much as drop in alcohol intake stalls
ALCOHOL consumption in Scotland remains too high, amid calls to increase the minimum unit price.  Minimum pricing doesn't work. The evidence is in. Give it up. An average adult in Scotland drank the equivalent of around two bottles of wine per week in 2021, based on estimates from alcohol retail sales.

Consumption also appears to have stalled after previously falling to a historic low.

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Paul McCartney at 80

Published on 2022-06-19 10:41:00.
Website: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist



 It was Paul McCartney's 80th birthday yesterday and he'll be playing Glastonbury next week. I've written about his 52 year post-Beatles career and his desire to be ordinary for Quillette.  


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Debunked: CO2 & "climate change"

Published on 2022-06-06 22:52:00.
Website: Clearing The Air


 Debunked:


"global warming" is NOT tied to C02 levels....IE. cannot be blamed on human activity....therefore taxing humans (or worse yet changing human behavior (IE. banning use of fossil fuels), for CO2; which is at an all time low; is a scam that serves no purpose other than enriching politicians

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Cigarette packets

Published on 2022-05-30 14:58:01.
Website: Frank Davis


During the clearing of Frank’s flat I came across a number of cigarette packets that he had designed and made himself. One still with its Marlboro contents. The photograph tells part of the tale.  He had been outraged by tobacco … Continue reading →

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New Study Finds that Switching from Smoking to Vaping Reduces Heart Disease Risk by 34%

Published on 2022-05-11 23:19:00.
Website: The Rest of the Story: Tobacco and Alcohol News Analysis and Commentary


A new study published just days ago in the journal Circulation reported that adults who exclusively use electronic cigarettes experience a 34% reduction in their risk of heart disease. 

(See: Berlowitz JB, et al. E-cigarette use and risk of cardiovascular disease: A longitudinal analysis of the PATH study (2013-2019). Circulation 2022; DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.057369.)

The study used a longitudinal design, following approximately 32,000 adults over a six-year period from 2013 to 2019. E-cigarette use and tobacco cigarette use were assessed periodically, as was self-reported heart disease, including a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. The study examined the risk of incident heart disease for smokers compared to exclusive e-cigarette users, dual users, and nonsmokers, while controlling for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, body mass index, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and family history of heart disease.

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Frank, April 2014

Published on 2022-04-28 10:07:12.
Website: Frank Davis


April 11, 2014 finds Frank reflecting on his Idle Theory: I’ve been angry today that the 40-year struggle to get the Idle Theory into the world is over. Who knows whether I succeeded or not? The next day: I was … Continue reading →

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Frank from November 2017

Published on 2022-03-29 11:54:01.
Website: Frank Davis


I’m responding to a request from RdM who asked if I could look through the diary around his November 14, 2017 flat earth versus spherical blog. I came across entries on November 11 – he wrote more than 5 pages … Continue reading →

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Frank from February 2020

Published on 2022-02-27 12:07:51.
Website: Frank Davis


This instalment of Frank’s diary/journal covers parts of February 24th and 25th 2020. He starts the page with comments on Rush Limbaugh and moves on to the smoking ban, his health, the Earth’s albedo and Glaciation, mentioning barrel-vaulted cathedrals in … Continue reading →

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