Gratefully reposted by Erik Befrits – Cutting down is linearly beneficial!

One advantage of truth over lies: it seldom contradicts itself

Posted on 7 February 2014 by Carl V Phillips | 5 Comments

by Carl V Phillips

As regular readers know, the tobacco control industry will say anything they can think of that might further their cause, regardless of whether it is true.  The downside of this — other than the fact that it means they fit the definitions of both “sociopath” and “evil” — is that lies frequently contradict each other.

There are a million examples of this, of course.  I find the most notable one to be the claim that there is a worrisome “gateway” effect from smoke-free products to smoking (which is not true) and yet there is a concerted effort to deny that smoke-free products are low risk compared to smoking (which would tend to create a gateway effect, since you might as well smoke if that is true).

A closely related problem is that sometimes the tobacco controllers want to report the truth, and the truth very frequently contradicts the sociopath lies.  A recent favorite lie that has been flogged by Stanton Glantz and used by others to attack e-cigarettes is the claim that they are often used merely to cut down on smoking, and cutting down does not reduce your risks.  More specifically, Glantz is claiming that the heart attack risk does not decrease and phrasing it to trick the reader/listener into believing that the claim is that risk does not decrease it all.  Even setting aside the fact that cutting down is a typical transition state on the way to stopping, this is simply not true.  Apparently the somewhat more honest tobacco controllers at the CDC did not get the memo that this is the lie of the month, because they just tweeted:

(@CDCTobaccoFree) No smoking is safe, but risk of heart disease & heart attack greatly increases w/number of cigarettes smoked.

For any readers who might be as innumerate as Glantz (though I cannot imagine there are any), “increases with the number of cigarettes” is exactly equivalent to “decreases when you cut down”.

By the way, for those interested in the truth, it is this:  The risk of cancer increases close to linearly with the number of cigarettes smoked (cut the number smoked by half and you cut the risk by half).  Cardiovascular risk, including heart attack, increases much more sharply with the number smoked and then gets flatter, which means that cutting from 20 to 10 does not cut this risk in half — not even close — but it does decrease it.  Other diseases seem to fall in between those functions.

We do not actually have very good data on smoking less than about 10 per day and almost nothing useful below 5, so it is hard to be sure.  But there are good reasons to believe that the cardiovascular risk from smoking just a handful per day could be in the neighborhood of half of that of smoking a pack a day.  (Strangely, this means that CDC was arguably overstating the benefits of cutting down without quitting.)

So there is a good reason to push on to zero after cutting down.  But it is obviously a lie to claim there are no benefits to cutting down.


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