Thursday, October 20, 2011

Doctors favour junkies over smokers





Smokers should be so lucky as to have the political influence that heroin junkies clearly enjoy. When the Canadian government was pursuing its court challenge against Vancouver’s Insite safe injection clinic for heroin users—which it recently lost at the Supreme Court—dozens of doctors and scientists rose up to protest. Stephen Hwang, a top researcher at the University of Toronto, called the government’s hostility to Insite “an alarming example of a recent trend towards the increased politicization of science.”

Tobacco harm reduction is a much simpler matter than all that. You don’t even need clinics. What you do need is to acknowledge that there’s a stubborn portion of the population that—as above—is hard-core addicted to nicotine and that rather than writing them off or pretending that lecturing them will make them kick, our public health is better off by working to minimize the risks their addictions pose to their health and safety. And there are ways to do that. Promoting smokeless tobacco is a big one, since so much of the mortal danger that nicotine addicts risk comes from the carcinogens in smoking. E-cigarettes, or tobacco vapourizers, are another major improvement over smoking. And in Sweden, where millions of smokers have switched to a under-the-lip pouch of tobacco called snus, lung cancer rates and heart disease rates have fallen to some of the lowest in Europe. Just as with Insite, there is solid evidence showing that these lower risk products lead to increases in public health.

As a 2007 paper published in the International Journal of Drug Policy concluded: “Applying harm reduction principles to public health policies on tobacco/nicotine is more than simply a rational and humane policy…It has the potential to lead to one of the greatest public health breakthroughs in human history by fundamentally changing the forecast of a billion cigarette-caused deaths this century.”

Yet all of these products have been dismissed out of hand by numerous public health groups who have determined, with the same resolve and naivetŠ¹ as the War on Drug types, to wipe all tobacco off the face of the earth. The American Cancer Association, the American Heart Association, and even the American Lung Association have ruled out promoting Tobacco Harm Reduction through comparatively safer products. Since, they say, all these products may still potentially contain some health risk—no matter how vanishingly minimal—they are condemned as unsafe substitutes.

Link to full article:  http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/10/14/kevin-libin-doctors-favour-junkies-over-smokers/

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