Harm Reduction

The word is spreading around the world — electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vaping devices) are a much safer source of nicotine than are combustion cigarettes. New Zealand just announced the legalization of nicotine e-cigarettes and nicotine e-cigarette liquid.

Rather than burning tobacco, and creating smoke with up to 5,000 toxic chemicals, 70 of which are linked to cancer, vaping uses diluted nicotine vapor. Studies have shown...

As the grocery stores start to sell out, school districts and offices announce closures and group discussions become preoccupied with the arrival of Snowstorm Stella, there is no better time to remind everyone of ways to avoid unnecessary injury and hardship.

Of the weather-induced causes of death that amounted to 2,000 per year between 2006-2010, 63% were due to excessive natural cold, hypothermia or both. For further review of winter hazards and how to avoid them, read Winter is No Wonderland.

Let’s address some basics for the purpose of prevention:

What is Hypothermia?

It is a dangerous, medically urgent condition where the body temperature has dropped too low as a...

Dr. Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, a member of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and an endowed chair in tobacco harm reduction research, was an early adapter of abandoning the "quit or die" approach to cigarette addiction, and embracing all avenues for smoking cessation. He also said we need to be more compassionate toward the smokers still remaining and advocate "harm reduction" while we get them to quit.

There's no question his approach – we adopted it as well, and he is on the American Council on Science and Health Board of Scientific Advisors, based on the strength of his arguments and research – has worked. Smoking has...

Beginning in May of this year, all cigarettes sold in the UK must be packaged to standards regulating material, size, shape, opening mechanism and more importantly with plain packaging.

And by plain packaging, I mean a "mud-green box" stripped of all branding. Like this: 

 

 

 

 

The tobacco companies argued that plain packaging was ineffectual. But as the Financial Times notes

"The argument that plain packaging was ineffectual was...

It's only logical to assume that cigarette substitutes that supply nicotine (e.g. e-cigs, nicotine patches, lozenges and such) would provide less or none of the carcinogens that make inhaling cigarette smoke so deadly. But logic isn't scientific proof, so we were pleased to see the release of a study that supports that conclusion.

Led by Dr. Lion Shahab from University College, London, a group of investigators from the UK and US compared the exposure to nicotine and the products of tobacco combustion in groups of smokers and ex-smokers. Smokers included those who only smoked cigarettes, smokers who also used nicotine replacement products (NRTs), and smokers who used both regular and electronic cigarettes. Levels of...

A new study estimates that adding an MRI test - a short-term cost in increasingly stretched government health care budgets - would yield savings because 27 percent of men could avoid an unnecessary biopsy and also reduce over-diagnosis by 5 percent. An over-diagnosis is when a patient is diagnosed with a cancer that does not go on to cause any harm during their lifetime.

Currently, over a million prostate biopsies are performed in both the US and Europe each year. They are scheduled when men experience symptoms of prostate cancer or have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test showing high levels of the PSA protein in their blood. Yet prostate cancer can be aggressive or harmless and tissue samples taken at random cannot confirm whether a cancer is aggressive and may even miss...

Doctor checking BP

When we check our blood pressure, we usually do it in one arm or the other. But there is a good reason to check our blood pressure in both arms. A large difference in systolic blood pressure between arms – defined as ≥ 10 mm Hg - may be a sign of increased cardiovascular disease – and even the threat of death.

That is because when blood pressure is higher in one arm, it may be because of  narrowing in a blood vessel, called “artery”, in that arm.  The most common cause of blood vessel narrowing in the body is atherosclerosis (buildup of cholesterol); and, since atherosclerosis tends to affect blood vessels throughout the body, it can impede blood flow to vital organs like the heart and the brain, causing a heart attack or stroke. 

Mild Inter-arm systolic blood pressure...

Smoking is bad.  Bad for mom.  Bad for unborn and born baby.  Now, yet another study reveals its adverse effect on the developing child.  

This time the focus is the kidney and the resultant damage.  

Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan set out to clarify the association between smoking during and after pregnancy in the home with the risk of proteinuria at age 3 years old of the child.  

Proteinuria refers to the spilling of protein into the urine.  This can occur in a benign fashion when it is in trace amounts and due to orthostatic proteinuria (aka protein appearing in the urine upon standing due to a positional or postural shift).  When it is sustained and present in the urine in increasingly significant amounts, it can reflect underlying disease or...

 

“An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away” has been the mantra for prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) since the early 2000s, but that seems to be changing in some cases.

It is well documented that taking aspirin helps prevent the recurrence of heart attack, stroke, and other vascular events after they have already occurred - known as “secondary prevention”.  But there is debate over the benefits of taking aspirin in people without a history of prior cardiovascular disease - primary prevention.  The current consensus advocates using low-dose aspirin, for primary prevention, in certain high risk groups: those with advanced age, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking etc.  Not so, says a new ...

The United States Food and Drug Administration has informed Swedish Match, the makers of the snus tobacco product, that the product will not be designated as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product - MRTP. Last year, the FDA Center for Tobacco Products reviewed the "pre-market tobacco application" for snus and approved its continued sale in the U.S because the company showed it contains lower levels of harmful constituents than other smokeless products on sale in the United States. Had the MRTP application been successful, it would have allowed the Swedish...