The science is clear. So why can’t governments agree on vaping?

““It’s really a product that’s good for some people and bad for other people, which doesn’t feel like too complex of a statement, but actually feels like something that is difficult for many to grapple with,” said Hartmann-Boyce, who is an associate professor of evidence-based policy and practice at the University of Oxford.
She led a 2022 Cochrane review — considered the best type of analysis of the available evidence — which looked at studies of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. It found the strongest evidence yet that vaping works better than traditional nicotine replacement tools such as patches or gum to help people stop smoking. For those advocating that vaping is an effective harm-reduction mechanism, it was a significant win.

But it’s also more complicated than that.

Hartmann-Boyce said that since Cochrane first started looking at the evidence nearly 10 years ago, things have changed dramatically. The devices themselves are different now and are much better at delivering nicotine. That’s good for people trying to give up smoking but creates a problem with non-smokers like kids who are trying these for the first time.

But not everyone is even convinced it’s good for most smokers in the long term.

Jørgen Vestbo, a clinician and emeritus professor of respiratory medicine at the University Hospital of South Manchester, who recently returned to his native Denmark, agrees that the randomized controlled trials show e-cigarettes can help people quit.

But he also points to data from clinical trials that show people given e-cigarettes were more likely to use them for longer than those using aids such as nicotine gum. Vestbo said population-level evidence shows that as long as you are addicted to nicotine you are more likely to start smoking again.”

Will diet soda, yogurt, and cereal disappear from stores?

“the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic.” Another WHO committee, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), independently assessed the ingredient, too, but maintained its existing recommendation — suggesting not that people cut the substance entirely out of their diets but that they limit their daily aspartame consumption to about 40 mg per kilogram (or about 2.2 pounds) of body weight. Diet soda contains about 200 mg of aspartame per 12-ounce can. By that measure, an adult weighing 60 kg, or roughly 132 pounds, would need to drink about 12 cans of diet soda a day to exceed the JECFA’s recommendation, assuming they had nothing else containing aspartame.
Making matters more confounding, the Food and Drug Administration had yet another take. It told Vox in an email that it had reviewed the information used in WHO’s assessment and “identified significant shortcomings” in the studies the agency relied on. “Aspartame is one of the most studied food additives in the human food supply,” the agency added.”

Even the scientists who build AI can’t tell you how it works

“there’s two connected big concerning unknowns. The first is that we don’t really know what they’re doing in any deep sense. If we open up ChatGPT or a system like it and look inside, you just see millions of numbers flipping around a few hundred times a second, and we just have no idea what any of it means. With only the tiniest of exceptions, we can’t look inside these things and say, “Oh, here’s what concepts it’s using, here’s what kind of rules of reasoning it’s using. Here’s what it does and doesn’t know in any deep way.” We just don’t understand what’s going on here. We built it, we trained it, but we don’t know what it’s doing.”

“The other big unknown that’s connected to this is we don’t know how to steer these things or control them in any reliable way. We can kind of nudge them to do more of what we want, but the only way we can tell if our nudges worked is by just putting these systems out in the world and seeing what they do. We’re really just kind of steering these things almost completely through trial and error.”

Is weed safe in pregnancy?

“In a 2020 review of relevant studies published since the mid-1980s, the authors called out many of these studies for weak methodology. In particular, many researchers had failed to compare the outcomes they were measuring against any kind of a standard that would account for age and parental educational level. (That is: What if the kids of those who used cannabis during pregnancy were born to parents with lower levels of education, which could account for some differences?)
The review authors concluded that overall, “prenatal cannabis exposure is associated with few effects on the cognitive functioning of offspring.” What’s more, they noted, even when abnormalities were identified, almost all were still within the range of normal.”

“Despite the imperfect data, Mark suspects the risk of fetal harm with prenatal cannabis use is high enough to support recommending against purely recreational use.

But many aren’t seeking to get high.”

More States Are Using Science-Backed Reading Instruction. It Shouldn’t Have Taken This Long.

“Since 2013, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana have all passed legislation mandating that teachers be trained in the “science of reading”—methods that typically center around phonics, an approach in which children are taught to read words by decoding the sounds that different letters or groups of letters make. Since these policies’ implementation, reading performance in these states has dramatically improved, even though reading scores there have historically been among the lowest in the nation.”

An economist spent decades arguing money wouldn’t help schools. His new paper finds it usually does.

“The paper, set to be published later this year, is a new review of dozens of studies. It finds that when schools get more money, students tend to score better on tests and stay in school longer, at least according to the majority of rigorous studies on the topic.”

“The findings seem like a remarkable turnabout compared to prior research from Hanushek, who had for four decades concluded in academic work that most studies show no clear relationship between spending and school performance. His work has been cited by the US Supreme Court and pushed a generation of federal policymakers and advocates looking to fix America’s schools to focus not on money but ideas like teacher evaluation and school choice.
Despite his new findings, Hanushek’s own views have not changed. “Just putting more money into schools is unlikely to give us very good results,” he said in a recent interview. The focus, he insists, should be on spending money effectively, not necessarily spending more of it. Money might help, but it’s no guarantee.

Hanushek’s view matters because he remains influential, playing a dual role as a leading scholar and advocate — he continues to testify in court cases about school funding and to shape how many lawmakers think about improving schools.”

“The context matters, they say. Sometimes money is spent well; sometimes it’s spent poorly. Sometimes the effects are big; other times they are small or nonexistent. Just focusing on the overall effect masks this variation.”

“Other researchers agreed that the variation in results is important, but that shouldn’t mean ignoring the overall impact. “The average effect still matters,” said West, the Harvard professor.”

Studies Link Marijuana Legalization to All Sorts of Positive Public Health Outcomes

“Legalization linked to fewer suicides, traffic fatalities, and opioid deaths. A new paper on the public health effects of legalizing marijuana finds “little credible evidence to suggest that [medical marijuana] legalization promotes marijuana use among teenagers” and “convincing evidence that young adults consume less alcohol when medical marijuana is legalized.””

Is the ‘Climate Time-Bomb’ Really Ticking Toward Imminent Catastrophe?

“What is the supposed looming climate catastrophe? Exceeding the threshold in which global average temperature rises 1.5 degrees Celsius above the 1850-1900 baseline. That threshold was established in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, which aims to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” In order to have a 50/50 chance of achieving that goal, the new report calculates humanity must cut its greenhouse gas emissions (chiefly carbon dioxide) basically in half by 2030. Secretary-General Guterres asserted that the report shows that “the 1.5-degree limit is achievable.”
Will humanity inevitably suffer a catastrophic fall if we go over the supposed 1.5 degrees Celsius climatic cliff in 2030? No”

“It is the case that the world’s average temperature is about 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than it was between 1850 and 1900. The bulk of that temperature increase largely stems from burning fossil fuels that have loaded up the atmosphere with extra heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Atmospheric carbon dioxide stood at about 285 parts per million around 1850, rising to about 316 ppm by 1958 and is now at 420 ppm.

The report states that the evidence has “strengthened” that man-made global warming is responsible for observed changes in extremes such as heat waves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones. Recent studies do show that the intensity, frequency, and duration of heat waves have increased since the 1950s and that the frequency of heavy rainfall events has also risen. On the other hand, clear evidence for changes in global trends in meteorological drought is lacking and global tropical cyclone accumulated energy (a measure of the combined duration and strength of tropical cyclones) is not increasing.”

“the report does not put a dollar figure on the losses that are projected to result from unmitigated climate change. Perhaps, as the report asserts, that is because “cost-benefit analysis remains limited in its ability to represent all avoided damages from climate change (high confidence).” Still, the report does note, “Even without accounting for all the benefits of avoiding potential damages the global economic and social benefit of limiting global warming to 2°C exceeds the cost of mitigation in most of the assessed literature (medium confidence).” A discreet footnote observes, “The evidence is too limited to make a similar robust conclusion for limiting warming to 1.5°C.” So the costs of trying to keep temperatures from increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius might be greater than the benefits?”