August 16, 2017: Playground squabble

We in Israel are sweltering under a heat wave. There have also been heat waves in Europe, parts of the United States and other places.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Playground squabble
With regard to “70 years after partition, memories of India border bloodshed still fresh” (August 15), seven decades ago, British rule ended in the Indian subcontinent and two new states came into existence: Muslim Pakistan and secular but Hindu- majority India. As a direct result of this partition, inter-communal rioting led to the deaths of up to 2 million people and the maiming of many more, as well as the displacement of between 10 and 12 million refugees – all of whom were absorbed long ago by the countries to which they had fled.
By comparison, the ending of the Palestine Mandate led to a negligible loss of life and the displacement of a very small number of people – a relative “playground squabble.” Why is it, then, that the Arab world is allowed to get away with the myth of its nakba (Arabic for catastrophe, and the word Palestinians use to describe Israel’s independence) and hereditary refugee status? Israel should publicize these incontrovertible facts rather than pander to lies spread by its enemies.
Salford, UK
Two-wheeled travel Greer Fay Cashman’s “Only when someone famous...” (Comment & Features, August 15) expresses a lot of truths.
I recently wrote to important authority figures to plead that immediate steps be taken to prohibit cycling on or near the tracks of the Light Rail in Jerusalem.
I did not receive a single reply.
Cycling along the Light Rail is illegal but the practice continues without action by the relevant authorities. An accident is waiting to happen!
I’d like to respond to two points made by Greer Fay Cashman: The law requiring helmets is blatantly ignored, and there is a problem of two-wheeled vehicles on sidewalks.
There should be huge publicity campaigns to educate the public, and helmet/cellphone/sidewalk laws should be enforced, possibly using police volunteers to give out fines (including to the parents of minors). However, as a bicycle rider (who wears a helmet), I admit that I am forced to ride on the sidewalk out of fear of dying in the street because there aren’t enough safe bike lanes of the type that are plentiful in Europe.
Until there are proper bike lanes, I am going to have to risk getting a ticket to avoid getting hit by a driver. (And please, people, wear helmets!)
We can contribute
“The Aral Sea: The endless ebb” (Comment & Features, August 13), which discusses the many environmental and other problems related to the sharp drop in the level of the Aral Sea, is among the latest of the many wake-up calls we have been receiving about the urgency of reducing climate change. As the article concludes: “Our planet today is experiencing a surge of water-related crises. The tragic destiny of the Aral Sea must prompt us to act to prevent similar man-made disasters and environmental threats elsewhere.”
We in Israel are sweltering under a heat wave. There have also been heat waves in Europe, parts of the United States and other places. This year will likely be one of the warmest since temperature records began being kept worldwide in 1880, and it might be the fourth-consecutive year of temperature records being broken. The increasing temperatures have caused ice packs and glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, and storms, floods, wildfires and droughts to become more severe.
Given these realities and much more, it is time to make averting a climate catastrophe a major focus, with each one of us contributing to the effort by reducing the unnecessary consumption of goods, especially animal- based foods, an industry that produces high carbon dioxide emissions and thus exacerbates climate change even further.
Claims on IQOS
Reporter Yonah Jeremy Bob was flown to Switzerland by Philip Morris to learn about its new tobacco product, IQOS (“The IQOS gamble,” Comment & Features, July 16). His enthusiastic coverage of the product reads more like an industry advertisement than an objective article.
The majority of the segments in the article involve direct testimony from Philip Morris, as would be expected from an industry ad.
On the other hand, findings published by non-industry scientists in top medical journals are referred to as scientific “claims.”
Like traditional cigarettes, IQOS is a tobacco product. The 7,000 compounds in tobacco smoke cause damage to almost every organ of the body and contribute directly to the smoking-attributable deaths of at least half of all smokers.
In his research, Bob discovered that Philip Morris presented data from IQOS emissions on “58 out of 93 compounds compiled by four major health organizations, including the FDA.” Though he found that the company failed to report on the 35 known toxic compounds in cigarette smoke included on that list, he did not provide the names of those compounds or anything about their toxicity.
Without any possibility of verifying the truth – it is reasonable to assume that he did not have access to internal Philip Morris documents or the results of all its research; nor was there any indication of a comprehensive literature search on this topic – Bob wrote that “no studies have been done” on those chemicals.
Despite the crucial lack of information on those components and the many other chemicals that can be emitted, Bob repeatedly quoted company claims of harm reduction for IQOS. Those claims might or might not include information about thousands of chemicals that are part of the toxic brew released by burning cigarettes that could also be present in emissions from IQOS. In addition, other chemicals not found in conventional lethal combustible cigarette emissions might be present in IQOS emissions.
The Jerusalem Post should immediately publish the names of those 35 compounds, with information on their toxicity to smokers and those exposed to the smoke.
We requested that Bob ask Philip Morris about its current sales of cigarettes and profits from cigarettes in Israel and worldwide, as well as information on the amount of money it has spent advertising lethal combustible cigarettes in recent years in Israel and abroad. This is important in understanding the company’s professed commitment to a “smoke-free Israel.” If he received answers to these questions, he did not report them.
He wrote: “Where the FDA goes on this issue, Israel is likely to follow.”
He wrote this knowing full well – following numerous interactions with us – that Israeli policy today is exactly the opposite of US policy.
In the US, pending an FDA decision, it is illegal to market IQOS. It is also illegal to make any claims about the relative harms of IQOS and other tobacco products. By contrast, these claims have been ubiquitous in Philip Morris-sponsored ads in the Israeli press and social media.
Accurate information about US versus Israeli marketing policy should have been provided in the article.
Another important issue that should have been addressed was the addictive nature of IQOS. This is crucial and must be part of the discussion. IQOS is a carefully engineered product and could be very difficult for individuals to stop using once they have started.
Ramat Gan
The writers hold a PhD and an MD and MPH, respectively, and are writing as representatives of the Israel Association of Public Health Physicians.
The letters editor notes: Yonah Jeremy Bob is being given the right of reply. His response will appear in Sunday’s letters section.