Thursday, September 27, 2012

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Publicly Claims that Electronic Cigarettes are Not Useful in Smoking Cessation, Despite Any Scientific Support for Its Statement

In a press release issued yesterday, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) publicly claimed that electronic cigarettes are not helpful for smoking cessation, despite the lack of any scientific evidence to back up its assertion (and in the presence of much scientific evidence to contradict its statement).

According to the press release, entitled "Electronic (e)-cigarette manufacturers shamelessly promote untested product for use in "smokefree" environments; make false claims about efficacy as cessation device too":

"Proponents of electronic cigarettes, commonly known as "e-cigarettes," are misleading the public about these products through paid press releases, advertorials, and online social media by making unsubstantiated claims about their benefits and offering deep discounts and coupons to entice people to use them, despite their potential health risks. E-cigarette manufacturers and proponents appear to be the PR machine behind an onslaught of daily press releases that tout the benefits of e-cigarettes despite a lack of independent peer-reviewed scientific evidence demonstrating the safety or efficacy of the products for smoking cessation." ...

"'What I find most egregious are the direct advertisements with false and misleading claims, including that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices' ... said Cynthia Hallett, MPH, Executive Director."

ANR goes further than this, however. It links to its fact sheet about electronic cigarettes, which claims that: "E-cigarettes are widely promoted as a way for people to quit smoking, but ... there is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are an effective cessation tool."

The Rest of the Story

There are two major problems with ANR's statements. First, ANR claims that e-cigarette companies are lying when they argue that these products can be helpful in smoking cessation. Thus, ANR is asserting that we know that e-cigarettes are not useful in smoking cessation. The problem is that ANR has no evidence to back up this assertion.

Can ANR cite a single study which demonstrates that electronic cigarettes are not useful in smoking cessation? If not, then how can it claim that e-cigarette companies are lying when they suggest to customers that these products may be able to help them with smoking cessation?

The second major problem is that ANR is lying when it states that there is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are an an effective cessation tool.

There is abundant evidence that literally thousands (if not tens of thousands) of electronic cigarette users have successfully used these products to either quit smoking or to cut down substantially on the amount that they smoke. A clinical trial has demonstrated that among smokers who were not motivated to quit, 54% were able to quit completely or to cut down by at least half on the amount they smoke.

In light of the existing clinical trial evidence, how can ANR deceive the public by asserting that there is no evidence for the potential of electronic cigarettes in smoking cessation? To do so is to completely ignore the results of the clinical trial evidence, as well as to ignore the multitude of anecdotal evidence based on personal reports of ex-smokers. Ignoring the anecdotal evidence may not be all that troubling, but ignoring the clinical trial evidence is gravely problematic.

Apparently, ANR either has not read or is ignoring the Polosa study, which provides exactly the kind of scientific evidence that it claims does not exist. In that study, electronic cigarettes were found to be useful in smoking reduction or smoking cessation in a majority of smokers who were not even motivated or attempting to quit.

If ANR had asserted that the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes in smoking cessation has not been proven, that would be fine. But to claim that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes may be helpful in smoking cessation is simply a lie. 
The rest of the story is that ANR's press release complains about e-cigarette companies misleading or lying to the public, ANR itself is lying to the public in claiming that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit and is misleading the public in asserting that electronic cigarettes are not useful for smoking cessation:

(1) It is incorrect to state that there is no evidence that these devices are useful in smoking cessation or reduction. Clinical trial evidence suggests that these products could be very useful, even among smokers with little motivation to quit.

(2) It is misleading to assert that electronic cigarettes have been shown not to be an effective smoking cessation aid. They are for many people. What remains to be seen is exactly what proportion of smokers will be successful in quitting or cutting down substantially.

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