Monday, October 01, 2012

Anti-Smoking Groups that Oppose Electronic Cigarettes Received an Additional $1.4 Million from Big Pharma, Beyond the $2.8 Million Revealed Earlier; Groups Repeatedly Failed to Disclose this Conflict of Interest

Previously, I revealed that anti-smoking groups which opposed electronic cigarettes received payments from Pfizer to the tune of $2.8 million. Today, I expose further financial links between Big Pharma and these anti-smoking groups, this time from the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the smoking cessation drugs Zyban, Wellbutrin, Commit, NiQuitin, CQ/Nicoderm, CQ/Nicabate, and Nicorette.

According to GlaxoSmithKline's disclosure of contributions for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and for the first two quarters of 2012, eight anti-smoking groups which have all called for a ban on electronic cigarettes received nearly $1.4 million during the period 2009-2012 from GlaxoSmithKline alone.

The contributions by organization are as follows:

American Cancer Society: $602,010
American Lung Association: $143,461
Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence: $5,000
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: $400,000
American Heart Association: $115,000
American Medical Association: $15,000
American Academy of Pediatrics: $65,075
American Legacy Foundation: $10,000

Total: $1.36 million

To the best of my knowledge, these contributions were not disclosed in the public statements made by these organizations in opposition to electronic cigarettes.

The Rest of the Story

In my view, it is unethical for these organizations to make public policy pronouncements about electronic cigarettes - calling for their removal from the market - without disclosing their significant conflict of interest with pharmaceutical companies that manufacture competing products. Yet these groups have repeatedly made such statements without revealing that they have received money from Big Pharma.

For example, in this policy statement calling for the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market, the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids fail to disclose that all of these groups have received money from pharmaceutical companies that manufacture competing smoking cessation products. Nowhere in the policy statement does it reveal that all four of these organizations have been heavily funded by Big Pharma, as exposed above.

In its own fact sheet on electronic cigarettes, the American Legacy Foundation also supports a ban on these products, but fails to disclose its own financial connections with Big Pharma. The fact that Legacy has a substantial financial conflict of interest is hidden from the public in this document.

Similarly, the Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence wrote a letter to the FDA and issued a press release demanding that electronic cigarettes be taken off the market, but failed to disclose that this organization has received money from Big Pharma and that at least two members of its executive board had financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies that manufacture nicotine replacement products and stand to lose out in a major way if electronic cigarettes become popular

The American Medical Association also issued a press release calling for the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market, and guess what? The AMA also failed to disclose the tens of thousands of dollars it has received from Big Pharma. Thus, readers and the media have no way of knowing that the AMA has a severe conflict of interest in making its policy recommendation.

Not to be outdone, the American Academy of Pediatrics also issued a press release calling for the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market, and it too failed to disclose its significant financial conflict of interest with Big Pharma.

Thus, it is a clean sweep. Every one of these eight anti-smoking organizations that have called for the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market has received money from Big Pharma companies that make competing smoking cessation products, yet none of these organizations disclosed these conflicts in making their public statements.

Why are these organizations hiding this critical information from the public?

And incidentally, these are some of the very same organizations that have blasted tobacco industry-affiliated scientists or organizations for not revealing their financial ties to the industry when making policy statements of their own.

Had the FDA or other policy makers at the federal or state level heeded these groups' advice, it would have been a public health tragedy, as thousands upon thousands of ex-smokers would have essentially been forced to return to cigarette smoking. The gains that they experienced in their health would have been reversed, and the policy would undoubtedly have resulted in disease and death for many relapsing smokers.

The rest of the story is that every one of the nine major anti-smoking groups that has called for the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market (Action on Smoking and Health was discussed earlier) has a significant financial conflict of interest with Big Pharma companies that manufacture competing smoking cessation products, yet every one of these nine organizations hid these conflicts from the public. Not only were these recommendations inappropriate and detrimental to the public's health, but the issuing of the recommendations was unethical because of the failure to disclose these important conflicts of interest.


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Anonymous said...

I am one of those who would be detrimentally affected should e cigs be banned. I have tried numerous times and spent literally thousands of dollars trying to quit smoking. Nothing has worked for me. Not until e cigarettes came along. I have not had a single cigarette since I decided to quit with my wife,sister-in-law and brother-in-law on my deceased father-in-laws birthday. He died of throat cancer. I am by far the most avid smoker among us. I have never experienced life without cigarettes like I do today. I sit here writing this without thinking every 5 seconds how much I want a cigarette. That has not been the way I felt every time I tried to quit. I truly believed that I would never be able to quit.. The second week after we quit my wife came to me and I was crying. She immediately said it was okay we would start again and make it this time. I was crying because I realized for the first time in my adult life I could quit smoking. I have three children and I love them. Now it is not a choice between seeing them grow up and cigarettes, with e cigarettes I can do it.