Nocera writes: "You’d think that the public health community would be cheering at the introduction of electronic cigarettes. We all know how hard it is to quit smoking. We also know that nicotine replacement therapies, like the patch, haven’t worked especially well. The electronic cigarette is the first harm-reduction product to gain serious traction among American smokers. Yet the public health community is not cheering. Far from it: groups like the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are united in their opposition to e-cigarettes. They want to see them stigmatized — like tobacco cigarettes. They want to see them regulated like cigarettes, too, which essentially means limited marketing and a ban on their use wherever tobacco cigarettes are banned." ...
"The reason to fear this resemblance, say opponents of electronic cigarettes, is that “vaping” could wind up acting as a gateway to smoking. Yet, so far, the evidence suggests just the opposite. Several recent studies have strongly suggested that the majority of e-cigarette users are people who are trying to quit their tobacco habit. The number of people who have done the opposite — gone from e-cigarettes to cigarettes — is minuscule. “What the data is showing is that virtually all the experimentation with e-cigarettes is happening among people who are already smokers,” says Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Health. Siegel is a fierce critic of tobacco companies, but he’s also not afraid to criticize the anti-tobacco advocates when they stretch the truth. When we got to talking about the opposition to e-cigarettes in the public health community, he said, “The antismoking movement is so opposed to the idea of smoking it has transcended the science, and become a moral crusade. I think there is an ideological mind-set in which anything that looks like smoking is bad. That mind-set has trounced the science.” ...
"At that recent New York City Council meeting, one of the fiercest critics to testify was Kevin O’Flaherty of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck and it sounds like a duck and it looks like a duck, it is a duck,” he said. Is this what passes for science when you oppose electronic cigarettes?"
The Rest of the Story
Sadly, the answer is yes. When it comes to groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other similar anti-smoking groups, that is what passes for science.
This "science" is not very deep or thoughtful. Because electronic cigarettes look like cigarettes, they are therefore cigarettes and should be treated the same way as cigarettes. Sadly, many anti-smoking groups can't seem to get beyond that flawed logic.
While the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids talks about ducks, there are many scientists who have been conducting extensive research on electronic cigarettes, the components of e-cigarette aerosol, the effectiveness of e-cigarettes, and the potential use of these products as a gateway to smoking. But this science does not appear to matter to anti-smoking groups. The fact that electronic cigarettes look like cigarettes is all that matters.
It is important to remember that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids called for a complete ban on electronic cigarettes. Had the Campaign had its way, these products would not presently be on the market and thousands of current ex-smokers would still be inhaling tobacco smoke every day. In December 2010, the American Heart Association was quoted as stating: "There is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices and, until they undergo rigorous evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration, they should be pulled from the marketplace." The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids shared this position.
In July 2009, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids called for an outright ban on the sale and marketing of electronic cigarettes. The Campaign wrote: “We look forward to the FDA taking additional action to stop the marketing and sale of these unapproved products.”
While the Campaign can argue that they have changed their position, it is of little consequence, since their long-standing opposition to electronic cigarettes is clear.
The rest of the story is that groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have regressed into ideology-driven think-tanks that do almost no thinking, essentially just making them "tanks." The quality of their scientific analysis has deteriorated to the point that the New York Times is now highlighting the shallowness of their critical analytic capabilities.
But I should emphasize that it is not just the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. A host of other anti-smoking organizations have gone down the same road. The science no longer matters. If something looks like smoking, its use cannot possibly be condoned, no matter how many lives it might be saving.