Friday, July 11, 2014

Disgrace of the Year: Leading Lung Health Groups Call for Ban on Fake Cigarettes, But Want Real Ones to Remain on the Market

Yesterday, a group of international lung health organizations issued a position statement on electronic cigarettes, which called for a ban (or severe restrictions) on these products until more is known about their health effects. In contrast, these organizations did not express any problem with real tobacco cigarettes remaining on the market, even though they kill millions worldwide each year, and electronic cigarettes are not known to have killed a single person ever.

According to a press release from the American College of Chest Physicians: "Experts from the world’s leading lung organizations have released a position statement on electronic cigarettes, focusing on their potential adverse effects on human health and calling on governments to ban or restrict their use until their health impacts are better known."

"Produced by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), the position statement will be presented July 9 at a meeting hosted by FIRS and the NCD (Noncommunicable Disease) Alliance, “Shared Drivers, Shared Solutions: NCDs, Lung Health and Sustainable Development.” ... FIRS, established in 2001, is an organization composed of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally, including the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the AsociaciĆ³n Latinoamericana del Thorax (ALAT), the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), the European Respiratory Society (ERS), the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), and the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS)."

The Rest of the Story

This has to be one of the most disgraceful moves of the year by any medical or public health group. Even the multinational tobacco companies do not have the gall to promote a ban on electronic cigarettes so that their deadly tobacco cigarettes will not be threatened by this potentially substantial competition. In fact, the position of these supposed lung health groups is far more extreme than any Big Tobacco position, as the tobacco companies have entered the e-cigarette business and are not using their lobbying power to try to remove these products from the market. Sadly, it is these lung health groups that apparently want electronic cigarettes taken off the market so that deadly tobacco cigarettes can maintain their monopoly on smokers.

Despite strong evidence that vaping is much safer than smoking, that e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco or involve any combustion, that tens of thousands of smokers are successfully using these products to quit smoking or cut down substantially on the amount they smoke, and that smokers with obstructive lung disease who switch to electronic cigarettes experience and immediate improvement in their respiratory symptoms, it appears that the American College of Chest Physicians and its partner organizations in FIRS would rather see tens of thousands of vapers return to cigarette smoking than to maintain a much healthier, smoke-free or greatly smoke-reduced lifestyle.

Apparently, the American College of Chest Physicians would rather that smokers die from the known risks of tobacco cigarettes than greatly improve their health by switching to electronic cigarettes, which has unknown long-term risks - although they are certainly orders of magnitude safer than real cigarettes. At least the smokers will know what they're dying from.

Some knowledgeable analysts have predicted that if promoted, electronic cigarettes could actually replace nearly half of the combustible tobacco cigarette market. This would be the greatest public health achievement of my lifetime. Sadly, the American College of Chest Physicians and its partners do not want to see this happen. They would rather stick with the status quo, where smokers will continue to die in the millions each  year, but at least they will not be taking any "unknown" risks.

What is so scary to these lung groups about the prospect of so many smokers quitting or cutting down substantially on their smoking? A cynic might say that it would cause these physicians to lose a huge number of patients. That these groups are trying to protect their own payment streams is as rational an explanation for their behavior than any science- or public health-based explanation I can ponder.

The truth is that these groups are stuck - trapped in a blinding ideology in which science plays absolutely no role and positions are based on pure, raw emotion. And the emotion against anything which looks like a cigarette is apparently so strong that it drowns out even the most solid evidence of the life-saving potential of a product that resembles smoking but delivers nicotine with only a minute fraction of the dangerous chemicals, and which, with proper manufacturing, appears to deliver only one chemical of any significant health concern.

The rest of the story is that the FIRS groups have committed a disgraceful act, which, if their advice is adopted, will result in a substantial increase in the number of smokers and with that, an increased amount of disease and death.

1 comment:

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