My op-ed, entitled "The Misbegotten Crusade Against E-Cigarettes," appears today in the Wall Street Journal.
In the piece, I argue that many anti-smoking and health groups, including the CDC and the California Department of Public Health, have been waging a war against e-cigarettes, but that this war is based on a campaign of deception. These groups are misleading the public, and sometimes even lying about the relative health effects and effectiveness of electronic cigarettes.
Further, I argue that this campaign of deception is working. E-cigarette use is tailing off or even decreasing, and this is due to the misleading information which is scaring smokers into thinking that vaping is just as hazardous as smoking, thus removing any incentive to quit smoking using e-cigarettes. This, I argue, is doing profound harm to the public's health.
In the piece, I also share my initial impressions about e-cigarettes, to demonstrate that I understand why anti-smoking groups are reacting in the way they are. However, whereas I changed my mind when I saw the scientific evidence and actually took the time to talk to vapers, many of the anti-smoking groups are so blinded by ideology that they have come to a pre-determined conclusion and don't actually care about the scientific evidence. Or, they are displaying the confirmation bias, where they interpret the evidence to fit their pre-existing conclusions.
Here is a brief excerpt from the piece:
"When electronic cigarettes came to the U.S. about 2007, I was
skeptical. My assumption was they were a ploy by the tobacco industry to
hook more people into smoking under the guise of being a safer
product—the notorious low-tar cigarette scam all over again. But as I
talked to many e-cigarette users, known as “vapers,” conducted research (Journal
of Public Health Policy, 2011) and reviewed a growing body of
scientific evidence, I became convinced that e-cigarettes have dramatic
potential for reducing disease and death caused by smoking."
many in the antismoking movement—in which I have been involved for
decades—are conducting a misleading campaign against these products. And
this campaign may be doing harm to public health."
"The most common claim about e-cigarettes is that they are a “gateway” to smoking. In September 2013
director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes.” He added that electronic cigarettes are “condemning many kids to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine.”"
"These statements had no basis in fact when he made them, and the evidence is that they are bogus. One recent study
in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (January 2015) suggests
that e-cigarettes are not acting as a gateway to smoking among youth.
Another study in
the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence (February 2015) suggests the
addictive potential of e-cigarettes is substantially lower than that of
tobacco cigarettes." ...
"Bloomberg Business reported last summer that e-cigarette sales began to slip in the U.S., and their use by smokers may even be declining in the U.K. The
percentage of the public that believes smoking is more hazardous than
electronic cigarettes has fallen to 65% in 2013 from 85% in 2010,
according to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine."
is a tremendous lost opportunity. Vaping technology—or something like
it that may be developed—has the potential to be one of the greatest
antismoking breakthroughs. I would hate to see its promise wasted
because of misinformation by the very public-health authorities who
should be in the vanguard of reducing the harm from cigarettes."