Monday, May 04, 2015

Physicians, Health Departments, Politicians, and Anti-Tobacco Groups are All Spouting Misinformation About Electronic Cigarettes

Usually we look to physicians and health departments to provide us with accurate information about health risks. However, in the case of electronic cigarettes, physicians and health departments are disseminating false and misleading information. They are being joined by policy makers. All have fallen for the lies that CDC and the FDA have been spreading as part of their campaigns of deception regarding e-cigarettes.

Today, I provide one example of the misinformation being spread by each of these groups. The examples are all taken from two days: April 28th and 29th, 2015 (last Wednesday). This is just a small, two-day snapshot of the degree to which these groups are lying to and misleading the public. Imagine if we catalogued the lies over a one-month or one-year period. It is easy to see why these campaigns of deception are harming the public's health, undermining the public's appreciation of the severe hazards of smoking, and sacrificing the integrity of anti-nicotine groups that are abandoning science for ideology.


In an April 29 commentary by two physicians, published in MedPageToday, two professors from the UC Davis School of Medicine tell the public that the goal of the electronic cigarette industry is to "renormalize" smoking. They write:

"We risk losing hard-won ground in the battle on smoking through the so-called 'renormalization' of smoking that may attend the uncritical acceptance of e-cigarettes, and that is a stated goal of the e-cigarette industry."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The goal of every one of the independent electronic cigarette companies is to get as many smokers as they can to switch as completely as they can from smoking to vaping. Thus, the clearly stated goal of the electronic industry is actually to denormalize smoking. The three cigarette companies that market e-cigarettes have stated that their goal is to build a new market segment as nicotine use shifts from cigarette smoking to non-combustible nicotine products over the upcoming decades.

So it is simply not true that the stated goal of the e-cigarette industry is to renormalize smoking. The very act of promoting these products as an alternative to real cigarettes means that the e-cigarette companies are acting to denormalize smoking. In fact, Craig Weiss, the CEO of one of the largest independent e-cigarette companies (NJOY), has stated that the value proposition of his company is to make cigarette smoking obsolete. That's a far cry from renormalizing smoking.

The reason why these physicians, and so many anti-smoking groups and advocates, argue that vaping will normalize smoking, is that they think seeing vapers going through motions that look like smoking will make smoking look glamorous. That's a ridiculous argument. It's like stating that bottled water companies are renormalizing drinking because people are going to see people going through the motions of drinking and that will make drinking alcohol look glamorous. People are not stupid. The can recognize the difference between vaping and smoking. What vaping will normalize is vaping, not smoking.

Health Departments

According to a "fact sheet" produced by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and publicized in an April 28 press release, electronic cigarettes can cause congestive heart failure and pmeumonia. The Department states:

"Many people and health professionals report negative health effects of e-cigarette use. Reports of side effects include seizures, low blood pressure, disorientation, congestive heart failure and pneumonia."

This is an extremely misleading statement. These adverse effect reports are not able to determine whether e-cigarettes were actually the cause of the reported symptoms. Almost assuredly, the reported episodes of pneumonia and congestive heart failure are due to smoking, not vaping. It is disingenuous of the health department to make this claim. Moreover, the claim severely undermines the public's appreciation of the severe health effects of cigarette smoking, because it implies that someone who smokes cigarettes for many years and then experiments with electronic cigarettes is at risk of heart failure not from their history of smoking, but from their expermentation with vaping. Actually, it is virtually impossible that the vaping was the cause of the congestive heart failure because it takes many years, even decades, for heart failure to develop from smoking.

The "fact sheet" contains another lie. It argues that e-cigarette experimentation among youth leads to nicotine addiction and is a gateway to smoking. The health department states that:

"many kids who have never smoked cigarettes will start doing so after they become addicted to nicotine in e-cigarettes."

The truth is that there is absolutely no evidence that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking. There is also no evidence that nonsmoking youth who experiment with e-cigarettes are becoming addicted to nicotine. In fact, the current evidence suggets that e-cigarettes are a gateway away from smoking.

Politicians and Anti-Tobacco Groups

In an April 29 op-ed piece published in Roll Call, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Robin Koval (president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation) lie to the public by telling us that vaping involves "tobacco use." Referring to youth e-cigarette use, they state that:

"it can be awfully hard to find someone on the “pro” side of the argument for youth tobacco use in 2015."

This is untrue. Electronic cigarettes contain no tobacco so vaping is not a form of tobacco use. There is no tobacco in the product. Clearly, this statement is going to deceive the public into thinking that electronic cigarettes do contain tobacco and that vaping is just another form of tobacco use, like cigarette smoking.

It appears that there is no more anti-tobacco movement in the United States. Instead, there is now an anti-nicotine movement. The concern is not saving lives, but preventing any use of any substance that has addictive qualities or whose use involves motions that look like smoking. The end result is that the anti-nicotine movement now treats e-cigarettes no differently than real cigarettes, which are actually killing people. This severely undermines the public's appreciation of the hazards of smoking, takes the focus off of cigarette smoking, and completely distorts the public's perception of the true risks of smoking compared to vaping.

The Rest of the Story

Sadly, the rest of the story is that the newly-formed "anti-nicotine and anti-smoking motions" movement is no longer serving to protect the public's health, but is instead protecting the sale of a real killer: cigarettes. To make things worse, the movement is protecting cigarette sales while lying to the public and misleading us about the truth.

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