Yesterday, I discussed a class action lawsuit filed in California against Blu e-cigarettes (owned by Lorillard) which contends that Blu's marketing is false because its e-cigarettes are actually no healthier or safer than regular tobacco cigarettes. I explained that the lawsuit is unfounded, both because the company never claimed that its product is safer than cigarettes and because even if it did, such a claim would be truthful.
Today, after reading the actual text of the complaint, I am able to report that the complaint is so unscientific that it actually asserts that just five minutes of vaping an e-cigarette poses a significant risk of experiencing a heart attack.
And where did the plaintiffs get this idea? From the California Department of Public Health, which I have shown has disseminated multiple lies about e-cigarettes.
According to the complaint: "Preliminary studies conducted by the California Department of Public Health have also shown that smoking an electronic cigarette containing nicotine for just five minutes can cause similar lung irritation, inflammation, and effect on blood vessels as smoking a traditional cigarette, which poses a significant risk of heart attacks and cardiac problems."
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story is that there is no evidence that using an electronic cigarette for five minutes poses a significant risk of a heart attack. Moreover, it is simply not true that vaping for five minutes can cause similar lung inflammation and effect on blood vessels as smoking a traditional cigarette. Studies have clearly shown that unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not impair lung function as measured by spirometry. Also unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not appear to cause endothelial dysfunction. Furthermore, switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes results in significant improvement in symptoms and objective signs of respiratory disease.
It's difficult to blame the plaintiffs because they appear to be simply repeating information that has been disseminated by the FDA, CDC, and the California Department of Public Health, as I suggested yesterday. Today, after reading the complaint, I can assure readers that in fact the plaintiffs are relying on each of these three agencies. The complaint cites and quotes heavily from each of the three.
The complaint also asserts that Blu is guilty of false advertising because it fails to inform consumers that e-cigarettes contain tobacco-specific nitrosamines. What the complaint doesn't reveal is that the levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in e-cigarettes are at trace levels, that these levels are comparable to those in nicotine gum and patches, and that these levels are orders of magnitude lower than in tobacco cigarettes. If anything, this information provides strong evidence to support the contention that e-cigarettes are much safer than regular cigarettes, especially in terms of carcinogenic risk.
The plaintiffs also complain that Blu misleadingly states that its products produce "vapor, not tobacco smoke." While technically, it is an aerosol that is produced, the statement is basically true. E-cigarettes do not produce any tobacco smoke. And calling it vapor is unlikely to confer any different interpretation to the lay public than calling it an aerosol. In contrast, failing to inform consumers that the product does not produce tobacco smoke would represent an important omission that would greatly mislead consumers. It would in fact hide from consumers the two most important features of the product: (1) that it contains no tobacco; and (2) that it involves no combustion.
This is what happens when our health agencies lie to the public. It is collateral damage attributable to these agencies' zeal to demonize e-cigarettes, using any tactics available, whether ethical or not.
The lawsuit talks a lot about the deceptive campaigns of the tobacco industry in the past, but the ones who are now waging a campaign of deceit and lies are the health agencies -- including CDC, FDA, and California DPH - whose lives the plaintiffs have fallen for hook, line, and sinker.