Sunday, June 21, 2015

CDC Continues to Lie to the Public By Calling Electronic Cigarettes "Tobacco Products"

Despite being informed that its classification of electronic cigarettes as tobacco products is wrong because e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco, the CDC continues to refer to electronic cigarettes as being tobacco products. This naturally implies that electronic cigarettes contain tobacco. As this is untrue, the CDC's recurrent statements that e-cigarettes are tobacco products are essentially lying to the public.

The Rest of the Story

According to the CDC's web site: "Tobacco product types include cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, snus, smokeless tobacco, pipes, bidis, dissolvable tobacco, and electronic cigarettes."

Here is a breakdown of each of these "tobacco products" and whether they contain tobacco or not:

Cigarettes - YES
Cigars - YES
Hookahs - YES
Snus - YES
Smokeless tobacco - YES
Pipes - YES
Bidis - YES
Dissolvable tobacco - YES
Electronic cigarettes - NO

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out which one of these things doesn't belong.

Electronic cigarettes are not tobacco products because they do not contain tobacco. The only way in which they can be referred to as tobacco products is in a strict legal sense. Thus, from an FDA regulatory perspective, e-cigarettes do meet the definition of tobacco product under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. But beyond the use of that term by the FDA, e-cigarettes are not tobacco products and classifying them as such is certainly going to mislead the public into thinking that they contain tobacco. In turn, this will lead the public to believe that e-cigarettes are just as hazardous as tobacco cigarettes, which is blatantly false.

So not only is the CDC lying about whether e-cigarettes contain tobacco, but this recurrent lie is having the damaging effect of undermining the public's appreciation of the hazards of smoking and deterring smokers who might otherwise quit using e-cigarettes from doing so. This lie is also sure to convince many former smokers, who quit using e-cigarettes, to return to cigarette smoking. So these are not just innocent lies. They are lies which are literally causing an increase in disease and death due to combustible tobacco use.

This CDC lie is also leading to further misinformation from the agency. For example, on the same web page, the CDC claims that: "Youth who use multiple tobacco products are at higher risk for developing nicotine dependence and might be more likely to continue using tobacco into adulthood." 

Naturally, the reader is going to assume this statement means that youth who use e-cigarettes are at higher risk for continuing using tobacco into adulthood. However, this statement is true only for actual tobacco products (i.e., products that contain tobacco). There is no evidence that e-cigarettes increase the risk of youth using tobacco into adulthood. However, the CDC's claim, in the context of it having defined e-cigarettes as tobacco products, is going to lead the public to believe that e-cigarette experimentation leads to a lifetime of tobacco use. Keep in mind that recent data from the UK failed to find a single youth who started as a nonsmoker and then became addicted to e-cigarettes, much less who transitioned to a lifetime of addiction to real tobacco cigarettes. 

The CDC also claims that: "Tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence." With respect to actual tobacco products, this is true. But with respect to electronic cigarettes, it is false. So this statement, too, becomes highly misleading in the context of the CDC calling e-cigarettes tobacco products.

The rest of the story is that by repeatedly referring to electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, the CDC is lying to the public and deceiving the public into believing that e-cigarettes contain tobacco, which is untrue. More importantly, this deception is causing tangible health damage: it is undermining the public's appreciation of the hazards of smoking, deterring many smokers from quitting, and encouraging many former smokers to return to tobacco cigarette smoking. These are not just lies. These are lies that are costing lives.

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