One of the major changes in the tobacco industry in the past decade and a half is that it is no longer undermining the public's appreciation of the hazards of smoking by downplaying the health risks. If anything, the tobacco companies have been relentlessly emphasizing that its combustible tobacco products (i.e., cigarettes) are substantially more hazardous than the non-tobacco-containing electronic cigarettes that they manufacture.
Unfortunately, the gains we have seen in tobacco industry honesty are being offset by lies about the risks of smoking coming from ... of all places ... health agencies. These agencies continue to lie about the risk of smoking by claiming that smoking is no more harmful than using a product that contains no tobacco and involves no combustion, despite both laboratory and clinical evidence that electronic cigarettes are much safer.
But things have become even worse. Last week, the Alaska state health department publicly claimed not merely that smoking is no worse than vaping, but that smoking may actually be safer than vaping.
According to an article in the Alaska Dispatch News, the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services was quoted as stating:
"If we know that kids think e-cigarettes are not
smoking and e-cigarettes are OK and they’re a better alternative to
smoking, we need to let them know that they are just as harmful, and
perhaps more harmful, than smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco."
The health director also suggested that e-cigarettes contain tobacco, stating:
"We all have known for a long time the dangers of
tobacco use and the dangers of nicotine use, but for some kids they
don’t think of e-cigarettes as necessarily being cigarettes or being
tobacco, but they are."
As if two lies are not enough, the Alaska health department has also insinuated that vaping causes brain damage.
On top of that, the health department attacked Big Tobacco for claiming that e-cigarettes emit only vapor (rather than smoke), which is actually true.
And the department also put out a television advertisement claiming that vaping causes brain damage.
Furthermore, they put out an ad insinuating that e-cigarettes contain embalming fluid and nail polish remover.
The Rest of the Story
I honestly thought that I had seen it all. Lies about vaping being just as hazardous as smoking were being spewed all over the media by anti-smoking groups and health agencies. But the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has surpassed all of these previous fallacious claims. They actually told the public that smoking may be safer than vaping. In addition, they also lied by telling the public that e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, that they contain embalming fluid and nail polish remover, and that they cause brain damage because of high lead content.
I am literally hitting my head against the wall and pulling my hair out because it is so frustrating to be a part of an anti-smoking movement that is blatantly lying to the public and completely downplaying the severe risks of smoking. It is not e-cigarettes that threaten to offset years of progress in reducing smoking; it is the lying by these anti-smoking groups which do.
I had thought that as more and more scientific evidence accumulates to demonstrate that vaping is orders of magnitude safer than smoking, we would start to see a decline in the lies being disseminated by health agencies. But instead, the lies are accelerating and becoming even more ridiculous.
That the tobacco companies are being more honest about the hazards of smoking than the Alaska Department of Health is a pitiful statement about the state health department. What the hell are they doing, and what gives them the authority to tell blatant lies about the risks of smoking to the public without repercussions?
If I were an Alaska taxpayer, I would be quite angry that my tax dollars were going to a state effort to downplay the hazards of smoking. Even the tobacco companies aren't doing that anymore. That a state health department would take over that task is mind-boggling.