Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority Issues Fraudulent Public Statements on Risks of Cigarette Smoking

In an action reminiscent of the tobacco industry of the 1970's, the Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority (DWMHA) has issued one of the most fraudulent claims about the risks of cigarette smoking as I have ever seen.

The DWMHA created a billboard in which it told the public that smoking is no more dangerous than vaping. "E-qually dangerous," the billboard asserts.

The Rest of the Story

There is abundant scientific evidence that vaping, which has caused no documented chronic disease or death in any identified individual, is safer than smoking, which kills more than 400,000 people each year, causes chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, and contains more than 10,000 chemicals, of which more than 60 are proven human carcinogens.

There is no debate in the tobacco control community about this point. Even Dr. Stan Glantz - a fierce opponent of vaping - acknowledges that smoking is more hazardous than vaping.

Ironically, while the Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority is lying to the public, the tobacco companies are telling the truth. Each of the major tobacco companies has acknowledged that smoking its cigarettes is far more dangerous than vaping.

By informing the public that smoking is no more hazardous than using a product which contains no tobacco and merely creates an aerosol by heating propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings, the DWMHA is dangerously undermining the public's appreciation of the severe consequences of cigarette smoking.

The misinformation that the Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority is disseminating is damaging to the public's health. First, it may discourage people from quitting smoking - people who otherwise would have greatly improved their health by quitting smoking completely with the help of e-cigarettes. Second, it may convince ex-smokers who have quit using electronic cigarettes that they are just as well off returning to smoking than remaining ex-smokers by virtue of those electronic cigarettes.

A study just published in the journal Addiction reported that at least 6.1 million people in the EU have quit smoking using e-cigarettes and another 9.2 million have substantially reduced the amount they smoke. This amazing public health accomplishment would obviously not have occurred had public health authorities in Europe conducted a fraudulent campaign to convince EU citizens that vaping is equally hazardous as smoking.

That this fraudulent statement is being made by a mental health services agency is particularly egregious because persons with mental health and substance abuse disorders have disproportionately high rates of smoking and are especially resistant to traditional methods of smoking cessation. These are people who could benefit the most from the availability of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. But the DWMHA is actively discouraging them from trying to quit smoking. In fact, the message being sent is that you are better off (or equally well off) continuing to smoke than quitting smoking using e-cigarettes.

It's been close to two decades since we've seen a tobacco industry campaign to severely undermine the public's appreciation of the health hazards of smoking. That campaign is now back. It's just a shame that it is now being orchestrated by health agencies, while the cigarette companies are the ones providing accurate information to the public about the real hazards of smoking. Who ever thought it would come to this?

No comments: