Today, I am pleased to announce the winner of the 2016 Lie of the Year Award. This award is given to the health agency or organization which has lied most egregiously to the public about smoking and/or vaping in 2016.
The nominees were: the American Thoracic Society, the University of Louisville, Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Surgeon General of the United States, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 2016 Lie of the Year Award goes to ...
... the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
I have made a $100 donation to the American Vaping Association and Consumer
Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association ($50 each) in the
name of the CDC in order to help these organizations counteract the misinformation that has been provided to the public by the CDC.
Here is the award-winning entry:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Claim: There was no decline in youth tobacco use between 2011 and 2015.
The Truth: There was a substantial decline in youth tobacco use
between 2011 and 2015. Vaping is not a form of tobacco use, so it should
not be included in the figure reported by CDC.
Details: In April 2016, the CDC issued a press release stating that there was:
"No decline in overall youth tobacco use since 2011."
The Rest of the Story
This particular false claim is actually one of a continuing series of falsehoods being disseminated by CDC to the public about electronic cigarettes. By falsely categorizing electronic cigarettes as a form of "tobacco use," the CDC has obscured from the public the fact that there have been dramatic reductions in tobacco use among youth over the past decade, with unprecedented declines in the past several years.
The only way the CDC could hide the truth from the public was to decide to classify e-cigarettes as a form of tobacco use. That allowed CDC to add the actual number of youth tobacco users and the number of e-cigarette users in 2015 and compare this sum to the number of actual youth tobacco users in 2011. Doing so turns a dramatic decline in tobacco use into a straight line and a complete lack of progress in reducing youth tobacco use. But of course, that is a lie, as youth tobacco use has dropped markedly during this time period.
The CDC's lies have continued into 2017. Today on its web site, the CDC claims that: "enhanced prevention efforts for youth are important for all forms of tobacco, including e-cigarettes." Thus, CDC is still telling the public that e-cigarettes are a form of tobacco.
But e-cigarettes are no more a form of tobacco than nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine inhalers, nicotine lozenges, nicotine water, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, or cauliflower. All contain nicotine. And the nicotine in the first five products come from tobacco. But you don't hear the CDC going around telling smokers trying to quit using nicotine gum that they are still using a form of tobacco.
A key reason why the CDC was selected for this year's award, despite fierce competition (including the claim that smoking is no more hazardous than vaping), is that the CDC is widely listened to for health information and advice so any misinformation that it spreads is going to do a lot of harm. Moreover, it was the CDC that really initiated the backlash against e-cigarettes in the entire health and medical community, and in the media, by misleading the public in its 2009 press conference, its first major public statements about e-cigarettes.
At that press conference, the CDC tricked the public into believing that e-cigarettes were a cancer risk by reporting the finding of "tobacco-specific carcinogens" in e-cigarettes, but without also mentioning the fact that they were only found in trace amounts, that the levels were comparable to those in nicotine gum and the nicotine patch, that these trace levels were merely a result of the fact that nicotine is derived from tobacco and can't be 100% pure, and that at these low levels, there was not believed to be any significant cancer risk.
The CDC was instrumental in starting the misinformed backlash against e-cigarettes, and it has continued to lie and mislead the public to keep this campaign of demonization of e-cigarettes and vaping going. For these reasons, it is truly deserving of this award.