Thursday, August 20, 2009

Connecticut Attorney General Vows to Ban Electronic Cigarettes, Telling Public that They are No Safer than Regular Cigarettes

Connecticut's Attorney General - Richard Blumenthal - issued a warning yesterday against electronic cigarettes, threatening to take them off the market in Connecticut and asserting that they are no safer than regular cigarettes.

According to the Attorney General's press release: "Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today issued a consumer warning urging consumers and retailers to avoid e-cigarettes in the wake of a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysis finding cancer-causing chemicals and an antifreeze ingredient in some of the devices. ... Blumenthal said e-cigarettes falsely claim to deliver nicotine without the health risks of smoking. He expressed concern they could addict young people to nicotine, leading them to smoke. "Despite their fancy hype and alluring flavors, these products deliver carcinogens in a cartridge," Blumenthal said. "These battery powered devices give consumers no clue that they are inhaling toxic and cancer-causing chemicals, as well as luring children into nicotine addiction. Far from providing a safe alternative to smoking, E-cigarettes pose a serious public health risk. They sell vapor instead of smoke -- with the same health risks and costs. "E-cigarettes are potential nicotine and addiction enablers -- drug pushers, not a smoking cessation aid. Mint and candy flavors cannot mask their menace. Smokers seeking to quit should consult their doctors for safe and effective therapies and products proven to combat nicotine cravings. "Their motto should be: no smoke or mirrors, just plain cancer and addiction."

The Rest of the Story

I challenge Attorney General Blumenthal to provide the scientific data which support his contention that electronic cigarettes are no safer than real ones. I also challenge him to provide the data showing that electronic cigarettes pose any significant cancer risk.

In this press release, Blumenthal goes beyond merely casting doubt on whether electronic cigarettes are safer than conventional cigarettes. He asserts that they are not safer. Not only is there no scientific evidence to support his contention, but even worse, his public statement is extremely damaging. It actually undermines the public's appreciation of the serious hazards of cigarette smoking.

You see, what Blumenthal is saying is that cigarette smoking is no worse for your health than inhaling vapors of relatively pure nicotine, without anything more than trace amounts of the 10,000+ chemicals found in tobacco.

Not only is that assertion unsupported by scientific evidence and not only does it fly in the face of everything we know about toxicology, chemistry, and medicine, but I view that as medical malpractice on a grand scale. Is the Attorney General of Connecticut actually telling vapers that they are better off going back to cigarettes than continuing to use electronic cigarettes? Would he actually advise someone who has successfully quit cigarette smoking through the use of e-cigarettes to start smoking again?

Sadly, and most inappropriately, this is precisely what the Attorney General is saying.

As I have highlighted in many previous posts, the FDA found only trace levels of carcinogens in e-cigarette cartridges and they are comparable to what is found in nicotine replacement products. If Attorney General Blumenthal is so concerned about carcinogens, why is he not warning the public about the carcinogens that we know are present in nicotine gum and the nicotine patch? Why is he not warning the public that studies have shown detectable levels of carcinogens in the saliva of individuals who use nicotine gum?

Moreover, since the levels of carcinogens in e-cigarettes are 1400 times lower than in Marlboros, would Blumenthal not agree that the cancer risk from these products is substantially lower than from smoking?

There is also no evidence that electronic cigarettes are enticing youths to start smoking, much less to pick up an e-cigarette. At a minimum of $60, they are hardly within the range of pocket money of most teenagers. Can Blumenthal give us the name of one teenager in Connecticut who uses the product? If you want to talk about hype, Blumenthal's completely unsubstantiated claims about the addiction of kids by electronic cigarettes fits the bill.

The truth is: there are three types of cigarettes that are addicting kids in the state of Connecticut. They are Marlboros, Camels, and Newports. If the Attorney General really wants to do something to protect kids, his first order of business should be pulling these products off Connecticut shelves, not electronic cigarettes which few, if any, kids in Connecticut are smoking?

Instead, Blumenthal is going to harm the health of thousands of Connecticut residents by forcing them to go back to smoking their Marlboros, Camels, and Newports. Big Tobacco should be thanking the Attorney General for helping to protect their profits by keeping people hooked to their products.

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