Tuesday, May 11, 2010

American Lung Association Says There is No Scientific Evidence that Cigarette Smoking is Any More Dangerous than Vaping; Scientific Competence is Shot

In a public statement in support of an Illinois bill that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, the American Lung Association has stated that there is no scientific evidence that smoking cigarettes is any more dangerous than quitting smoking altogether and using only electronic cigarettes.

In other words, the American Lung Association is telling the public that the use of a product which burns tobacco, produces more than 10,000 chemicals, including more than 40 known carcinogens, and has been shown to cause hundreds of thousands of death each year in the U.S. is no more hazardous than a product which contains no tobacco and delivers only nicotine, glycerin, propylene glycol, and trace amounts of a few other constituents.

The American Lung Association states: "There is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are safer for consumers than regular tobacco products."

Along the same lines, the American Lung Association states: "It would be dishonest to let smokers think they are making a positive change by switching to these products rather than quitting."

Once again, the Lung Association is stating that it is just as healthy to smoke cigarettes as it is to quit smoking, if you quit smoking through the use of electronic cigarettes.

The Rest of the Story

With this statement, the American Lung Association has completely lost all scientific credibility.

Even the tobacco companies are not arguing that their products are no more dangerous than electronic cigarettes, which contain no tobacco and have been shown to contain only trace levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines and no other carcinogens.

It shouldn't take a rocket toxicologist to figure out that a product which delivers nicotine plus more than 10,000 chemicals, including high levels of known carcinogens, is going to be more hazardous than a product which delivers nicotine, without those 10,000 chemicals and carcinogens.

While it is true that the safety of electronic cigarettes has not been documented in epidemiologic studies, laboratory studies have demonstrated that these products are likely to be much, much safer than regular cigarettes. These laboratory studies certainly constitute scientific evidence that these products are safer. Thus, it is incorrect and irresponsible for the American Lung Association to state that there is no scientific evidence that vaping is any less hazardous than smoking.

In contrast to the false statements made by the Lung Association, electronic cigarettes have been studied extensively and their constituents have been carefully characterized by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry in a number of studies. Based on these examinations, there has been only one potentially hazardous exposure identified (diethylene glycol) and so far, that has been found in only one brand of electronic cigarettes. All other brands of electronic cigarettes tested have been negative for diethylene glycol. The other major constituents in electronic cigarettes - propylene glycol and glycerin - are generally recognized as safe. Moreover, in spite of having been on the market for more than three years, there are no known reports of serious adverse effects of these products.

To be honest, how the American Lung Association can state that they are unsure cigarette smoking is any more dangerous than vaping is baffling to me. Not only is it baffling, but it is irresponsible and damaging. According to the Lung Association, smokers who have quit smoking successfully using electronic cigarettes are better off returning to their Marlboros than remaining ex-smokers with the use of electronic cigarettes. Any physician who gave that advice would be doing a great disservice to his or her patients. What the American Lung Association is doing, then, is committing public health malpractice on a massive scale.

Where the American Lung Association tips its hand, and perhaps make its scientifically incompetent statements less baffling, is when it refers to "switching to these products rather than quitting." What the American Lung Association apparently fails to understand is that switching to these products is quitting.

In other words, as far as the Lung Association is concerned, if you go through the motions of what looks like smoking, you are a smoker, even if you have quit smoking and are no longer using tobacco products. It is the act of going through the motions that look like smoking, not the health hazards of those actions, which the American Lung Association is fighting against. Thus, the Lung Association has become blinded by ideology and has lost sight of the actual goal: improving the public's health.

Had the Lung Association stated that there are no epidemiologic studies which have documented that vaping is safer than smoking, that would have been one thing. But to state that there is no scientific evidence at all that vaping is safer than smoking is completely misrepresenting the science that is readily available.

The rest of the story is that not only has the American Lung Association lost its scientific credibility, but it has also lost sight of the goal of protecting the public's health. Instead, it is apparently blinded by ideology. Or perhaps, blinded as well by money. The money it receives from Big Pharma is perhaps another reason why the Lung Association is acting to protect Big Tobacco and Big Pharma profits, rather than the health of the American people.

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