Thursday, June 17, 2010

American Medical Association Not Sure Smoking is Any Worse than Using Electronic Cigarettes

In a press release issued Monday by the American Medical Association (AMA), the leading association of the nation's physicians called on the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market. The AMA adopted a policy in favor of "prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes that are not FDA approved." Since these products are not currently FDA approved, the policy amounts to an immediate ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes, effectively removing the product from the market.

An AMA spokesperson stated: "Because e-cigarettes have not been thoroughly tested, one cannot conclude that they are less harmful or less dangerous than conventional cigarettes."

The Rest of the Story

You can't be serious. The American Medical Association does not have enough information to be able to conclude that cigarette smoking, which kills hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, is more dangerous than a device which "delivers nicotine to the user through a vaporized propylene glycol solution" and which has not been shown to cause any disease, much less death among a single American.

It doesn't take a rocket physician to be able to figure out that inhaling nicotine plus more than 10,000 chemicals - including 60 carcinogens - is more dangerous than inhaling nicotine without those 10,000 plus chemicals and carcinogens. In fact, the very study to which the AMA press release refers - the FDA laboratory study - confirms that there are only trace levels of carcinogens in electronic cigarette cartridges, comparable to the levels found in nicotine replacement products.

If the American Medical Association is not convinced that electronic cigarettes are safer than smoking, then there is no way it should be convinced that the use of nicotine replacement therapy is safer than smoking. After all, the levels of carcinogens in these two types of products are virtually identical. How could it be that nicotine replacement products pose a much lower carcinogenic risk than smoking, while electronic cigarettes don't, if both products contain the same amount of carcinogens?

More disturbing than the AMA's apparent scientific incompetence is the fact that it is promoting a policy which would cause severe harm to the public's health. Banning electronic cigarettes would force thousands of vapers who have successfully quit smoking to return to cigarettes. The result? Increased disease and death. Why would the AMA want to do this?

Most disturbing, and unethical, is the fact that the American Medical Association - in its press release - fails to disclose its financial conflict of interest: its receipt of funding from pharmaceutical companies which manufacture smoking cessation medications.

Banning the sale of electronic cigarettes would benefit two major industries: Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. Every electronic cigarette used is one less cigarette smoked and/or one less sale of a nicotine replacement or other smoking cessation pharmaceutical product. Thus, any financial conflict of interest with pharmaceutical companies must be revealed in a press release which is promoting a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes. But the AMA has failed to disclose its conflict of interest.

By promoting bans on electronic cigarettes, the American Medical Association is doing a huge favor for cigarette companies. Such policies would help protect Big Tobacco profits by ensuring that a product which is being used by many vapers as a very successful strategy for keeping off cigarettes is taken off the market.

The rest of the story is that the American Medical Association is apparently more concerned about ideology (and money) than about the lives of smokers. Better that ex-smokers who have quit without the aid of Big Pharma products be forced to return to cigarette smoking than that they remain off cigarettes, but continue to go through a motion that looks like cigarette smoking and which threatens the profits of pharmaceutical companies.

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