Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Australian Medical Association Claims that Electronic Cigarettes Can Cause Atherosclerosis, Heart Attacks, and Strokes

The Victoria chapter of the Australian Medical Association (AMA Victoria) has publicly claimed that electronic cigarettes can cause coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries supplying blood to the heart), heart attacks, and strokes, according to an article in the Victoria Herald Sun.

According to the article, the president of AMA Victoria stated: "If you're addicted to e-cigarettes, you go to a milk bar and they don't have them, but they do have normal ones. These e-cigarettes mightn't give you lung cancer, but they can lead to stroke, heart attacks and coronary heart disease."

The Rest of the Story

I challenge AMA Victoria to provide the evidence that supports its contention that electronic cigarettes can cause strokes, heart attacks, and coronary artery disease among users. To the best of my knowledge, there is no such evidence.

Moreover, if it is true that electronic cigarettes can cause heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes, then so can nicotine replacement products like the nicotine patch and nicotine gum, which deliver as much or more nicotine than electronic cigarettes. Why is AMA Victoria not also warning the public about the risks of nicotine replacement therapy?

If I am correct and there is no evidence that electronic cigarette use increases the risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke, then why is AMA Victoria making this up?

The answer, I believe, is ideology. Groups like AMA Victoria and other anti-smoking organizations simply cannot tolerate the idea that something which looks like smoking could possibly have health value. Ironically, they feel this way even if that health value is ridding oneself of the serious health risks associated with cigarette smoking.

The rest of the story is that it appears that AMA Victoria is simply making up the claim that electronic cigarettes can cause heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes in order to prevent people from thinking that using a product which looks like a cigarette could possibly have health advantages. Unfortunately, the impact of this unsupported claim is likely to do immense damage to the public's health, by convincing many smokers not to quit smoking using electronic cigarettes and by causing some ex-smokers to return to smoking because of fear over possible health damage from the e-cigarettes they are using successfully to stay off tobacco cigarettes.

Given that physicians, and physician organizations, are supposed to first, do no harm, it is disappointing to see AMA Victoria causing this kind of harm, especially when it is based on a completely non-scientific claim.

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