Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Physician Who Opposes Electronic Cigarettes Fabricates Scientific Information to Deter their Use

On a television news segment that aired last Wednesday on WRAL-TV (Raleigh, NC), Dr. Adam Goldstein - director of the University of North Carolina's Tobacco Dependence Program - attacked electronic cigarettes by publicly claiming that they expose users to vapor that can be several thousand degrees when it hits the lungs.

The implication, of course, is that using an electronic cigarette is extremely dangerous because the scalding hot temperature of the inhaled vapor can damage the lungs.

The exact quote: "It [the vapor] can be several thousand degrees when it hits your lungs."

The Rest of the Story

If this were true, then the millions of electronic cigarette users throughout the country would be experiencing serious pulmonary effects from the continual burning of their airways. It would not be a pretty sight to see these millions of vapers breathing in vapor at a temperature of several thousand degrees.

Of course, the truth is that electronic cigarette vapor is not nearly this hot. In fact, one of the advantages of an electronic cigarette is that it propylene glycol vaporizes at a much lower temperature than water, therefore allowing a much lower level of heat. While a tobacco cigarette burns at between 600 and 900 degrees Celsius, an electronic cigarette is able to produce vapor at a much lower temperature - around 40 to 65 degrees.

Now, even if we convert this to the Kelvin scale, we still get a vapor temperature that is only 313 to 338 degrees.

So how did this electronic cigarette opponent come up with the scientific fact that electronic cigarette vapor hits the lung at a temperature of "several thousand degrees?"

Quite simple. Apparently, he just made it up.

In other words, he fabricated it.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that there are many complex issues involved in discussing policy issues related to electronic cigarettes. There is certainly a need for many different perspectives at the table. However, what is not needed is fabrication of scientific evidence or facts.

This is yet another example of the depths to which electronic cigarette opponents are sinking to try to sink the electronic cigarette ship. Apparently, they realize themselves that they have such a weak case that they need to make up facts in order to make their case.

But if you think this is where the story ends, think again.

After the segment aired, a number of viewers brought this obviously false assertion to the attention of the station. Dr. Goldstein was asked to back up his assertion. Apparently, his office replied by admitting that the statement was fabricated: "We can’t find any citations about the temperature of the vapor specifically...".

So Dr. Goldstein acknowledged that his public assertion had been completely fabricated. But interestingly, there was no apology or retraction. Instead, he tried to divert attention away from his provision of misinformation to the public.

While I certainly don't condone the fabrication of scientific information, especially when it relates to important medical decisions, I can understand that someone could make a mistake. But the failure to correct the mistake and apologize is not something I understand. Why not just admit that you fabricated the information, apologize to the public, and promise not to do it again?

It almost looks like there is some sort of ideological or other barrier that is preventing Dr. Goldstein from telling the truth. It almost seems like he must be financially conflicted. Otherwise, it seems difficult to explain this fabrication of scientific information and failure to retract the bogus information.

Well, in fact, I just found out that Dr. Goldstein is indeed a recipient of funding from a pharmaceutical company that makes a competing product to electronic cigarettes: Chantix. He has acknowledged funding from Pfizer. This is a financial conflict of interest that is very relevant to his offering an opinion on the medical risks of electronic cigarettes, and in my opinion, should have been disclosed to the news station.

Combined with yesterday's story, it sure looks like Big Pharma gets its money's worth when it funds anti-smoking researchers.

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