Thursday, September 12, 2013

"On Point" Segment on Electronic Cigarettes

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of appearing as a guest on "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook, along with my mentor, Dr. Stan Glantz. The segment featured a general discussion of the potential role of electronic cigarettes in relation to public health. You can listen to the segment here.

The Rest of the Story

The most surprising aspect of the segment to me was Dr. Glantz' assertion that not only are electronic cigarettes ineffective for smoking cessation, but that they actually inhibit smoking cessation. He based this assertion on a study that he has misinterpreted, as I have explained previously. Moreover, he made this assertion in the face of his own acknowledgment that a clinical trial published just last week showed that electronic cigarettes are as effective as the nicotine patch for smoking cessation. If electronic cigarettes are equally effective as NRT for smoking cessation, then how can he possibly claim that e-cigarettes inhibit smoking cessation?

The most disappointing aspect of the segment, in addition to Dr. Glantz' misrepresentation of the Vickerman study, was his attempt to scare the public about the dangers of e-cigarettes by noting that they contain tobacco-specific nitrosamines. But what Dr. Glantz did not tell listeners was that these are trace levels, that they are an inevitable artifact of the derivation of nicotine from tobacco, that the same levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines are present in nicotine gum and nicotine patches, and that these trace levels pose no health threat, just as they pose no health threat to users of nicotine patches and gum.

The most disturbing aspect of the segment was Dr. Glantz' dismissal of the tremendous health accomplishments made by the many callers (and thousands of similar people in the same situations) who have literally saved their lives by quitting smoking using e-cigs, or who have taken a serious step towards quitting smoking by greatly reducing their cigarette intake.

The saddest aspect of the segment was hearing my mentor support the availability and marketing of FDA-approved cigarettes which are killing hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, yet wanting to restrict or eliminate access to electronic cigarettes, a much safer alternative that contains no tobacco and involves no combustion.

Unlike Dr. Glantz, I think we should be promoting electronic cigarettes and discouraging the real ones rather than ensuring that people continue to assume the known risks of tobacco cigarettes rather than take a chance on the assuredly much safer fake ones.

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