Thursday, October 31, 2013

On the Same Day, Two More Tobacco Control Practitioners Tell the Public that Smoking May Be as Safe as Using Electronic Cigarettes

If a tobacco company were to publicly state that we don't know if smoking is any more hazardous than using non-tobacco, non-combusted electronic cigarettes, we would instantly attack those companies and perhaps initiate a lawsuit, claiming public fraud. We would cite the damages caused to the public by undermining their appreciation of the serious hazards of cigarette smoking by even suggesting that these products, which kill more than 400,000 Americans each year, may be no more hazardous than inhaling aerosol from a mixture of propylene glycol and nicotine (that contains no tobacco and involves no combustion).

But what happens when physicians or public health practitioners make the exact same statement to the public?

The Rest of the Story

On the same day, not one but two public health practitioners made exactly this assertion.

According to an article in the Star-Press, the Tobacco-Free Coalition of Delaware County (Ohio) stated that there is no research to tell whether cigarettes are any more hazardous than electronic cigarette use.

According to the article: "If you thought e-cigarettes, the tobacco-less vaporizing devices, are safer than smoking traditional products, the Tobacco-Free Coalition of Delaware County wants you to think again.“The truth is, we don’t have the research to tell us these e-cigarettes are helping people stop smoking or that they aren’t as dangerous as regular cigarettes. We just don’t know,” said Cecilia Williams, the coalition’s secretary. She is also the account representative for the region’s American Cancer Society office."

It doesn't end there. According to the article: "Despite the lack of evidence-based information on the smoke-fee and tobacco-free alternatives, Bastin [from the Tobacco-Free Coalition of Hancock County] and others reported these products have the potential to cause oral and esophageal cancers as well as increase heart disease based on the ingredients used."

Obviously, it is absurd to claim that cigarettes are no more hazardous than electronic cigarettes. Even the tobacco companies do not dispute that products like electronic cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco nor involve a combustion process, are safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that electronic cigarettes cause oral cancer, esophageal cancer, or heart disease. The Tobacco-Free Coalition of Hancock County is just making this up. The Coalition is fabricating scientific statements that are not supported by any evidence. What we do know is that electronic cigarettes greatly reduce the risks of oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and heart disease for smokers who quit smoking using these products.

On the same day, a physician from Wake Forest University made the same statement, asserting that we don't yet know whether smoking cigarettes is any more hazardous than using electronic cigarettes.

According to an article in the Old Gold & Black newspaper: "E-cigarettes do not contain many of the 4,000 chemicals found in cigarette smoke, including the cancer-causing agents and carbon monoxide. Because they vaporize the nicotine, they also reduce the risk of second-hand smoke for bystanders. “They seem better for you than a regular cigarette,” said junior Colin Simon who echoes the belief of many smokers who have jumped on the e-cigarette bandwagon. ... “People perceive them as safer, but we do not yet know if that is true,” said tobacco expert John Spangler of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We do not fully understand the health effects of electronic cigarettes.”"

While it is true that we do not fully understand the health effects of electronic cigarettes, it is not true that we don't yet know if electronic cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes. Again, even the cigarette companies themselves would not deny that electronic cigarettes are safer. In fact, this is why all the major tobacco companies are now getting into the electronic cigarette business.

The rest of the story is that the false and misleading information about electronic cigarettes being disseminated by tobacco control advocates and practitioners can no longer be viewed simply as isolated misstatements or slips of the tongue. This is now a campaign to discourage electronic cigarette use that is based on the dissemination of false and misleading information.

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