Monday, December 09, 2013

New York City Pulmonologist Tells Smokers that their Smoking May Be No More Hazardous than Using Tobacco-Free Electronic Cigarettes

When Will CDC and FDA Correct This Misinformation?

Adding to a long list of electronic cigarette opponents who are lying to the public, a New York City pulmonologist has publicly informed smokers that their cigarette smoking may be no more hazardous than using tobacco-free, non-combusted electronic cigarettes.

According to an Everyday Health article: "a pulmonologist at St. Lukes and Roosevelt Hospital in New York City was quoted as stating (referring to vaping): "There’s no way to say if it’s safer or not. Many people think they’re safer, but there’s no evidence. We can’t allow them, only to find out down the line they are as dangerous as cigarettes."

We have already established that if a tobacco company made the same statement, the CDC and anti-smoking advocates, including Stan Glantz, would be ready to pounce on the company for spreading such a dangerous lie.

However, when an anti-smoking advocate makes the same statement, these groups don't seem to care.

This is a particularly damaging falsehood, because it undermines years of public education about the severe hazards of smoking. The effect of these repeated claims is going to be the discouragement of smoking cessation. Why quit smoking if it may be only as dangerous as using non-tobacco electronic cigarettes? Apparently, the tobacco really doesn't add all that much risk. So why bother going through the difficult process of quitting?

The Rest of the Story

There is only one way to end this repeated string of public misinformation about the health effects of vaping. The CDC and FDA must correct their past mis-statements and must issue clear public statements that vaping is much safer than smoking.

Unfortunately, neither agency seems to be interested in correcting this misinformation.

I had discussions with the head of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, urging him to make a clear statement on the CDC web site that electronic cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes. Unfortunately, he showed no interest in informing the public about the truth by making a simple statement regarding the relative health effects of smoking vs. vaping.

Meanwhile, the FDA continues to spread this misinformation itself. Remember that back in 2009, the FDA directly informed the public that smoking may be no more hazardous than vaping. In an interview on NPR's Morning Edition, FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle stated: "We're concerned about the potential for addiction to and abuse of these products. Some people may mistakenly perceive these products to be safer alternatives to conventional tobacco use."

And as recently as this September, the FDA acknowledged that it does not want the public to think that cigarette smoking is any more hazardous than using a non-tobacco e-cigarette. According to an FDA spokeswoman, as quoted at WebMD: "We don't want the public to perceive them (e-cigarettes) as a safer alternative to cigarettes."

Unfortunately, the FDA web site still implies that vaping has no health advantages over smoking, claiming that: "consumers of e-cigarette products currently have no way of knowing ... if there are any benefits associated with using these products."

It is easy to see where health professionals like this New York City pulmonologist are obtaining their errant information.

Until the FDA and CDC correct this misinformation, health professionals are going to continue to provide false information to the public, and in the process, to undermine the public's appreciation of the hazards of smoking. 

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