Monday, May 05, 2014

CDC Again Lies to Public in Attempt to Demonize Electronic Cigarettes

Last November, I reported that CDC was lying to the public by telling us that an agency survey had found that electronic cigarettes are a gateway to smoking. Specifically, I noted that CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden stated at that time: "What we are doing first is tracking, and we are seeing some very concerning trends. Use of e-cigarettes in youth doubled just in the past year, and many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes." However, the CDC was a cross-sectional one and it didn't track e-cigarette users over time to see whether they went on to smoke conventional cigarettes. Thus, Dr. Frieden was lying to the public.

The Rest of the Story issued a call for a corrective statement by CDC to clarify this error, but none was forthcoming.

Instead, in response, a CDC official defended Dr. Frieden by suggesting that the statement was just an inconsequential slip of the tongue.

Today, I reveal that CDC has again lied to the public, which suggests that its dishonesty is not just an inconsequential slip, but a pattern of dishonest behavior intended to demonize electronic cigarettes.

The Rest of the Story

In an article published last week in the Los Angeles Times, CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden was quoted as stating:

"The challenge that the FDA has is that they will be challenged by the tobacco industry, as they have been at every step of the way. [The FDA] tried to regulate e-cigarettes earlier, and they lost to the tobacco industry. … So the FDA has to balance moving quickly with moving in a way that’s going to be able to survive the tobacco industry’s highly paid legal challenge."

Assuming that this is an accurate quote from Dr. Frieden, the CDC is lying. It is not true that the FDA lost a lawsuit to the tobacco industry when it tried to regulate e-cigarettes earlier. The lawsuit it lost was filed by two electronic cigarette companies, neither of which were owned by Big Tobacco. In fact, at the time of that lawsuit, the tobacco companies were not even in the business of selling e-cigarettes. All e-cigarette companies at that time were independent of Big Tobacco.

Clearly, this statement by the CDC is intended to imply that Big Tobacco has been fighting the FDA's attempts to first ban and now regulate the product. This is false. In fact, the tobacco companies were not involved in the earlier lawsuit and since entering the market, they have strongly supported the FDA's regulation of electronic cigarettes.

In fact, it is unlikely that the tobacco companies will challenge the deeming regulations. These companies stand to gain the most by the regulations, which make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for the non-tobacco-related electronic cigarette companies (especially the smaller ones) to survive. If the deeming regulations are challenged, that challenge is more likely to come from the smaller manufacturers, not the tobacco companies. And any such challenge would not be from "highly paid" sources, but from companies that cannot independently afford such a challenge. They would have to pool resources to have any chance of affording such a challenge, which makes me believe that any serious challenge to the regulations is unlikely.

If this statement was misquoted by the Times, then the CDC should have immediately corrected it. Since I do not see any correction (as of the time of the writing of this post), I have to assume that the statement is correct.

As I remarked last week, I do not begrudge the CDC for holding a different position than I do on the e-cigarette issue. However, the agency crosses the line when it lies to the public in order to support its position. Dishonesty has no place on the agenda of a federal public health agency, especially one that is as highly reputed as the CDC.

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