In her article on CDC's "Tips from Former Smokers" anti-smoking campaign, Nancy Wride of Elements Behavioral Health made an interesting observation. On its web site describing a variety of possible strategies to quit smoking, the CDC does not list electronic cigarettes. Wride therefore asked the CDC why electronic cigarettes are not included on its web site as a potential smoking cessation aid.
The CDC's response:
"while we have heard from some former smokers who say e-cigarettes helped
them quit, there is not yet any conclusive scientific evidence that
e-cigarettes can work as a cessation aid."
The Rest of the Story
In other words, what the CDC is saying is:
"While we have heard from former smokers who say e-cigarettes helped them quit, we have to ignore their statements because we just can't bring ourselves to admit that something which looks like a cigarette could possibly be a good thing and could have positive benefits like helping a smoker get off of tobacco cigarettes."
The CDC's statement is wrong on its face. If there is reputable evidence from former smokers that e-cigarettes helped them quit smoking, then there is indeed conclusive scientific evidence that e-cigarettes "can work" as a cessation aid.
In fact, there are literally thousands of testimonials from ex-smokers as well as thousands of identified ex-smokers in surveys who testify that for them, e-cigarettes did work as a cessation aid. There is no legitimate scientific debate over whether e-cigarettes can work as a cessation aid. They can work, and they have worked for literally thousands of smokers.
Since the CDC admits, in the first part of its statement, that e-cigarettes have indeed worked as a cessation aid for some former smokers, it is clearly lying in the second part of its statement, in which it claims there is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes can work as a cessation aid.
Why is the CDC unable to tell the truth? Why can't the agency even issue a statement that is internally consistent on this issue? Why is the CDC ignoring the wealth of evidence that it admits exists, which shows that many ex-smokers have used electronic cigarettes effectively as a smoking cessation aid?
One possible answer appears in Wride's column. She writes:
"So why doesn’t the CDC include e-cigarettes among its cessation and quitting tips? “The real reason is that they don’t condone anything that looks like
smoking, even if it delivers none of the smoke and even if it delivers
no nicotine,” Siegel said. “It is the ideology of the smoking action that they oppose.”"
In a recent column in Forbes magazine, Jacob Sullum reviews some of the evidence which demonstrates that many former smokers have quit smoking successfully using electronic cigarettes as a cessation aid. Sullum writes:
"The new survey [published by the E-Cigarette Forum] ... provides further evidence that e-cigarettes help
smokers quit... . Eighty-nine percent of the respondents reported that they had smoked at
least 10 cigarettes a day before they started vaping, and 88 percent
said they were not currently smokers. Those findings are similar to the results of another survey focusing on people who participate in online vaping forums, reported last April in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
That study, which included more than 19,000 vapers from around the
world, found that almost all of them (99.5 percent) were smokers when
they started vaping. Four-fifths of them had stopped smoking completely,
while the rest had reduced their cigarette consumption, on average,
from 20 to four per day."
"It should be emphasized that neither of these studies was designed to
capture a representative sample of all vapers. Instead they focus on
the most enthusiastic among them, whom you would expect to have had
especially satisfying experiences with e-cigarettes. The high success
rates in these surveys therefore are unlikely to be seen among the
broader group of smokers who try to quit
with e-cigarettes, let alone among smokers who merely try the product
out. But these surveys do indicate that e-cigarettes have helped many
"It borders on bizarre that critics like [West Virginia Senator Jay] Rockefeller continue to question
the existence of those former smokers, even while arguing that
e-cigarettes should be restricted or banned based on the entirely hypothetical risk that vaping will lead to smoking among teenagers who otherwise never would have tried tobacco."
The CDC is even worse. It actually acknowledges the existence of these former smokers, but still argues that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes have helped any smokers quit.
Clearly, the actual scientific evidence doesn't matter to an agency that is being guided purely by ideology and which has come to a pre-determined conclusion that e-cigarettes are evil. Today's story demonstrates how a strong pre-existing schema, propped up by ideology, leads to such preposterous scientific statements such as arguing that although many ex-smokers have used e-cigarettes successfully as a cessation aid, there is no evidence that any ex-smokers have used e-cigarettes successfully as a cessation aid.
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