Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Yet Another Public Health Practitioner Publicly Claims that Smoking is No More Hazardous than Vaping

In what is becoming a daily occurrence, yet another public health practitioner has publicly claimed that smoking is no more hazardous than vaping.

In a letter to the editor published in the New York Times, Joshua Muscat - a professor of public health sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine - writes:

"The biggest concern about e-cigarettes is their potential to increase nicotine addiction among young smokers, especially children, who would not normally try tobacco. It is not likely that e-cigarettes are safer, because their use may lead to increased and not decreased tobacco smoking in young people."

The Rest of the Story

Whether e-cigarettes lead to smoking among young people or not is irrelevant to the issue of whether e-cigarette use is safer than smoking. Moreover, there is no evidence that e-cigarette use leads to increased smoking among young people. If anything, there is some evidence pointing in the other direction. But the main point is that it is simply not true that vaping is as hazardous as smoking.

By disseminating to the public the falsehood that vaping is just as harmful as smoking, medical and public health practitioners are actually discouraging many smokers from quitting. They may even be causing many ex-smokers, who quit using e-cigarettes, to return to active smoking. After all, if vaping is no safer than smoking, then what's the point of using e-cigarettes? You're better off smoking and getting the full enjoyment of the experience.

Michael Shaw notes the absurdity of the position of many public health practitioners in a column published at Health News Digest. He writes: "The FDA approved products--patches, gums, and drugs--help "boost" that to about one in ten, an abysmal "success" rate of 10 percent. Yet, the official line, from the FDA and the CDC on down, is "stick with the FDA-approved methods; don't even try anything else!" Chief among that "anything else" are e-cigarettes, loved by users--because they do help you quit--but almost unanimously hated by officialdom. ... However, there are powerful forces against e-cigarettes, including the proverbial strange bedfellows. ... As to the strange bedfellows, e-cig opponents include many public health departments, disease trade associations, and a host of smoking cessation groups.  Why on earth should the American Lung Association be against e-cigs?"

That is a great question. Why are so many public health and anti-smoking groups against a product that is helping many smokers quit? But more importantly, why are so many public health and anti-smoking practitioners telling lies about the scientific evidence regarding the relative safety of vaping vs. smoking.

There is certainly room for a healthy debate about the appropriate role that e-cigarettes should play in public health promotion and the regulations that are necessary to maximize the potential benefits while minimizing the risks of these products. However, there is no room for lying to the public about the science.

ADDENDUM: Dr. Gil Ross has an excellent column in the Daily Caller which highlights the misinformation being disseminated by the California Department of Health Services. Note particularly this important point: "the official line, from the FDA and the CDC on down, is “stick with the FDA-approved methods; don’t even try anything else!” This amounts to advising desperate, addicted smokers to “quit, or die,” given the 90 percent failure rate of these products."

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