Tuesday, April 28, 2015

CDC's Lies to the Public Called Out in Forbes Magazine and Reason Online

In a commentary that appears both at Forbes.com and Reason.com, Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine calls out the CDC for lying to the public about electronic cigarettes.

Sullum takes issues with the fact that the CDC classifies electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. But they are not tobacco products, as they contain no tobacco. As Sullum points out:

"e-cigarettes do not burn and contain no tobacco, which is why they are so much safer than traditional cigarettes. It is more than a little misleading to classify them as tobacco products."

"Yet that is what the CDC does. When it claims "there was no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014," it is counting e-cigarettes as tobacco products. That makes as much sense as counting nicotine gum or patches (which also contain nicotine derived from tobacco) as tobacco products. This is no mere word game, because it is not true that "there was no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014." The CDC is lying to us."

Sullum also points out that the American Lung Association is lying to the public by claiming that the dramatic decline in youth smoking is being offset by the increase in e-cigarette use. This is blatantly false from a public health perspective and also requires an additional lie: once again, that e-cigarettes are tobacco products. Sullum writes:

"Similarly, the American Lung Association suggests that the decline in smoking is "offset by the dramatic increase in use of e-cigarettes," which is scientifically absurd given the clear health advantages of vaping. This is not simply a matter of emphasis or opinion. In terms of health effects, it cannot possibly be true that the increase in e-cigarette use offsets the decline in smoking."

Finally, Sullum points out that the CDC is also lying about e-cigarettes serving as a gateway to cigarette smoking among youth:

"For years anti-smoking activists and public health officials have tried to justify their irrational hatred of electronic cigarettes by arguing that vaping leads to smoking, especially among impressionable young people who otherwise would never touch tobacco. But that is not happening. To the contrary, vaping and smoking rates among teenagers are moving in opposite directions. Rather than admit they were wrong to claim that e-cigarettes are a “gateway” to the conventional kind, opponents of vaping have escalated their prevarications by implying, in defiance of all scientific evidence, that there is no important difference between the two kinds of nicotine delivery devices."

The Rest of the Story

It is gratifying to see that the CDC's lies are being called out to the public. While the agency itself has done nothing to retract or correct the misinformation it has been disseminating, it is my hope that the revelation to the public that CDC is not being truthful will force the agency to respond.

I also think that it is only a matter of time before a Congressmember or a Congressional oversight committee files a formal inquiry to the CDC, which would also force the agency to respond and explain to the legislative branch why a public health agency is lying to and seriously misleading the public.

It is quite clear at this point that the CDC's statements are not simply mistakes or oversights. The deception is intentional, and it is part of a deliberate campaign to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. The CDC wants the public to think that e-cigarettes contain tobacco to help prevent people froom believing (quite correctly) that vaping is safer than smoking.

The CDC also wants the public to believe (quite incorrectly) that e-cigarette experimentation is leading to smoking addiction among youth. Only such a dramatic piece of misinformation could offset the clear public health benefits that vaping has provided to smokers. One way to alter the true cost-benefit mix is to lie about there being no benefits and at the same time, lie about there being severe costs.

With regards to the electronic cigarette issue, the CDC has long since left the realm of practicing public health. It has also left the realm of scientific rigor and of ethical public health practice.

In another Forbes column, Sally Satel, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, also calls out the CDC for its lying. She also calls for Congressional hearings to force CDC to explain why it is running a campaign to deceive the American public. Satel writes:

"It is shameful that the CDC, the nation’s leading institute of public health, doesn’t acknowledge the value of e-cigarettes as a substitute for cancer-causing cigarettes. In an ad campaign launched three weeks ago, Dr. Frieden, a longtime critic of vaping, went so far as to warn that e-cigarettes do not help people quit and even lead to collapsed lungs. These claims are patently false but they are part of a larger anti-e-cigarette agenda that simply keeps smokers puffing on deadly cigarettes – after all, why switch if vaping is as bad as smoking? ... Director Frieden is playing fast and loose with public trust. It is time he defended his misleading rhetoric about e-cigarettes to members of the oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. His latest alarmist stance about vaping corrupting the youth of America is belied by his agency’s own data which tell a different, more encouraging story: e-cigs are not leading to smoking and may well be a diversion from it."

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