Thursday, April 23, 2015

Worst Lie of them All: CDC Tells Public that Smoking is No Worse than Vaping

According to an article published this past Tuesday in New Scientist, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our nation's leading public health agency, doesn't see smoking as any worse than experimenting with e-cigarettes.

The agency also continues to claim, despite evidence it the contrary from its own surveys, that e-cigarettes are leading nonsmoking youth to start smoking.

And CDC also continues to claim, without any evidence, that experimentation with e-cigarettes is causing youth addiction to vaping, along with brain damage.

According to the article:

"The study [the National Youth Tobacco Survey] was carried out by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Its thinking on the matter is clear. "In the case of kids, e-cigarettes are harmful all by themselves because of the effects of nicotine on children's brains," says Brian King of the organisation's Office on Smoking and Health. "The big picture here is we're seeing a striking increase. It's very concerning. It more than counterbalances the decrease in cigarette smoking, which we've seen occurring over the last few years."

"King says the CDC rejects any notion that replacing cigarettes with e-cigarettes is positive, and claims that e-cigarettes are actually prompting youngsters to take up smoking, not just taking the place of cigarettes. "In just one year, the number of kids using hookah doubled, and the number of kids using e-cigarettes appears to have tripled," he says. "These increases are driving an uptick in the total number of our children who are using tobacco products for the first time in a generation."

The Rest of the Story

How can the CDC possibly claim that a youth smoker switching completely to e-cigarette use is not a good thing? Has the CDC not seen its own data on the number of smokers who die every year? Is the CDC not aware of the devastating toll that long-term smoking takes on the health and lives of the population? Does the agency not recognize that youth smokers are at great risk of long-term addiction to cigarettes, and that half of these youths will eventually end up dying because of it?

I can guarantee you that if I were still working at CDC, that statement would never have come out of the Office on Smoking and Health. Back then, we were extremely careful in documenting the scientific support for any statement we made. And we would never have even considered lying to the public. We also never would have undermined the public's appreciation of the severe hazards of smoking by telling the public that smoking is no worse than occasional use of a non-tobacco containing, non-combustible product that eliminates exposure to more than 10,000 of the chemicals and more than 60 of the carcinogens in tobacco smoke. We certainly wouldn't have claimed that smoking is no worse than vaping given the abundant scientific data that demonstrates exactly the opposite.

I have already discussed in detail why the assertion that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking is incorrect and why the claim that e-cigarettes are causing brain damage among youth who experiment with them cannot be verified.

To top it all off, the statement made by the CDC above is dishonest because it implies that e-cigarettes contain tobacco, which is not true. Electronic cigarettes are not tobacco products. They contain no tobacco. They burn no tobacco. They heat no tobacco. They are "tobacco products" only in a strictly legal sense (under the definition in one particular statute). Why does the CDC continue to tell the public that e-cigarettes are tobacco products? Furthermore, by lumping e-cigarettes into the same category as real cigarettes, the CDC is further deceiving the public into thinking that smoking is no worse than vaping.

The truth is that there is no actual evidence that e-cigarettes have caused any substantial health damage to any youth. To tell the public that experimentation with e-cigarettes is causing brain damage among our nation's youth is a hysterical, unsupported claim, and an irresponsible one.

I have long detested the idea of using Congressional inquiries into the actions of executive agencies as a tactic to interfere with the work of these agencies, and I am acutely sensitive to the political uses to which these inquiries have been used. However, as much as I hate to say it, I actually think that a Congressional inquiry into the recent CDC actions is warranted. I think the agency needs to be asked to defend the accuracy of these statements. I think the agency needs to be asked to provide scientific evidence to back up these statements. And I think the agency needs to explain why it is running a deceptive campaign whose effect is to undermine the public's appreciation of the hazards of smoking.

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