Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Without Any Evidence, CDC Continues to Claim that E-Cigarettes are a Gateway to Youth Smoking

CDC Also Continues to Lie About E-Cigarettes Being Tobacco Products

Back in 2013, the CDC began to wage a campaign of deception about electronic cigarettes, claiming that e-cigarettes were a gateway to smoking despite the lack of any evidence to support that contention, lying about e-cigarettes containing tobacco, and falsely claiming that Big Tobacco fought the FDA's efforts to regulate e-cigarettes.

Despite plenty of opportunity to correct these false statements, the CDC failed to do so. My hope was that things would change in 2016.

However, as today's story reveals, things have not changed, and instead, the CDC has brought its public deception about e-cigarettes to a new level.

While there is still absolutely no evidence that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, since 2013 there has been accumulating evidence that e-cigarettes are not leading youth to start smoking. In fact, if anything, the evidence suggests the opposite: it appears that e-cigarettes are diverting youth away from smoking. Nevertheless, the CDC began 2016 by once again claiming that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking.

According to a Fox News story published moments ago, CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden stated: "People need to understand that e-cigarettes are tobacco products. They contain nicotine. They’re addictive. And they may well result in changes in the adolescent brain and increase the chances that a kid will smoke regular cigarettes and have to deal with all of the suffering and disability and cost that that causes for a lifetime."

It is highly deceptive, if not an outright lie, to claim that e-cigarettes are tobacco products. After all, e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco. None whatsoever! Clearly, the public is going to interpret the CDC's statement as meaning that e-cigarettes, like real cigarettes, contain tobacco. This is not true, so the CDC is deceiving and confusing the public with this false and misleading claim.

According to the CDC's logic (e-cigarettes are a tobacco product because they contain nicotine), eggplants are also a tobacco product. They contain approximately 100 nanograms of nicotine per gram. By that token, potatoes, tomatoes, and cauliflower are also tobacco products.

There is no evidence that electronic cigarettes are resulting in youth addiction to nicotine, nor is there any evidence that experimentation with e-cigarettes increases "the chances that a kid will smoke regular cigarettes and have to deal with all of the suffering and disability and cost that causes for a lifetime." In fact, it is more plausible that kids who experiment with e-cigarettes are actually less likely to start smoking regular cigarettes and therefore less likely to deal with all of the suffering and disability that smoking causes for a lifetime.

It is not even true that all the e-cigarettes used by youth do contain nicotine. In a recent survey, the majority of youth who use e-cigarettes reported using non-nicotine-containing products. Across all grades, more than 60% of youth who used e-cigarettes in the past month reported using a product with just flavoring (without nicotine). Among high school seniors, only 22.2% reported using a nicotine product. Nearly two-thirds (65.4%) of youth past-month e-cigarette users reported using a non-nicotine, flavored product. Thus, the CDC does not even have evidence to support its contention that the e-cigarettes that kids are using are primarily nicotine-containing products. 

This is not science. This is not the type of evidence-based statements that one would expect from the nation's leading public health agency. It is essentially little more than fear-mongering and an attempt to demonize a product that, for some reason, the CDC doesn't like.

Of course, I agree with the CDC that youth should not use e-cigarettes. But it is not OK to just make up evidence to support your position. To state that the CDC is being hyperbolic when it claims that e-cigarette experimentation among youth is going to condemn them to a lifetime of suffering and disability is an understatement. Hyperbolic implies an exaggeration. But here, it may well be that precisely the opposite is true. So this is not hyperbole. It is fabrication.

The Rest of the Story

I had hoped that 2016 would bring an improvement in the debate over electronic cigarettes by ending the misrepresentation of scientific evidence and the deception of the public regarding the truth about e-cigarettes. But in just the first few days of the year, we see that tobacco researchers and the nation's lead public health agency continue to mislead the public with false or deceptive claims about these products. It appears that there is a pre-existing distaste for electronic cigarettes and that vaping opponents are going to continue to lie to or deceive the public in order to promote their a priori agenda, which is - inadvertently - to protect cigarettes from a potential threat from a much safer alternative product that hundreds of thousands of smokers are using to try to quit.

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