Monday, February 08, 2016

Washington State Department of Health Bemoans the Fact that Smokers are Switching to E-Cigarettes; Tells them Smoking is No More Hazardous than Vaping

In a message to smokers throughout the state of Washington, the Washington State Department of Health bemoans the fact that so many of them are switching to electronic cigarettes because they think e-cigarettes are safer and implies that they should stay with smoking, telling them that smoking is actually no more hazardous than using tobacco-free, non-combusted e-cigarettes.

The Department of Health warns smokers that: "People may be attracted to E-cigarettes because of unproven claims that they are safer and more accepted than traditional cigarettes."

The clear implication of this advice to smokers is that they should not switch from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes because the e-cigarettes are no safer and no more accepted than traditional cigarettes.

The Rest of the Story

This is tantamount to public health malpractice. The Washington Department of Health is giving medical advice to smokers that is based on a lie: that vaping is no safer than smoking. Moreover, the Department of Health is repeating that lie, telling it directly to smokers.

The Department's implied advice, that smokers should keep smoking rather than switching to e-cigarettes based on the false belief that they are safer, represents public health malpractice because the advice is harmful to the health of the public and because the Department is essentially being fraudulent in making the false claim that smoking is no more hazardous than vaping.

No "reasonable" state health department would bemoan the fact that smokers are quitting, even if that quitting is being achieved by switching to electronic cigarettes. And no "reasonable" state health department would provide false health information to the public.

Moreover, there is no legitimate scientific question about whether vaping is safer than smoking. Even the most vehement anti-vaping scientists acknowledge that vaping is safer. Thus, the medical advice being provided here by the Washington Department of Health goes against what any reasonable public health department would recommend. More importantly, the advice includes a material misrepresentation of the truth.

For these reasons, I believe that the statement being made by the Washington Department of Health represents public health malpractice.

Unlike physicians, a state health department cannot be sued for "malpractice." However, if the public expresses its concern about this damaging advice and material misrepresentation of health facts, it may be possible to convince the department to end this campaign of deception.

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