Monday, April 24, 2017

Is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Even Capable of Being Honest?

In a press release issued last Friday, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids once again accused the tobacco companies of marketing cotton candy e-cigarettes to youth.

The press release states: "This bill would make it much harder for the FDA to limit the sale or marketing of these products and, by making current products the industry standard, much easier for tobacco companies to continue marketing products in kid-friendly flavors like cotton candy and cherry crush."

The Rest of the Story

After an extensive internet search, I am unable to find a single tobacco company that markets cotton candy e-cigarettes.

It is now clear that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' repeated false statements are not merely a careless mistake. They are intentionally lying to the public in order to create a story that fits their pre-conceived model.

In my view, this behavior violates the public health code of ethics. Two key principles in this code are "truth telling" and "transparency" (i.e., not concealing information).

Not only is the Campaign failing to tell the truth regarding cotton candy e-cigarettes but it is also concealing information about the actual effect of the Cole-Bishop rider on the FDA's ability to restrict the marketing of e-cigarettes to youth. This amendment would not curtail the FDA's ability to regulate the marketing of e-cigarettes at all. The FDA remains free to promulgate any regulations it wants to restrict marketing of these products to youth. All the amendment does is to make it more difficult to market deadly tobacco cigarettes by ensuring that competition from much safer tobacco-free vapor products can continue. But the FDA is free to subject those products to any marketing restrictions that it deems advisable.

Honesty is critical in public health not only because it is essential to ethical conduct, but also because without it we risk losing the public's trust. The actions of the Campaign are therefore quite selfish: they are risking the credibility of the entire tobacco control movement just so that they can tell a more damning story about the tobacco industry to potential donors.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Penn Medicine Expert: Smoking May Be No More Hazardous than Vaping

An expert at Penn Medicine - the University of Pennsylvania's health care system - is telling the public that smoking cigarettes, like Marlboros, Camels, and Newports, may be no more hazardous to your health than vaping a tobacco-free e-liquid.

According to the expert: "We know that cigarettes are unsafe after 40 years of exposure. We don’t have 40 years of exposure to e-cigarettes to know what the danger is. We don’t know the safety profile, so we can’t say that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes."

The Rest of the Story

Well, if we can't say that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, then what the expert is saying is that we can't say that smoking is any more hazardous than vaping.

This is an absurd statement, completely in conflict with scientific evidence, and not even the tobacco companies would make such a claim.

In fact, the tobacco companies could have a field day with this. If I were Altria, I would take out huge newspaper advertisements in all the leading papers stating: "Medical Expert Says that Smoking May Be No More Hazardous than Tobacco-Free Vaping."

In other words, the statement of this expert is essentially a huge advertisement for tobacco cigarettes, the most deadly consumer product on the market in terms of its toll on the lives and health of Americans.

The evidence that smoking is more hazardous than vaping is overwhelming. Asthmatic smokers who switch from smoking to vaping experience an immediate and dramatic improvement in their lung function, both measured subjectively in terms of respiratory symptoms and objectively in terms of spirometry testing. Hypertensive smokers who switch to vaping also experience a lowering of their blood pressure. A substantial decline in blood levels of many toxins and carcinogens has been documented in vapers compared to smokers.

In short, there just isn't any doubt that smoking is more hazardous than vaping. To suggest otherwise is not only incorrect, but it is damaging to the public's health.

Even the tobacco companies are not willing to lie to that extreme in order to promote cigarette smoking. While they easily could capitalize on statements like that of this Penn Medicine expert, they are refraining from doing so.

It's not clear to me why a medical professional would promote cigarette smoking in this way, but he has good company. A large number of medical and health organizations and agencies have made exactly the same claim.

The FDA and the CDC need to come out immediately with unequivocal statements that vaping is safer than smoking. Their failure to do so is a huge part of what is contributing to the deception of the public about the relative risks of vaping and smoking.