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11 Million Lies: The Tobacco Control Movement is Committing Public Health Malpractice by Misrepresenting the Health Effects of Vaping

My colleagues and I in the tobacco control movement have based our entire careers on the principle that it is wrong to lie to the public. The bulk of our campaign against Big Tobacco was based on the contention that the cigarette companies lied to the public about the health risks of smoking. Numerous lawsuits were filed against Big Tobacco, seeking damages based on the claim that the companies are responsible because they misrepresented the health effects of their products, thus preventing smokers from making an informed choice. The name of the major youth anti-tobacco campaign is called "Truth." Clearly, honesty is the central value that has been at the core of the tobacco control movement for decades.

In the last few years, however, I believe that our movement has largely abandoned truth as a central value in our campaigns against vaping. Driven by an almost puritanical inability to accept the fact that a person could obtain pleasure from nicotine without it killing them, we have made the demonization of vaping the solitary goal of the movement, at the direct expense of what I always believed was our primary goal: to make smoking history.

Why is vaping so threatening to the tobacco control movement? Is it threatening because it is extremely dangerous -- basically as harmful as smoking -- and therefore is is harming the health of the nation's 11 million adult vapers?

No - it's precisely the opposite. It is threatening to us because it is not as harmful as smoking. We simply cannot tolerate the fact that there are millions of adults who are deriving pleasure from, and improving their health because of, the use of a much safer form of nicotine delivery. The problem with vaping is that it is not killing anyone, so there is no punishment for the vice of being addicted to nicotine. And that's something that the tobacco control movement can simply not tolerate.

I believe that it is precisely because the truth is so threatening that many anti-tobacco groups, public health agencies, physicians, and researchers have resorted to lying to the public about the health effects of vaping.

The Rest of the Story

While the tobacco control movement is spewing numerous lies about vaping, perhaps the most damaging to the public's health is the false claim that vaping is not any safer than smoking. This is a direct affront to each one of the 11 million adult vapers in the United States who are trying to improve their health by switching from combustible tobacco use (i.e., smoking) to the use of non-tobacco-containing, non-combusted vaping products. And it is particularly offensive to the more than 2.5 million adult vapers who quit smoking completely because of these products and who are now relying on vaping to keep them from returning to smoking. For these 2.5 million ex-smokers, vaping has literally saved their lives.

So it is shameful that we are now trying to take that away from them based on a complete lie: that switching to vaping is doing nothing to protect their health.

Today, I highlight just a few of the individuals and organizations that are spreading the lie that vaping is no safer than smoking. Keep in mind that by definition, what these groups are saying is that smoking is no more dangerous than vaping. That's quite a claim, given the fact that smoking kills more than 400,000 people a year, contains more than 10,000 chemicals, and contains more than 60 known human carcinogens, while vaping aerosol, at worst, contains a few chemicals of concern and has not, after 12 years of use by millions of people, resulted in a single death (excepting one person who was killed due to an exploding battery, but not to the health effects of vaping itself).

So here is today's top 10 examples of the individuals, groups, and researchers who are helping to spread the false assertion that cigarette smoking is no more hazardous than vaping.

#1) National Center for Health Research

"The body’s reaction to many of the chemicals in traditional cigarette smoke causes long-lasting inflammation, which in turn leads to chronic diseases like bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease. Since e-cigarettes also contain many of the same toxic chemicals, there is no reason to believe that they will significantly reduce the risks for these diseases. ... Because they are smokeless, many incorrectly assume that e-cigarettes are safer for non-smokers and the environment than traditional cigarettes. ... There are no long-term studies to back up claims that the vapor from e-cigarettes is less harmful than conventional smoke."

#2) Loyola University Medical Center

"E-cigarettes are not safer than cigarettes. .. They have not been scientifically proven as healthier or safer, and the U.S. surgeon general has not approved them for use in smoking cessation." 

#3) South Dakota Department of Health

"Vape is not safer than cigarettes."

#4) Tennessee Medical Association

"Despite being marketed as a safe alternative to smoking, e-cigarettes are not safer and they never have been. They have simply been marketed that way. As a result, many people believe trading a traditional combustible cigarette for vaping is going to make them healthier, and that the vaping or e-cigarette use is far less damaging health-wise."

#5) Harford County Health Department

"E-cigarettes are not safer than smoking tobacco."

#6) Jane Goodall Institute

"E-cigarettes are the biggest problem, and for the third year in a row they are the first choice among youth smokers. But contrary to popular belief, they are not safer than other tobacco products, they are actually more addictive due to the menthol component that makes them so easy to consume."

#7) Des Moines Children's Hospital

"It is absolutely not safer than smoking, that is a fallacy that adolescents believe because it tastes good."

#8) Texas Tech University School of Pharmacy

"These data suggest, from a cerebrovascular perspective, that e-Cig vaping is not safer than tobacco smoking, and may pose a similar, if not higher risk for stroke severity."

#9) University of Rochester Medical Center

"Studies by his group and others, Rahman says, suggest that vaping is not safer than smoking: 'It’s equally bad.'"

#10) East Rockaway Prevention Task Force

"Too many teens, officials said, believe vaping is safer than smoking, when it’s not."
Original author: Michael Siegel
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