In a recent press release “celebrating” Canada’s National Non-smoking Week, the Canadian Lung Association warned people “Don’t be fooled by e-cigarettes!”
Given that this is a one stop shop of misinformation of all sorts I am a bit surprised that they didn’t go the whole hog and use all caps in addition to the exclamation point at the end.
It seems they are worried that people who are thinking of quitting cigarettes will turn to “gimmicky” e-cigarettes rather than pharmaceutical products. They do not even mention one other method that has been proven to be more successful than NRTs – quitting cold turkey. I suspect that there is quite the funding disparity associated with the two routes of quitting smoking.
The CLA is forgetting their mandate to “improve and promote lung health”. While there is a little wobble on how safe vaping is, nobody who has looked at the literature (and that means reading more than just the one ludicrous 2009 FDA study) thinks that vaping is anywhere near as dangerous as smoking. The point here is that even if it were only 10% safer than smoking, any organization which purports to care about the health of smokers would advocate it as a preferable alternative.
But here the message is quite obvious in that the CLA says that if you are not going to quit nicotine then don’t even consider switching to using nicotine in a way that eliminates almost all the health risks.
In other words, if you were thinking of trying e-cigarettes, the CLA would prefer you keep smoking tobacco. This in turn means that they think that the two have similar risks.
The only evidence of e-cigarette associated harm they proffer is the discredited FDA study from 2009. (See here for a recent article on the ever proliferating nonsense about diethylene glycol as a concern in e-cigarettes; ). Since even if that contamination were common the harm in vaping would still be a far cry from smoking, the CLA resorts to the ever popular “think of the children” fear.
Leaving aside the inconsistency in that this was all about quitting smoking (and how many kids are doing that), e-cigarette distributors have in general been quite scrupulous about not only quality control but also who they sell to. Every survey done about e-cigarette users has found that just about every vaper is an ex-smoker with multiple quit attempts and the median age seems to be around 30 (see here for two examples – one, two).
E-cigarettes do come in flavoured varieties and many users find that a plus (yes, those people who are 30 years old). News flash to all the tobacco control types out there who use the flavour argument – it is not that flavoured products appeal to kids, flavoured products appeal to human beings.
And as far as the new user problem – it’s not. If something is as low risk as vaping, it really makes little difference whether they ever quit or not. And if someone started vaping why would they ever decide to replace it with something that not only had proven health risks but was also much less pleasant.
Finally, news flash number two to the same folks – kids do not smoke because they think it is safe. They steal and try cigarettes precisely because they are dangerous. I know I did and just about anyone I’ve ever talked to about it. If we thought it was safe what would have been the point?
Though going after this horribly uninformed press release has been amusing it ends up leaving a very bad taste in the mouth. Should we not be able to trust these publicly funded organizations to provide us with evidence based guidelines to better health rather than political posturing that undermines public health? Should we not be more angry that they are deliberately misleading people who really are looking for and need healthier alternatives to their presently risky behaviours?
Addendum: This just in regarding youth using e-cigarettes. Michael Siegel reports today on a study looking at youth attitudes toward e-cigarettes which failed to find a single non-smoking youth who had even tried an e-cigarette.