Health News Digest

Shameless lies about vaping

March 25, 2019

Shameless Lies About Vaping

By Michael D. Shaw

This column has run a number of stories on e-cigarettes, and the very first one was entitled “Scaring People About e-Cigarettes: A Public Health Disgrace.” That article exposed the pernicious efforts of public health officialdom to demonize e-cigarettes.

Highlighted in the piece was an astonishingly mendacious pamphlet from the California Department of Public Health (funded by your CDC) entitled “Protect Your Family From e-Cigarettes—The Facts You Need To Know.” We were far from the only media outlet to criticize it harshly. In fact, the brochure was removed from the department’s website, and is now only available in archives that have not yet been scrubbed. (Scroll to pp. 8-9 of the link, and note additional propaganda.)

One of the anti-smoking good guys who also spoke out against the California pamphlet is Michael Siegel, Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health.

The pamphlet controversy dates back to early 2015. You might think that the attitude of officialdom has changed, especially in light of the study, published on February 14, 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine. In this work, vaping was shown to be twice as effective as officially-sanctioned methods for smoking cessation.

But, you would be wrong. If anything, officialdom’s stance has hardened. Only now, they can’t really argue that vaping doesn’t help people quit smoking. Instead, they promote the outrageous lie that e-cigs are not safer than cigarettes. Indeed, Michael Siegel has excoriated a number of the regrettably traitorous health organizations promoting this whopper in a recent blog post.

“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.”

“[Vaping] 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.”

A few days ago, I spoke with Professor Siegel, who added some additional insights…

As to the abandonment of truth as a central value, he recalls respected UCSF researchers making the ridiculous claim that exposure to secondhand smoke for 30 minutes could cause a heart attack in a nonsmoker. Even active smoking takes years to cause heart damage. This was his wake-up call.

I asked him why more leaders in the anti-smoking movement are not calling out such frauds. Siegel relates it to intensive peer pressure within the tobacco control movement to conform and not to dissent. Deviate from the dogma and you will be excommunicated. He himself felt this pressure, and was attacked by a number of colleagues. The telling part was that they didn’t criticize the validity of his scientific arguments. They simply attacked him personally, and accused him of taking money from tobacco or e-cig companies—neither of which are true.

What about the notion of harm reduction, and how does it fit into all of this?

Siegel: “It’s very interesting because public health completely supports the concept of harm reduction when it comes to other issues, such as illicit drug use (especially opiate use), sexually transmitted disease prevention, alcohol use, etc. But on the issue of vaping, the tobacco control movement has not embraced harm reduction. On the contrary, they have completely rejected it.”

“It’s difficult to explain but I think there is a deep psychological explanation. I believe that it is just too difficult for tobacco control practitioners to accept the fact that there are people who are getting pleasure from nicotine and improving their health from the use of vaping products and these people are not being punished by becoming sick or dying. The movement has transformed from an anti-smoking movement to an anti-tobacco movement to an anti-nicotine movement. But it has completely lost its emphasis on making smoking history. Instead, it is obsessed with the idea that people are becoming addicted to nicotine but not paying for it with their health.”

Indeed, an obsession so pervasive that noted scientists will flat-out lie. Linus Pauling once said that “Science is the search for truth, that is the effort to understand the world: it involves the rejection of bias, of dogma, of revelation, but not the rejection of morality.” He must be spinning in his grave over this mess.