The Only Way Is Ethics

Posted 20th January 2015 by Mawsley
“The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) was founded in 1978 by a group of scientists who had become concerned that many important public policies related to health and the environment did not have a sound scientific basis. These scientists created the organization to add reason and balance to debates about public health issues and to bring common sense views to the public.”

In the last few days ACSH carried two ecig-related stories: A new survey show slightly more than zero interest in e-cig flavors among nonsmoking teens and Public health’s cigarette sellout: Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. Both have been widely shared on social media and would meet with approval from vapers – but is the message being to easily dismissed by public health advocates opposed to electronic cigarettes?

As an opening statement, when Gilbert Ross says “The shameful abdication of their ethical responsibilities by our nation’s public health authorities, from the CDC on down, has gone on far too long”, it is clear there is no intention to build bridges or change minds. This is confrontation regardless of whether the reader agrees with the sentiment or not.

“Wilfully blind to the plain facts, often obtained by their own statisticians, they continue to lie to America’s 43 million smokers about e-cigarettes.”

Those who have taken an interest in the growing body of research supporting the adoption of ecigs as a legitimate form of quitting will have a great deal of sympathy for this opinion. The problem is that those to whom he is directing his writing aren’t listening, they automatically write off Doctor Ross as being a tobacco shill.

He accuses those campaigning again vaping as being in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies: “the ACS, like all the other so-called health groups, receives millions of dollars in donations from Big Pharma, the makers of “evidence-based,” FDA-approved cessation products, which (unfortunately) rarely work.”

But in 2013, the ACSH’s financial details were leaked to the Mother Jones website and, although claiming that their conclusions were driven by science, it reflected poorly on the ‘independent research and advocacy organisation’.

Funding from Altria, British American Tobacco, Phillip Morris International and Reynolds American cast a flat light on the body and their opinions.

It gets worse with the news that, while what Ross announces may be acceptable to the vaping community, his history of honesty is at best questionable.

His licence to practise medicine was revoked in 1995 and he has served time in prison for taking part in a scheme to defraud New York’s Medicaid scheme to the tune of approximately £5million.

ACSH outspokenly supports fracking but claims this is not connected to the dollars they receive from energy companies. It might be true, the statements may be based purely on sound science and Gilbert Ross has served for his crime, but it emphasises why the disclosure of interests made by scientists speaking out in favour of vaping is so important.

Ross finishes his article with the question: “How did their vision become so corrupted, and what will it take to pull them back to their mission?” Is the answer, possibly, to let someone else pose it?