Ecig debate “in desperate need of clarity”

Posted 4th February 2015 by Dave Cross
Vivek Murthy, the newly appointed American surgeon general, head of the U.S. public health services and leading spokesperson on public health matters, has launched into the electronic cigarette debate claiming that the subject is “in desperate need of clarity.”

Murthy said: “There've been theories and ideas around the fact that e-cigarettes may be helpful from a harm reduction perspective in helping people who are already on cigarettes (that) have had trouble quitting actually get off cigarettes. If the data indeed bears that out, then I think we should absolutely embrace that and use e-cigarettes in targeted ways.”

The announcement will be warmly received by Californian vapers who are facing having stringent legislation placed upon them. Senator Mark Leno, speaking at the launch of a bill to encompass vaping in the state’s smoke-free policy, bizarrely said: “No tobacco product should be exempt from California's smoke-free laws simply because it's sold in a modern or trendy disguise.”

Grasping at science from an alternate reality, he told Reuters: “Whether you get people hooked on e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, it's nicotine addiction and it kills. We're going to see hundreds of thousands of family members and friends die from e-cigarette use, just like we did from traditional tobacco use.”

The strongest piece of evidence Leno could muster comes from the recent, infamous Formaldehyde study. It should be noted that a recent interview with David Peyton, one of the study’s lead scientists, revealed that the findings had been grossly misrepresented in press releases to the media.

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Peyton said: “It is exceedingly frustrating to me that we are being associated with saying that e-cigarettes are more dangerous than cigarettes. That is a fact not in evidence.”

And, upon being presented with a tweet from the New England Journal of Medicine claiming that the authors project a higher cancer risk compared to smoking, he added: “I didn’t see the tweet. I regret that. That is not my opinion.”

Following Leno’s announcement, Michael Shaw wrote on the Health News Digest website: “So, it has come to this.  A public health agency in our largest state is pursuing a course that will discourage its own citizens from using an effective means to stop smoking, while enriching itself on tobacco tax revenue, and being cheered on by mindless zealots.  Why, it's almost as if they really didn't care about the people they have been hired to serve.”

One wonders if the “mindless zealots” had anything to do with the spinning of Peyton’s findings?

Columbia public health professors Amy Fairchild and Ronald Bayer have attacked this corruption and misrepresentation of the good science being demanded by the surgeon general.


Writing in Science magazine they say: “the staunchest opponents of electronic cigarettes are so concerned about the potential downsides that they advocate for an anti-e-cigarette regulatory and research approach that may be bad for public health. This approach of “deep precaution,” has served as a kind of trump argument, hostile to the notion of trade-offs, seeing in them perilous compromise. Such a posture does not serve either science or policy well.”

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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