Dona Wininsky, director of public policy for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, has been banging an anti-vape drum wherever she can, for years. Back in March, she was still at it: “They’ve been promoted by the industry as nothing other than harmless water vapour, but we have plenty of scientific research now to know that they have chemicals in them. Some of them are carcinogens; they have heavy metals in them and they are not simply harmless water vapour.”
No respectable company is promoting their products as having nothing but water vapour, Ms Wininsky. Of course vape has chemicals in it – so do hot dogs, pints of water and the air you breathe. And your food, water and air also contains carcinogens, vape isn’t unique in that, because it is about the relative levels not if they exist or not.
The ALA, and in turn Wininsky, have an odd preoccupation with having pure air to breath. They worry about vape contaminating it despite there being no evidence of harm, quite the opposite given recent tests.
“Now granted,” she said to WPR, “we only have maybe about two year’s worth of really specific data on e-cigarettes, so it’s hard to say if that’s a trend, or a blip. But our high school usage rate is higher than the national average.”
It’s a disingenuous statement, and she knows it.
Teen vaping in Wisconsin is now at 11.3% of high school students, down from 16% in 2015. That’s quite some “blip”. Plus, even if the rate of vaping remains higher for the state when compared to national figures – maybe, just maybe, that’s why the teen smoking rates are considerably below national rates (having fallen to a remarkable 8%).
Finally, she makes an utterly bizarre statement: “I think there’s still a perception that e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes and so for some kids who never would have tried smoking cigarettes they get the idea this might be a safer alternative.”
Nobody wants children to take up smoking or vaping – nobody. But for Wininsky to question the relative safety of vaping is as big a lie being told about electronic cigarettes as you are going to come across. Even those staunchly opposed to the concept of harm reduction will begrudgingly admit that vaping is safer – the more conservative among them going for a 60% safer figure. Public Health England states that ecigs are “at least 95% safer than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes”.
This makes Michael Siegel angry. On his blog, he writes: “why is the American Lung Association picking up where the historical fraud and deception of the tobacco industry ended?”
It is unlikely the ALA will provide us with an answer any time soon.