Shereef Don’t Like It

Posted 28th May 2019 by Dave Cross
Needle exchange programs and other forms of harm reduction are fine, but Shereef Elnahal ‘don’t like it’ when it comes to tobacco harm reduction – and has sought out a clash with vaping advocates. The 21st Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health steps down at the end of June to become the president/CEO of University Hospital in Newark.

Elnahal had the right profile for University Hospital. It’s been beleaguered with financial problems and overcrowding, and is currently trying to obtain $10 million to refurbish its emergency facilities.

The former assistant undersecretary in the Veterans Health Administration has identified a quick route to making a name for himself – and boosting his chances of grabbing a slice of funds from the anti-nicotine pie – and that’s by declaring hate and war on vaping.

In the space of 48 hours, Elnahal managed to upset every tobacco harm reduction advocate with a social media account with his hateful comments, leaving those on this side of the Atlantic glad they lived in a safe European home.

With an infantile post depicting a rabbit holding a sign, he wrote: “VAPING ISN’T A SAFE REPLACEMENT FOR CIGARETTES”.

Elnahal isn’t a stupid man; he holds a dual-degree M.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard University, and a B.A. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University. He isn’t opposed to harm reduction either, having expanded the syringe exchange program in New Jersey to combat the opioid abuse crisis. At the time, he acknowledged that providing drug addicts with clean needles was a method of using “proven public health tools”.

He is also a staunch supporter of the use of medical marijuana and opened up qualification to people with a much wider array of conditions: “It can be a complete game-changer for somebody with post-traumatic stress disorder, for someone with chronic pain who hasn’t been able to achieve relief even with opioids. It can be something that really changes peoples’ lives and allows them to thrive.”

But if you are a smoker looking for sympathy from Elnahal then you’ll be climbing on a train in vain.

“The bunny isn’t making any claims about differential risk,” Elnahal added. “But to contend that you’re ‘safe’ when switching from smoking to vaping - which Juul and other companies message consistently - is incorrect and misleading.”

It was pointed out to him in one of the 92 replies that JUUL Labs are prohibited by law from stating their products are “safer” let along “safe”, so this his statement was totally untrue but he failed to acknowledge this.

Pure Eliquids

Rather than responding to any of the points raised by advocates and vapers, Elnahal doubled down in the style of a trolling Simon Chapman: “Things Twitter taught me yesterday:

  • Bunnies easily activate vape industry lackies like Greg Conley (American Vaping Association)
  • They get to say recovery from nicotine addiction is just too hard- veiled in a perversion of ‘harm reduction’
  • To silence them, just highlight their shameless child marketing”

Then he accused the AVA of “shameless marketing to kids” and stated Conley of “getting paid by the tweet”. Doctors like Elnahal always end up damning themselves if you give ‘em enough rope: “As a physician who saw patients lung cancer and lung disease, I sympathized with those who told me that transitioning to e-tobacco improved their symptoms. And I’m aware of the data that shows it’s comparatively lower risk, and all of the health orgs that affirm this.”

“But harm reduction is a public health term that demands a higher threshold of evidence. The cast majority of orgs that affirm lower risk avoid calling it that for a reason.”

“Many peer reviewed studies also show mounting evidence of adverse effects, including carcinogens that can also cause other types of lung disease. Long term studies will likely bear out even more risks- proving the link between cancer and cigarettes took decades because of the pathophysiology.”

The Electronic Cigarette Company

“Compare that to clean needle exchange and condom use, which unequivocally lead to better outcomes with little chance of long term adverse effects. They have high-quality, prospective studies to support their use in harm reduction. So yes, I think use of that term is irresponsible and largely motivated by business interests.”

His shameful outburst was clearly designed to evoke the response he got as part of a quest to obtain grants for his new employer – and, yet again, it demonstrates how low smokers/ex-smokers feature in the thinking of sections of the American medical profession.

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