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Experts Urge The USA To Act

Harm reduction experts have called upon the USA to take action to correct misinformation and ensure that it communicates clearly and factually in future

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Harm reduction experts have called upon the USA to take action to correct misinformation and ensure that it communicates clearly and factually in future. Writing in the journal Addiction, Michael Pesko, Michael Cummings, Clifford Douglas, Jonathan Foulds, Thomas Miller, Nancy Rigotti and Kenneth Warner say that health misinformation is harmful and sows mistrust when it comes to the adoption of public health recommendations and policies.

In their open editorial, the experts offer up some examples of serious e-cigarette misinformation “promoted by the United States public health officials, which have persisted despite new data challenging the validity of the original assertions.”

The editorial was written in response to a recent call from the Surgeon General of the United States (SG) who said that official health bodies need to reduce health misinformation.

In Confronting Health Misinformation, SG Vivek Murthy wrote: “Without sufficient communication that provides clarity and context, many people have had trouble figuring out what to believe, which sources to trust, and how to keep up with changing knowledge and guidance.

Misinformation can sometimes be spread intentionally to serve a malicious purpose, such as to trick people into believing something for financial gain or political advantage. This is usually called ‘disinformation’.”

The editorial states: “We agree and applaud the SG for addressing this important issue, which has garnered media attention primarily due to COVID. Questions related to risks of e-cigarettes constitute another area where there is widespread misinformation. We focus upon two specific examples that continue to be propagated by the US public health officials, despite evolving scientific data contradicting these assertions. As the recent SG advisory on misinformation observed, ‘updating assessments and recommendations based on new evidence is an essential part of the scientific process’.”

They point out that a prime example is when the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention lay the blame of a lung disease outbreak (EVALI) at the foot of vaping – and continued to do so even when the truth was known that it had been caused by Vitamin E Acetate.

Despite the evidence, the CDC continues including ‘e-cigarettes’ in the name EVALI.”

Secondly, they point to Vivek Murthy’s sponsored website ‘Know the Risks: E-cigarettes and Young People’, which has been blamed for spreading the impression that vaping is a gateway to smoking – and knowingly omits any reference to two peer-reviewed natural experiment studies that “found that e-cigarettes reduced cigarette use among young people”.

Public health officials can reduce the risk of misinforming or confusing the public by acknowledging when evidence is incomplete or based on statistical association rather than clear evidence of causality and by updating any statements or recommendations quickly when plausibly causal or otherwise significant new evidence becomes available,” they conclude.

Doing this could help to reverse the trend of declining trust in public health institutions and will benefit long-term public health.”


Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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