Thursday, September 5, 2013

Irresponsible E-Cigarette Theatrics from Federal Officials

The anti-tobacco movement continues to ignore evidence that millions worldwide have switched from smoke to vapor.  Witness today’s press release (here) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “There is no conclusive scientific evidence that e-cigarettes promote successful long-term quitting.”  Yet in the absence of proof, extremists insist that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking for teenagers.  A new CDC report adds fuel to that gateway fire in the nation’s media. 

The report (available here) uses information from the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Surveys (NYTS).  In 2012, 2.8% of high school students used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, compared with 1.5% of students in 2011.  Over 80% of e-cigarette users also had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days. 

There is no information in the CDC report or in the NYTS relating to gateway.  The NYTS asks teenagers at what age they first smoked a cigarette.  However, since the teens were not asked at what age they first used e-cigarettes, gateway analysis is impossible.  Still, that didn’t stop CDC Director Tom Frieden from speculating: “Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

The report’s findings are hardly surprising.  The market for e-cigarettes is rapidly expanding, and youths who smoke cigarettes will also experiment with vapor products.  Yet federal officials’ headline-ready comments put the findings in apocalyptic terms.  Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC Office of Smoking and Health, said, “These dramatic increases suggest that developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales, and use of e-cigarettes among youth is critical.” 

The report is an unabashed pitch for FDA e-cigarette regulation, which is likely coming in October.  Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, also exaggerated the findings to justify FDA action: “These data show a dramatic rise in usage of e-cigarettes by youth, and this is cause for great concern as we don’t yet understand the long-term effects of these novel tobacco products…These findings reinforce why the FDA intends to expand its authority
over all tobacco products and establish a comprehensive and appropriate regulatory framework to reduce disease and death from tobacco use.”

Zeller, a respected authority on tobacco use, knows that cigarettes cause 99% of “disease and death from tobacco use.”  Here, he deliberately conflates the risks of smoke-free and combustible tobacco products in the context of teenage use.

Federal authorities should restrict youth access to all tobacco products, but it is unacceptable for them to characterize e-cigarettes as gateway products when they are, in fact, helping to eliminate the smoking plague.


Chris Price said...

I think it is increasingly obvious which way Mr Zeller swings. Let's be realistic here, he wouldn't have got the job in the first place unless he was a pharma nominee. A pro-public health candidate would have had as much chance of getting that job as I would have getting the job of Governor of the Bank of England.

Brett James said...

People are trying their hardest to get e-cigs banned, even going as far as making up lies.

Jerry Samuels said...

The government has gotten caught in yet another lie about e-cigarettes, big surprise. Not!

Klaus K said...

The CDC has a heavy conflict of interest when talking about E-cigarettes, since many CDC activities are sponsored by funding from Pfizer & other big pharma companies, who have competing products in the market, Nicorette for example.

See Dr. Michael Siegel: "CDC Partnership with Pfizer Puts Question Mark on Its Scientific Objectivity "

Andy Gray said...

Just another poor example of a study to try and get rid of e-cigarettes.

JD4x4 said...

2012 NYTS data not available on the CDC website as of 11 Sep 2013.

2011 data reviewed by me shows only 26 e-cig users who reported no other tobacco product product use.

Never Used Other Tobacco Products: 26, 0.138% (Unweighted)
By Grade:
6th: 3, 0.016% (Unweighted)
7th: 5, 0.027% (Unweighted)
8th: 8, 0.042% (Unweighted)
9th: 4, 0.021% (Unweighted)
10th: 3, 0.016% (Unweighted)
11th: 2, 0.011% (Unweighted)
12th: 2, 0.011% (Unweighted)

Vocal EK said...

The survey writers might not know that, unlike tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes can be purchased that contains zero nicotine. They didn't ask that question. And although their surveys have been asking about smoking for years, the 2012 report was silent on the subject.

We do, however have data on smoking among 12-17 year old youth from SAMHSA.

These data show that both past 30-day smoking and smoking initiation rates have been steadily decreasing since 2009. In fact, initiation rates reached an all-time low in 2012 of 4.8 percent for females and 4.7 percent for males. If we jumped to conclusions the same way our opponents do, we could say that we have proof that e-cigarette use lowers smoking rates among youth.