Thursday, January 2, 2014

NYU to E-Cigarette Users: Cigarettes Are Healthier

I have noted in the past how prestigious organizations sometimes spew misinformation about the risks of smokeless tobacco; I have been especially critical of individuals representing the Mayo Clinic (here), the MD Anderson Cancer Center (here) and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden (here). 

Now, e-cigarettes are being institutionally maligned, as in a particularly egregious December 11 attack-by-press-release at New York University (here).  Under the dramatic headline, “NYU Researchers are Lifting the Veil on the Hidden Health Impact of Electronic Cigarettes,” a professor was quoted as saying, “Due to the frequency of puffing, depth of inhalation, and length of vaping, e-cig users may actually absorb higher concentrations of nicotine and other toxins than conventional tobacco smokers.”

This allegation is demonstrably false.  Numerous published studies comparing e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke reveal that the latter contains much higher concentrations of nicotine and toxic agents (this is one of many examples).  I am not aware of any legitimate study suggesting that vapor is more toxic than cigarette smoke.

The NYU press release obtained wide dissemination in the world’s media (example here).

E-cigarettes are used by millions of individuals throughout the world, the vast majority of them former smokers.  The apparently authoritative press release falsely informed them that vaping is more dangerous than smoking.  Based on this misinformation, it is likely that some vapers will abandon e-cigarettes and start smoking, which will constitute a public health tragedy.

It is remarkable that NYU’s press release revealed that Drs. Lin and Deepak Saxena were planning to “collect saliva and oral mucosa from College of Dentistry patients who are e-cig users to determine the relative abundance of oral bacteria and changes in DNA in these patients in order to compare them with the effects found among conventional cigarette smokers.”  There is no record that either researcher conducted prior research on the use of e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product.

Because NYU orchestrated the global dissemination of this false claim of vaping danger, I asked school officials to issue a press release retracting the statement. They did not respond.


Aubrey said...

Thank you for this article. I have looked up the email address and contacted Xiu Li at NYU directly inquiring about the data that SHE has reviewed that would lead her to the conclusion that "e-cig users may actually absorb higher concentrations of nicotine and other toxins than conventional tobacco smokers"...pure poppycock. I wonder if she'll reply with some references (that most likely do not exist).

Brad Rodu said...

Thanks for contacting Dr. Li. University faculty are easily found in their institution's directories, and it is important to hold them accountable for untruthful and unwarranted comments that confuse and misinform smokers about safer products. E-cigarette advocates successfully counter nonsense in the comments sections of media reports, but they can exert additional influence by contacting directly the perpetrators of false information.

Rain said...

Good post. I have had a Google alert set up for "e-cigarette" for the past year and so have read at least the summary of at least 10 related articles a day during that time. And I've only seen two or three mainstream media articles--out of over a thousand--that got even the basic facts about e-cigarettes right. As a result, I've come to feel somewhat pessimistic about the truth "winning" in the case of e-cigarettes. I suspect the best we can hope for is a good enough fight--of which this blog post was an example--to keep e-cigarettes available in coming years.

Carrie Blanc said...

E-cigarettes are the best answer to a hard to quit bad habit. Unfortunately, nobody knows better than smokers, how overwhelming the need can be. Not only do smokers have to face the ever-increasing price of cigarettes, but also the stigma that society has placed on smoking. The change over the last ten years has been incredible as far as the negative view on this unfortunate habit.