Wednesday, December 18, 2019

FDA Infographic on Teen Vaping: Hey Kids!

Following my recent discussion of the FDA’s self-proclaimed “laser-targeted” vaping epidemic ad campaign, I turn to the FDA Student Infographic: How Much Do You Know About the Epidemic?, shown in the photo at left.

Clive Bates kindly provides the following translations of the infographic’s key elements.

More than 5 million U.S. youth are using e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes, also known as “vapes,” are becoming increasingly popular among teens.

Hey, time to get with the program. All kids, especially cooler kids are doing it...

You may have already seen or heard about students vaping in your school, but it is important to know that certain types of vapes can be used very discreetly.

Everyone else is at it, except you - you just don't realise…

Certain products emit very low amounts of aerosol or “vapor,” which makes them easier to use discreetly than combustible cigarettes.

And you can keep it hidden from mom...


How cool is that...? In the ******* classroom!!!

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the same highly addictive drug in cigarettes. Some e-cigarettes may contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.

Wow... sounds awesome... and cost-effective. A way of smoking without smoking!! 

Some devices popular among teens — like JUUL and myblu — are as small as a USB flash drive and even look like one.

And we offer product recommendations, in case you aren't sure what to buy...

Bates’s translations are more than humorous.  They identify a serious and unrecognized problem: For years the media has been flooded by counter-productive scaremongering press releases and announcements from FDA and other tobacco prohibitionists about teen e-cigarette use.  It’s hard to imagine a more effective way to advertise and promote vaping to vulnerable teens.     

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Profiting from E-Cigarette Fearmongering

Michelle Minton, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is the author of an informative and insightful report, “Fear Profiteers: How E-Cigarette Panic Benefits Health Activists.”  It is a must-read for any tobacco harm reduction proponent who wants to understand the powerful opposition to this life-saving strategy.

Minton asks why “the public perception of e-cigarettes diverts so radically from the actual evidence.”  Her succinct answer: “the confusion is the intended result of an orchestrated disinformation campaign led by individuals and groups that ought to be among the most supportive of lower-risk tobacco alternatives—anti-smoking health advocates.

“Instead of recognizing the historic opportunity e-cigarettes represent to displace traditional smoking, powerful charities …state and federal health agencies, and some academics have condemned the proliferation of vaping products.”  I have one minor disagreement: it’s not “some,” but many academics who participate in this campaign of deception.

Minton details how hundreds of millions of dollars flow through and among “health charities, federal health agencies, and state health departments.”  Cooperating academicians also benefit from millions in targeted underwriting.

The e-cigarette campaign has followed what Minton describes as a “lifecycle”, to which I have added additional notes below.

1.      Identify a policy goal [in this case, a tobacco-free society]
2.      Generate media coverage to stimulate public anxiety, concern, or outrage [i.e., create a crisis, an epidemic]
3.      Leverage public outrage to promote policy goals [by providing cherrypicked “facts” to support a lung injury crisis or teen vaping epidemic that cannot be fact-checked or discussed because the data is not publicly available]
4.      Leverage government/agency interest to create a feedback loop of fear

The bottom line: “This campaign to restrict or ban e-cigarettes does a huge disservice to public health, decreasing the likelihood that smokers will utilize these devices as a means of quitting their deadly habit. Though concerns over e-cigarettes’ long-term effects are reasonable, that is not the impetus behind the anti-e-cigarette movement. Rather, as this paper demonstrates, it is the consequence of those groups and individuals vested with the power and funding of the government seemingly prioritizing their organizational interests over public health.”

I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t see this report until a year after it was published.  Still, its contents are even more relevant now.  My short summary does not begin to describe the wealth of information about tobacco prohibitionists that Minton has collected.  I strongly urge my readers to learn about the well-funded, powerful forces that oppose the notion of providing smokers with information and products that will help them lead longer and healthier lives.  Please read the entire report here.

Friday, December 6, 2019

FDA’s So-Called Laser Targeted Advertising is Hypocritical, and Deadly

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the last year has been investigating JUUL for targeting teens in their advertisements.  Then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb blamed JUUL in September 2018 for what he called an epidemic of high school vaping. 

JUUL denies it targeted teens.  Writing in TheCut on August 27, 2018,, Katie Heany noted that “Juul’s initial ad campaigns from 2015 included only models age 21 or over,” but she suggested that the company was guilty of attracting teens through the use of “splashy design, minimalist lettering, and youthful styling.” 

On the flip side of the coin, the FDA runs its own marketing program, called the “Real Cost Campaign,” with this justification: “80% of teens [don’t perceive] great risk of harm from regular e-cigarette use.  Teens understand risky behaviors, but don’t see using e-cigarettes as risky.  They have limited knowledge about e-cigarettes and need more information.  They compare e-cigarettes to other substances, with vaping seen as being among the lowest risk [here].”

The FDA introduced the term “epidemic” on September 17, 2018, to characterize teen vaping.  The word was placed in quotes by Kathy Crosby, the director of the Office of Health Communication & Education in the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, in a manner suggesting that the term was being used for effect, and wasn’t to be taken literally.  I have noted in several blog posts that no such epidemic exists. 

The FDA tested the “epidemic” language on 300 youth, finding that it “had a Perceived Effectiveness score of 4.17 out of 5.  Youth clearly understood the main message of the ad.”

The agency also tested the language on “900 young adult and adult smokers open to using e-cigarettes.”  What it found was tragic: “potential unintended consequences…perception of risk shifted to think that e-cigarettes were equally or more harmful than cigarettes…adults were less interested in using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking.”

Let me be clear: The FDA found that its campaign would convince adult smokers that e-cigarettes were equally or more harmful than cigarettes and suppress quitting, and still the agency proceeded with its dangerous misinformation program.

The FDA argued that it could advance its campaign without harming adult smokers: “The campaign is being laser targeted to only reach youth…‘The Real Cost’ Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign will be limited to age-verified digital media, limiting adult ‘spill’ by hyper-targeting the media to exclusively reach 12-to 17-year-olds on digital and social channels.” 

The irony of the FDA’s position is striking.  The agency challenges JUUL’s assertion that it is marketing only to adults, while the FDA claims its own propaganda is “laser-” or “hyper-” targeting only 12-to-17-year-olds.

How did the FDA campaign, which has been supported by other government and medical organizations, work out?  As the chart shows, pre-campaign, nearly 40% of Americans believed that e-cigarettes were safer than cigarettes in 2012.  By 2018, that number had cratered to a mere 17%.  The FDA’s laser targeting was a joke, but hundreds of thousands of smokers didn’t die laughing.