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.

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