Wednesday, April 1, 2020

FDA and CDC’s Irresponsible Covid-19 Actions and Inactions

Long after today’s Covid-19 crisis, Americans will remember the catastrophic failures of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration, the two federal agencies tasked with protecting public health.

Covid-19 infections were first reported in Washington State in late January, virtually at the same time as in South Korea.  According to a detailed timeline, that country immediately “pursued a trace, test, and treat strategy that identifies and isolates those infected with the coronavirus while allowing healthy people to go about their normal lives…the U.S. lost six crucial weeks because regulators stuck to rigid regulations…” which “proved disastrous in a pandemic.”  A Reuters headline put it succinctly: “…Korea trounced U.S. in [a] race to test people for coronavirus.”

John P.A. Ioannidis, professor of medicine, epidemiology and population health at Stanford University, opined: “Covid-19 has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.”  He noted that as a consequence of the testing disaster, officials have been required to institute draconian countermeasures, including extreme social distancing and lockdowns.  “But,” he observes, “with lockdowns of months, if not years, life largely stops, short-term and long-term consequences are entirely unknown, and billions, not just millions, of lives may be eventually at stake.  If we decide to jump off the cliff, we need some data to inform us about the rationale of such an action and the chances of landing somewhere safe.”

Bureaucrats at the CDC and the FDA delayed the rapid development of Covid-19 testing by failing to adapt to emergent conditions and stuck to rigid regulations that take months and years.  These failures have been documented in publications from across the political spectrum, including conservative and libertarian outlets, and the liberal New York Times (here and here).

The FDA’s primary error was its failure to quickly approve Covid-19 tests from university and commercial laboratories.  This sort of “regulatory purgatory” has plagued the sale of vastly safer cigarette substitutes (examples here, here, here and here) -- inaction that contributes to the premature deaths of 480,000 inveterate smokers annually.  Delayed Covid-19 testing has already resulted in tens of millions of Americans having lost their livelihoods, and for far too many, their lives.

The FDA is continuing its unscientific anti-vape campaign with a Covid-19 twist.  Spokesperson Michael Felberbaum provided this warning to Bloomberg News: “People with underlying health issues, such as heart or lung problems, may have increased risk for serious complications from Covid-19.  This includes people who smoke and/or vape tobacco or nicotine-containing products.  E-cigarettes can damage lung cells.”

There is absolutely no evidence that individuals who vape have increased Covid-19 risks.  It is irresponsible for the FDA to make unscientific and unsubstantiated allegations about e-cigarettes without a shred of evidence.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

High School Seniors Keep Drinking, Toking and Vaping, Especially Marijuana

The 2019 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey results, released in December (here), confirm the sharp decline in high school cigarette smoking that I reported in my recent analysis of the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) (here).  The decline in smoking in both surveys coincides with increased vaping. 

The rates of current (in the past 30 days) use of various drugs among high school seniors are seen in the chart.  The MTF recently added vaping categories (labeled on the right) to those for conventional agents like cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana (labeled on the left). 

The rate of current smoking plummeted in 2019 to 5.7%, from 7.6% the year before, and 9.7% in 2017.  That represents an astounding 70% drop from 2011, when teens began vaping (evidence here).

The most important graph lines represent current use of intoxicating drugs, notably marijuana, which was used by 22.3% of high school seniors in 2019; it has tracked in this range since 1995.  They also still used alcohol – which was barely below 30% for the first time (29.3%) – and many still got drunk (17.5%) in the past month.

Current vaping of any or no drug increased in 2019 to 31%, reflecting use of nicotine (26%) and/or flavors alone (10.7%).  The MTF began analyzing JUUL use, finding that it was currently used by 20.8% of seniors. 

The big news in the MTF survey is the sharp increase in current marijuana vaping – 14%, or almost double the year before.  This finding underscores the inexplicable decision by NYTS administrators to omit the marijuana vaping question in the 2019 NYTS after using it in prior surveys.

The MTF provides context for the government’s obsession with flavor bans.  Flavors were vaped far less frequently than marijuana and nicotine.  The survey confirms that the main reason teens vape is to get a buzz; flavors are secondary.  The federal ban on flavors is therefore simply a feel-good measure that will have little impact.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Regulator Watch Videos: JAHA Retraction and the Teen Vaping “Epidemic”

Last week, Regulator Watch’s Brent Stafford interviewed me for an hour on the Journal of the American Heart Association’s retraction of a research article that claimed falsely that e-cigarettes cause heart attacks.  We also discussed the teen vaping “epidemic” and how the CDC calculates deaths from smoking (i.e. The Big Kill). 

RegWatch has posted two-minute videos that capture two of the interview’s main themes.  The retraction short video is here, and the teen “epidemic” video is here.