Monday, June 1, 2020

Tobacco Prohibitionists Not Letting This Pandemic Go to Waste

Anti-tobacco forces are callously abusing COVID-19-driven anxiety, pain and suffering as they spew their unique brand of science-free propaganda.  A good example is a video interview, titled “The Dangers Of Vaping and Smoking During Coronavirus,” with Matt Myers, head of the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids (here).  Following are selected Myers quotes, with my observations (in bold). 

The interview opens with a question on new research suggesting that nicotine might protect smokers from developing COVID-19 illness:

“It is completely false….it is pure and simple bad science.  Last week the World Health Organization convened 29 of the world’s leading scientists, and what they found was two things: First, in fact smoking increases your risk of serious diseases – of serious effects of this disease.  And B, there is no credible evidence that smoking provides any protective effect.  All of the science points that smoking, and potentially vaping, increases your risk of the most serious consequences.”

Myers, a lawyer, is making dogmatic statements on science that legitimate scientists are unwilling to make at this time.  Certainly, a debate about the effects of nicotine and smoking on COVID-19 infection prevalence and illness severity is warranted; here are some articles, pro (here, here, here) and con (here, here).    

“Even if vaping was significantly less hazardous, and we don’t know that for sure, it is still a dangerous product.” 

Even if…?  Extremists are incapable of acknowledging the most incontrovertible facts.  Despite their denials, inhaling vapor has been proven vastly safer than inhaling toxic smoke.  Myers’s denial was a set-up for his major theme – the so-called teen vaping epidemic.

“…in the United States we have over 5 million kids who have become addicted to e-cigarettes.  Many of them would have never smoked in their life…We have a youth e-cigarette epidemic that we need to address…In the last 3 to 4 years we have seen more kids become addicted to e-cigarettes…addicted in a way that’s even more powerful than we’ve seen with cigarettes.”

Myers’ “5 million” is a complete fabrication.  The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, from which the highest estimates are drawn by the CDC, indicates that, at most, 172,000 underage teens might have been addicted to e-cigarettes (evidence here).  There is nothing to suggest that any of these youths have an e-cigarette addiction that is more powerful than cigarettes.

The interviewer asked a leading question about H.R. 2339, a bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives but languishing in the Senate, that is meant to reverse the youth tobacco epidemic.  “This is one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress could pass.  It would prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes…it would ban the sale of menthol cigarettes…the tobacco industry has marketed menthol cigarettes to African-American youth and adults with devastating consequences…Eighty-five percent of African-Americans use menthol cigarettes…because the tobacco industry has targeted them.”

Myers wants to ban menthol cigarettes.  Despite a flood of research articles, the FDA has never developed a scientific rationale for such a ban (here and here).   Myers makes a common mistake in claiming menthol is all about race, as a full 68 percent of menthol smokers are not African-American (here).

Tobacco prohibitionists, armed with unfactual talking points, aren’t letting this pandemic go to waste.

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