Wednesday, June 1, 2022

FDA Commissioner Misleads with Grossly Inaccurate Tobacco & Vaping Tweet


FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf on May 27 tweeted a grossly inaccurate statement (here): “I worry that our academic centers & professional societies are not activated enough on the tobacco issue.  Almost 500,000 Americans will die this year from tobacco related illness and millions of teenagers are becoming addicted to nicotine through vaping.”

There is no evidence that vaping is enslaving “millions of teenagers.”  The number of high school students who reported vaping in the past 30 days in 2021 was 1.72 million (here), a 58% reduction from the peak of 4.1 million in 2019.  Additionally, not all of these teens are or were “addicted”, as the majority in both years used e-cigarettes infrequently.  Only 467,000 in 2021 had not used cigarettes or other tobacco and had vaped 20+ days, which is the baseline for even considering addiction.

As to the commissioner’s assertion that “Our academic centers & professional societies are not activated enough on the tobacco issue,” the FDA Center for Tobacco Products transfers to the National Institutes of Health $200-300 million annually – funds that end up in the coffers of those “academic centers & professional societies,” and that’s on top of the massive NIH annual budget allotment for tobacco research (here and here).  This network of heavily funded academicians is hyperbolically active in producing articles and press releases that exaggerate and distort vaping risks, especially in comparison to smoking, which actually does kill some 500,000 Americans each year. 

Dr. Califf, a cardiologist, is absolutely wrong in using the term “tobacco” when he refers to cigarette smoking.  When he tweets about COVID-19, he focuses on that virus and its variant; he doesn’t say RNA virus (here).  When he tweets about the infant formula crisis, he focuses on Abbott Nutrition’s deficiencies, not on the product category (here).  It is crystal clear that the commissioner knows the difference between various tobacco products, as seen in his agency’s April 28 tweet announcing its menthol and flavor bans for cigarettes and cigars (here).     

Health organizations have been conflating “tobacco” and “cigarette smoking” in their public statements for years (here, here and here), but those organizations are faceless.  Dr. Califf is a physician and the commissioner of the federal agency that regulates products accounting “for about 20 cents of every dollar spent by U.S. consumers.” (here)  He should not be tweeting misinformation, especially when on April 29 he tweeted, “I believe that misinformation is now our leading cause of death, and we must do something about it.” (here)

Indeed, the FDA commissioner must do something about it.



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