The Department of Health (DoH) for the state of Washington is under fire for giving advice to smokers about the safety of e-cigarettes that is “tantamount to public health malpractice.”
Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, with 25 years of experience in the field of tobacco control, has written a scathing assessment of DoH advice on e-cigarettes and vaping.
One of the most eye-catching parts of the department’s statement is that “people may be attracted to E-cigarettes because of unproven claims that they are safer and more accepted than traditional cigarettes.”
This claim will strike many in the public health community as questionable, as there is no research to support the claim that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes. In fact, an independent study from Public Health England argues e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than regular smokes. (RELATED: Study: E-cigarettes Are 95% Safer Than Tobacco)
Writing on his blog Tobacco Analysis, Siegel said the DoHs statement “is tantamount to public health malpractice. The Washington Department of Health is giving medical advice to smokers that is based on a lie: that vaping is no safer than smoking. Moreover, the Department of Health is repeating that lie, telling it directly to smokers.”
Siegel’s blog was followed in short order by a statement from the President of the American Vaping Association Gregory Conley, who didn’t shy away from attacking the implied equation between vaping and smoking. “When you’re caught telling the same lie twice in the span of twelve months, someone should recognize that there is a problem,” said Conley.
“The DOH should not only correct its false statement but should also publicly retract it by posting a corrective statement on their website. State health bureaucrats may not like the fact that the evidence clearly indicates that vaping is far less hazardous than smoking, but that does not give them a license to mislead the public.”
The DoH was forced to make a correction to one of its press releases last year following Siegel’s criticism. In February 2015, Secretary of the DoH Dr. John Wiesman corrected a press release that originally quoted him as saying “many kids believe e-cigarettes are safer, but scientific evidence suggests they are not.”
After Siegel highlighted the inaccuracy of this statement, the press release was amended to read, “many kids believe e-cigarettes are safe, but scientific evidence suggests they are not.”
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