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Experts Come Out Of The Woodwork To Slam Gov. Cuomo’s Sister For HuffPo Video About E-Cigs

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Margaret Cuomo M.D., sister of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo produced a video Monday for HuffPo that peddled several falsehoods about e-cigarettes, and various experts have since come out to criticize her conclusions.

Cuomo, a contributor for Huff Po, argued e-cigarettes are “at least as harmful to your health as regular tobacco cigarettes.” It’s one of many recent flawed analyses inexplicably equating vapor products with combustible forms of tobacco. Fortunately, experts didn’t hesitate to discredit her argument.

“Because of their chemical composition, e-cigarettes are at least as harmful to your health as regular tobacco cigarettes are,” says Cuomo. “E-cigarettes contain many harmful chemicals that tobacco cigarettes do not contain such as formaldehyde, benzene, propylene glycol, and metals like cadmium, nickel, and zinc.”

The problem with her statements is that they are entirely inaccurate, experts pointed out to The Daily Caller News Foundation. The medical literature on the chemical composition of tobacco cigarettes is extensive and it is widely known that cigarettes do contain formaldehyde, benzene, cadmium and nickel. 

Her remarks are drawing widespread criticism from medical and e-cigarette experts, especially her claim that “e-cigarettes are at least as harmful to your health as regular tobacco cigarettes.”

“All the available research to date suggests that although there are toxicants in e-cigarettes, they are at far lower levels than in smoked tobacco,” said Professor Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, University of Stirling; Deputy Director, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies. (RELATED: Study: E-cigarettes Are 95 percent Safer Than Tobacco)

“The statements in this video suggest otherwise, which is simply factually incorrect.  I’d be extremely concerned if clinicians used the statements in this video as the basis for discussing e-cigarettes with their patients and discouraged e-cigarette use in current smokers.”

“It is unfortunate and sad that there are all these misguided zealots who think they are fighting a righteous battle that justifies lying for the greater good and is in fact supporting the tobacco industry and promoting smoking,” added Professor Hajek, director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine’s Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London.

Experts in the field of e-cigarettes fear videos like Cuomo’s will contribute to a greater misunderstanding of the relative risks of smoking vs vaping.

“It’s appalling and it’s ignorant,” said Sally Satel, a practicing psychiatrist and lecturer at the Yale University School of Medicine and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“Anybody watching this would be drastically misinformed. It reinforces all the other disinformation permeating the media. I sadly think people might see it and think there’s more evidence that these (e-cigarettes) are worse for people or just as bad as smoking. There’s nothing good about this.”

Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London and author of a recent paper showing how e-cigarettes have helped smokers quit, said he agreed with Cuomo that marketing to children should be restricted and was sure she meant well but he strongly disagreed with the substance of her video.

“She is mistaken in her views about the relative risks of e-cigarette and tobacco cigarettes. Not even the most ardent opponents of e-cigarettes who are experts in the field believe that they are as harmful as tobacco cigarettes and most believe them to be substantially less harmful because the concentrations of known toxins are multiple times lower or not present at all,” said West.

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