A perpetual onslaught of hysterical media coverage over the alleged threats posed by vaping is creating confusion among smokers, depriving the most at-risk population of life saving technology.
Public health experts are calling increasing misperceptions among both smokers and the general population regarding the safety profile of electronic cigarettes, “a national disgrace,” driven by tobacco control zealots who are putting ideology before health. Clive Bates of Counterfactual, a public interest consultancy and advocacy group, recently noted that among the general population, “those incorrectly believing e-cigs were just as harmful or worse than cigarettes had risen from 39.8 percent to 55.4 percent,” between 2013 and 2017, Brad Rodu says in Tobacco Truth.
Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville and associate fellow with the R Street Institute, says misconceptions regarding vaping are even more “disheartening” among active smokers, who have the most to gain from embracing alternative smoking technologies.
“This is a national disgrace, driven by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on anti-tobacco, anti-tobacco-harm-reduction research, with fawning complicity by the media and ill-advised endorsement by public health officials and major medical organizations,” Rodu argues in Tobacco Truth. “Smokers are the unfortunate victims of this irresponsible crusade.”
Rodu points to data from the National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) revealing a rapid drop in accurate perceptions among smokers regarding the relative safety of vapor products compared to combustible tobacco. The number of smokers who believe vaping is safer than smoking rose from 38 percent to 57 percent between 2012 and 2013, however, in 2017 that number plummeted back down to only 38 percent.
Meanwhile, smokers who perceived vaping as either equally as harmful or more harmful than combustible cigarettes rose from 34 percent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2017. As a result, the number of former smokers who actively vape decreased from 6.3 million in 2014 to 4.1 million in 2016, according to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“These are the people whose lives will be shortened if they don’t quit,” Rodu says in Tobacco Truth.
A proliferation of misinformation on the risks of smokeless tobacco, vaping and other alternatives to cigarettes is leaving millions of users in the dark about their options. (RELATED: ‘Deception’ Over The Risks Of Smoking Alternatives Violates ‘Public Health Ethics’)
A critique by public health experts published in 2017 in the journal Addictive Behaviors argues that federal health officials are violating consumer rights and the principles of informed consent by deliberately misrepresenting the risk profiles of alternatives to combustible tobacco.
Co-authors Dr. Lynn Kozlowski of the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Buffalo and David Sweanor of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, say this “quarantining” of information has “no ethical basis” and runs afoul of good public health practices.
Instead of alarmism over the alleged threats posed by smokeless tobacco and vapor products, users should be taught about the relative risks of those products when compared to smoking.
Public health advocates say efforts to spread misinformation on alternative smoking options that minimize their benefits simply deny smokers less harmful options while tacitly encouraging them to keep using a more dangerous product.
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