US Department of Health and Human Services are liars (and kinda stoopid)

by Carl V Phillips

I hope my readers in the US had a good holiday, those in the UK are recovering from being intensively aware of alcohol during #alcoholaware2012, and everyone else was productive for the last few days.  In honor of the US holiday, I present another little chapter on the past and current champion anti-THR liar on the planet, the US government.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), at apparently the central-administration level (no operating division is mentioned), recently released this document that trashes e-cigarettes, and so joints its FDA, CDC, and NIH operating divisions in the anti-THR lies business.  There is really not much here that is not already pushed by the departments, but for completeness, a few words about this additional abuse of our tax dollars being used to keep people smoking.

The short document contains the usual lies that these products appeal to children (despite the lack of evidence about that, and the clear evidence that they appeal less than does smoking) and that they lead to smoking (despite the fact that this is utterly ludicrous).  Interestingly, they felt constrained enough by the evidence to not make risk claims, but instead use this to sneak in a reference that gives the casual reader the impression that they are making risk claims:

Using e-cigarettes may lead kids to try other tobacco products—including conventional cigarettes—which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.

Yes, that’s right:  Because the product they replace is known to cause disease, e-cigarettes are bad.

They also tell us that in addition to sometimes looking like cigarettes and cigars, e-cigarettes sometimes look like pens.  While I am sure that there is some product on the market that does look like a pen, I have never seen one that could be mistaken for a pen from five feet away.  I think all they are suggesting is that they are often roughly cylindrical objects that fit in your hand, in which case they apparently also look like… well, you get the idea.

But these pale compared to the lead-off moronic lie, one I have previously covered before in other forms:

Because clinical studies about the safety of e-cigarettes have not been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you have no way of knowing:

  • If they are safe
  • Which chemicals they contain
  • How much nicotine you are inhaling

Seriously?  How can someone believe such a thing and still understand how to dress himself in the morning?  Did you know that since clinical studies about taking a stroll in the park (or reading this blog!)  have never been submitted to FDA, you have no way to know if it is safe?  Did you know that since clinical studies of foods have never been submitted to the FDA, you have no way of knowing what chemicals they contain and how much?  It turns out that no one in the world knows anything until something is submitted to FDA.  That is going to seriously slow down science.

(Ironically, no one has submitted studies of any type to anyone that suggest e-cigarettes appeal to children or lead to smoking.  But they have no hesitation to make those claims.)

I am sure what they must have been trying to say is that you have no way of knowing unless you have a bit of common sense and knowledge about how the world works, and know how to read.  So if you are an infant or just arrived from another planet, you definitely have no way of knowing, and therefore should probably not be vaping.

But it gets worse than that if you think about it a moment.  How, exactly, would a submission of a clinical trial of safety tell you what chemicals they contain?  And how would it tell you how much nicotine you are getting?  (I would recommend looking at chemistry studies and statements by reputable manufacturers to assess the former, and assessing your own reaction for the latter.)

I realize that people at HHS central administration are politicos and lawyers, not scientists, but geez.  Can our science education really be failing so badly that not one of what was probably a couple of dozen people who reviewed the document noticed how absurd this was?

Less absurd, but similarly wrong, is the closer:

Although e-cigarettes may be marketed as a tool to help smokers quit, they have not been submitted for FDA evaluation or approval and there is no evidence to support those claims.

The first bit is not true, except to the extent that marketers are violating US law.  The latter bit is, of course, another version of the “I am going to pretend the evidence I do not like does not exist” lie.  That statement is followed with:

There are, however, a number of FDA-approved quit-aids available to smokers, including: Nicotine gum, Nicotine skin patches, Nicotine lozenges, Nicotine oral inhaled products, Nicotine nasal spray, Zyban, Chantix

To their credit, they did not lie about this.  Those products do indeed exist and they are FDA-approved.  They never actually claimed those products work, that using them is a good idea, or that people are better off using them rather than pursuing THR.

4 responses to “US Department of Health and Human Services are liars (and kinda stoopid)

  1. Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos

    These statements look more like jokes rather than scientific documents. But, unfortunately, they continue to mislead the population, by providing opinions biased by i don’t know what, and completely unbacked by any serious clinical or epidemiological data.
    The bad thing is that it is much easier for them to demonize e-cigarettes than it is for us to present the true picture……

  2. The bias, Dr. Farsalinos, is on behalf of those who stand to gain by the death of the e-cig. In the States, the truth can always be found at the end of the money trail.

  3. Steve Wintersgill

    To be fair, which contrasts us from them, there are some products (in the Ego style of e-cig) which are designed and marketed as looking like pens – even down to the lids, however, I still fail to see how looking like a pen is supposed to be a bad thing.
    Mine looks more like a sonic screwdriver, does that mean it only appeals to Doctor Who fans? Obviously not, as I’ve not seen Dr Who since Tom Baker left.

  4. Pingback: US government to require tobacco companies to correct “lies”, and to lie | Anti-THR Lie of the Day

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