by Elaine Keller (with contributions from other CASAA board members)
Stanton Glantz tries to project the image that he is anti-smoking, but his words and actions tell a different story: He hates smokers. Why else would he go to so much trouble to prevent them from escaping from the practice of inhaling smoke?
The word “smoking” specifically refers to the practice of inhaling smoke. Thus, to quit smoking means to stop inhaling smoke, not necessarily to become abstinent from nicotine or even from tobacco. The experiences of millions of former smokers who switched to e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, or some other non-smoked source of nicotine such as long-term use of NRTs serves as evidence that nicotine abstinence is not a requirement for the health improvements that come with smoking cessation.
One indication of the contempt Glantz feels toward smokers is his post about the thousands of letters that e-cigarette users submitted as comments in response to the FDA’s request “to obtain input on certain questions related to the implementation of section 918 of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 387r), as amended by the Tobacco Control Act (Pub. L. 111-31).”
Lie #1: Glantz characterized the FDA’s Docket ID: FDA-2012-N-1148 as a request for comments on “treatments for nicotine dependence,” which implies that the topic is limited to products aimed at complete nicotine cessation. However, the request for comments was much broader. Specifically, the FDA was requesting comments in connection with a report Health and Human Services must submit to Congress, a report that will discuss three categories: (A) total abstinence from tobacco use; (B) reductions in consumption of tobacco; and (C) reductions in the harm associated with continued tobacco use. “Also the report must include recommendations on how FDA should coordinate and facilitate the exchange of information on these `innovative products and treatments,” including providing a “fast track” method for approval.
Glantz either does not understand the purpose of e-cigarettes or he deviously pretends to misunderstand. E-cigarettes were not invented for the purpose of treating nicotine addiction. Their purpose is to serve as a replacement for smoking, supplying the nicotine without the damaging constituents in smoke. Eliminating the carbon monoxide and thousands of other products of combustion results in a reduction in the harm associated with continued nicotine use.
Consumers who obtain some of the nicotine they need from e-cigarettes as a result smoke fewer tobacco cigarettes, and many eventually stop inhaling smoke altogether. Smokers who completely switch to an e-cigarette have, in a literal sense, quit smoking. But Glantz chooses to misinterpret “quit smoking” to mean “quit nicotine.”
Lie #2: Next, Glantz complained that the individual testimonials submitted included claims of “therapeutic benefit.” Given the type of information the FDA specified in the Federal Register notice, the submissions were very appropriate: The consumers who commented discussed an innovative product and related how that product helped them to achieve total abstinence, reduced use, or reductions in harm. Some may have stopped all nicotine use, either by switching to an e-liquid containing zero nicotine, or by giving up the practice of vaping. But the abstinence or reduction being sought by e-cigarette consumers is from inhaling smoke, not necessarily from tobacco use or from nicotine. These reports can only be construed as health (not really therapeutic) claims because we already know that stopping smoking is healthy, but no testimonial is going to change the fact that we already knew that.
Lie #3: Glantz is either obfuscating or demonstrating that he failed to understand the basis for the ruling in the Smoking Everywhere, Inc. and Sottera, Inc. d/b/a NJOY court case: “The fact that the e-cigarette companies and their trade association have been encouraging their consumers to submit public comments to a docket about smoking cessation products can be read no other way than the e-cigarette companies and their trade association are promoting their products as having therapeutic benefit,” he declared.
We know Glantz read the emails that at least two e-cigarette companies were sending to their customers because he included copies of those emails in his comment to the FDA. Specifically, those emails asked customers to share their stories with the FDA if e-cigarettes had a made a positive difference or had a positive impact or on their lives. There is nothing in those emails that could be construed as a health claim or knowledge of the customer intending to use the product to treat a disease or condition. It is not illegal, unethical, or immoral for vendors to urge their customers to submit a comment describing how their product has changed the customer’s life. “Life” is not a disease. And there is no procedure code for “positive impact” or “positive difference.”
Moreover it is difficult to see how restrictions on claims that can be made in marketing a product could possibly be relevant to these submissions. Is Glantz claiming that FDA experts and other government officials need to be protected from hearing consumers’ claims because it would somehow harm their delicate sensibilities or trick them into believing something?
By contrast, while it may not be illegal, it certainly is immoral and unethical to do what Glantz has done and bear false witness: to accuse a person or a company of an imaginary misdeed, and then urge the Federal authorities to punish the accused.
Lie #4: Glantz stated, “The e-cigarette companies cannot have it both ways.” He implied that vendors must choose between having their products regulated as tobacco products or as therapeutic drugs. Again, this is not what Judge Leon’s opinion indicates. The same product could be regulated in two ways. To claim that the product treats a disease or condition, the product would need to be approved by the FDA for that purpose and labeled accordingly. There is no reason why the same product could not continue to be sold, sans any health claims, as a tobacco product. Many products have multiple purposes.
Lie #5: As Carl Phillips discussed in a previous posts, Glantz falsely accused vendors of suborning claims of therapeutic benefit from their customers. As proof, he cited CASAA’s “What to Say” section in our Call to Action.
CASAA is not a vendor or a trade association. If Glantz cannot understand that, he needs to purchase a good dictionary and look up the definitions of the words in our full name. The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association represents (and is largely comprised of) people who consume smoke-free alternatives as a means of tobacco harm reduction (as well as those who might someday do so).
It is very much in keeping with CASAA’s mission to encourage consumers to advocate for their own health and well-being by letting the FDA know what types of products they tried and what types of products worked in helping them to achieve total abstinence, reductions in consumption, or reductions in harm associated with smoking. The U.S. Constitution protects their rights to express their experiences and opinions.
The sad thing is that the vendors have to carefully select their wording to avoid telling the truth—e-cigarettes do work, and work much more effectively for the purpose of refraining from smoking than approved treatments for nicotine addiction.
Even sadder is the fact that e-cigarette users, having finally found a way to stop smoking, are in danger of losing the very thing that made this possible. It seems that people like Glantz would prefer that former smokers who used e-cigarettes as their quitting method stop using them—even if that means taking up smoking again.
The problem with Glantz (and others like him) is not just that the claims are lies. We can set aside his despicable tactics and think about his apparent despicable goals. What purpose would be served by censoring success stories in any forum? The publication of success stories serves to encourage smokers to try e-cigarettes, and some of those who try will quit smoking as a result. There is no other apparent result. People who do not use nicotine are not encouraged to start. No one is encouraged to avoid any other method for quitting smoking. The only possible explanation for Glantz hating this so much is that his real goal is not to reduce the number of people who smoke, but to make sure that smokers suffer. He objects to harm reduction because it reduces the harm suffered by those who are the target of his hatred: smokers and other nicotine users who will not obey his demands and just become abstinent.