by Carl V Phillips
It has been documented recently on twitter that the National Cancer Institute (NCI), at their smokefree.gov site, has been deleting stories of people quitting smoking by switching to e-cigarettes. (Apologies to whoever first broke the story — I cannot figure out who you are to give proper credit. We retweeted what was probably a retweet of a retweet.) At this page, NCI solicits stories of successful smoking cessation. They have like 200 of them! They would have a lot more, except that when someone reports quitting using e-cigarettes, they systematically delete it.
[UPDATE: I have been told that this forum discussion may be the reason so many were submitted and where the deletions were first reported. There is at least one call for posts that predates that, via CASAA, but the other is the earliest report of deletions I have found. Note that those are almost three months old, but complaints about the deletions did not go viral until this week.]
The U.S. government historically was, and possibly still is, the world’s most influential anti-THR liar, particularly including the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health (which includes NCI), and the CDC. These lies have undoubtedly killed tens of thousands of smokers, and conceivably hundreds of thousands given their reach. U.S. government agencies turned down their anti-THR lying a bit for a few years, but have picked up recently with a vengeance.
The lies at the NCI website are particularly egregious since it is very explicitly — in both its name and content — about stopping smoking. It does not claim to be generally anti-tobacco. That is great, since the NCI has no business opposing the use of forms of tobacco that cause trivial or no risk for cancer. (Indeed, it is not entirely clear what business NCI, a research institute, has in creating propaganda even against smoking, but that is a different story.)
I have seen at least a dozen reports from vapers who reported that NCI deleted their stories. There will probably be dozens more tomorrow since right now the most recent 15 entries, and another 14 of the next 20, are about e-cigarettes (thanks, presumably, to the twitter comments). The 16th comment and at least three older ones are by people observing that their entries keep getting deleted. (You might find those at the above link; click the “text only” button unless you want to mess with their silly “click on the map” thing (why, exactly, would anyone care where the people live??). Of course, chances those will be deleted by the time you go there, so I printed the page as it existed at the time of this writing if you want to see it.)
But unacknowledged deletion is not the only anti-THR lie on this site.
The site is relatively silent about smokeless tobacco, which is interesting because NCI was historically a leading anti-ST liar. The side does link to couple of documents that contain the usual anti-ST lies, including their own anti-smoking publication which, as an aside, lies:
If you also use smokeless forms of tobacco like chewing tobacco or snuff, you are still putting yourself at risk for oral health problems and cancer. Just because these products do not involve smoke, doesn’t mean they are safe. Smokeless tobacco is addicting and isn’t a healthier substitute for cigarettes.
Of course, the evidence does not support the claim that ST causes cancer or any other oral health problems (indeed, if you avoid the highly sugary versions, it plausibly has oral health benefits on net). Most of the government has learned to lie with plausible deniability, such that they would phrase that lie that cigarettes are no worse for you than ST as “not a healthy substitute”. This is a literally true statement that communicates the same lie to the reader, but lets them pretend to be telling the truth. (Though since, as I have pointed out, the act of carefully choosing words in order to lie with literal truths is arguably more unethical than just stating the lie, perhaps we should give them credit for this.)
The site does not, however, outsource the lies about e-cigarettes. At a tab on the page, NCI lies:
E-cigs aren’t regulated:
E-cigs contain other chemicals besides nicotine, which also get inhaled. Since e-cigs aren’t regulated yet, there’s no way of knowing how much nicotine is in them or what other chemicals they contain. These two things make the safety of e-cigs unclear.
Yawn. Not regulated — other than the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of regulations that apply to them. No way of knowing how much nicotine — except by doing what we do for every other product in the market, trusting the manufacturers to be telling the truth about the ingredients. No way of knowing what other chemicals they contain — other than the many tests that have been done on what chemicals they contain.
But good news! Since these apparently are the two things that make the safety unclear to NCI, and we know that they are wrong about them, the safety apparently is clear.
E-cigs haven’t been shown to be effective
There haven’t been any scientific studies that prove e-cigs actually help people to quit smoking. There is also concern that using e-cigs may lead kids to start smoking regular cigarettes.
That is the real kicker, since the very evidence that does show them to be effective is exactly what NCI is systematically deleting from the website. You would like to think that people at our national health science research institute would be familiar with what “scientific” means, but no such luck. (Your tax dollars at work!) They seem unaware that each and every one of those stories they are deleting is a scientific study in itself.
As for that “concern”: I am really worried that e-cigarettes represent a secret plot by a sleeper cell of space aliens to prepare for their eventual takeover of the Earth. (I mean have you seen some of the mods out there? If those are not evidence of alien design influence, I don’t know what they are.) So there is concern that e-cigarettes will lead to the enslavement of humanity, since all that word means is “someone once said they are worried about this.”
In fairness, their other bullet point is true:
E-cigs contain nicotine:
An e-cig is a battery operated (disposable or rechargeable) device that contains nicotine. The nicotine is turned into a vapor in the e-cig and then inhaled. The vapor looks similar to smoke. E-cigs come in all sorts of sizes and sometimes have flavored nicotine cartridges.
I think they are trying to suggest that this is a strike against e-cigarettes. I think that perhaps this means they are really clueless.
The bottom line is that we just don’t know enough about e-cigs, so we don’t recommend that you use them. There are other quit aids, with or without nicotine, that have been proven to be safe and effective at helping people quit smoking. But if you do choose to use an e-cig, we recommend that you be very careful!
A remarkably mild conclusion, actually (setting aside the lie that there are medicines that have been proven to be safe and effective). Ok, NCI, fine. Since you seem unaware of the vast body of evidence about e-cigarettes, it is fine if you choose not to recommend them. E-cigarettes do not need the recommendation of an agency that is not supposed to be in the recommendation business anyway. But that is no excuse for lying about something that you openly admit you do not know as much about as we do. It is most definitely no excuse for the government to censor citizens’ perfectly legitimate, honest, useful, topical comments at a website that they are paying for.
[UPDATE 2: A few CASAA members — at least I assume you are CASAA members!! — have already reported filing the suggested FOIA request (see comments). No use being redundant about this, so please forward whatever responses you get to email@example.com when you get them.]