CDC lies about ecigs and children again (wait, have I used that title before?)

by Carl V Phillips

The CDC issued a press release about children and e-cigarettes again today (which is basically just another way of repeating the title of this post). Their headline claim itself is actually true (assuming they know how to count — not a foregone conclusion): More than 16 million children live in states where they can buy e-cigarettes legally. Of course, they don’t happen to mention why this is the case, and they go on to offer other lies.

The reason that some states have not banned e-cigarette sales to minors is, of course, because ANTZ groups, led by the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society, and often including local groups that are funded by CDC (in violation of federal law [Update: more on that point from Greg Conley]), have lobbied against such bans. This is because they prefer the kids use e-cigarettes so they can then complain that it is happening and use it as an excuse to restrict sales to adults.

CDC, of course, does not limit their unethical behavior to omitting that point. As per usual, they refer to e-cigarettes as “e-cigarettes” in the headline — because that is what they are called and they are trying not to confuse people — but use the unethical, demeaning term “ENDS” in their text.

“We know e-cigarettes are not safe for youth,” said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

Oh really, Tim. Can you provide me with one bit of evidence that supports that claim. (Setting aside the universal fact that nothing is ever 100% safe, because this is obviously meant to communicate “are substantially unsafe for youth”.) Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Of course, it is quite possible that they are not safe (to a nontrivial degree) for youth (though since almost the only youth that use them are smokers, they are almost certainly beneficial to health for youth, on net, even if they are not safe). But the point is that we do not “know” this — not by a long shot. There is no affirmative evidence that vaping harms people’s health. There is no evidence to suggest vaping causes smoking and plenty of reason to doubt that would happen. There is no evidence that e-cigarettes cause “addiction” even if you manage to define in a way that is both accurate and that, in itself, represents “not safe”. As I said, any of these are possible, but they are not supported by any evidence, let alone known. It is yet another CDC McALie.

CDC goes on to whine that no states have banned the use of e-cigarettes in workplaces and bars since 2012 and that only three states total have enacted such a dumb policy. Ok, they did not call it a dumb policy, that was me. You probably knew that. They obviously think it is a good policy. But on what basis? Surely after writing a paragraph complaining about it and making an infographic to highlight the three states, they must have given a reason. Oh, wait, here it is at the end of the paragraph:

These laws could help prevent renormalization of tobacco use because youth are particularly susceptible to visual cues to use tobacco.

Um, yeah. So they base it on some mythology about visual cues. But the worst part is that even if the voodoo science about “visual cues” really did tell us that seeing vaping would cause smoking, how exactly would private-place usage bans help? They would ban vaping in workplaces and bars, where there are not a lot of children, and thus require vaping take place out on the sidewalk, where there are rather more children and sight-lines are much better. Oh, wait, silly me. I am analyzing this as if they were making a reality-based argument here, rather than just throwing whatever pseudo-arguments they can come up with against the wall in case any of it sticks.

“ENDS aerosol is not harmless water vapor; it can contain nicotine and other toxins,” said Brian King, Ph.D., senior scientific advisor in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “Exposure to nicotine can harm adolescent brain development and can be toxic to fetuses. The standard for protecting the health of children and bystanders should be clean air, free of toxic secondhand smoke as well as ENDS aerosol.”

So the KingALies here (darn — that does not work nearly as well as MacALie) are: that anyone (at least anyone with more knowledge and scruples than CDC) claims that e-cigarette aerosol is just water vapor; that there is anything in the world that does not contain “toxins” (special congratulations to our government here, for trying to promote scientific illiteracy via chemophobia); that there is any evidence that the relevant quantities of nicotine can cause the noted harms for children (if there are fetuses wandering around bars, they have bigger problems); and, most of all, the “should”. Should? Says who?

We Americans have not granted Dr. King, nor the CDC, the authority to decide what the purity standard for workplace and public house air quality should be. There are government agencies with that role, such as OSHA for workplaces, but not CDC. (And OSHA would tell you that normal vaping — I am not counting cloud vapers who are trying to create air pollution — could never come close to violating their standards.) We have certainly not granted CDC the authority to decide that particular contributors to impure air — as opposed to the quality of the air itself — are what define our standards.

Although e-cigarettes have been marketed as smoking cessation aids, there is currently no conclusive scientific evidence that e-cigarettes promote successful long-term quitting. However, there are proven adult cessation strategies and treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved cessation medications.

They have been “marketed as”, huh? You might want to mention that to the FDA, since it violates the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. But, of course, however they are marketed, they are smoking cessation aids — great ones for a lot of people.

As for the the latter sentence, it is only not a lie if you interpret “proven” to mean “proven to not work very well.”

And finally:

The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report found that about 90 percent of all smokers first experiment as teens; and that about three of every four teen smokers become adult smokers– even if they plan to quit in a few years.

Um, no again. Verb tense matters, guys. Most current smokers first experimented with cigarettes, and indeed became smokers, as teens. But a slight majority of Americans starting smoking today do so at a legal age. If we shared CDC’s lack of familiarity with verb tense, we might say something like “70% of all American babies are born before 1990.” Of course, that actually would make CDC happy, since none of those babies would have a chance use e-cigarettes as teens, and so they would just have to smoke.

11 responses to “CDC lies about ecigs and children again (wait, have I used that title before?)

  1. Carl V Phillips

    Ok, I know that if you have to explain a joke, you have failed. But I have been informed that I might need to do it for the one at the end. So…

    Most current smokers started as teens, but most new smokers (now) do not.

    Most current Americans were born before 1990, but most new babies (now) are not.

    I tried.

  2. “Oh, wait, silly me. I am analyzing this as if they were making a reality-based argument here, rather than just throwing whatever pseudo-arguments they can come up with against the wall in case any of it sticks.”

    There are only two reasons for using the ‘children’ argument; one is a genuine desire to protect the children from a threat, and the other is to cover up the fact that a threat does not exist. – if a threat does not exist, how you establish it… one is forced to discuss the alleged danger. All the opponents of e cigarettes have to do is exactly what we have witnessed them doing right from the start, produce a string of unfounded claims, irrespective of the fact that they are not evidenced and use the media to publicise it. A newspaper does not need evidence, just someone to say something… but the damage is done.

    Whenever you hear or read, we must, ‘think about the children,’ ask yourself, why this demand is being made? Is it genuine, or is it an attempt to cover the fact that no real danger or threat exists and that the ‘children’ argument is being used is it a logical fallacy, and is it being used as an emotive red herring?

    • Yeah, good point. And maybe we should add this: If someone’s tone is “this (be it cars, porn, pharmaceuticals, weed, large animals) is a good thing to have the world in general or for adults, but there are concerns about a danger for children that we have to mitigate, or we might have to consider getting rid of it because the costs outweigh the benefits” then they are probably trying to tell the truth and be accurate. But if they are launching a political attack on the phenomenon in general and then they throw in the chiiiildren claims without any hint of regret about the costs imposed by protecting the children, then they are obviously lying.

  3. Carl, can you explain where the data about most new smokers being of legal age comes from?

    • Carl V Phillips

      It is an assessment done by some of my colleagues that I was repeating. Nothing is published yet because they decided that they could not actually nail it down precisely enough. Perhaps I will stop making that statement until they are more sure.

  4. Blows my mind that it is ok to make unfounded claims about alleged health risks yet it is illegal to make claims about harm reduction and benefits.

  5. “Can you provide me with one bit of evidence that supports that claim. ”

    • Carl V Phillips

      Biomarker studies that *something* that *might* be have negative consequences happens in response to an exposure are not evidence of harm. You can find those for any exposure that has ever been studied. They are certainly not evidence of harm on net.

      Also, you managed to pick two that are relevant to older adults, not teens.

  6. Pingback: CDC lies about ecigs and children again (wait, have I used that title before?) –

  7. Pingback: News 12th Dec 2014 |

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