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.”
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.