Tag Archives: ACS

Outsource: Rodu on the American Cancer Society

by Carl V Phillips

In his recent post, Brad Rodu calls attention to some of the evils committed by the American Cancer Society (ACS) in trying to discourage smokers from adopting THR. Everyone who reads this blog should read it. He points out that ACS has, for decades, been a major player in the lie-based war on smokeless tobacco, and are now doing the same in the war on e-cigarettes. (Brad links to many of his other posts about ACS, and mine can be found at this tag.)

The ACS is a good example of the anti-tobacco extremists and reactionaries that I am writing about in my ongoing “Why is there anti-THR?” series. They also raise a lot of money thanks to smoking, which explains part of their opposition to THR. But that observation should not be overstated as being their major motivation since they are also substantially responsible for anti-smoking lies and trying to censor scientists whose results contradict their anti-smoking claims. Mostly those pulling the strings just seem to just be typical anti-tobacco extremists, though these guys are particularly harmful because they have droves of useful idiots. The extremists at the top manipulate their local volunteers and staff — people who would mostly not agree with the extremist agenda or condone lying — into believing and repeating the anti-THR lies.

ACS is ultimately a huge rich corporation that hides under the technicality of being a charity. Making money is job #1 for them. Brad notes:

…the American Cancer Society in 2013 received $878 million in contributions – nearly a billion dollars for their perceived fight against cancer.  In reality, a good portion of that largess was squandered on their dishonest and harmful tobacco prohibition crusade.

A lot of those donations happen to result from smoking, often in the particular ironic (nay, evil) form of bequests from smokers or memorial gifts in their honor, for individuals who would have lived longer were it not for ACS’s war on THR. ACS is willing to bite the hand that feeds them by trying to discourage smoking, to the point of employing dishonest methods. Thus it would be unfair to say they love smoking so much that they would try to encourage it, unlike some players in the area. But, as I point out in my ongoing series, there is a lot of space — given underlying anti-THR motives — between preferring that smoking prevalence continue to decline at its glacial rate, even though this reduces funding, versus being willing to lose that funding (much faster than expected) because people are quitting the “wrong” way.

But similarly, ACS would probably not be enthusiastic about leading the charge for anti-THR at the state and local level if that cost them money. To that end, Brad suggests:

While there is little that can be done to stop…misuse of taxpayer dollars, pressure can be brought against the American Cancer Society. It is time for tobacco users, their families and friends to send a message to the American Cancer Society:“Say goodbye to our donations.”  Tell ACS volunteers in your community that the society must acknowledge scientific facts and abandon its tobacco prohibition stance.  Until the ACS tells the truth about tobacco harm reduction, charitable contributions should be directed elsewhere.

If this were fully implemented, ACS would put an end to their anti-THR lying and campaigning overnight. Of course most tobacco users are not politically educated or mobilized, and are as likely as anyone to be tricked into thinking that the ACS are on their side. But politically mobilized vapers are another story. If they all vowed to boycott the ACS, and explain to their friends why they should also do so (reminding them every few months), and many of them wrote to ACS to tell them they were doing that, it could really have some impact. I have observed some vapers defending the ACS and even recall one vendor doing a fundraiser for them. It is time to make sure everyone recognizes that ACS are the bad guys, enemies of all tobacco product users, including vapers, and a major impediment to people quitting smoking.

More anti-THR junk science from UCSF, the new Karolinska

by Carl V Phillips

As I alluded to yesterday, there is another bit of anti-ecig junk science out today.  Once again, it is from the Glantz shop at UCSF.  Glantz did not put his name on this paper (presumably to create the illusion among the naive that this is not all part of a single organized disinformation campaign), but that hardly matters.

The little study (published as a “research letter”) followed a small group of smokers for one year, and compared quit rates for those who had recently tried an e-cigarette at the baseline survey and those who had not.  They found that those in the former group had a slightly lower abstinence from smoking at followup.  Clive Bates does a good job of pointing out how this thin result led to overblown conclusions, and then UCSF created a misleading press release, and this tricked the press into reporting out-and-out falsehoods.  Do read Clive’s post for more — there is no reason for me to repeat it here.  (If the NYT picks up the story, I might respond to that, but I am not inclined to spend any effort responding to random stories from unsophisticated news sources.) Continue reading

Stanton Glantz is such a liar that even the ACS balks: his latest ecig gateway “study”

by Carl V Phillips

Stanton Glantz recently published a paper, Electronic Cigarettes and Conventional Cigarette Use Among US Adolescents; A Cross-sectional Study,  whose conclusions do not even remotely follow from the analysis.  That is hardly news, of course.  In fact, it is probably sufficient to end the sentence with “published a paper”, since the rest is pretty much a given.  But it is interesting to see that this time even some of the semi-respectable anti-THR liars are pushing back against how blatant it is.  I wish I could say that this reflects a new era of tobacco control people consistently calling for honest science, but I seriously doubt that is the case.  Still, it is something.

This is a long post (by the standards of this blog – it is what is needed to do a serious scientific analysis), so I outline it so that you can know what you want to skip if you are in a hurry:  1. The real reason why Glantz’s statistics do not support his conclusion.  2. Addressing a common red herring claim about the ordering of events.  3. Delving deeper into exactly what Glantz is claiming and why it is even worse than the simple headline claim.  4. Coming back to the ACS reference in the title and related press coverage.  5. Some further random technical observations. Continue reading

Follow-up on the worst anti-THR liars of 2013: WHO and ALA’s Harold Wimmer are truly champion liars

by Carl V Phillips

The posts for the top liar countdown were all quite abbreviated, not attempting to lay out the full details of each indictment.  This tended to let the offenders off the hook a bit, particularly the WHO, which was guilty of far more lying than appeared in that post or has appeared in this blog overall.  Junican offered a comment (attaching it to the wrong post, but I will forgive that :-) that furthers the indictment of the WHO if you are interested.  It points to the WHO’s position statement on e-cigarettes, which consists of the usual tired lies.

But the American Lung Association continues to earn their first-place finish (pulling further ahead of the ACS, interestingly) with their proactive anti-THR lying, like this op-ed at CNN by their president, Harold Wimmer.  If you want to get really cynical about it, the ALA basically depends on smoking to get their funding.  THR is a huge threat to their business model.

The op-ed comes remarkably close to lying in every single sentence, and indeed there are more lies than there are sentences, which is quite a trick:

For the makers of electronic cigarettes, today we are living in the Wild West — a lawless frontier where they can say or do whatever they want, no matter what the consequences. They are free to make unsubstantiated therapeutic claims and include myriad chemicals and additives in e-cigarettes.

Um, except they are very explicitly not free to make therapeutic claims, as anyone with a passing familiarity with the topic knows, and the products are governed by any number of consumer protection regulations.

Big Tobacco desperately needs new nicotine addicts and is up to its old tricks to make sure it gets them. E-cigarettes are being aggressively marketed to children with flavors like Bazooka Bubble Gum, Cap’n Crunch and Cotton Candy. Joe Camel was killed in the 1990s, but cartoon characters are back promoting e-cigarettes.

Except that e-cigarettes were not invented or established by “Big Tobacco”, and no large company sells any of those flavors.  It is difficult to understand how some small player having them in their catalog makes them “aggressively marketed”.  I would have to assume that a few of the zillion companies selling e-cigarettes use cartoon characters, but I cannot recall ever noticing one; they are obviously inconsequential.

Many e-cigarettes look like Marlboro or Camel cigarettes.

While most look quite different.  And they only look like cigarettes until they are being used, at which point anyone with more brains than Wimmer can see the difference.

Like their old-Hollywood counterparts, glamorous and attractive celebrities are appearing on TV promoting specific e-cigarette brands.

With all due respect to the celebrity spokesman choices of the big e-cigarette companies, “glamorous and attractive”???  Hahahahaha.

Free samples are even being handed out on street corners.

Again, it is a big world out there with a lot of players at the retail level, so no doubt that has happened once.  But an occurrence is different from a practice, and he is clearly claiming it is a practice.  It seems safe to say that no major respectable company has done this.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the promotion of e-cigarettes is reaching our children with alarming success.

No, that report says absolutely nothing about promotion.

In just one year, e-cigarette use doubled among high school and middle school students, and 1 in 10 high school students have used an e-cigarette. Altogether, 1.78 million middle and high school students nationwide use e-cigarettes.

Wrong again. Those numbers are not users but rather the cumulative count of how many tried even one puff in their lives.  And, of course it increased because that is the only direction it can go, as we pointed out previously.

The three largest cigarette companies are all selling e-cigarettes.

Maybe almost sort of true.  But to give credit you have to pretend that he said “largest U.S. cigarette companies” (because two of the three largest in the world do not sell e-cigarettes).  And even then you have to charitably count Altria’s very slow test-market introduction of their product, even though it (like Blu) is a subsidiary and does not use the cigarette brand.

Because tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people each year and thousands more successfully quit, the industry needs to attract and addict thousands of children each day, as well as keep adults dependent to maintain its huge profits.

So therefore they want to sell a product that discourages use of their product? Huh?  And, of course, tobacco does not kill, smoking does.  Most of all, this is an idiotic trope about how business works that gets repeated by people who presumably never did a day of work in their life actually producing goods. Companies sell something because they can increase their profit by doing so; it matters not at all whether they are losing business or gaining it in their other markets.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, whether delivered in a conventional cigarette or their electronic counterparts.

False.  There has been much written about this lately.  Look for our complete analysis soon.

The potential harm from exposure to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes is unknown.

TrANTZlation: “there is no reason to believe there is any such harm at all, so if there is a harm it is unknown.”

Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a well-known carcinogen) coming from those secondhand emissions.

Found in completely harmless trace quantities.  Not in second-hand exposure, but only in measurements of what the vaper himself is exposed to.  Etc etc etc.  I assume I don’t have to explain further to anyone who actually understands this topic.

We commend New York City recently for banning the use of e-cigarettes indoors.

Awww, I thought Wimmer was going to manage to lie in every single sentence. Wait… on further thought:  The NYC city council are idiots who the ALA and company successfully manipulated into doing something stupid by lying to them. When someone commends their useful idiots for following the script, it is not honest respect, it is more manipulation.  So I think this one still scores as a lie.

No e-cigarette has been approved by the FDA as a safe and effective product to help people quit smoking.

This happens to be literally true, but it is still a lie.  The intended message is not the literal statement (which is obviously true since the FDA does not even regulate e-cigarettes) but that they are not a good way to quit smoking, which is clearly false.  The FDA has also not approved quitting cold turkey.

Yet many companies are making claims that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.

Oh really?  If this is so common, why are you not just telling the FDA about this (because they do regulate what claims can be made, and those are not allowed) to force them to stop.

When smokers are ready to quit, they should call 1-800-QUIT NOW or talk with their doctors about using one of the seven FDA-approved medications proven to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit.

They certainly can call that useless phone number or talk to their doctors, though neither one of those is how most people quit.  And there are no proven safe and effective medicines — they are quite clearly proven to be rather unsafe and/or ineffective.

According to one study, there are 250 different e-cigarette brands for sale in the U.S. today. With so many brands, there is likely to be wide variation in the chemicals — intended and unintended — that each contain.

Finally he breaks his streak.  This is literally true and the message — that in a perfect world we would know more about the variations in chemistry (and other design details) of the available products — is legitimate.  Of course moving to a much worse world (the de facto ban that ALA clearly wants) would be a breathtakingly stupid response to observing that the current world is not perfect.

In 2009, lab tests conducted by the FDA found detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals — including an ingredient used in anti-freeze — in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various e-cigarette cartridges.

Literally true.  Utterly misleading.  I trust I do not have to explain why.

There is no safe form of tobacco.

We certainly could never know that to be true.  As far as we know, several smoke-free forms of tobacco cause no risk.  (They might cause some risk, of course, but as far as we can detect they do not.)

Right now, the public health and medical community or consumers have no way of knowing what chemicals are contained in an e-cigarette or what the short and long term health implications might be.

No way of knowing.  Other than by measuring the chemicals (as has been done), assessing that in terms of whether those quantities of those chemicals pose a long-term risk (as has been done), and doing short-term tests of their effects (as has been done).

Commonsense regulation of e-cigarettes by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is urgently needed. In the absence of meaningful oversight, the tobacco industry has free rein to promote their products as “safe” without any proof.

No, neither the tobacco industry nor any other merchant is free to do that.  And this guy clearly is not qualified to use the word “commonsense”.

A proposal to regulate e-cigarettes and other tobacco products has been under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget since October 1, 2013. The Obama administration must move forward with these rules to protect the health of everyone, especially our children.

These morons cannot even get the simple facts straight.  FDA did not send the regulation for review until late October.  But you do have to like the desperate tone that suggests that ALA knows that they can manipulate local governments and perhaps even the FDA, but OMB/OIRA might still do the right thing.

Congratulations to the American Lung Association for taking a commanding early lead in being the worst liar of 2014.

Anti-THR Liar of the Year, the American Lung Association, and Runner-Up, the American Cancer Society

  • Anti-THR liar of the year Runner-up (#2): American Cancer Society (ACS)
  • Anti-THR Liar of the Year (#1): American Lung Association (ALA)

While neither the most aggressive liar (that was the apparently conscience-free Glantz at #8) nor the one causing the most harm with their lies (the WHO, at #3, has that homicidal distinction), these organizations top the list because of a combination of aggressive lying, influence, the particular policies they advanced with the lying and influence, and the baldness of the contradiction between their stated missions and their anti-THR efforts.  Their little friend, the American Heart Association, often signs off on the same lies, but has been relatively quiet this year so is not specifically ranked.  But AHA should be considered to be part of this, along with the American Cancer Society Action Network, ACS’s dirty-work non-charity (almost entirely pharma-funded) corporation that, unfortunately, no one other than the tax authorities distinguishes from the actual ACS.  ALA edges out ACS for first place because ACS started quieting down toward the end of the year, with ALA picking up the slack (though perhaps they were taking marching orders from ACS to run point — there are some reasons to suspect that).  

The lies from ALA and ACS are particularly influential because they have a lot of foot soldiers.  With offices across the country, they can easily send local people to regulatory hearings for some astroturfed lying (i.e., it gives the illusion of being local grassroots-ish activism, even though they are paid flacks and their salaries and orders are coming from a giant corporation’s headquarters).  In 2013, they used this in particular to try to block laws and regulations that would have forbidden sales of e-cigarettes to minors.  (If you find that shocking or do not understand why they would do it, you really need to read the archives of this blog — there is a lot of good stuff there, if we do say so ourselves.)  To do this, they deployed a random assortment of the usual lies, along with some unusual and particularly bald lies like “if you do this, it will interfere with the FDA’s ability to regulate them” or “we need to learn more about the harms from e-cigarettes before we take any action”.

Of course, they also showed up to offer lies in support of proposed state and local regulations that would restrict adult access to or use of e-cigarettes.  They were the go-to ANTZ for the local media in many cases, which almost always just transcribed their lies.  And they appear to have had substantial influence on many of those fights.  Before 2013, CASAA et al. won most of the fights over anti-e-cigarette regulations.  In 2013 the tide turned, and the forces of darkness were more often successful.  These organizations seemed to have played a critical role in that.  Fights over smokeless tobacco (mostly taxation, since bans are off the table) were relatively less prominent than e-cigarettes, but they also continued to bring their lies to those as well (as they have been doing for many years).

We admit that putting these two at the top of the list reflects our focus on the USA, though we suspect that these groups have more global influence than their counterparts in other countries.  Ranking them above the WHO did give us pause, given how much more damage the latter has caused.  But this list is about the lies, not about ranking the damage inflicted through other anti-THR actions.  (The government of China would top such a ranking since it could use its autocratic powers to encourage the use of e-cigarettes by about a third of the world’s smokers — with low shipping cost too! — but instead blocks their use and remains the world’s largest cigarette merchant.  Of course, they do not really have to bother to lie in order to do that.)

What really tipped the scales, though, are the issues of mission and credibility.  Few people who are not in thrall to the WHO are influenced by them.  In particular, Westerners who are, at least for the immediate future, the primary audience for THR, tend to completely ignore the WHO, to the point of barely even knowing it exists.  People who are aware of the WHO seem to recognize it as a “public health” advocacy special interest.  But most Americans tend to hear and trust the ALA and ACS and to believe that their missions really are to fight lung disease and cancer.  They have no idea that these organizations are actually anti-tobacco extremists and that they allow that goal to trump their titular missions.  So when they speak out against a THR product, they are abusing people’s faith in them and sending the message that their opinion is based on lung or cancer risk, not on the goal of eliminating all tobacco use regardless of risk.

Mission is also the ultimate reason that ALA beats out ACS for the #1 spot.  While anti-THR is a hypocritical position for both of those corporations, clearly contrary to their stated mission, this is more the case for ALA.  Smoking is a major contributor to cancer, of course, but there are a lot of other causes.  But lung diseases, in modern rich countries, are overwhelmingly caused by smoking.  Yes, e-cigarettes might adversely affect the lungs (though the risk is trivial compared to smoking, so this is no excuse for them opposing e-cigarette-based THR), but smokeless tobacco clearly poses no threat to the lungs.  And despite this,  ALA actively opposes smokeless tobacco use for THR also.  It is difficult to imagine a more blatant misrepresentation of an organization’s mission than ALA opposing smoke-free alternatives.

We wish all the readers of this blog a happy and healthy 2014.  As for those who made our countdown list (who undoubtedly do not read this blog for fear of accidental enlightenment), we wish them the development of a conscience, lawsuits, boycotts, and maybe even a little enlightenment — and, most of all, a continuing erosion of their undeserved credibility.

American Lung Association is assigned the role of chief liar for ACS’s Smokeout

by Carl V Phillips

The American Lung Association (ALA) may soon surpass the American Cancer Society (ACS) as the most dishonest anti-public-health charity in the country.  It would be one thing if their position were, “smokeless tobacco poses absolutely no threat to the lungs (and decades of research show that it poses very little other risk also), while e-cigarettes might affect the lungs and have greater unknowns, and therefore we recommend that those seeking a low-risk substitute for smoking stick to smokeless tobacco.”  But, of course, it is not.  They take a dishonest anti-public-health position on smokeless also.  It is that which serves as the proof that they are not genuinely concerned about e-cigarettes — they just do not want smokers to have a pleasant way to quit smoking.

ALA’s latest lies blitz came out during yesterday’s Great American Smokeout, an ACS project to encourage people to quit smoking.  This project is obviously fine on its face, but ACS’s opposition to THR, the method that best helps smokers quit, demonstrates their fundamental dishonesty on the subject.  They are more interested in punishing smokers than helping them.  And, of course, both ACS and ALA depend on smoking for a lot of their income, both individual donations (“In memory of the dear departed, who would still be with us but for the anti-THR liars who kept him smoking, the family asks for donations to the ALA in lieu of flowers”) and far more important, big government grants and corporate donations.

If you want to read some truth about the Smokeout, please check out CASAA’s press release (which, sadly, did not go viral).

Interestingly, though, ACS seems to assign the role of lying about THR on this Smokeout day to their junior partner and pet, the ALA.  Perhaps they are starting to realize that the lies are going to haunt them.  Thus, we have statements, or more accurately, a series of lies, from Erika Sward, associate vice president for national advocacy for the American Lung Association.

She throws in all the usual lies about there being no regulation of e-cigarettes, that we do not know what is in them, that flavors are designed to appeal to kids, and such.  She demonstrates her fundamental ignorance of the topic by claiming that one company sued the FDA in 2009 and it was because they did not want to be regulated (what they did not want, of course, was for e-cigarettes to be banned).  Further ignorance (or perhaps a blatant lie) can be found in her claim that there are no state regulations of e-cigarettes (yes, really, she claimed that).

The ALA’s core lie in their current disinformation campaign seems to be this one:

Some manufacturers have promoted the devices as a safer alternative to regular cigarettes and as a way to quit. But there is scant evidence to support those claims, Sward said.  “The FDA has not found any e-cigarettes to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit,” Sward said. “All of that is based on the companies’ own assertions. What the American Lung Association sees is a new product but the same industry and the same old tactics.”

Of course, no manufacturer can make health or cessation claims in the USA, despite the fact that there is overwhelming evidence that such a claim would be accurate.  Of course that “FDA has not found…” bit is literally true — the classic tactic of the worst kind of intentional liar is to find something that is literally true but causes the reader to believe the falsehood that the liar wants to communicate.  You know what else the FDA has not found to be safe and effective for helping smokers quit?  Going cold turkey, which is the method that is most often successful, by far.

And, of course, it is not the companies that are making the claims about low risk and effective cessation.  It is not merely that the companies are not responsible for “all” such claims — they are not even, in any way, tied to most of them, which come from independent researchers, consumers, and CASAA and other consumer advocates.

The whining about the industry might have deserved the benefit of the doubt if ALA and ACS had embraced e-cigarettes during the many years that the “same industry” was completely uninvolved in the category.  If that had been the case, we might conclude that while they are more interested in hurting the tobacco industry than in helping smokers (or, perhaps more likely, failing to hurt the tobacco industry, but using them as the devil-figure to support fund-raising), they might still want to help smokers.  But given their opposition to THR products in general, this is obviously not the case.  They still want to use “the industry” as a devil for fundraising, of course, but it is clear that they also want smokers to suffer (which is also good for fund-raising).

I recently heard an authoritative rumor that a very high executive at one of these organizations (that is as much as I will say about the source) was caught declaring that their hostility toward e-cigarettes comes because, “we cannot fund-raise for s**t off of them”.

So, everyone, what do you think (just talking off the top of my head here):  Is it time to organize a boycott of the ALA?  If they are willing to go along with ACS hanging them out as their surrogate liars, they are asking for it. I would bet that the friends and families of the millions of Americans who practice THR make a few donations to them.

The Florida Department of Health are liars (and innumerate)

by Carl V Phillips

Perhaps as a tribute to our nation’s great accredited schools of public health, the Florida Department of Health recently blasted the world with junk science claims based on incorrect research methods and basic innumeracy.  What they were trying to do was issue dire warnings about children using e-cigarettes, but mostly I think they succeeded in issuing a different warning to parents:  Do not let your children study public health!

The Florida exaggerations are already being used in anti-e-cigarette propaganda.  For example, they appear in the actual language of the bill to effectively ban e-cigarette sales in NYC (it would ban flavors, which are obviously rather critical to the product.)  (See this recounting of the language.)  The claim was that 40% more high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012 than the year before, which is not actually what the data shows.  According to the Florida DoH Fact (sic — and LOL) Sheet about this (not dated, but clearly from earlier this month since that was when it was press-released), their surveys found that 6.0% of such students had tried an e-cigarette in their 2011 survey and 8.4% in 2012, which they described as a “40.0%” increase.  Numerate readers will immediately notice that (a) the uncertainty in the survey means that there is absolutely no way they can make a claim with three significant figures and (b) the third digit is undoubtedly wrong, and probably the second too, since they apparent rounded the other results to two sig figs and then did the calculation.  (Credit to the above news story for correctly rounding this to 40%.)  So, basically, public health people lack grade 7 level math/science training.

Rather worse in their reporting is describing this ever use statistics as “prevalence of this behavior”, meaning they did not understand the one semester of epidemiology they took in public health school either.  The word “prevalence” is inappropriate, and thus misleading, when describing an “ever” statistics.  Since “ever” ratchets (once you are in that category, you can’t go back), it is basically inevitable that there will be an increase in a population that is 3/4 the same people from one year to the next.  This misreporting may partially explain why the equally innumerate people in the NYC Health Department misinterpreted the result (lied) by saying the number who tried e-cigarettes that year had increased by 40%.  And, of course, if they had emphasized the more useful number, that 8% of high school students reported ever having tried an e-cigarettes, even just one puff, the number would not have been impressive at all.

The statistics are not legitimately reported even if we believe the point estimates are exactly right.  After we consider random sampling error (not reported), response bias (clearly a problem, but completely ignored), and measurement error (I know that I always gave random data when asked to do some intrusive survey like this when I was in school) the results are pretty meaningless.  The only reason that we should believe the trend at all (that there has been an increase) is that it is pretty much inevitable, not because if their data.  Needless to say, given these basic errors in reporting, we should doubt the accuracy of their numbers also.

But even if we start with their basic numbers and ignore their errors and sensationalism, what can we make of it?  How many of those who tried e-cigarettes were regular smokers?  Quite possibly all of them, since the rate of current smoking is higher than the number who have merely tried an e-cigarette, but we will never know because they suppressed that information (which they apparently do have).  How many of them had tried at least one puff of a cigarette?  I would guess approximately all.  How many of them are of legal age to use tobacco products, as many high school students are?  Again, they intentionally hid all that information.  It is difficult to see such obvious omissions as mere incompetence — they are clearly intended to mislead readers.

Similarly, they lied about current use.  They did this mainly by referring to “tried at least one puff in the last 30 days” as “current use”.  Moreover, their numbers for recent trying (which is what this really is, not “use”) are very low —  half or less the figures for “ever tried”.  So, of course, the propagandists did not mention them, hoping that sloppy readers would mistake “ever tried” for “uses”.

It is interesting to note that as a portion of those who had ever tried, those who had taken one puff within 30 days dropped substantially from 2011 to 2012.  Since many of those who have only tried e-cigarettes on a few occasions must have done so within any given month, this shows that a rather small fraction of those who have tried an e-cigarette did it very often after that (let alone qualified as genuine “current users”).  This is especially true for the 1.8% of middle school students who had tried in the last month (compared to 3.9% who had ever tried), since they would have had relatively few total months in their history that they might have tried them.  Nevertheless this was breathlessly reported as having “increased by 20.0%” (emphasis and that same sig fig error in the original), and it is that statistics that has been repeated in subsequent propaganda, rather than the low absolute numbers.

What can we make of this?  Well, we know what the ANTZ want to make of it, as quoted in the press release (attributed to the American Cancer Society):

We do know that e-cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction, especially in young people who may be experimenting with them, and may lead kids to try other tobacco products, many of which are known to cause life-threatening diseases.

Of course, we most certainly do not know that e-cigarettes can lead to addiction.  There is not the slightest piece of evidence to support that claim.  Notice that the Florida data itself shows that most of those who try e-cigarettes have not tried one in the last month — if this is addiction, then that ANTZ word has become even more meaningless than it was before.  Nor is there any evidence that e-cigarettes cause anyone to use other tobacco products.  And, of course, only cigarettes and their minor variations (not “many” products) are known to cause life-threatening diseases (though it was amusing to see the implicit claim in that that e-cigarettes do not cause such diseases).

Honest people looking at this data can conclude almost nothing meaningful, other than that e-cigarettes exist.  Is it possible that all the students who are using e-cigarettes are current or former regular smokers using them for THR?  Yes — it is consistent with what was reported that every last one of them is.  Could experimentation with e-cigarettes be causing other net reductions in risks in this population?  Yes — those who are experimenting are the ones who are most likely experimenting with other drugs or behaviors that can do a lot of harm.  If using an e-cigarette is displacing underage drinking, it is contributing even more to harm reduction than it does when it displaces smoking.

E-cigarettes are used by people almost exclusively to replace a much more harmful behavior.  Students are people.  Why then, exactly, is the assumption that when they are using them, there is net harm?  Of all the drugs or other youthful dalliances that kids might be engaging in, it is difficult to imagine one that is less harmful than e-cigarettes (or smokeless tobacco), except maybe coffee, and even then it is not clear which is less harmful.

Um, folks, Mayo Clinic has *always* been an anti-THR liar

by Carl V Phillips

I have lost count of how many posts, tweets, and even personal requests to comment I have seen about this Chicago Tribune blog post by the Mayo Clinic.  That is not a recommended click — it just sows the usual disinformation about e-cigarettes.  Lots of people posted replies, and there is nothing new to anyone who reads this blog, so I am not going to bother with the content.  The reason I mention this boring and typical collection of anti-THR lies is the fact that so many people seemed amazed that it appeared.  I will expand on the comment I posted (per personal request).

(UPDATE: I had written before that the comments seemed to be gone.  They are either back or I was doing something wrong before.)

My comment responded to the amazement expressed in the comments (and now in some other forums) that Mayo would say such a thing.  You are amazed?  The Mayo Clinic is one of the historically worst and most consistent anti-THR liars out there.

When I first started doing research on anti-THR lies, over ten years ago, we found that the Mayo Clinic was solidly in contention for second place among anti-THR liars (a very distant second to the first-place U.S. government).  They were certainly well ahead of other general-health corporations in terms of the volume and visibility of lies, and probably ahead of any anti-tobacco special interest group. (I just noticed that for some reason, and to my surprise, that Mayo is not specifically mentioned in my first paper on the topic, but they were definitely prominent in the data and I noted them in various other presentations of that and subsequent research.)

Since then, ACS and ALA have eclipsed them as the leading anti-THR liars among multi-topic health corporations (though ACS was definitely a player from the start) and the anti-tobacco special interest groups, along with WHO and other governmental actors have really ramped up their anti-THR lying.  Thus, Mayo is no longer a major player in the anti-THR lies game.  But they never stopped or even really slowed down.  (If I were really cynical I would suggest, as an exercise, to think about the business models of ACS, ALA, and Mayo, and what they have in common regarding people continuing to smoke rather than switching to low-risk alternatives.)

There are a lot of people involved in pro-ecig activism, or at least in pro-ecig chatting, who do not realize that the history of THR and anti-THR did not start when they first picked up an e-cigarette.  It did not start in 2009, the crux year for e-cigarettes in the USA, or in 2006 when the devices hit the market.  “Condemned to repeat it” is a bit oversimplified.  A lot changes, so that nothing really seems like a repeat.  But failing to remember the past is definitely weak tactics.

Is there anything fundamentally new about anti-THR activism in 2013 compared to 2009 or 2006 or 2001?  Not that I can see.  The vocabulary changes, but the tactics are so similar that sometimes I just get bored.  There is a lot to be learned from the history.  And a lot that could be mined from those vocabulary changes: It can be a powerful argument to point out (with specifics and evidence) that a particular actor keeps changing their specific arguments and ‘evidence’, after something changes or enough counter-evidence accumulates, but the conclusions never change.

Some of the prominent supporters of e-cigarettes have been hard-working advocates of THR since before e-cigarettes existed (Brad Rodu, Clive Bates, Bill Godshall, Dave Sweanor, Gil Ross, and yours truly come to mind — please note in the comments if I slighted someone else), as were a some others whose names you have probably never even heard (mostly because they work for tobacco companies).  On the other hand, some of the celebrated supporters of e-cigarettes tended toward anti-THR for a very long time, or offered only the most tepid support for it.  Have they had a complete Road to Damascus moment, or might they turn again if something happens — say after major tobacco companies become the leading sellers of e-cigarettes, or when enough people who are not ex-smokers start using them?  I am not saying I know the answer, and I definitely do not mean to imply I am pessimistic about it, but it is worth asking.  It is hard to even ask if you do not know the history.

I will stop there, but I hope you get the point.  History is often taught as simplistic stories of revolutions that succeed because everything was just so different all of a sudden.  It turns out that, contrary to what you probably have learned in school, some things that mattered happened in 1773.  There are a few success stories where people just launched a revolution from blank slate because everything was so different, but for every one there are 99 (or maybe 9999) cases where the revolutionaries were sure that everything was so different that recent history did not matter, and discovered that was not true.