Tag Archives: ALA

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.

What to do with tobacco taxes?

by Carl V Phillips

This is tangential, but goes to some big-picture issue, and it is bugging me so much I want to complain about it.  It also relates to those anti-THR liars at the American Lung Association (ALA) and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids who seem to be spearheading these lies about economics.

Presumably due to the not-so-secret secret coordination of the ANTZ and their pet reporters, trying to create the illusion of spontaneous expressions of concern, there have been a spate of articles recently about how the government is not giving the tobacco control industry (TCI) what they think they are owed.  In this piece (a random selection from any of a hundred I could have chosen), an ALA representative suggests that all the money the states collect from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) should be spent on the TCI.  The mind boggles at what the TCI would do with the literally billions of dollars more every year this would represent.

The MSA is often described as a fee paid by the cigarette manufacturers, but this is a carefully engineered lie.  It is really a hidden sales tax on the price of each pack of cigarettes, that happens to be collected by the manufacturers before being paid to the government — it is paid by smokers, not industry.  This probably annoys those who do not really care about health, but only about hurting the industry (though most of them are probably too dim to see through the lie).  But it actually serves a purpose for those who want to reduce smoking rates, since like any sales tax or other price increase, it discourages consumption.

Now setting aside the question of whether such taxes are ethical and otherwise proper, let us assume that the total taxes are set at the “right” level (also setting aside the question of what that means, and the ethics and question of whether governments should even be doing this) for this goal.  Does this mean that the amount collected is exactly the “right” level (same caveat) to spend on anti-smoking efforts?  Obviously not.  There is no reason to expect any relationship whatsoever between those numbers.

You do not need a degree in economics to see that.  It is clear that even if one likes what the TCI tries to do, much of what is spent on their research and social manipulation projects is already wasted.  They have no idea what to do with the money they have.  The mind-blowing massive increase that would come from spending all tobacco taxes on them would clearly be wasted.  Of course, they would love to quintuple their salaries, but I think most everyone else would agree this counts as a waste.  [UPDATE:  I should have noted here that even the American Legacy Foundation, the anti-tobacco “charity” created with billions of dollars of MSA money, agrees that there is nothing useful to spend the money on.  They have just been hoarding the money, and spending it on lavish salaries for their executives, rather than spending it on marketing, programs, or research.  There is no clearer evidence that there simply is nothing useful (by their own measures) in anti-tobacco that is not already over-funded.]

What should the extra money be spent on, then?  It does not matter.  The TCI people are specifically complaining that it gets spent on fixing bridges.  (They are idiots.  We need to spend more on fixing bridges.  But that is not the point…)  But it does not matter whether it goes into the state’s general coffers, or is used to reduce income taxes, or is doled out to the people, or whatever.  No matter which, it has served its real purpose (caveat again).

This can go the other direction too.  As I show in this paper, the optimal tax on smokeless tobacco or e-cigarettes — optimized from any of several perspectives, including maximizing the population health effects — is zero.  (It is actually negative — that is, a subsidy — but that is unrealistic to even suggest.)  So does that mean that the optimal expenditure on efforts to discourage use of these products is zero?  The TCI certainly does not think so, and even non-ANTZ might see some value in putting a few resources into discouraging non-smoking children from using these products.

So this claim that they ought to get a larger share of the taxes, just because those taxes happen to be tobacco sales taxes, is just like most of their anti-tobacco rhetoric:  it is complete fiction and demonstrates their lack of honesty; it shows contempt for people’s understanding of science (which might be justified as a practical matter); it tries to increase people’s misunderstanding of science (which is clearly not justified as an ethical matter); and it shows their fundamental self-centeredness and general contempt for humanity.

Perhaps if they are so sure that these numbers should match, someone should propose making them match — by lowering tobacco taxes by more than 90%.  Their “logic” supports that solution to the disparity just as effectively as it supports their personal enrichment proposal.

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.

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.

Updates: FDA, ACS, and CASAA

by Carl V Phillips

A few days ago, we reported about FDA CTP’s moves toward reducing the anti-THR lies in their public statements and otherwise shifting toward supporting the public interest.  I missed an important change that had appeared a week before, the elimination of one of the most blatant anti-THR lies to appear in FDA materials, one that stated an out-and-out falsehood that could not be cloaked in terms of being technically true like the “tobacco” conjunction lie emphasized in the previous post.

(The conjunction lie is to create a list that includes one bad exposure and implicitly blame everything on the list.  Example:  “Car and plane crashes are the leading killer of young people in America.”  Of course that toll is approximately 100% from car crashes, so it is a lie because it implies that plane crashes contribute importantly.  Similarly, anytime “tobacco” or some other conjunction of products is blamed for the toll from inhaling smoke, it constitutes the most common anti-THR lie.)

At this page, this older statement:

 To date, no tobacco products have been scientifically proven to reduce risk of tobacco-related disease, improve safety or cause less harm than other tobacco products.

was replaced with this:

To date, no tobacco products have met the requirements that would permit them to make claims of reduced risk or harm to users and nonusers of their regulated tobacco products. These requirements were put in place so that American tobacco consumers are not misled about the harms of tobacco products.

To provide context, this appears on a page title “Health Fraud” — rather ironically, given that the old statement was about as clear a fraud against health that someone could ever perpetuate — which contains information that is really directed at merchants of low-risk tobacco products.  It tells them that they are forbidden from telling anyone that everyone with half a clue knows that those products are much less risky than smoking.  That is obviously bad for public health, but it is true — they are forbidden.  However, this is presented in a child-friendly format that seems to be directed at consumers.  Given the “if you see… contact us” statement at the bottom, it seems that FDA is channeling the Stasi.

But though it seems unlikely they recruited any informants that are not already paid by the tobacco control industry, they did succeed in misleading a lot of consumers.  In fairness, it seems reasonably likely that whoever wrote the first version of this page was trying to communicate the message that was properly clarified in the second version.  But obviously the original author failed to communicate the truth to an unforgivable degree.  (Unforgivable, but not difficult to explain:  Many FDA careerists clearly do not understand the fact that there is a huge difference between “no scientific evidence” and “no FDA approval”, nor do they understand that “FDA approval” is not the same as “proof” of anything.)

Some observers still do not like the new message.  It would certainly be more precise and truthful to say “we have not approved any ‘modified risk tobacco product’ applications” or “we have not agreed to accept any such claim.”  The actor-free version of the statement, as if the institutional author of the web page is not the one making the decision and it is somehow an existential phenomenon, is rather misleading.

Also, attributing the MRTP requirement to a genuine concern about public health seems like rather a stretch, given that it was crafted by a coalition of cigarette manufacturers and anti-tobacco extremists.  But I trust that anyone seeking the truth already knows to pay no attention to “we were doing this to protect Americans” claims, whether about “public health” efforts to tax soda, ban salt, or ban e-cigarettes, or about drone aircraft assassinations, or subsidizing alternative electricity generation, or reading people’s emails; so that is kind of just a throw away.  (Note to readers: If you find yourself having a conversation with someone from another political “tribe” about such points, you should be able to identify something from this list where they agree that the government claims about doing something to protect us are bullshit.  Use that!)

But to circle back, let’s not let the details of the analysis distract from the main point:  FDA replaced a prominent, explicit anti-THR lie with something that is basically accurate.  Kudos.

By contrast, the American Cancer Society continues to damage public health.  As explored here extensively (like back from here), ACS is leading the fight to block state laws that would ban the sales of e-cigarettes to minors.  This seems to be because they want to create a situation where lots of kids are using them as an excuse for restricting adult access to these lifesaving (and cancer-eliminating) products.

Their most recent “victory” came in Oklahoma on Thursday, when such a bill was voted down.  This case is a bit more complicated than the Rhode Island or Arizona cases noted in the previous posts — there was some tinkering with the tax laws built into the bill also.  This bill was originally written by R.J. Reynolds and included provisions that would have given them a competitive advantage over other e-cigarette merchants (which CASAA opposed because we believe diversity in the marketplace is in the best interests of the consumer). CASAA worked closely with the sponsor to remove the provisions that would have favored RJR over its competitors.  (For those who do not know, this is typical — most bills are crafted by stakeholders and other interested parties, not by lawmakers themselves.  Though many merchants do support consumer-friendly bills in this arena, it is CASAA that is actually working in the legislative process to make sure bills are in consumers’ interests.)

Those of us who had the misfortune to watch the floor debate heard the opponents repeatedly identify nothing bad about the bill, but rather just kept repeating that ACS (and the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association) opposed it, so it must be bad.  After all, we should all trust them, right?

Obviously not.  They are liars who are willing to sacrifice children in order to impose harmful restrictions on adults in a free society.  Something really needs to be done about them.

So, to recap, the scoreboard for the week:

Government: removing lies, moving toward real public-interest stakeholder involvement.

Private “public health” charities: blatantly lying, ensuring children’s access to nicotine, trying to create harm in order to impose severe restrictions on the public.

CASAA and other real public health consumer advocates:  Got FDA’s attention and action.  Lost the final vote in Oklahoma, but killed the anti-competitive original version which mattered more in the long run.

Siegel takes up the charge on ACS efforts to keep e-cigarettes in the hands of children

by Carl V Phillips

Most of you recall our two posts from about a month ago, analyzing the American Cancer Society’s efforts to block laws that would ban e-cigarette sales to minors.  (At least I assume you have, since they are about the most read entries on this blog.)  You might also have seen CASAA’s recent call to action about a proposal in Arizona that would ban sales to minors — we urge support of it, while the ACS is leading the opposition.

This week, Mike Siegel took up the charge on this issue.  Yesterday, he published a post that reviewed our posts here and endorsed my argument (based on careful elimination of all other apparent explanations) that ACS was actively trying to maximize children’s use of e-cigarettes in order to make e-cigarettes look bad.  This would support a real (anti-health) agenda of creating rules that would restrict adults’ access to e-cigarettes and THR more generally.

Today, Dr. Siegel further analyzed the situation and concludes:

that the American Cancer Society has admitted that Dr. Phillips is correct. This is no longer just a theory. This is a bona fide explanation for the ACS position on this issue. And the ACS admits it.

Based on a letter from the ACS (also signed by the American Lung Association and American Heart Association) to Arizona senators, which CASAA published as part of our Arizona call-to-action, Siegel argues that a smoking gun in support of my theory is their statement that having a minor ban:

“sets the stage for tobacco companies to claim they are protecting children via this legislation…”

This is certainly consistent with the content of ACS’s Rhode Island testimony that I analyzed in the first post.  Siegel goes on to argue that their motive for wanting adult bans (and thus for wanting children to keep using) is found in their statement:

“The use of these products by adults could have a serious negative impact on the social norms around smoking especially around children.”

and argues that this shows,

Thus, the ACS opposition to e-cigarettes is ideological: they can’t stand the idea of a behavior that looks like smoking, even if that behavior is helping to save thousands of lives.

No doubt this is part of their motivation, but as harsh as this accusation is, I am actually rather less charitable about the real motives of anti-THR liars, as readers will recall from previous posts.

I will add a couple of observations about that ACS quote.  First, though the tobacco companies who are in the e-cigarette sector all support sales bans to kids, these efforts have been led by (real) public health people and CASAA, not industry.  And with “claim they are protecting children” ACS is trying to try to keep the reader from realizing that the full statement is that they could “accurately claim they are protecting children”.  Or put in normal human language, that they/we “are protecting children”.  But since ANTZ live in a world where claims matter more than reality, they may not have even realized that their wording was a lie.

Siegel also adds this additional observation to CASAA’s previous analyses of ACS:

On its web site, the ACS asserts as follows: “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.”

So according to the ACS, we have the scientific evidence needed to conclude that e-cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction in young people who are experimenting with them.

However, in its letter to the Arizona Senate, the ACS claims: “Very little is known about the use of electronic smoking devices by youth…”.

Well, which is it?

In the former statement, the ACS’ goal is to scare the public about how much of a threat electronic cigarettes pose to minors. So they manufacture evidence (which doesn’t exist) to show that these products are leading to nicotine addiction among young people.

In the latter statement, the ACS’ goal is different. Here, they want to convince the Arizona Senate that e-cigarette use among youth is not a problem, negating the need for this new legislation. So the ACS now claims that there is no evidence that youth are actually using these products.

Often, all it takes to show that the anti-THR activists are liars is to accurately quote them twice.  Keeping up an internally consistent web of lies takes a lot more care, intelligence, and planning than they are capable of.

Why do the American Cancer Society et al. oppose regulations to prevent kids from using e-cigarettes?

by Carl V Phillips

The previous post, which pointed out that the American Cancer Society (and, as noted in a comment and the update, the American Lung Association and American Heart Association) is leading the fight against banning sales of e-cigarettes to minors, has probably generated more attention than any previous entry in this blog.  After spending time writing long analyses of scientific points, it is a bit disappointing that what was basically a transcript of testimony by an ACS representative — with some analysis — got far more attention.  (Oh, that reminds me, I forgot to h/t Julie Woessner for creating that transcript from the recording of the hearing.)

I am kidding about being disappointed (mostly), because I do understand the interest.  People who are supportive of THR — in particular, people’s whose health has been saved by e-cigarettes — naturally wonder about those who are trying to prevent people from using e-cigarettes: what they are doing, and why?  I realize that it must seem like quite the mystery to most readers.  In the previous post I hinted at the motives behind ACS’s testimony, which I will examine in more detail today.

The first thing to realize is that ACS’s effort to block regulations banning the sales of e-cigarettes to minors is a calculated strategy.  ACS is an almost-billion-dollar corporation, and like any such corporation, it is run by shrewd decision-makers who do not take actions like this by accident (big corporations do a lot of dumb things, but they do not do them by accident).  They are not some random activists writing crazy rants or trying to do silly things like ban smoking in movies.  Ms. Susan Roberts, who delivered the testimony in the previous post, may have known the real motives or she may have actually believed what she was saying — she might just be a useful idiot who actually thinks that banning sales to minors in Rhode Island would somehow derail the FDA’s research and regulations.  Either way, you can be sure that those who make decisions at ACS are not so naive.

Once we are confident that a decision was made deliberately by a sensible decision-maker, then it becomes possible to learn from it.  I have no inside information about their motives, but I have devoted a great deal of attention, both formal study and informal time-wasting (you will recall my presumably annoying foray into some details of chess a few days ago), to the question of what you can infer from the observed actions of rational actors.

Rhode Island was not the first time ACS has tried to block a ban on sales of e-cigarettes to minors, so this was not some local employee going rogue.  It is obvious that no one with the skills necessary to be a decision-maker at ACS would believe the vague rationalizations presented in that testimony.  Moreover, if those garbled transparently inaccurate rationalizations were the best they could come up with, it suggests that their real reasons are sufficiently unpalatable that they do not want to even come close to admitting them.

[UPDATE: We just happened to hear, a few days later, a leading ANTZ legal authority confirming that ACS’s stated claim — that a state law could interfere with FDA regulation — was wrong.  So this is not only obvious to anyone who understands regulation, but the message is being actively disseminated in ANTZ discussion.  This makes it even more implausible that ACS did not know that their rationalization was fiction.]

It is also implausible that ACS wants to ensure minors’ access to e-cigarettes because they believe that kids should be able to employ THR.  There is some merit to that position, though no one (literally no one, to my knowledge) actively supports it.  But we know, despite the fact that e-cigarettes reduce smoking and so reduce smokers’ cancer risk (and improve their lung and heart health), ACS and their allies (who claim to be anti-smoking, pro-lung health, pro-heart health, etc.) discourage THR in all forms, including the use of e-cigarettes.  The reasons for this goal are a complicated story in themselves, which I have addressed at some length previously.

They presumably even more vehemently oppose the use of e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco when they are used for reasons other than THR by long-term smokers.  It is not plausible, as vaguely claimed in the testimony, that they are waiting for further study in case they might change their mind and embrace THR for kids.  Given their active opposition to THR for adults, despite overwhelming evidence of its merits, it is impossible to imagine any study result that would cause that change of heart about THR for kids.  Thus it is impossible to believe that they anticipate such a possibility and so do not want to act.  Besides, if they eventually changed their minds and thought that minors should have access to THR, they know that they could probably get the sales bans reversed.

This really leaves only one apparent explanation that we can think of for the policy of trying to stop states from banning e-cigarette sales to minors:  The American Cancer Society and their allies prefer that more children use e-cigarettes because that would look bad for e-cigarettes.

It is fairly clear that their political faction is trying to bring about a ban or similar crippling restrictions on adult access to e-cigarettes.  But they and other ANTZ cannot have failed to notice that their goals are not shared by normal people (the vast majority who believe that public policies should support freedom, happiness, health, etc.).  When state or local proposals to restrict adult access to e-cigarettes are considered, we are able to mobilize people — most of whom have quit smoking by using e-cigarettes — to explain why this is a bad idea.  Almost every single time when the decision-makers are legislators or other representatives of the people, they hear this, understand its merits, and do not implement the restrictions.

Despite this general opposition to ACS et al.’s goal, they have a chance to achieve it if they can claim that banning or severely restricting availability is needed to protect the chiiiiiildren from this scourge.  But right now few minors are using e-cigarettes, and for most of them it is a passing lark.  If there are minor bans, then furthermore it can be pointed out that (a) there are existing laws that could be enforced to further reduce underage use and (b) those who are using are already violating the law so further regulations are unlikely to change much.  Under those circumstances it is pretty hard to justify severe restrictions on the freedom, happiness, and health of adults to ostensibly protect them.

But if children can legally buy e-cigarettes (and just a few merchants are willing to sell to them, even though most have a policy of refusing to do so even where it is legal) the number of underage users will increase and the arguments about just enforcing existing laws will not apply.  So it would be a reasonable plan to try to maximize the use of e-cigarettes by children in anticipation of using that prevalence as a tool in the ultimate fight for prohibition or semi-prohibition.

It might sound over-the-top to suggest that ACS et al. would sacrifice the children in pursuit of their real goals, but I have not thought of or heard any other explanation for the behavior that has been observed.  Besides, the real brains behind the ACS policy must know that a little dabbling with e-cigarettes does not pose any serious threat to the kids (especially when compared to the illegal products that can easily get and dabble instead).  So even though ACS’s useful idiots do not realize this, the leadership know that any harm from children’s use is quite minor.

This tactic is not particularly unusual; indeed, it is quite common and proven effective.  When you want to solve a problem (to them, the existence of THR products is a problem), but do not have the support to make it happen, it is often effective to intentionally make the problem worse in order to gain more support.  Can’t get the world to care about the oppression of your people?  March in the streets or sit down at lunch counters until you are arrested or battered or shot, and the world will eventually decide that something needs to be done.  Can’t get the complacent peasants to fight back against the occupying force or government that you believe is oppressing them?  Provoke those in power into acts of greater oppression and violence against the people to motivate the resistance.  The world has forgotten that you have been imprisoned without charges at Guantanamo for your entire adult life?  Go on a hunger strike.  Compared to those uses of this tactic, causing more kids to use e-cigarettes is pretty benign.

Those dramatic examples obviously involve greater sacrifice, but notice that in such cases those suffering the sacrifice are also (at least in the eyes of the actors) the ones who are already seriously suffering.  So causing more kids to use e-cigarettes is comparatively harmless, but would be a rather more cold and calculated application of this tactic.

Could I be wrong about my inferences here?  Of course.  But no alternative explanation for ACS’s actions is apparent.  And my analysis does pretty closely match the stated position (pdf) of ACS et al. on indoor smoking bans, of refusing to support “step in the right direction” regulations when they cannot get everything they want.  Of course, the official statement dresses it up nicer (and merely calls for not supporting, rather than actively torpedoing), but the unstated motive is the same:  If you let the world move more toward the state where normal people think that things are basically fine, then you cannot get them to support radical policies as the “only” alternative to the status quo.  This is basically the same as the assessment I reached before someone pointed out that document to me:  Intentionally make things worse (compared to a world where generally-supported regulations have been implemented) to try to manipulate the people into supporting much more radical steps than they would otherwise support.

If ACS (or their allies who have worked to prevent minor sales bans) offer CASAA an alternative explanation for their actions, one that does not include intentionally getting more kids to use e-cigarettes, I will let you know.  They had a chance in the Rhode Island testimony to give a plausible explanation for their position, but they chose to talk around it and make non-credible claims about their motives.  Their allies from Rhode Island have engaged in a Facebook conversation with us, but have said nothing of substance yet.  This blog has a standing offer to let anyone who is indicted here write a guest post to reply, so they could take advantage of that.  I know that the previous post was sent to them, and I am confident this one will be too (hint hint!), so if there is no such reply it will not be because they have a defensible alternative explanation but merely did not realize they needed to explain it.

The random ANTZ in academia and exclusively anti-tobacco and anti-THR organizations can easily get away with socially destructive behavior because they have engineered a situation where they only have each other to answer to.  ACS has a lot of support from other constituents and the general public.  I wonder how those supporters would react if they knew about this?

[UPDATE: another post about this here]