Tag Archives: UKY

Anti-Hahn poster

Today’s content is thanks to Kristin Noll-Marsh, who has created CASAA’s direct response to the Ellen Hahn poster that was the topic here for most of last week.  Taking a different tack from our letter to the University, Kristin created a consumer-friendly poster to directly compete with Hahn’s.  So anyone at or near the University of Kentucky, please print out some copies and post them next to Hahn’s!  Kristin’s document covers a lot of the same points that appeared here already, but it makes some additional points.  Moreover, even though it is a catchy poster, it also stands as more of a research paper (with specific sources cited for specific claims, in particular) than the blog — and probably more than anything Hahn has ever written.

Since it is all there at the link, I will not repeat it here.  (Aside:  Remember, the more links we have to the letter, poster, and blog posts, the higher those will be in searches compared to her lies.  Just sayin’.)

I know that a lot of readers are waiting for our response to the anti-THR press release about lung effects that was touted this week.  Since we have higher scientific standards than the author of that press release, it is taking a bit longer to finish.  It should appear in two or three parts starting later this week.

Striking back at anti-THR lies and liars

posted by Carl V Phillips

We conclude Ellen Hahn Week with a mass debunking of her lies.  Today, CASAA released to the public a letter that we sent to the president of the University of Kentucky and the attorney general of Kentucky, calling for an investigation of Hahn’s actions.  Here is our press release announcing this, which also announces the creation of this blog (but you know about that already).  The focus of the letter was a particular action by Hahn, in which she used anti-THR lies, coupled with intimidation tactics, to try to trick a local hotel into canceling a scheduled vape meet.

If you like this blog and can spare a few minutes more than it takes to read it, you will want to check out both of those links.  Ok, it is a lot of minutes, but should be worth it.  This is really not just about one liar; it is an announcement that THR advocates — all of us, I hope! — are going to stop trying to politely correct the lies, but are going to start fighting back.

The letter speaks for itself, and it is 26 dense pages about Hahn’s lies and trickery, so rather than try to excerpt or summarize, I will just incorporate it here by reference.  The part that is most important for the big picture is her scientific disinformation, similar to her lies that we have already documented here.  Most of that is concentrated in Appendix B of the letter, which reads like entries in the blog (and will probably all end up here eventually).

A few others have already posted about this.

Happy reading.

Scary scary formaldehyde

posted by Carl V Phillips with analysis from Elaine Keller and input from CASAA board

We finish up our debunking of Ellen Hahn’s project “Lie to College Students” with her claim,

In the cartridge:  Formaldehyde.  Highly toxic to all animals, including you.  Good for embalming dead bodies.  Causes cancer.

This is obviously another example of the same word games that were analyzed in previous posts, so we will not repeat those points.

The interesting thing about this point is that the chemistry studies of e-cigarettes do find that of all the contaminants, formaldehyde might be the one that is most worth trying to reduce.  Unlike the other chemicals that Hahn mentions, which are at tiny fractions of 1% of what is considered the hazardous level, formaldehyde might be in the neighborhood of 1% of what is considered hazardous level.  Of course, this “merely” 100-fold margin is hardly a cause for worry, and the quantity is similar to the exposure we get from other sources.  (There is also speculation that some of the formaldehyde measured in lab studies is from the vaper, not the vapor — the human body emits a measurable amount of this horrible scary toxic chemical.)  It is certainly a lie to say that this contamination causes cancer, as Hahn claims.

But among all of the trivial contaminants, this trivial contaminant might be worth a bit of engineering effort.  I do not know enough about the chemical engineering to know how practical or easy reducing it would be.  An honest scientist or public health advocate might say “this is unlikely to cause health problems, but it theoretically could be causing a tiny bit of needless risk, so maybe something can be done here to make these low-risk products even lower risk.”

But this is like saying, “seat belts seem to produce a bit more bruising near the clavicle compared to elsewhere when they prevent someone from getting killed in a major crash, so we might want to focus some effort to improve that part of the seat belt.”   You would have to very stupid and/or very dishonest to reason, “A bit of bruising near the clavicle?!!! OMG! Bruises can be fatal! Don’t use seat belts!”


A short post today, but we will make up for it tomorrow, when we publish 26 pages about Hahn’s lies.  Stay tuned.

Beware: e-cigarette vapor contains (gasp!) air.

posted by Carl V. Phillips

We continue Ellen Hahn week here at Anti-THR Lies (not to be confused with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, since only one of them is about a single-minded evolutionary throwback whose actions are likely to kill hundreds of people every year if left unchecked).  We already addressed the rhetoric from her anti-e-cigarette poster, which is designed to trick people into being irrationally fearful about common chemicals.  This includes, specifically, the common (as in: found in pretty much everything in the biosphere) organic chemicals, acetone and xylene.  But how much of those chemicals is actually found in e-cigarette liquid or vapor?

The particular source that Hahn cites in her recent advocacy paper (which is the only reference in the poster and is consistent with other study results) found a concentration of less than 1/1000th of NIH’s recommended exposure limit for acetone in the air, close to 1/10,000th of the OSHA limit.  There are arguments that these limits are a bit too high, especially for some sensitive people, but not 1000 times too high.  Moreover, those US government specified limits are for someone’s average exposure throughout the day, so the exposure from vaping needs to be averaged across the entire day for comparison, making it far less than a one millionth of the exposure that is considered worrisome.   The ratios for xylene are a bit lower still.

In case Hahn simply does not understand what these numbers mean, the author of the study she cited (and thus what she implicitly claims is a sufficient source of information about this topic unambiguously concluded that these his results show there is no unexpected risk from this exposure.   So Hahn has no room to plead ignorance.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate that Hahn’s claim — that people should worry about e-cigarettes because of these two chemicals — is a blatant lie, however, is not a comparison to recommended maximum limits, but a comparison to air.  The concentrations of these chemicals in e-cigarette vapor — again, using those 2008 numbers — was only a few times higher than what is found in the outdoor air that most of us breathe.  A lot of what was measured was from the air, in other words, especially because the indoor air in a research facility might have concentrations many times as high as outdoor air.

Since these chemicals are at only slightly higher concentrations than the air, and since someone’s total volume of vapor intake is so small, when someone takes a pull on an e-cigarette and then tops it off with a full breath, most of the acetone and xylene in their airways is from the air, not the e-cigarette.  Someone who doubles their breathing rate for a minute or two, say by walking briskly or speaking, takes in more extra acetone and xylene than they would from a vaping session.

What is more, a more recent study found that the concentration of xylene the vapor was indistinguishable from that of the air.  That is, basically all of the measured xylene was contributed by the primary ingredient of vapor (air) rather than the additional contributions from the e-cigarette itself.

If Hahn was really worried about acetone exposure, she would be trying to shut down nail salons (where it often exceeds OSHA standards for the workers, and customers and innocent passers-by are exposed) not vaping.  But, of course, she does not really care.  She is just hunting for sciency-sounding anti-THR lies.

Those evil nitrosamines

posted by Carl V Phillips (with input from CASAA board)

Continuing the analysis of the lie-filled poster about e-cigarettes that Ellen Hahn and her people have been posting around the University of Kentucky campus:

In the cartridge: Nitrosamines. Known carcinogens.

Nitrosamines, or more particularly, two chemicals in the class known as “tobacco specific nitrosamines” (TSNAs) are a favorite target of anti-THR liars.  Mostly this is focused on anti-smokeless-tobacco efforts (as in the quote from the first entry in the series), which this series will get to later.  Those claims are bad enough, but the nitrosamine claims about e-cigarettes are even more absurd.

The basis for these claims is that when the FDA was seeking to completely ban e-cigarettes in the US (which a federal judge did not let them do), the agency produced a piece of rhetoric, disguised as science, in which they analyzed e-cigarette liquid down to the technological limits of detection, and found a few molecules of TSNAs.  The presence of this trace contamination was inevitable because the medical-grade nicotine used in e-cigarettes is derived from tobacco, and the process of extracting it will pick up a tiny little bit of contamination from other molecules that are also present in the plant.

The contamination is in the parts-per-billion (ppb) range, and it has never been detected in the vapor (though inevitably there are a few molecules there, as there are most everywhere).  To put that in perspective, Western smokeless tobacco, which does not cause cancer to a measurable degree, contains TSNAs in the parts-per-million (ppm) range — that is, about a thousand times as much.

This is another version of the chemophobia ploy, with the added rhetoric of the word “carcinogen”.  The honest statement is, “in very high concentrations these chemicals have been shown to cause cancer in animals, and it is hypothesized (though far from proven) that when they are in smokeless tobacco in the 100 ppm range, they cause a small but detectable risk for cancer; modern Western smokeless tobacco is in the 10 or 1 ppm range, and any cancer risk from it is too small to be measured; the concentration in e-cigarette liquid is in the .01 ppm range.”  But, of course, most people who read this simple statement “contains carcinogens” will think that there is evidence that using this product causes a substantial risk of cancer.  That is what the liars are counting on, whether they are trying to scare people about from tobacco, foods, pesticides, or whatever.

Well, that is what the liars who want to be able to claim “I did not actually say it causes cancer” count on.  Hahn — to her credit, I have to say — was willing to lie overtly rather than playing that weasel game.  The full quote:

In the cartridge: Nitrosamines. Known carcinogens. That means it causes cancer.

There is something a bit refreshing about such an out-and-out lie.

Not so refreshing is the hypocrisy:  Recall that the TSNAs are a trace contaminant of medical-grade nicotine.  What else uses medical grade nicotine?  The pharmaceutical nicotine products — gums, patches, lozenges — that Hahn aggressively pushes smokers to use.  In fact, the level of contamination found in e-cigarettes is about the same as is found in those products, and has never been found to exceed the allowable tolerances for them.

Now that is some seriously bold lying!


posted by Carl V Phillips (with input from CASAA board)

Another classic anti-THR lie that dates back to the early days of anti-THR is the “list the chemicals” ploy.  When I first started documenting the lies, one favorite was an oft-copied list of chemicals that could be found in smokeless tobacco, along with a scary example of where else each could be found.  For example, “acetone, found in nail polish remover” or “water, found in the smallpox virus and used as a torture tool by the US government”.  The most memorable was “cadmium, found in car batteries”, which was funny because this appeared consistently in the lists, even though car batteries (unlike many rechargeable small batteries) do not use cadmium, and so any cadmium in them is — as with smokeless tobacco — a trace contaminant.

Of course, I was joking about them mentioning the water and the various nasty things it is a part of.  It illustrates the dishonest of their rhetoric:  Every relatively common chemical is a key ingredient in something nasty, and every relatively common chemical can be found in almost everything.  By “relatively common”, I mean basically any of the thousands of chemicals whose name a well-read non-chemist has ever heard.

Imagine my lack of shock when I discovered that the University of Kentucky’s Ellen J. Hahn was using this paleolithic tactic.  In the poster that we started discussing yesterday, she claims that e-cigarettes contain several specific chemicals and then tries to make that sound like it matters.  Putting off the issues of quantity and other more specific points, consider just the rhetoric:  “In the vapor: Acetone and Xylene. Nail polish remover and paint thinner?  You’re going to breathe that?”

Cute game there, never actually making a statement:  Not “you should not breathe that”, but “you are going to?”  Similarly, that first question mark might be a way of pretending to not be lying by pretending it is merely a question (sometimes known as the Fox News tactic):  “Is something that contains a tiny bit of these chemicals similar to nail polish remover and paint thinner?  No, of course not.”;  compare: “Ellen Hahn, a cannibal?  No of course not.  Or at least I confidently conclude even though I do not have definitive proof, since I am capable of sensible scientific reasoning.”

So, even though it does not actually make any health claims or recommendations, does this series of vague and weirdly punctuated words constitute a lie (or two or three)?  Absolutely.  The message is clearly intended to be, “breathing e-cigarette vapor is similar to breathing fumes from nasty solvents” or even “you would be as stupid to vape an e-cigarette as you would to huff paint thinner like a kid in a third-world slum.”  There is no honest content whatsoever in the invocation of what these chemicals are sometimes used for; this information is irrelevant, but the reader is led to assume it is meaningful and to draw the obvious conclusion about what it means.  The only reason for including those words is to mislead the reader.

Oh, and incidentally, xylene is an uncommon choice as a paint thinner.  The most commonly used paint thinner is water.  And every year, almost 400,000 people die from inhaling water.

“There is no evidence….”

posted by Carl V Phillips (with contributions from CASAA Board)

A favorite anti-THR lie is to claim there is no evidence of something when there is actually a lot of very compelling evidence.  If pushed, such liars generally try to weasel out of their claim by saying “well, I meant no evidence of one particular type.”  Sometimes they will try to claim that only one particular type of evidence is informative (and they might even believe that — but that just means they have no business claiming to understand science, and so are lying about that).

For example: “we cannot be sure that smoking causes cancer because there are no randomized trials that show that.”  Yes, we are saying that the anti-THR liars of 2012 are borrowing the tactic used by cigarette companies in 1970.

The anti-THR liar who is currently at the top of the charts (though we predict she will be a one-hit-wonder) is the University of Kentucky’s Ellen J. Hahn, so we will feature her lies for a few days.  Some of them appear in this poster put out by her “Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy”.  (Contrary to its mission, this Center appears to be mostly focused on anti-THR, and so is effectively a pro-smoking organization.)

Hahn has produced and distributed this poster without admitting authorship (personally or in the name of her Center — notice that she made up a new name for her organization to try to hide the connection), making it pretty clear that she knows these lies are so bald-faced that even she does not want to be associated with them.  However, she did prominently post it at her Centers website, which makes the subterfuge rather obvious.

Today we will address just the “There’s no evidence of this.”  (We will not try to figure out why someone would use a contraction for “there is” in a written document.)  We will continue with the other lies from that poster tomorrow.

Anyone at all familiar with this topic knows that there is loads of evidence that e-cigarettes cause people to quit smoking.  There are hundreds of thousands of former smokers who now use e-cigarettes instead.  That alone would lead any honest person who understood scientific reasoning to conclude that they help some people quit.  There is simply no possible way that every one of those switchers, had they not discovered e-cigarettes, would have just quit smoking at the same time they switched; it would be utterly absurd to suggest that.  Moreover, there are countless testimonies from such people who declare that they are quite sure they would not have quit — already, and perhaps ever — had they not found e-cigarettes.

The presumed response to that (if anti-THR people ever dared stand up and try to defend their claims instead of hiding behind their propaganda posters and talking only to each other) would be, “but that information is not from organized scientific studies, and they are especially not from randomized trials, so it does not ‘count’!”  It is important that we do not let the pseudo-scientists that make such claims and thereby distract us from the scientific intuition that we all acquire as children.  We all know that most knowledge does not come from organized studies of the type that are used to, say, figure out whether one particular chemotherapy agent works better than another.  That type of study accounts for only a tiny fraction of all the scientific knowledge we have.  This is especially true for mass social phenomenon, like the decisions of free-living people to quit smoking, which are pretty much impossible to study in that way.

It turns out that even the “but there are no formal studies” claim is a factual falsehood in this case.  There are a few lab studies in which smokers were given e-cigarettes.  But we should not make the mistake — that the liars and innumerate non-scientists might make and then cause others to make — of thinking that these small, highly artificial observations are more informative than the observation of what people are actually doing.  It is reassuring that these studies come to the same conclusion we derive from observing the population.  But the best scientific evidence you can ever have that something happens in the real world is observation of it happening, hundreds of thousands of times, in the real world.