On lies, science, and vaping.
One of the sad side effects of the recent popularity of e-cigs and lawmaker’s head-first race to the bottom in order to be seen as “doing something about it” is that a stable of commentators seems to have sprung up out of the woodwork to lie about them.
For every bit of good news like scientists’ letter to the WHO (which I have discussed here), and local newspaper’s evident understanding that vaping is mainstream, there are still people, like Roy M. Beveridge (as I have noted here), who have taken it upon themselves to say, despite the lack of evidence, that vaping is bad for you.
One recent example of this is Stephen Glantz, who wrote a letter to the WHO “critiquing” the moderate and liberal views of the 53 scientists who urged this global health organization to encourage research on, and the usage of, electronic cigarettes. Glantz writes that it is a “success” for public health when countries ban the import of e-cigarettes and e-liquids.
The open-letter response by the original signatories does an impressive job of debunking the misinformation that Glantz has disseminated, showing that he has failed to adequately review the extant literature on the subject, does not understand the benefits of dual-use smoking, misrepresents clear evidence, and fails to understand that even marginally better outcomes are better than the present situation.
Not counting the many others who signed their name to Glantz’ letter, and setting aside for the moment the present situation with the FDA and the CDC, it is evident that there are a number of people invested somehow in public health who do not seem to understand the Hippocratic Oath.
It’s hard to say why this is the case, but as public debates heat up around the world, and as research on the effects of electronic cigarettes becomes more widespread, we must be careful to read both the “bad” press and the “good” press with a grain of salt. Although both the upswing in the popularity of vaping and the results of scientific research are on our side, good research is so difficult and time-consuming that it takes a substantial amount of time for strong, replicable results, to come to fruition. In the meanwhile, there are many, many groups who have cast their lots against vaping, largely arguing on the basis of lack of evidence that it ought to be made illegal.
Mind you, if even Phillip Morris can see the writing on the wall with respect to public opinion and acceptance of vaping, maybe its high time anti-tobacco advocates came clean and recognized that lying to people, or misleading them, is not a good way to establish credibility. Knee-jerk reactions are usually defeated by careful reasoning, so as you read more about this important topic, follow the evidence as best you can and assess claims for yourself. Even if it seems difficult, you don’t want to make decisions about your health based on bad information.