The Real Reason for the Anti-ECig Campaign: Money, What Else!
The Debate Over Electronic Cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes have become hugely popular in recent years as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes. In fact, most e-cig users began using the devices to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.
The potential for electronic cigarettes to be used as an effective smoking cessation tool has caused an uproar among anti-smoking organizations, who claim that e-cigs should be banned.
We are confused as to why anti-smoking organizations oppose electronic cigarettes, especially since there is a substantial body of research that shows the benefits of using electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking tobacco.
But first, are electronic cigarettes more effective than other smoking cessation methods?
Success Rates of Traditional Smoking Cessation Devices
While more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of the electronic cigarette as a smoking cessation tool, previous studies have found that e-cigs may be more effective at helping people quit smoking tobacco cigarettes than other smoking cessation devices.
As reported on this blog, a recent study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that two-thirds (66.8%) of the 222 smokers surveyed smoked less after using e-cigarettes for six months, nearly half (48.8%) quit smoking cigarettes for a period of time, and almost a third (31%) quit smoking completely.
The fact that nearly half of the electronic cigarette users in this study quit smoking tobacco cigarettes within six months of using the device is astounding, given that less than 10% of smokers in America who seriously try to quit are successful at it.
On the contrary, traditional smoking cessation programs tend to have dismal success rates, varying between 19 and 27 percent. According to the Surgeon General, nicotine gum has a success rate of 27 percent, followed by 25 percent with an inhaler, 23 percent with the nicotine patch, and 19 percent with nicotine gum (short-term use).
Drugs (such as Varenicline, Bupropion, Clonidine, and Nortriptyline) have success rates similar to those of nicotine replacement therapies, but many people who have tried these report adverse side-effects, including depression, agitation, changes in behavior, and suicidal ideation.
Several anti-smoking organizations have spoken out against electronic cigarettes. The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids issued a joint policy statement calling for a ban on electronic cigarettes.
Other organizations would also like to limit or ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, including Action on Smoking and Health, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Legacy Foundation.
Why do anti-smoking organizations oppose electronic cigarettes even if people are more likely to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes with e-cigs than with other nicotine replacement products?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question may be linked to money.
What these organizations haven’t disclosed in their policy statements are the substantial financial contributions they receive from big pharmaceutical companies. These pharmaceutical companies make billions from the sale of smoking cessation devices (which often have terrible success rates).
Dr. Michael Siegel, Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, reported this conflict of interest, noting that anti-smoking groups received nearly $2.8 million from Pfizer since last year, and $1.4 million from GlaxoSmithKline since 2009.
Here is a breakdown of Pfizer’s financial contributions to anti-smoking groups:
American Academy of Pediatrics: $720,800
American Cancer Society: $252,750
American Heart Association: $136,000
American Lung Association: $190,250
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: $100,000
American Medical Association: $857,500
American Legacy Foundation: $300,000
Action on Smoking and Health: $200,000
GRAND TOTAL: $2,757,300
And here is a breakdown of GlaxoSmithKline’s contributions to anti-smoking groups:
American Cancer Society: $602,010
American Lung Association: $143,461
Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence: $5,000
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: $400,000
American Heart Association: $115,000
American Medical Association: $15,000
American Academy of Pediatrics: $65,075
American Legacy Foundation: $10,000
GRAND TOTAL: $1.36 million
If anti-smoking groups are making millions of dollars for promoting the smoking cessation devices of pharmaceutical companies, can they really be objective in assessing the benefits of electronic cigarettes?
At the very least, we should be skeptical about what anti-smoking groups say about e-cigs.
More Alternatives, Not Fewer
We want people to quit smoking tobacco just like everyone else, but we want to give people as many alternatives as possible.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 6 million people die from tobacco-related diseases each year.
With so much pain and suffering caused by tobacco, smokers should have access to as many smoking alternatives as possible so that they can live healthier, happier lives.
Millions of e-cig users have spoken, and they want electronic cigarettes here for good. We should embrace the positive changes that electronic cigarette users are making to their lives by increasing access to e-cigs rather than limiting it.