Anti-Vaping Researchers Called Out for Misleading Cancer Exaggerations by New York Times Columnist

By opposing e-cigarettes, anti-tobacco activists are very likely killing people



Last week, my colleague Jacob Sullum questioned a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine purporting to show that vaping is more dangerous than smoking actual cigarettes. The reason? Because vaping at high voltage produces high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde. The New England Journal of Medicine even tweeted: "Chemical analysis of e-cigs' vapor show high levels of formaldehyde," it read. "Authors project higher cancer risk than smoking."

But as Sullum pointed out, most people avoid vaping at high voltage because it produces very unpleasant flavors. Naturally, an uncritical media ran with scary headlines like "Study: E-cigarettes could be more deadly than regular cigarettes." Sullum thoroughly debunks those claims.

Today, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera takes on that study and more or less forces one of the researchers to back down on the claims. From the column:

When I spoke to David Peyton, one of the study's authors, he insisted that the study had been mischaracterized. All it was meant to do, he said, was compare the levels of formaldehyde in e-cigarettes versus cigarettes. "It is exceedingly frustrating to me that we are being associated with saying that e-cigarettes are more dangerous than cigarettes," he added. "That is a fact not in evidence." Well, maybe.

When I read him the tweet from the New England Journal of Medicine — "Authors project higher cancer risk than smoking" — he sounded horrified. "I didn't see the tweet," he said. "I regret that. That is not my opinion."

"There is a lot we don't yet know about e-cigarettes," said Peyton toward the end of our conversation. He is right about that; e-cigarettes are still so new that they need to be studied carefully. And he and his co-authors are planning further studies. Perhaps the next time, they will produce something that doesn't serve mainly as a scare tactic to keep smokers away from e-cigarettes.

As I noted earlier this month, a December 2014 editorial in the journal BMC Medicine flatly stated:

Although there is no doubt that smokers switching to electronic cigarettes (EC) substantially reduce the risk to their health, some tobacco control activists and health organisations discourage smokers from using EC and lobby policy makers to reduce EC use by draconian regulation.

The hostility to EC may be related to a moral belief that nicotine use should be eradicated rather than allowed to morph into a relatively harmless activity. If EC are allowed to compete with cigarettes and develop further, smoking is likely to all but disappear. Discouraging smokers from making the switch and reducing EC competitiveness with cigarettes by unwarranted regulation will delay this opportunity or squander it altogether.

In fact, there is now sufficient evidence available for health professionals to recommend to smokers who cannot stop smoking with existing treatments or do not want to do so, to try several types of e-cigarettes to see if they can find one meeting their needs.

By opposing e-cigarettes, anti-tobacco activists are very likely killing the people they claim they want to help

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  1. Isn’t there also the possibility that tobacco companies are behind some of the e-cigarette scare stories? Like they’re saying, “…don’t jump out of our frying pan into that terrible fire…”

    1. its possible. existing tobacco companies are already investing in ecigs, although that doesnt rule out their lobbyibg plans. frankly, ive supported a number of “big tobacco” positions – for example their push to replace dozens of municipal smoking bans im california with a single state wide ban.

      1. Sounds like you like big government solutions. How about we ban alcohol statewide as well?

  2. RN: Please send me any evidence for that you come across. Really.

    1. Substantiation is for chumps…I’m sticking with vague, but plausible accusations. Let the other guys disprove it.

    2. Substantiation is for chumps…I’m sticking with vague, but plausible accusations. Let the other guys disprove it.

    3. Really Ive never heard such a thing. The last tine BT was in California was to defeat the Nazis tobacco tax prop something and was defeated 2 to 1.

  3. One of the first modern PR campaigns of the 20th century, authored by Bernays himself, was intended to get women to take up cigarette smoking.

    The tobacco companies promoted women’t suffrage and worked to get cigarette smoking associated with women’s liberation.

    The tobacco industry is no stranger to slick PR campaigns.

    1. Except Bernays went to work for ASH back in the day and helped them set up their anti-tobacco propaganda mill.

      BT has as much right to advertise their product as anyone else does………..and to offer counter evidence against claims and when BT said theres no proof smoking causes any disease they weren’t lying………….

      7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
      November 2004.

      “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”

  4. By opposing e-cigarettes, anti-tobacco activists are very likely killing the people they claim they want to help

    I think you’re missing the point; this has literally nothing to do with stroking my power-boner.

    1. anti-tobacco activists are very likely killing the people they claim they want to help

      In my experiences with tobacco activists, for many of them that’s a feature and not a bug.

      1. What do your esperiences with tobacco activists have to do with anti tobacco activists ?

        1. My apologies, I was referring to my experiences with anti-tobacco activists.

    2. Not 1 Death or Sickness Etiologically Assigned to Tobacco. All the diseases attributed to smoking are also present in non smokers. It means, in other words, that they are multifactorial, that is, the result of the interaction of tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of factors, either known or suspected contributors – of which smoking can be one.

      Here’s my all-time favorite “scientific” study of the the anti-smoking campaign: “Lies, Damned Lies, & 400,000 Smoking-Related Deaths,” Robert A. Levy and Rosalind B. Marimont, Journal of Regulation, Vol. 21 (4), 1998.

      You can access the article for free on the Cato Institute’s wesbite, Cato.org. This article neither defends nor promotes smoking. Rather it condemns the abuse of statistics to misinform and scare the public. Levy, by the way taught Statistics for Lawyers at Georgetown University Law School. There is also a popular law school class called How to Lie With Statistics.

  5. No mention of taxes (yet) on EC’s.
    EC’s have to be established to be as deadly as cigarettes (otherwise politicians imposing the tax are accused of killing their constituents by making them as expensive as cigarettes)
    Once established, they’re free to impose taxes. (They can do it without establishing the harm of EC’s, but the more cover they have, the better)
    Taxes are used to fund health organization studies on the evils of EC’s to replace the studies on the evils of cigarettes (as use declines)
    Any remaining funds are used to study the decline of the tobacco industry and provide subsidies to same

  6. E-Cigs are in with the Asian crowd (who smoke as much as the Irish drink), and sure enough, trendy Asian hangouts have now banned vaping in their store and politely asking customers not to vape outside of their store.

  7. E-cigarettes are new, so will continue to scare people a little bit. It’s always the way with revolutionary things.
    This article has nice balance, and to me is an example of how people are starting to see the phenomenal potential of these things.
    This time last year finding an article like this was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

  8. I easily quit smoking cigarettes after switching to smoking e-cigs for a short period of a couple months. Best thing ever.

    1. Most smokers I know just stomach the device indoors until they can get outdoors to have a real smoke.

      1. That’s sort of how I got started.

  9. Ukip to introduce 35p tax rate and allow smoking in pubs

    As well as vowing to pull out of the European Union, Ukip has pledged to ‘reinstate British territorial waters’ while cutting welfare payments and restricting social…

  10. just before I saw the bank draft four $7417 , I did not believe that…my… sister was like actualie receiving money part time from their laptop. . there friend brother had bean doing this 4 only six months and just paid for the mortgage on there place and purchased a new Honda NSX .
    read this post here======= http://www.jobsfish.com

  11. He is right about that; e-cigarettes are still so new that they need to be studied carefully.

    *Quick* Get a grant proposal together!

  12. Fucking Progs…But we HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!!

    1. That’s what I meant about my quote above.

      Even when we acknowledge that our elected representatives are blatantly making up bullshit taking inappropriate action based on their bullshit, we still acknowledge that *something* needs to be done.

      What little data there is has been twisted and used incorrectly! We need more data!

  13. Now if they could only do a similar debunking analysis on gun grabber “studies”.

  14. I wonder if the anti-vaccine crowd and the anti-ecig crowd hang out together.

  15. If only they could find it in their hearts to be antisocial, we wouldn’t have an outbreak of stupid.

  16. E-cigarettes are intended to look like cigarettes. When the smoker breathes on it, the system distributes a mist of liquid, flavorings and nicotine, which feels something like smoke. It is often sold as a way to quit smoking, but many studies shown that it can cause short-term lung changes and the safety of the products is still unknown. The FDA study found cancer-causing materials in half the samples tested along with impurities like diethylene glycol etc. Thus, it is still unclear that whether it’s safe or not.

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