With Big Tobacco forced to admit the real nature smoking, Dr. Sally Satel claims the CDC should do the right thing and acknowledge their concerns over vaping were overblown
In a recent post on the American Enterprise Institute’s website, Yale Psychiatrist, Dr. Sally Satel lampooned the CDC and Surgeon General for what she calls, “public health malpractice.” In her damning editorial, she compares the “corrective statements” required of Big Tobacco for misleading the public about tobacco’s risk, to the similar misleading statements about the benefits of vaping. These Big Tobacco corrective statements stem from a 1999 lawsuit by the federal government seeking to force tobacco manufacturers to own up to their nearly 50 years of misinformation. While Dr. Satel agrees that this was the right move, even if it did take almost 20 years for them to comply with the ruling, she feels that it is also about time that the CDC owned up to their purposeful smearing of vaping over the last decade.
According to Dr. Satel, now is the perfect time for the CDC and Surgeon General’s office to admit they attempted to scare the public away from vaping, even though they had no evidence equating the dangers of smoking with vaping. As public health institutions, they are supposed to be primarily concerned with disseminating valid and relevant information. By choosing not too, they especially hurt the smokers who have trouble quitting using traditional nicotine replacement therapies. The CDC’s decision to suppress information about another viable and much less harmful alternative directly lead to many more preventable deaths.
This misinformation was the norm in the CDC for as long as Dr. Tom Frieden was there according to Dr. Satel. She claims that under his leadership, the CDC would consistently overblow the “unknowns” while completely ignoring the growing research that proves a significant benefit of vaping over smoking. This includes a policy of equating vaping with smoking whenever possible. But as we know, vaping and smoking are very different. For starters, smoking burns tobacco, which is the source of most carcinogens found in tobacco smoke.
According to Dr. Satel, it’s not just the CDC either. Former US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report last year that postulated vaping is a gateway to smoking for teenagers. But most research into this concern finds that the overwhelming majority of teens who pick up vaping had already been smoking. According to the 2014 Monitoring the Youth survey, only 0.7% of teens who had never smoked, reported regularly using e-cigarettes. Not just that, but the same report found 65% of teens who had vaped only used nicotine free e-liquids. According to Dr. Satel, It’s also worth mentioning that the youth smoking rate is at historic lows. This trend has continued with the explosion of vaping over the last ten years. But nowhere will you find the CDC or Surgeon General suggest that vaping could be improving these statistics, not putting them at risk.
Making It Right
Dr. Sally Satel thinks making this situation right could be easy if the government simply owns up, and acknowledges, the growing science. The newly headed CDC has begun to change their course, and even now have information on their website that indicates vaping is a viable alternative for adults as long as they switch entirely. But unfortunately, this information is not readily available; it’s instead hidden on the back pages of their website.
She used the UK as a prime example of how to properly treat vaping. When Public Health England came out and said that vaping is 95% safer than smoking, most every other part of the government immediately got on board, and now vaping is even promoted during their annual “stoptober” campaign.
The government is forcing big tobacco to pay for ads that acknowledge something that most people already know at this point, that smoking is very detrimental to your health. So why then are they not following suit and owning up to their dismissal of vaping now that many reputable researchers back it as a valuable harm reduction tool? According to Dr. Satel, this is vital if the government actually wants to reduce the death and disease caused by smoking every year. As she said in her post, “Big Tobacco’s well-documented sins do not excuse public authorities from their duty to tell the public the truth.”
Do you think the government should have to issue their own “corrective statements” over the dangers of vaping? Do you think that this would make a big difference in public perception of e-cigarettes? What can we do to fight the suppression of relevant information by government agencies? Let us know in the comments.