Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health, has once again voiced his opposition to U.S. policies on e-cigarettes and vaping. In a recent article, Dr. Siegel takes on the U.S. surgeon general, accusing Dr. Vivek Murthy of lying to the public because he calls e-cigarettes a tobacco product.
Whether it’s a deliberate lie or an honest mistake on the part of the surgeon general, calling e-cigarettes and e-liquid “tobacco products” is definitely inaccurate. There is no tobacco in e-liquid or in any e-cigarette. The reason that both the surgeon general and the FDA have chosen to include vaping products in the definition of tobacco products appears to be because e-liquid contains nicotine. But if nicotine itself is a tobacco product, and by extension, any product that contains nicotine is also a tobacco product, then some vegetables are also tobacco products; or as Dr. Siegel says, “Under that definition, e-cigarettes are not the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth. Potatoes are.”
E-cigarettes are under fire by many health and government organizations in the U.S., with some of the claims being made going so far as to actually suggest that smokers would be better off staying hooked on tobacco cigarettes. Experts like Dr. Siegel are rightfully appalled at the lies and misinformation being spread by U.S. officials. Theories abound as to the reasons for the anti-vaping campaign, and these theories range from greed to a passionate hatred of smoking that extends to anything that looks like smoking. Whatever the reason for the American misinformation campaign about vaping, Dr. Siegel believes it is detrimental to the public health.
The surgeon general’s false statements and warnings against e-cigarettes were published in JAMA Pediatrics and are featured prominently on the surgeon general’s official website. The warnings against e-cigarettes and claims that they pose a serious health risk to young people made headlines in recent months. But behind all of it, there is no real scientific evidence; only a very faulty study that concluded that teenagers who have tried an e-cigarette are more likely to eventually try smoking than teens who never vaped. That particular study, which Dr. Siegel has gone through with a fine-toothed comb in his writings, actually showed that the majority of vaping teens in the study did not wind up smoking, but was used by the surgeon general’s office to claim the exact opposite. This was done by a careful choosing of words and selective reporting of only one part of the study’s results. Misleading reporting of this kind is common when someone has an agenda.
In the United States, agencies and officials who are supposed to care about the health of all citizens continue to ignore facts and spread misinformation about e-cigarettes, which could prevent many smokers from successfully kicking the cigarette habit by making them believe that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative. Any smoker who is considering switching to e-cigarettes should study all the evidence and not rely on the government to tell them the whole story.