E-cigarette users outraged by NBC Connecticut Report
Morning news reporter Debra Alfarone over at NBC Connecticut published a story on Tuesday titled "Call it E-Puffing, But Don't Do it Indoors" which has caused a bit of outrage on some electronic cigarette forums. Vapers , the term e-cigarette users prefer to call themselves, seem to disagree very strongly with some of the "experts" quoted in this story and question why NBC would bury the opinions of truly impartial e-cigarette experts in favor of those people heavily dependent to the pharmaceutical industry for their funding.
First up is Michelle Marichal of the American Cancer Society, listed on ct.gov as the contact person for their helpline, who was asked "if e-cigs are safer than old fashioned cigs" and was quoted as saying:
the jury’s still out.
"We're reluctant because there have been no studies done except for one small one by the FDA, and that was an initial study and what it found is that these e-cigarettes contain carcinogens. They contain toxic chemicals like those found in antifreeze."
Now while Marichal is incorrect that the FDA's is the only study that has been done and she failed to mention that the FDA's own findings showed levels of carcinogens lower than or comparable to those contained in nicotine replacement therapies like the patch or the gum and far lower than the nicotrol inhaler, technically she is right about the handful of carcinogens that were found in "very low amounts" according to the FDA report.
What has vapers upset is that a representative of the American Lung Association, an organization that reportedly accepts millions of dollars each year in funding from drug companies, is helping to spread the misinformation that all e cigs contain chemicals found in anti freeze, which was not what the FDA study concluded.
Vapers know that out of the 18 cartridges from two manufacturers that the FDA sampled only one contained less than 1% of DEG, indeed a component of antifreeze, but just about everyone except for the anti smoking campaign propaganda writers had long ago concluded that this was a contaminated sample that is hardly representative of all e-cigarette juice.
Vapers seem to feel that continuing to spread the untrue rumor that all e-cigs contain toxic chemicals found in antifreeze is irresponsible and an embarrassment to the reputation of the ALA and raises concern about whose interests they actually serve with such comments.
As one commenter RothenBJ said:
Michelle Marichal, you and your "health" association should be embarrassed. If you read the FDA report, instead of repeating the FDA sound bites, you'd know that they are as safe as the Pharmaceutical products you push for profit. Also, anyone can find information on various other studies that have been done. You do a disservice to the people you are supposedly trying to help, or are you just the consumer lobbyist for the Drug Companies?
However, it was not the misinformed comments made by the American Lung Association that really got vapers angry, but rather those of a doctor, namely Dr. Cheryl Oncken of the University of Connecticut who was quoted as saying:
"They have this propalene glycol in them in the part that's vaporized, and even though that's a chemical that’s in foods, it's not known what happens when people inhale that. So the problem is we just don’t have enough information," she said.
Many vapers like JanetDA correctly pointed out that "propylene glycol has been used for years in theatrical fog machines and is generally recognized as safe by the FDA." not to mention its use in various drug, asthma and nicotine inhalers as well, but what really got peoples e-juices flowing, so to speak, were the doctor's comments on flavors which directly mimic antismoking activist propaganda:
"I don't know what adult who is already addicted to cigarettes wants to pick up a bubble gum flavor e-cigarette. So it's obvious that it's a ploy to get younger people to start smoking these e-cigarettes," she said.
Reader LindaJS53 retorted
"It's mind-boggling how an educated person can be so ignorant. Do a little research before claiming that e-cigs are being targeted to teens with flavors like bubblegum. Many adults enjoy the variety of flavors available for e-cigs."
and another reader, SmokeyJoe, went further with his outrage commenting
"What an outrageous statement! No evidence whatsoever, just a speculation described as "obvious". In actual fact, I love bubblegum flavor, and I'm 31. I know of zero suppliers whose aim is to sell to the underaged - zero. The target market for e-cigarettes is 30 and upwards. Look at the damned facts, please. Sorry, but there's so much."
The article does later mention, albeit in the second to last paragraph, that the American Association of Public Health Physicians, the association of physicians who operate state health programs across the United States, "just announced they think e-cigs could save 4 million smoker’s lives within the next 20 years." but many vapers question why the opinions of such an impressive array of doctors was subjugated to a single sentence at the bottom of the article while the opinions of Dr. Oncken were given the limelight.
What angers vapers most about this particular "expert" is the article failed to mention the close relationship of Dr. Oncken with the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Oncken is considered far from an impartial third party in regards to e-cigs because much of her research funding comes directly from the companies whose products she is endorsing while cautioning people to steer clear of e-cigarettes, which may be the first real competition big pharma has ever seen in the smoking cessation market and a technology they are working hard to discredit.
The Archives of Internal Medicine, in their financial disclosure section of a report authored by Dr. Oncken regarding Varenicline, also known as Chantix, a drug manufactured by the Pfizer corporation which has come under fire recently for it's often serious and even deadly reported side effects, clearly shows where her funding for this study and others comes from.
Financial Disclosure: Dr Oncken has received research grants, consulting fees, and honoraria from Pfizer; nicotine replacement and placebo products from GlaxoSmithKline at no cost for smoking cessation studies; and honoraria from Pri-Med.
To cast even more doubt on the results of this study and the opinions of it's participants in regards to Pfizer products, the entire study was not only funded, but designed by Pfizer:
Role of the Sponsor: Pfizer Inc was involved in all elements of this study, including, but not limited to, the study design and monitoring.
Another study, this time one for nicotine gum for pregnant smokers published in the October 2008 issue 4 of "Obstetrics & Gynecology" further reveals Dr. Oncken's close financial ties to Pfizer:
Financial Disclosure: Dr. Oncken has received consulting fees and honoraria from Pfizer (New York, NY) for advisory board meetings. She has received at no cost nicotine and/or placebo products from Glaxo-SmithKline (Philadelphia, PA) for smoking-cessation studies (ie, for pregnant women, postmenopausal women). She has received grant funding from Pfizer and from Nabi Biopharmaceuticals (Boca Raton, FL).
All of this does raise the question of why NBC Connecticut chose to highlight the opinions of "experts" so closely indebted to the companies who make the products they endorse while completely burying the opinions of totally impartial expert opinions like the American Association of Public Health Physicians.
Vapers are quick to point out the AAPHP not only accepts no funding from drug companies for their opinions and feel e-cigarettes can save millions of lives, but also have gone so far as to author a 21 page petition outlining their reasoning and research that supports why they are asking the FDA to act in the public interest and classify e-cigs as tobacco products and forgo any attempts to ban their sale or to classify them as drug devices which is what anti smoking groups and the pharmaceutical industry have lobbied for.
As NBC Connecticut ended their piece "Call it another page in an e-controversy." Although vapers might say a very one sided controversy unfairly weighted with the views of drug company funded experts over those charged with the public's heath who have no financial interests at stake.