CDC caused unwarranted ‘national panic’ over nicotine-based vaping, says tobacco control expert
In early December 2019, Guy Bentley of Consumer Freedom published an article claiming that the CDC was responsible for inciting an unnecessary “national panic” over vaping. As Director for the non-profit organization specializing in the taxation and regulation of nicotine, tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, and food, Bentley felt it was time to speak his mind about what mainstream media was calling a “vaping related” lung disorder.
Like many e-cig enthusiasts and vaping advocates, Bentley was alarmed by the messaging campaign conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the early days of the outbreak. And even after both the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had confirmed that nicotine-based vapor products were not directly linked to the mysterious ailment, the CDC remains ambiguous in its warnings issued to the general public.
The Regulator Watch Interview with Guy Bentley of Consumer Freedom
Then came the Trump vaping ban, and Bentley thought it was time to kick things up a notch. Thanks to an insightful interview with Brent Stafford of Regulator Watch, Bentley now clarifies just how substantial the CDC’s role was in changing public opinion against flavored nicotine-based vaping to such an alarming degree that President Trump mistakenly believed that he had no other choice but to act – and act quickly.
The interview begins with Mr. Stafford referencing a Consumer Freedom article authored by Bentley on December 4 entitled, The CDC Botched Its Vaping Investigation And Helped Spark A National Panic. Near the end of the article, Bentley makes a very ominous prediction about the future of vaping and Big Tobacco. His prediction did indeed come true.
“If the Trump administration or Congress moves ahead with a ban on e-cigarette flavors, the only e-cigarettes left in America will likely be in tobacco flavors sold by tobacco companies. This calamitous situation is in no small part, thanks to the deliberate ambiguity of the CDC.”
Stafford then asks Mr. Bentley to offer more insights into this December 4 article. For background, Bentley lives in the United Kingdom, and when news of the “vaping related” respiratory condition first broke abroad, he was understandable concerned.
“When we started getting reports, many months ago now, about a host of ‘vaping related’ lung illnesses, injuries, and tragically in some consequences, in some cases deaths, we absolutely needed to investigate what was going on here because this was an unprecedented outbreak. It had not been seen in the United States despite vaping having been on the market for around ten years with millions of users, and also, it hadn’t been happening internationally…”
For Guy Bentley, this last point is particularly striking. Vaping is just as popular in Europe as it is in the United States, maybe even more so. In fact, the federal health agency of the UK, Public Health England, promotes the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. The equivalent U.S. agency – the FDA - still refuses to so the same, which makes Mr. Bentley wonder about the ‘botched” CDC investigation even more.
“The problem was not having an investigation. The problem was the CDC’s response in saying that -instead of looking at the majority of association in terms of these cases, in terms of products people were using and in giving them correct advice in terms of what they should use [to vape] and what they shouldn’t use, the CDC gave very broad, blanket advice. For instance, saying that people should refrain from vaping entirely. Now, if your choice is obviously between vaping nicotine and smoking a cigarette, and you might have a strong chance of relapsing to a cigarette, that’s a suboptimal choice for you in terms of your health. “
Mr. Bentley continues by saying that the CDC’s inadequate and misleading response had a devastating effect on public perception about vaping and e-cigarettes. The general public’s view became instantly “clouded,” and many began thinking that ALL vapor products – not just THC-containing cartridges - are causing this “vaping related” death and disease.
THC-containing cartridges laced with Vitamin E acetate – not nicotine-based vapes
As a result of the CDC’s obfuscation and misdirection, the aftermath is a large percentage of the global community being under the mistaken impression that vaping is not as safe as originally thought. In fact, the CDC’s misinformation campaign would almost immediately trigger the country of India to ban vaping nationwide. To many people around the world, vaping now appears to be even more dangerous than smoking.
To illustrate his point further, Bentley discusses the Ebola outbreak last year in the United States. When news began to break of the terminal virus in mainstream media, the CDC got involved very quickly just as they did with the “vaping related” lung scare. The difference, however, was in how the CDC’s messaging about the Ebola virus differed dramatically from that used in the recent THC crisis of last fall.
“The CDC interviewed patients, asked them what they had been eating, and so on. And found that it was a particular kind of lettuce coming from a particular kind of region, and gave thorough advice saying, ‘If you have lettuce that is not labeled, you don’t know where it’s coming from, so on, refrain from eating it.’ They didn’t say, ‘Refrain from eating all lettuce.”
Bentley’s employer, Consumer Freedom, also has a professional relationship with the popular Reason Magazine. On January 1 – just as the social media rumor mill was running rampant with allegations that President Trump had changed his mind and was moving forwards with a vaping ban after all, Reason’s Senior Editor Jacob Sullum sided with Bentley in a podcast published on the magazine’s website. In the corresponding Reason article entitled, Anti-Vaping Panic Will Kill More People Than it Saves, Sullum suggests that the Trump flavor ban will likely drive millions of adult vapers back into the loving arms of Big Tobacco. Forever.
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)