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New study claims FDA is harming public health by spreading misleading info

Posted by Matt Rowland on

A new study released just days ago by two, highly-regarded public health scholars claims that the FDA is perhaps intentionally misleading the American public by spreading misinformation about e-cigs and vaping technology.  The study was published on January 25 by co-authors David T. Sweanor and Lynn T. Kozlowski. in the online medical journal Science Direct.

Sweanor is an Adjunct Professor for the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, Canada, and Kozlowski is an Assistant Professor of Public Health and Health Professions at the University at Buffalo, New York.

The 'FDA's failure to provide comparative risk information is consistent with a major trend.'

The research paper discusses several examples of published FDA research and related marketing campaigns designed to demonize electronic cigarettes.  However, the authors also note that the FDA often forgets to mention the comparative health dangers of e-cigs vs. traditional tobacco products.

“Remarkably, nowhere in the FDA smokeless campaign is it made clear that cigarette smoking is much more dangerous to health than is ST (smokeless tobacco).”

The paper then refers to an example survey (Wackowski & Delnevo, 2016) where participants were asked if they believed e-cigs to be just as harmful as conventional tobacco products, such as conventional cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and snuff. 

      • 58.2% reported that e-cigs and vaping devices had “About the same” risks as conventional tobacco products
      • 31.8% reported that e-cigs and vaping devices are “More risky.
      • Only 7.1% believed that e-cigs are “less risky.”
      • 2.8% answered “Don't Know.”

Understandably, Sweanor and Kozlowski find these statistics incredibly alarming.  They also go on to state that the FDA is failing the American people through an “official avoidance of providing health information on differential risks from tobacco/nicotine products.”

“It is remarkable that about 4 1/2 times as many respondents said ST was ‘More risky’ than cigarettes than less said it was ‘less risky’ than cigarettes; and the large majority (about 93%) did not appear to know that ST was less risky than cigarettes!”
“FDA's failure to provide comparative risk information is consistent with a major trend. For decades in the United States, health authorities have failed to provide accurate differential risk information on tobacco products (Kozlowski and O'Connor, 2003 and Kozlowski and Sweanor, 2016).
“For example, the U.S. Surgeon-General's online ‘Report for Kids’ featured the question, “Is smokeless tobacco safer than cigarettes?” and provided the headline answer, “No Way!” while going on to itemize a list of risks that was much shorter and less deadly than the known lists for cigarettes (Kozlowski & O'Connor, 2003).”

The many claims asserted by co-authors Sweanor and Kozlowski can be further substantiated by a recent survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute which determined that 74 percent of respondents also believed that e-cigs are just as deadly as combustible cigarettes.  Only 9 percent thought the reverse is true.

(Related Article:  FDA ‘clarifies’ stance on synthetic nicotine as a tobacco product)

 


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