Public health expert accuses CDC of ‘concealing and suppressing’ vaping data

The vaping industry has been battling a series of attacks in recent months from public health agencies, the mainstream media, and Big Tobacco lobbyists.  Fortunately, several members of the scientific and academic communities are finally stepping up to separate facts from fiction.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been falsely claiming for almost four years now that teen vaping is a national “epidemic” while failing to acknowledge that both teenage and adult smoking rates are at all-time lows.  So when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first began hearing in lmid-2019 of a mysterious lung disorder allegedly affecting some 2,000 youth vapers across 29 states,  CDC officials were quick to place the blame squarely on the backs of the legal, nicotine-based vapes industry.

Related Article:  New JAMA study shows changes in public perception of vaping vs smoking

Over the next six months or so, the CDC consistently spread misinformation about the disorder, especially through mainstream media.  Press releases would warn the general population to avoid the use of all vaping products, even though public health officials knew almost immediately that the real threat was the usage of Black Market cartridges containing THC  and laced with a dilutive called Vitamin E acetate.

Siegel allegations of a ‘CDC cover-up’ emerge


It would take months for the truth to come out, thanks largely to vaping advocacy organizations like the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) and to public health experts like Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University.  In late August 2019 when the outbreak of lung injuries was first making the news, Siegel blasted the CDC for being “unintentionally vague” about the alleged lung disease, its causes, and its symptoms in an interview with USA Today

“Based on what we know now, I think there’s enough to tell people: Don’t vape THC oils – especially products that are bought off the street…There are certain things the agency could be recommending right now that could potentially save lives and prevent this from happening by being much more specific…
“There are millions of people vaping out there…When they get this advice ‘Well, we don’t know what it is; it’s vaping,’ that doesn’t help anyone. So, I think they need to try to be specific."

Siegel’s public disgust with the CDC would open the door for other scientists to express their outrage about the “vaping related” respiratory disorder which the CDC would quickly nickname EVALI - e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury. Yet, the CDC still refused to warn the American People that THC-enhanced cartridges – not nicotine-based vapes – were the real danger to public health.  Meanwhile over the course of only a few short months, an astonishing 68 people would lose their lives to the disorder.

Related Article:  International scientists group accuse WHO of ‘dogmatic hostility’ towards vaping

Through constant public pressure by experts in public health like Siegel, Dr. Brad Rodu of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, and Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Greece, the CDC would eventually be forced to acknowledge the truth.  Nicotine-based vapes are not associated with EVALI in any way whatsoever. On a February 25, 2020, a CDC press release stated the following.

“Due to continued declines in new EVALI cases since September 2019, and the identification of vitamin E acetate as a primary cause of EVALI, today’s release is the final biweekly CDC update on the number of hospitalized EVALI cases and deaths nationally. CDC will continue to provide assistance to states, as needed, related to EVALI and will provide future updates as needed at: www.cdc.gov/lunginjury.”

However, the CDC apparently did something else that began to disturb Siegel.  In an article posted in Tobacco Analysis, Siegel reviews many of the agency’s prior published statements, included data and public warnings about the EVALI outbreak.  Every year, the CDC issues a public report called the National Youth Tobacco Surveys (NTYS). And every year, the survey includes a question related to teenage vaping of cannabis products containing THC.

Related Article:  As more smokers switch to vaping, cancer rates continue to decline

But in the 2019 survey – the year that the EVALLI outbreak actually occurred and where this question would of the utmost relevance - the CDC omitted the question entirely.  Siegel immediately accused the CDC of attempting a “cover-up.” 

“Why would the CDC intentionally take this question off the survey, when it had included the question in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 surveys?...
“The CDC cover-up of the role being played by THC vaping in the youth vaping epidemic has had serious consequences. Arguably, it contributed to the sudden and unexpected outbreak of respiratory disease that took the public health world by storm last year, something that could potentially have been avoided or reduced had health practitioners and agencies throughout the country been aware of the severe health risks being posed by youth THC vaping.”

Why would the CDC fail to include this pertinent data?  Is it indeed a cover-up as Dr. Siegel is suggesting?  Many vaping advocates believe that Big Tobacco and now the legalized marijuana communities hold tremendous political influence over lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels. Labeling THC-containing vapor products as a public health threat may not be in these agencies’ best financial interests.   

Related Article:  Dr. Michael Siegel blasts American Lung Association for lying about vaping

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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