Monday, January 2, 2012

And the Cassie goes to....

Nicknamed the "Cassie," the annual CASAA "Butt-Head of the Year" awards are given to public health professionals and legislators "in recognition of the most creative truth-telling, incredible inaccuracy and exceptional fact-twisting in tobacco harm reduction." These are the winners of 2011:

And the winner of the Cassie (with 56% of the vote) is...
The White House
The Twist: "E-cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans or otherwise harm public health -- for example, if they are attractive to young people and lead kids to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death. Because clinical studies of these products have not been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumers currently have no way of knowing what types or concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals are found in these products, or how much nicotine people inhale when they use these products.

FDA is taking steps, as authorized by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, to include electronic cigarettes under the agency's regulatory authority.


However, in light of the lack of validated scientific data, including a lack of reliable indicators of nicotine and harmful chemical content, FDA cannot at this time conclude that electronic cigarettes are an effective alternative to smoking."

The Truth:
The White House apparently failed to even read one of the heart-felt testimonials of over 5,000 e-cigarette users and had the highly mistrusted FDA answer a submitted petition.  FDA representative Dr. Lawrence R. Deyton, in this carefully worded statement, strongly implied that e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals, would cause youth to start smoking and that there is still not evidence "that electronic cigarettes are an effective alternative to smoking." 



Adding further insult to injury, the FDA recommended petitioners read about the Great American Smokeout, an event run by the American Cancer Society - an organization known to be actively trying to ban e-cigarettes in favor of the NRT products sold by the companies that provide the ACS with a great amount of funding.



There is absolutely no evidence youth are using e-cigarettes in great numbers or ever will. E-cigarette users largely report that tobacco smoke does not taste pleasant after using e-cigarettes. Because of this effect, e-cigarettes could actually prove to be a barrier to smoking. Additionally, numerous tests have shown no evidence of harmful levels of any chemical in e-cigarettes and an estimated 2.5 million current e-cigarette users are clearly a testament to their efficacy.


Runner up (25% of the vote)
Amy Sands - Tobacco Prevention and Control Program for the Utah Department of Health
The Twist:
“There’s mountains of research to show that cigarette smoking will cause lung cancer, cancer in almost every organ of your body, and kill you. The same is true of these products. These are cancer-causing, toxic products. There’s no doubt – all sorts of scientific research to prove that smokeless tobacco products like these addict and they kill.”  
The Truth:
This is an outright lie. There is absolutely no scientific research supporting her claim about the new smokeless, dissolving tobacco products, snus and electronic cigarettes. "Smokeless tobacco causes neither lung cancer nor other diseases of the lung, and users have no excess risk for heart attacks. In fact, the only consequential — but infrequent — adverse health effect of smokeless tobacco use is oral cancer. In 1981, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Deborah Winn and colleagues established that smokeless tobacco users are four times more likely to develop oral cancer than are nonusers of tobacco. However, this relative risk is only about one half the relative risk of oral cancer from smoking." (Rodu and Cole, 1995) In the case of snus use, there has been 30 years of research showing that there is no evidence of any increased health risks. Experts believe that the new dissolving products and electronic cigarettes would be similarly low risk.



In 3rd Place (14% of the vote)

Linda Rosenthal - New York Assemblywoman 
The Twist: "...until the FDA approves e-cigarettes for smoking cessation or other medical purposes, it should be banned outright."

“The FDA has already said (e-cigarettes) contain carcinogens and chemicals found in antifreeze. But we don’t know exactly what’s in these products,” said Rosenthal, adding that she kicked her own smoking habit after using nicotine patches."
"Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, says most of the "e-cigs" are made in China and might not be safe."
The Truth:
For sponsoring a bill to ban all e-cigarette sales in the state. Rosenthal pulled out every argument in the Anti Nicotine and Tobacco Zealot arsenal, including the misleading FDA statement about "anti-freeze" and "carcinogens;" claiming "we don't know" what is in them (but they are still dangerous); insisting they need to be regulated the same as NRT and approved by the FDA (even though cigarettes are not regulated or approved in that same manner) and playing on the mistrust of Chinese products. Her bill died in the Senate, but she has vowed to try again in 2012. We can expect Ms. Rosenthal may find herself in the running for our 2012 Butt Head award! 

The real kicker was when she perpetuated the ultimate insult used by rabid ex-smokers:

"If I can quit without e-cigarettes, then anybody can do it."

Great job insulting just about every smoker who has tried to quit and failed, Ms. Rosenthal!


And tied for 4th Place (2% each)

Dr. Zorba Pastor
The Twist: "The real gunslingers to watch in this shootout are the tobacco makers who want you to think that "smokeless" tobacco is much safer. They're now being joined by new snake oil salesmen, the battery-powered "no smoke" cigarette lobby that claims these gadgets safely satisfy the craving. They don't and users often find themselves back on tobacco. These guys are the real pushers."
The Truth:Dr. Pastor's comments completely ignore the scientific fact that smokeless tobacco does not cause lung cancer, which would be just one thing that deems them "safer" than smoking. Scientific evidence supports smokeless tobacco has at least 98%  less health risks than smoking. In reference to e-cigarettes, he also ignores the known fact that smokers rarely find nicotine gum "satisfy the craving" and "find themselves back on tobacco," most of the time, with an established 93% failure rate. On the other hand, approximately 2.5 million e-cigarette users have significantly reduced and often completely eliminated smoking traditional cigarettes, finding them much more appealing and satisfying than the nicotine gum most had tried before. 


Dr. Barbara Ferrer - Boston Public Health Commission
The Twist: "Tobacco exposure continues to be a significant factor that contributes to preventable sickness and death," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. "The steps the board has taken today will help reduce young people's exposure to tobacco and unregulated nicotine products, and eliminate exposure to e-cigarette vapors containing nicotine and other known toxins in the workplace."  
The Truth:
"Tobacco exposure" is not the same as "smoke exposure," and she is falsely implying that e-cigarette vapor has been shown to contain toxins. The Boston Public Health Commission banned the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is prohibited, absent any scientific evidence of harm to bystanders, effectively removing a huge incentive for smokers to make the switch.

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