Cancer Prevention Activist Claims Vaping Is Just as Bad as Smoking
In a video for The Huffington Post, Dr. Margaret Cuomo, board-certified radiologist, cancer prevention activist and author of the acclaimed book ‘A World without Cancer’, claims that electronic cigarettes are “at least as harmful to your health as tobacco cigarettes are”.
That’s a pretty bold statement to make considering that currently available scientific evidence clearly shows that e-cigarettes are by orders of magnitude safer than smoking tobacco and that public health experts – even some opponents of electronic cigarettes – agree that they are not as dangerous as smoking. But wait, there’s more. In the original video – which has since been edited due to criticism from the scientific community – she adds that “e-cigarettes will raise your risk for lung cancer but also other cancers, like liver cancer,” and that the vapor they produce contains many dangerous chemicals that are NOT found in tobacco smoke, such as formaldehyde, benzene, propylene glycol, and metals like cadmium and nickel and zinc.
Hey, it sounds bad, but I’m sure she wouldn’t put her reputation on the line by making this kind of claims without baking them up with solid arguments. Well, it turns out that is exactly what she did, which obviously outraged many of her peers around the world, some of whom have actually conducted e-cigarette studies that prove her statements are nothing more than misinformation.
“All the available research to date suggests that although there are toxicants in e-cigarettes, they are at far lower levels than in smoked tobacco,” Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling and Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, told Daily Caller. “The statements in this video suggest otherwise, which is simply factually incorrect. I’d be extremely concerned if clinicians used the statements in this video as the basis for discussing e-cigarettes with their patients and discouraged e-cigarette use in current smokers.”
“She is mistaken in her views about the relative risks of e-cigarette and tobacco cigarettes. Not even the most ardent opponents of e-cigarettes who are experts in the field believe that they are as harmful as tobacco cigarettes and most believe them to be substantially less harmful because the concentrations of known toxins are multiple times lower or not present at all,” added Robert West, Professor of health psychology at University College London, and author of a recent study that shows e-cigs help people quit smoking.
“It is unfortunate and sad that there are all these misguided zealots who think they are fighting a righteous battle that justifies lying for the greater good and is in fact supporting the tobacco industry and promoting smoking,” said Prof. Peter Hajek, director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine’s Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London.
Dr. Michael Siegel, Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, took things a bit further, analyzing each of Margaret Cuomo’s ludicrous claims and proving them all wrong with actual arguments.
As a result of this backlash, The Huffington Post edited this controversial video, taking out the bits about e-cigs causing cancer and that tobacco cigarette smoke doesn’t contain some of the chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor. The claim that e-cigs are at least as bad as smoking was left in, though, for reasons that I can’t wrap my head around.
Dr. Cuomo also states that between 2013 and 2014, the number of e-cigarette sales to minors aged 11 to 17 triples and that there are currently over 2 million high-school students using them. That may very well be true, and health experts unanimously agree that the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18-year-olds should be prohibited by law, but what she doesn’t mention in the video is that many of those minors were already cigarette smokers and only a few were actually never-smokers lured by the enticing flavors she claims are targeting children specifically.
As Dr. Siegel mentions on his website, “what is most unfortunate about this misinformation is that Dr. Cuomo is a strong advocate for cancer prevention and inadvertently is sending a message that is completely contradictory to her goals. While we all agree that youth should not use any nicotine-containing product, electronic cigarettes have helped hundreds of thousands of smokers to quit. Electronic cigarettes and vaping products have a great potential to prevent cancer by helping many smokers to quit or to cut down greatly on the amount that they smoke.”
As to the reason why a reputed MD and author would compromise her credibility by launching herself in an unfounded attack on electronic cigarettes, we can only speculate… But I’d rather not.
The important things to take from this is that the propaganda against vaping is getting uglier by the day, with people resorting to flat-out lies in order to preserve the status quo instead of giving e-cigs a chance to fulfill their potential as alternatives to smoking, and that there are still people willing to stand up to this kind of misinformation. I for one feel much better knowing that respectable people like the ones mentioned above are willing to take a stand against this kind of injustice.
Photo credit: Margaret Cuomo/Facebook