hospital intake questionnaires and anti-vaping lies
A recent story out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota gives a good illustration of the way misinformation about electronic cigarettes is spread. Entitled "Doctors Ask about E-cig Usage on Surveys," the article snakes around to a doctor making statements about vaping that are misinformed or worse. Charitably speaking, let's say merely misinformed.
It seems that the intake questionnaire for the Sanford Medical Center in town has been revised, and now includes a question about use of electronic cigarettes. The article presents its "information" in the form of a little drama: at the outset, an innocent patient stumbles into the office and encounters the new questionnaire, with its question about electronic cigarettes.
"I've heard quite a bit about them. I don't know that much about them," he says.
Dr. Wallace Fritz, of Sanford, is quoted to the effect that the new questionnaire will let physicians know which patients are using the devices for smoking cessation. He is dubious about their potential success, however, and clearly does not know the literature, although he claims to be familiar with it. "The one large, well-designed study that has looked at this has not shown that people are more likely to quit using the vape cigarettes compared to the nicotine gum or the nicotine patches that have been proven to help people quit smoking," he says.
Wrong on both counts! Gum and patches are notoriously ineffective for smoking cessation, as dozens of specialists have pointed out, most recently a South African physician who helped draft the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control for the World Health Organization.
Furthermore, there are now dozens of reputable studies that show vaping to be remarkably effective. Dr Fritz should look, for instance, at the Farsalinos study of 19,000 Europeans, which has been out for some time now, just to name one of many. Fritz is probably looking only at studies out of the University of California at San Francisco, notorious for skewing statistics toward anti-vaping conclusions, and for dismissing other studies for insubstantial reasons.
Dr. Fritz counsels the patient, as he does all his young patients, "not start the habit for whatever reason."
The doctor gets deeper into his lie. "It still is nicotine, and it still carries with it the cardiovascular risk that is associated with smoking," he tells the credulous patient. To suggest that the miniscule cardiovascular risk that e-cigarettes might have is in any way comparable to the enormous proven risk of smoking cigarettes (with their thousands of toxicants in addition to nicotine) is like comparing a breakfast omelette with mainlining egg yolks.
It calls to mind the claim, recently cited by Michael Siegel in his pro-harm-reduction blog, in which someone stated that vaping the contents of an e-liquid bottle would be like smoking 1.5 packs of cigarettes – because the amount of nicotine would be comparable, ignoring the thousands of other toxicants in the cigarettes.
For goodness sake, even the FDA is now talking about a "continuum of risk" – something Dr. Fritz apparently has not heard of.
"I'm sure there's hidden things in e-cigarettes that you probably don't know about," choruses the hapless patient, now "informed".
. . . and sinker!