Dr. Siegel On The Misconceptions of The Anti-Vaping Movement

Brent Stafford of Regulator Watch recently interviewed two major voices in the anti-tobacco movement. One of them was Stanton Glantz who is adamantly anti-vaping, and the other is Dr. Michael Siegel, who is a pro-vaping advocate. We discussed Stanton Glantz interview already, and now we’ll hear Dr. Siegel’s thoughts.

Dr. Michael Siegel is the professor of Boston Universities School of Health. He’s an expert in the tobacco control movement and a vocal supporter of e-cigs. He did his training under Stanton Glantz in the 90’s. Glantz was Siegel’s mentor and Siegel viewed him as a hero. He admired his work in the tobacco control movement.

The times have changed and they no longer see eye to eye. They are both still very much anti-tobacco as far as cigarette smoking goes, but the difference is that Glantz opposes e-cigs and Dr. Siegel embraces them.

Let’s take a look at some of the key parts the interview.

Glantz Says People Should Use “Proven” Quit Aids

In Stanton Glantz interview with Brent Stafford, Glantz said that people shouldn’t be using e-cigs when there are proven products on the market that work to help smokers quit, such as Champix and nicotine gum.

Dr. Michael Siegel responded to this by saying that the majority of people using e-cigs are using them because other products on the market didn’t work for them. If it was easy as using a nicotine patch or nicotine gum, everyone would use them. If these products worked, there wouldn’t be a need for e-cigs.

These products also only have about a 10% success rate. It’s great that products like Champix, the patch, and nicotine gum are working for that 10% of people, but what about everyone else? To tell the other 90% of smokers that they have no other option other than to continue using the products that don’t work for them is not acceptable.

Are Kids Really Moving From E-Cigs to Smoking?

In the Glantz interview, Glantz stated that the number of kids using e-cigarettes has been increasing much faster than the smoking rate has been declining. He claims that the only change that has occurred is that most of the kids who are cigarette smokers are now also dual users.

Glantz says this is backed up by validated and unbiased scientific research. But Brent Stafford pointed out that this data comes from studies performed by the CDC and Monitoring the Future.

Dr. Michael Seigel responded to this by saying that the CDC has been completely misrepresenting the data. Specifically, the CDC has classified e-cigs as a tobacco product. There has never been a study that has shown that youth using e-cigs have moved to tobacco cigarettes.

It’s true that e-cig experimentation has skyrocketed, but the use of combustible tobacco has plummeted. By adding e-cigs into the tobacco category, Glantz and the CDC are able to claim that tobacco use has remained the same.

The CDC also has an inherent bias towards e-cigs. They can’t get past the idea that something that looks like a cigarette, used like a cigarette, and involves the inhalation of nicotine is a good thing. Due to the CDC’s ideology, they may never embrace vaping, no matter how many studies are performed.

The Dual Use Fallacy

According to Dr. Siegel, there are two big misconceptions that vaping opponents have when it comes to dual use – there’s no health benefit and that dual users return to smoking.

There’s a myth that quitting smoking needs to be all or nothing, otherwise users don’t see a health improvement. That’s simply not true. There’s a clear health benefit to smoking fewer cigarettes per day. Sure, dual use won’t help with heart disease, but it will decrease cancer risk and lung disease.

Another potential benefit to dual use is that it lowers addictiveness. There are studies that show that the less you smoke, the less addicted you become, making it easier to quit later.

Dual use is not a complete or optimal solution, but if you’re a dual user, you’re on the right path. Nobody should not be discouraged from dual use.

Dr. Siegel’s Stance on The FDA Regulations

Siegel believes that the FDA regulations are counterproductive and harmful.

For one, they give cigarettes special protection. Why is that cigarette brands don’t have to show the FDA how safe their products are, but every e-cig on the market does?

All vape products have to go through an expensive and burdensome process, when it should be the other way around. Given everything we know about tobacco, those burdens and hurdles should be give to the cigarette companies, not vape companies.

The FDA is looking at electronic cigarettes in the wrong way. They want to stop all nicotine use, when in all reality, people will likely never stop using nicotine. It’s a losing battle. The way to end the health crisis caused by cigarette smoking is to decrease the use of combustible tobacco, not nicotine. There can still be nicotine use, but in a much safer form.

Misrepresentations of Science

Siegel says that there is plenty of data available right now that supports the idea of using e-cigs as an alternative to combustible tobacco. And while we’re waiting for the FDA to finally decide that there is enough data, millions of people are dying. It’s not okay for the government to tell smokers that they need to wait until more definitive data comes out.

Dr. Siegel says that there are four things that the data we have absolutely and definitively concludes:

  1. That electronic cigarettes are orders of magnitude safer than cigarettes
  2. That switching to e-cigarettes is going to greatly improve a smoker’s health
  3. That for many people, electronic cigarettes are helping them to quit, even after failing with other cessation methods
  4. There is enough data to show that claims of youth using e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking is not happening.

E-Cigs May Be Even More Than 95% Safer Than Tobacco

Stafford and Siegel also discussed Stanton Glantz comment about how the 95% safer statistic from the Public Health England statement is a made-up number.

Dr. Siegel says that it’s not a made up number, and that it was an attempt to define the most conservative benefit that electronic cigarettes offer. He believes that the 95% number is a conservative estimate and that vaping is actually much safer than that.

Siegel says that if that 95% number were true, it would still mean thousands of deaths per year. He just doesn’t see that happening with vape products. There’s no evidence that these products will cause chronic lung disease, cancer, or even that someone can use electronic cigarettes long enough to ever see any negative health risks.

Vaping Opponents Don’t Want People to Benefit From Nicotine

Like mentioned above, Siegel believes the anti-tobacco movement is misrepresenting science due to their ideology. Based on this ideology, vaping opponents are upset that vapers are able to get their nicotine in a way that doesn’t harm them.

The anti-vaping movement believes that anyone using nicotine should be punished in some way, much like cigarette smokers are punished with smoking-related diseases. This doesn’t happen with vaping and it makes anti-vaping groups mad. This is something they just can’t get over due to their years of fighting against combustible tobacco.

The Anti-Vaping Movement Says E-cigs Hinder Quitting Efforts

Vaping opponents are saying that e-cigs are hindering smoking cessation efforts and that people who vape are less likely to quit, but Siegel says that these people are greatly distorting the science.

Opponents are looking at studies of people who use e-cigs and comparing them to people who don’t, then estimating what the quit rates will be. It doesn’t work this way.

The people who are using electronic cigarettes are not going to quit with other methods, which is why they are using e-cigs. They can’t quit without holding something in their hand.

Vapers know that they need something that simulates the psychological and social aspects of smoking. Nicotine gum, patches, and prescriptions are not going to cut it.

So vaping opponents are twisting the science by claiming that these people are less likely to quit, when in fact these are people who would have never quit smoking with any other method. They would still be smokers.

Glantz vs. Siegel

Both interviews from Regulator Watch were good and balanced in my opinion. We got to see where each side is coming from.

Glantz might very well believe that he’s doing the right thing for the health of the world. And Dr. Siegel too. And one of them will end up being right. It’ll probably be decades before we have the long-term research to know for sure.

But a few things are certain. We know that smoking kills people. And we know that electronic cigarettes are helping people to quit smoking. Even if vaping was only marginally safer than smoking, it would be better for smokers to move to vaping. Rather than vilify vaping, health officials should support it, because as it stands, they are forcing smokers to continue smoking.

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