The Ridiculous Reasons Why One Philadelphia Doctor Condemns E-Cigarettes
Medical doctors are supposed to adhere to the age-old principle of medicine: “Above all, do no harm.” However, it appears some that physicians don’t follow that mantra anymore. This week, Dr. Rima Himelstein of Philadelphia wrote an opinion piece about electronic cigarettes detailing all the reasons why should would give e-cigs a failing grade. Most of her argument was predictable and relatively boring. Can’t these e-cig opponents come up with anything original? Let’s take a look at why Dr. Himelstein decided to declare e-cigs a fail and look at the actual truth behind her statements.
Her first big argument centers on the National Youth Tobacco Survey and interestingly enough, she doesn’t even get the numbers right. Himelstein pointed out that e-cig use among teenagers doubled from 2011 to 2012. She mentioned that 1 out of 100 teens had used an e-cig in the previous month and 3 out of 100 teens used an e-cig in the month before that. In reality, she took the survey numbers out of context. The actual data looked at only the previous month’s usage and never even measured the month before that. Instead, it looked at whether teens had ever used e-cigs at any point in the past.
Next, Himelstein reports that e-cigs don’t help people quit smoking. She said, “Although e-cigarettes have been promoted to help people quit smoking, there is no scientific evidence for this claim.” That’s an interesting point, but the problem is that it’s a complete and total lie. There have been numerous studies on whether e-cigs were effective for smoking cessation. In November 2011, the University of Catania followed smokers over a six-month period as they tried e-cigarettes for smoking cessation purposes. By the end of the trial, nearly a quarter had completely quit smoking and over half had reduced cigarette consumption by at least 50 percent.
Last year, Dr. Richard Polosa published his study on e-cigs for smoking cessation. He chose participants that were not interested in giving up cigarettes at all and gave them e-cigarettes to use for one year. At the end of the trial, he found that after one year, nearly 9 percent of smokers quit completely even though they never intended to give up cigarettes in the first place.
Dr. Himelstein’s next angle is based on health. She claims that e-cigs have cancer-causing chemicals and harps on the dangers of nicotine. She stoops to the typical, “It’s bad for you” argument and totally ignores the fact that e-cigarettes are designed to eliminate the harmful carcinogens that smokers inhale by replacing the toxic smoke with a tobacco-free vapor. While the nicotine in some e-cigarettes does carry some degree of health risk, it is comparable to the dangers of caffeine exposure, but we are not outlawing coffee and Red Bull, right?
Next, she points out that e-cigs are easily accessible to minors and give them dangerous access to nicotine. While it is true that many states have not yet outlawed the sell of e-cigs among minors, we have never encountered any e-cig shops or brands that will sell products to people under age 18. Kids access e-cigs in the same way they access regular cigarettes and alcohol. They make it a habit to seek out the things they are not supposed to try. That’s just what kids do. However, there is no reason to eliminate all the positive change that e-cigs can offer for the adult smoking population just because rebellious teens try to get them covertly. If that was the case, we need to also fully ban all tobacco products and even alcohol.
Her final argument against e-cigarettes is bogus. “Using e-cigarettes can kill,” she claims. Himelstein bases this point on the fact that the nicotine in a standard e-cig cartridge could be fatal to kids. However, the same could be said for the bottle of liquor in a lot of kitchens around the world. It’s more about parental responsibility than dangerous products.
At the simplest, e-cigarettes are meant to be a life saver, not a killer. When doctors like Rima Himelstein call vaping products deadly, they violate the very oath they took to protect the public. Bashing e-cigarettes is doing great harm to smokers all over the world. Why are doctors trying so hard to convince smokers e-cigs are deadly before they ever have a chance to use them? The fact is that most smokers that turn to e-cigarettes end up tobacco-free. It seems like physicians should be blazing the trail in e-cig promotion rather than blasting them publicly at every given opportunity.
Do you agree with Dr. Himelstein’s arguments? What would you tell her about your own experiences with e-cigarettes?