- FAMRI Center
In a triumph of wishful thinking over data, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona joins e-cig board of directors
I am among the many public health professionals who were shocked to hear that former Surgeon General Richard Carmona joined the board of directors of e-cigarette company NJOY.
Echoing justifications physicians gave for working with the conventional cigarette companies decades ago, Carmona told the Associated Press, “I’m probably going to be [the company’s] biggest critic. … I still look at my job as being a doctor of the people, and I’m going to look at the science. … If we can find a viable alternative that gave us harm reduction as people are withdrawing from nicotine, I’m happy to engage in that science and see if we can do that.”
The problem with this statement is that the e-cigarette industry is already aggressively promoting their products as safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes that can be used to help quit smoking.
In fact, the one and only longitudinal study published to date (from Canada, US, UK and Australia) conducted during 2010 and 2011 found that, although 85.1% of e-cigarette users reported using e-cigarettes as a cessation ad, there was no difference in successful quitting of conventional cigarettes between e-cigarette users and nonusers (P=0.516, which is not even close to statistical significance).
Equally important, there are very high levels of "dual use," where people smoke e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes at the same time. one US study found that 84% of e-cigarette users were dual users and another found 55%. It may well be that e-cigarettes have the effect of keeping people smoking conventional cigarettes.
And, while not as polluting as conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes pollute the air with acetic acid, acetone, isoprene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, averaging around 20% of what the conventional cigarette put into the air, that innocent bystanders are forced to breathe.
Dr. Carmona should reconsider and drop off the board.