In a recent interview with a local news station, Dr. Ellen Hahn of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy made several claims regarding the “danger” of electronic cigarettes. She stated that there is no evidence to support an ecig’s viability as a smoking cessation tool; advising smokers instead to seek out medicinal and therapeutic solutions. She goes on to say that e-cigarettes contain many of the carcinogens found in tobacco smoke and even argues that they are as harmful as traditional cigarettes.
It’s difficult to say whether Dr. Hahn simply does not have all of the information or if she is purposefully ignoring available data. There are published studies which echo anecdotal testimony regarding electronic cigarettes’ benefits as a smoking cessation aid. Claiming that e-cigs pose no harm reduction for smokers because their ingredients are unknown is tantamount to saying a person is better off smoking tobacco cigarettes because we know what’s in them. Many of the dangerous carcinogens to which Dr. Hahn refers, like formaldehyde, exist only in trace amounts. These levels are so minimal, they fall way below what is currently accepted by the FDA for use in products like baby shampoo or naturally occurring in certain fruits and vegetables.
While Dr. Ellen Hahn is representing herself as a proponent of public health, she has ties to Big Pharma which would belie that claim. In fact, Dr. Hahn received an honorarium (and possibly funding) from a company with huge stakes in the smoking cessation game; namely, Pfizer. Makers of the popular quit smoking drug, Chantix, Pfizer’s ties to the anti-smoking campaign are numerous and far-reaching. It stands to reason that any device, like an electronic cigarette, with the potential to assist smokers in their quest to quit, poses a significant threat for a drug company like Pfizer.
This leads many industry experts to question Dr. Hahn’s true motivation. Taking into consideration her ties to Pfizer, it’s difficult to accept her allegations at face-value. Conflicts of interest like this one are rampant in public health arenas and remain one of the biggest obstacles faced by the e-cig industry. When will the tide turn? Only time will tell.
Tags: electronic cigarettes