July 26th, 2009 15:41 EST
Our Fanmail, E-Cigs, and PCRM's Anti-Hot Dog Crusade
By Curtis Porter
Letter to the Editor
ACSH staffers received a disgruntled e-mail in response to yesterday`s criticism of environmental activist reports on the threat of pesticides and toothpaste to young children. The author, who works in the office of communications for the National Institute of Health (NIH), objected to our characterization of what she calls environmentally-conscious groups that are obviously trying put forth useful information, " calling our opposition to them counterproductive to the goals of public health. More interesting, however, were her closing remarks: This is ingenuous [sic] reporting. Why don`t you report on the chemical companies that are making big bucks at the expense of poisoning us and polluting our environment? "
She really showed her hand with that last statement, " says ACSH`s Jeff Stier. For an NIH employee writing from an NIH.gov e-mail address to admit that corporate profits are what upsets her is very revealing. You can disagree with us about the science of our criticism, and that`s fair game, but for an NIH staffer to have an obvious bias against corporations says a lot about what is wrong with government today. Her real concern is if the companies who are "poisoning us` are doing it to make a profit. If she thinks companies are poisoning people, it shouldn`t matter if they`re doing it at a profit or a loss. This is an ideology, not science. "
She also has it backwards, " says ACSH`s Dr. Ruth Kava. The science-related non-profits actually making big bucks are the well-funded activist groups whose sole mission is scaring the public based on phony health threats in order to generate publicity and donations. Corporations don`t stand to profit by intentionally hurting their customers. "
E-Cigarettes Get Predictably Bad Publicity
ACSH staffers were disappointed, though not surprised, to see an FDA news release declare yesterday that a laboratory analysis of electronic cigarette samples has found that they contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze. " Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated nicotine delivery devices that closely simulate cigarette smoking and could be a promising cessation device. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of the FDA, led the FDA charge against e-cigarettes.
Stier is not surprised to see him taking a counter-productive approach, as he warned us about Sharfstein in his Forbes.com article upon Dr. Sharfstein`s appointment in May: I talked with Dr. Sharfstein while he was on Rep. Waxman`s staff, working on legislation that would give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco. I tried to encourage him to be open to the concept of harm reduction for smokers...What startled me was that, despite his knowledge of the facts, he was still ardently against it...He dismissed the approach out of hand, choosing instead the "quit or die` approach that has been failing smokers for years. "
It looks like he`s falling in line with that prediction, " says Stier. The attack on e-cigarettes is wrong, and unscientific. Ironically, they have legitimate legal grounds to say that this is a cessation product that has not been tested for safety and efficacy, and it should indeed undergo more scientific scrutiny before being approved for widespread use, just as other cessation devices and pharmaceuticals must, but that`s not what [FDA] did. Instead they took the low road and talked about carcinogens in e-cigarettes in order to scare people away from them as an alternative to cigarettes. This is a harbinger of how this FDA will regulate tobacco, and it`s not a good sign. "
The implied message to smokers is to stick to cigarettes, " says ACSH`s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. While the White House is claiming to try to lower health care costs, they`re actually making it harder to quit smoking. "
ACSH`s Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees: They`re calling these devices a health concern. There are 45 million addicted adult smokers in this country. Over 400,000 of them will be dying in each of the coming years and running up health care costs in the process. Is that a public health concern? "
PCRM: Hot Dogs Want to KILL YOU
The Cancer Project has filed a lawsuit against several food companies on behalf of three New Jersey residents who believe that hot dogs should carry warning labels as a risk factor for several cancers. It`s that time of year, " says Dr. Whelan. People are cooking out more, so you need a headline like this to get attention. "
Stier adds, You also need an action, a verb in the headline to get noticed. These accusations have been made before. They had to file a lawsuit to be newsworthy. "
The Cancer Project, a branch of the categorically anti-meat Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), compares hot dogs to cigarettes in the hackneyed style of many activist groups who seek a hyperbolic illustration of a product`s danger for the sake of shock-value: Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer, " said Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Cancer Project.
Dr. Barnard fails to make the distinction between cigarettes and tobacco in general (which includes such smokeless products as snus -- decidedly not a cause of lung cancer), a topic discussed above, but the Cancer Project also fails to make the distinction between, on one hand, a dubious linking of nitrite preservatives and increased cancer risk and, on the other hand, definitive epidemiological evidence for such a link.
Not everyone is going for the bait. As noted on a New Jersey news site, Janet Riley of the American Meat Institute and the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council correctly notes, [PCRM is] an animal rights group. Their solution to every possible illness is vegetarianism. Their objective is to end meat consumption, period...It`s a very selective use of the science to further their animal rights agenda. "
The feedback from New Jerseyites who follow the news is also encouraging. Most of the online comments on this story are incredulous, " says Dr. Ross. Rightly so. This is ridiculous. "
As noted in the L.A. Times coverage linked above, one consumer observed, Vegans complaining about hot dogs is like the Amish complaining about gas prices. "
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