While many organization are thoughtful enough to review the information before they make strong determinations on the benefits or detriments of the use of electronic cigarettes, the American Lung Association is not. They are clear in their position that electronic cigarettes are bad news and not effective cessation devices for users looking to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
In their statement on e-cigarettes they write: “The American Lung Association is very concerned about the potential health consequences of electronic cigarettes, as well as the unproven claims that they can be used to help smokers quit.” Recent reports have been proving just the opposite, most notably the recent study from the Society for the Study of Addiction who clearly shows proof of effectiveness when it comes to users quitting smoking. The American Heart Association has also recognized the e-cigarette as a cessation device noting their approval of the device in an August 2014 policy statement citing e-cigarettes as harm reducers.
Regardless of these strides for e-cigs, the American Lung Association refuses to recognize any potential benefit of the electronic cigarettes, citing old studies with less relevant information to support their point. They also believe that as far as second-hand smoke is concerned, that there is no evidence supporting the fact that e-cigarettes are safer than combustible tobacco devices. This is stated, despite the numerous reviews proving the contrary. All this information begs the question, if the American Lung Association is truly about trying to improve lung health, then why wouldn’t they want to jump on the e-cigarette bandwagon too?
One may find the answer in looking at where the American Lung Association funds are coming from. The American Lung Association lists on their website several significant donors to their organization, some of which include pharmaceutical powerhouse companies, like Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.
There is no threat to the American Lung Association if e-cigarettes become the new stop smoking norm, but it does stand to put these pharmaceutical companies at a loss. Pfizer, in addition to a variety of smaller grants, awarded $900,000 in just one year for the American Lung Association’s “Smoking Cessation Program.” (Access their full funding report here). This funding is important to note, as Pfizer is the manufacturer of Chantix and Nicotrol, two popular quit smoking aids. Nicotrol is an inhaler that provides nicotine in a vapor form, very similar to e-cigarettes but without the flexibility of different devices and the luxury of different flavors.
Chantix is even worse and has been linked to nearly 500 suicides. The drug clearly lists the potential side effects of worsening depression and suicidal thoughts on their website and in their television commercials. It doesn’t seem possible to argue that these alternative methods for quitting are safer than electronic cigarettes. And it’s even harder to believe that the American Lung Association would prefer these methods, to using electronic cigarettes. With these facts, it is hard not to assume that Pfizer funds these “Smoking Cessation Programs” in part to have the American Lung Association lobby against e-cigarettes and their use as cessation devices.
GlaxoSmithKline, who manufactures the stop smoking aids Nicorette and Nicoderm, as well as Novartis, who makes Habitrol and Nicotinell, also have similar benefits to be gained by refusing to admit quitting is possible with the use of electronic cigarettes. As e-cigs are experiencing such rapid growth, there is likely to be fear among these companies that their profits will soon begin to plummet, as users are replacing these stop smoking aids with vaporizers. This is why with funding coming from so many suspect sources, the American Lung Association really has some explaining to do.
Why would an organization focused on health ignore the reports and obvious benefits of e-cigarettes in at least a harm reduction capacity? Becoming a mouth piece for the big pharmaceutical companies and their agendas simply does not seem like a suitable reason.
While it’s easy to jump to these conclusions, it should also be noted that there are other pharmaceutical companies that are donors that do not seem to have as much to directly gain from giving e-cigarettes a bad rap. AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly are also two major pharmaceutical companies that contribute to the American Lung Association and they do not manufacture any stop smoking aids. However, all the companies do manufacture some form of breathing medication or treatment, which is of course, another reason to benefit the American Lung Association. Big pharmaceutical companies also have longs lists of benefactors, many of which include health organization, simply as part of their social, corporate responsibility. While there is truly nothing unusual about Pfizer donating to the American Lung Association, that $900,000 grant and what is was for does seem slightly suspect.
If the American Lung Association is purposefully degrading the use of e-cigarettes and pushing for strict regulation, then it seems like the American public will have to suffer. E-cigarettes are no one’s perfect solution, but there is no question when it comes to how much healthier it is for the user than smoking traditional cigarettes. Impeding the progress of e-cigarettes does not seem to follow suit with what the American Lung Association truly stands for: promoting lung health. Something quitting smoking, no matter what your method, should do. So why can’t the American Lung Association admit that?