FDA has launched an initiative to tackle the scourge of ‘rumours, misinformation and disinformation’.

The US vape regulator is told to get its own house in order as it launches new campaign to tackle spread of distortions and disinformation

Without even a hint of irony, the US Food and Drug Administration has launched an initiative to tackle the scourge of ‘rumours, misinformation and disinformation’.

FDA commissioner Dr Robert Califf warned that ‘distortions and half-truths’ posed ‘enormous dangers’ to public health and pledged to make ‘combatting misinformation’ a priority.

The new campaign focuses on false reports about COVID-19 vaccines – and while this is clearly an important issue – the FDA has been accused of being less than accurate about vaping and nicotine.

Harm reduction advocate Martin Cullip, an International Fellow at The Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s Consumer Center, said Califf should look closer to home first.

Writing on US news platform The Centre Square, Cullip highlighted a number of false claims and bad science found on the FDA’s own website.

These included:

1) A graphic explaining the results of the most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey claiming that ‘about 1 in 4 [U.S. youth] use e-cigs daily.’

Cullip said the figure was ‘simply untrue’ and pointed out that the survey found that only 3.1 percent of youths vaped on more than 20 days per month.

2) Youth vaping prevention posters which falsely claimed that nicotine could ‘rewire a teen’s brain to crave more nicotine’. Cullip said there was ‘no scientific basis’ for the claim.

3) Claims that teen nicotine use ‘may have enduring impacts on attention, learning, and memory’ failed to mention that the research behind this was only done on rats.

Cullip said: “FDA scientists are fully aware that studies on rodents are weak and inconclusive, but are happy to sow confusion and doubt about alternatives to combustible tobacco.”

The internationally-respected tobacco harm reduction advocate was particularly critical of how the FDA reported the series of US lung injuries and deaths from three years ago.

Cullip said: “By far the most egregious misinformation peddled by the FDA was its handling of the lung injury outbreak in 2019.

“From the outset, both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were all too keen to make propaganda capital out of an issue that resulted in dozens of deaths.

“The event was categorized as E-cigarette or Vaping Acute Lung Injury (EVALI), as both agencies instantly pointed the finger at all vaping despite there being no outbreak of lung injuries related to nicotine vaping anywhere else in the world.”

In fact, even when the illnesses were traced back to illegal THC pods containing vitamin E acetate, the FDA continued to describe it as a nicotine vaping issue.

Cullip added: “This was the very definition of misinformation that Dr Califf has commented on.

“The panic this misinformation created not only scared many smokers away from vaping, thereby perpetuating harm, but also resulted in a failure to give a clear warning about the deadly nature of illicit THC vapes on sale in 2019.”

He said the FDA’s ‘disingenuous risk communication’ was partly responsible for only 2.6 percent of Americans knowing that vaping is considerably less harmful than smoking.

Accusing the FDA of ‘top drawer hypocrisy’ he concluded: “If the FDA Commissioner wants to wage a war on misinformation and misrepresentation of science, he should start by tackling the distortions and half-truths peddled by his own organisation.”

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