The CDC has released another “more of the same” report on e-cigarette awareness and use. The lead author is Dr. Brian King; the report appears in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

While the manuscript refers at least 15 times to an “increase” in U.S. e-cigarette use from 2010 to 2013, Dr. King informed the media that e-cigarette use is leveling off. Ironically, Dr. King characterized the plateau in use of a vastly safer cigarette substitute as “a positive note.”

On what did Dr. King base his “leveling” remark? His conclusion was cherry-picked from two out of about 100 percentage figures in Table 2 (in yellow in the screenshot on the left; you’ll need some magnification). Those percentages were not even mentioned in the results, but Dr. King considered them important enough to highlight for the media.

This is a perfect example of the CDC producing data claiming one thing – a “considerable,” “marked,” “rapid,” “doubling” increase in e-cigarette use – then pitching it to the media as something else – a “leveling,” which is “positive.” The agency’s purpose is to disparage a vastly safer cigarette alternative.

The report contains other examples of distorted logic. A reasonable observation – “The marked increase [in use] among former smokers could be attributable to the use of e-cigarettes for cessation.” – is supported by the fact that “ever” e-cig use among former smokers increased to 10 percent in 2013. But King and his coauthors perversely observe that”

The increase could be attributable to new initiation of e-cigarettes among individuals who had successfully quit without previous use of the product, highlighting concerns over the potential for these products to promote relapse to combustible tobacco use.

In other words, the CDC thinks that e-cigs are a gateway to smoking because they might be corrupting former smokers who had previously been abstinent. As Lewis Carroll wrote, “It sounds uncommon nonsense.”

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