CNN just put out an article citing a report put out by Virginia Commonwealth University. The article’s claim is that e-cigarettes do not put out any of the nicotine they claim to and are generally ineffective as both a way to quit smoking, and a substitution to it. “They are as effective at nicotine delivery as puffing on an unlit cigarette,” said Dr. Thomas Eissenberg, at the school’s Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies.
The first thing that I think about any study conducted in Virginia is that Virginia is the third-largest tobacco producing state in the United States. They output 1.3B worth of Tobacco every year. It’s not that I think the study is bunk, I just think that there are inherent pressures exerted by a place where Tobacco is part of the lifeblood of the economy.
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, and they seem to be pretty reputable, but they’re just fronting the money, not doing the research. The school was run, until July 1st 2009, by Dr. Eugene Trani, a long time advocate of the tobacco industry. He’s such an advocate that he invited the CEO of Phillip Morris to speak at the school’s graduation ceremony in 2003. However, Phillip Morris is a big company, they do more than just cigarettes, and like them or not they are in fact legal, and do require business savvy to be in them, or any business, and have it be successful.
The real conflict of interest happened in February of 2000 when Eugene Trani was appointed to the Universal Corporations board of Directors. You can see in this document under “Corporate Affairs” where they welcome him. The Universal Corporation owns none other than Universal Leaf Tobacco, described on their website as the “world’s leading leaf tobacco merchant and processor.” Trani owned 1100 shares of the company at one time.
There is some likelihood that this study was conducted at a University during a time where the President of the University was a board member of a tobacco company. That sounds like a conflict of interest to me. I’m disappointed in CNN.
What do you think? Are E-Cigarettes just smoke and mirrors? Or does the tobacco friendly school have a legitimate study on their hands? Let me know in the comments.