Tag Archives: Canadian Public Health Association

Canadian Lung Association Open To E-Cigarettes

Canadian Lung AssociationIn appears the Canadian Lung Association may be re-thinking it’s stance on electronic cigarettes.  The publicly funded health organization has put out multiple press releases warning Canadian smokers about the potential risks of “vaping”.  In an article released January 21st, 2013 named “Don’t Be Fooled By E-Cigarettes“, Margaret Bernhardt-Lowdon, a tobacco issues spokesperson for the Canadian Lung Association stated:

“Don’t be fooled by e-cigarettes. These electronic devices could be potentially harmful to lung health and are not an approved quit smoking aid by either Health Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,”

But in an article by Carly Weeks from the Globe and Mail named “Could E-Cigarettes Save Smokers’ Lives? Some Health Advocates Think So“, the CLA seems to be reconsidering their prior objections to the new technology:

“I think we owe it to the five million Canadians who are addicted to tobacco products. If there’s a product out there that may have some merit to bring down those numbers, we have to look at it,” – Jennifer Miller, vice-president of health promotion with the Lung Association.

It is a promising sign for all Canadian smokers and vapers.  And although it is not an outright endorsement, it does give hope that public health advocates in Canada are starting to consider the science behind electronic cigarettes, rather than the hype.

Are Canadian Pharmaceutical Companies Involved?

In the United States the pharmaceutical companies are closely tied to public health organizations.  In fact a lot of the funding for many public health organizations comes from big pharma.  Not to mention that the FDA gets a lot of it’s funding from licensing, fees, and fines from the major players in the legal drug trade.  In the US these public health groups have been strictly against the electronic cigarette.  Consider this: in the last year and a half Pfizer alone gave groups such as the American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Legacy Foundation, and the Action on Smoking and Health (among others) a collective 2.8 million dollars. So it is not hard to see why these groups would be against the e-cigarette, which is in direct competition with many of the nicotine based products pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer sell.  But that doesn’t mean it is in the best interest of public health.

The question is, do pharmaceutical companies in Canada have this same amount of pull over public health organizations in Canada?  To try and answer this question, we did a search on google for health organizations in Canada.  We immediately came across the Canadian Public Health Association or CPHA.  We first looked into their policy regarding electronic cigarettes and reduced harm tobacco products.  Here is what we found:

Although the evidence suggests that the overall health risk of smokeless tobacco is roughly 5% of that of cigarettes, the International Agency for Research on Cancer continues to classify smokeless tobacco products as Group 1 carcinogens; these products cause cancers of the oral cavity and pancreas in humans. Moreover, they deliver nicotine in quantities and at rates that cause psychoactive effects, which eventually lead to tolerance and addiction. Several new products and delivery agents are being produced and marketed as smoking substitutes. These include the electronic cigarette, which is promoted as a non-tobacco alternative nicotinedelivery device. – CPHA Source

We couldn’t find exactly how much money they received from the private sector, but we did come across this statement from the CPHA’s annual report:

In September 2006, CPHA’s Board of Directors approved a “Corporate Relations / Corporate Sponsorship Policy” to guide CPHA’s collaboration with the private sector.

And their list of those companies the collaborated with:

Presenting Partners
* AstraZeneca Canada Inc. ****
* Parmalat
* Maple Leaf Foods

Public Health Champions
* Pfizer Canada Inc. ****
* Amgen Canada Inc. ****

Legacy Benefactor
* Lysol (Reckitt Benckiser (Canada) Inc.)

Public Health Pathfinder
* University of Waterloo

Public Health Supporters
* Dalla Lana School of Public Health,
University of Toronto
* Merck Frosst Canada ****

The companies with **** are pharmaceuticals.

So smokeless tobacco is 5% as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes, but they are still against them.  And what CPHA doesn’t tell you is that there are risks with using pharmaceutical nicotine products.  Drilling down to the heart of this: Is it bias to recommend one group of products (nicotine gum, patches, sprays, and whatever else big pharma brings out) and not another such e-cigarettes?  Wouldn’t it be in the best interest of health to recommend a product that is 95% more healthy than tobacco cigarettes?  Nothing is 100% safe so why is the CPHA against reduced harm tobacco products?  And if your argument is that they still cause cancer (albeit at a rate 95% lower than cigarettes) then why are they against e-cigarettes which have never been shown to cause cancer?  I’ll let you be the judge.