The first and most reliable choice for guidance when making changes to your lifestyle is that from your primary care physician (PCP). Establishing a solid relationship with your doctor has been proven to improve both quality of life and lifespan. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 17% of Americans have had zero contact with a healthcare professional in the past twelve months. If you learn nothing else from this guide, understand that consulting your doctor prior to following the advice listed below is highly advised. If it’s been more than twelve months since your last check-up, call your PCP and schedule an appointment. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your medical needs are being addressed, and you can always double-check the information you read online. As I’ll point out below, the information you receive from friends and strangers on the internet can be less than reliable. Let’s go ahead and start dispelling some of the pervasive rumors.
1. Vaping is Dangerous
There’s a growing number of people in the US and abroad that feel e-cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional tobacco cigarettes. I have a few friends in the industry so my views may be biased based on my personal experiences, but I’ll share what one of my friends shared told me at a party last week. My friend, Dan Merchant and his business partner, Vlad Vassilieve are the managing directors of Vape Club. Dan pointed out to me that, “With Public Health England stating that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking and an endorsement from the Royal College of Physicians, it is clear that the scientific community is able to see the enormous harm-reduction benefits for smokers who switch to vaping. It is a crying shame that the political powers are not so astute- particularly with tobacco harm reduction being one of the most problematic areas of public health for decades. As a result, the industry is now faced with disproportionate regulations dreamed up in Brussels with illegitimate help from big Pharma and big tobacco.” This is clearly a statement made by someone in the industry, but let’s look at some of the studies performed by organizations on both sides of the issue. In the United States, the government has launched an entire website dedicated to discouraging e-cigarette use. One of the major points that everyone seems to agree upon is that e-cigarettes should not be sold or used by minors. Adults, however, should be able to make their own informed decisions. It appears the UK-based studies are ahead of the US in regards to smoking cessation, or the attempt to eventually quit smoking by switching from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes. As Dan points out, the UK’s health agency, Public Health England, states on their website, “An expert review of the latest evidence concludes that e-cigarettes are around 95% safer than smoked tobacco and they can help smokers to quit.” In the US the government has published an interesting counter-claim. “Any e-cig brand could go through the clinical trials to become an FDA-approved cessation device, but so far none of them have announced that they’ve submitted an application to do so.” If this is true, which appears to be the case based on the FDA’s current publication on cessation methods, then there are questions that linger in regards to why e-cig companies in the US haven’t attempted to validate their claims with the government. Is vaping bad for you? Is it worse for you than smoking tobacco cigarettes? I think the studies overseas and the comments from some industry insiders point to it being a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes. It’s my hope that the e-cig industry in the US begins to validate some of their claims with the government so that the smoke clears a bit here at home.
2. Vitamin Supplements and Energy Pills Are Regulated
I think this will come as a shock to the people shopping in the vitamin and supplement aisle at their local drug store. All of the claims and assertions made on the packaging of the vitamin supplements and energy pills available for purchase are largely unverified. There may be private testing that points to the benefits of a specific product, but the entire supplement industry is unregulated in the U.S. The first time I learned about this I was stunned. I grew up taking a multivitamin. I always assumed the claims made on the label were verified truths. I’m not saying that everything we’re reading on the sides of bottles is a lie, but I know I’d feel a lot better if the FDA actually verified the claims made. The American Council on Science and Health points out that the $30 billion supplement industry in the US became completely unregulated as a result of the Dietary Supplement Health and Educational Act of 1994. This means that they are not regulated in the same way as prescription drugs or food. The FDA actually outlines what parts of the industry they do monitor and regulate on the Dietary Supplements page of their website. The part that sticks out the most for me is the section where the FDA states, “Firms are responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure that they meet all the requirements of DSHEA and FDA regulations.” My interpretation of this statement is that firms are responsible for regulating themselves. If I’m understanding this correctly, it means that the main mechanism for enforcement of nutritional standards and public health is the use of lawsuits and legal claims against faulty manufacturers.
From vaping to supplements and energy pills, there are a lot of misconceptions floating around. Some are based on intentional misinformation and others are based on a lack of government action. The good news is that your PCP can help guide you in the right direction about many things floating around on the web. Talk to your doctor and find out about the supplements you’re taking, and if the efforts you’re making to quit smoking are right for you.
Featured photo credit: conysturm via flickr.com