We’re normally fans of New York Times science writer Jane Brody — but her latest column on quitting smoking is incorrect and irresponsible. To begin with, she claims that, “People ages 18 to 25 now have the nation’s highest smoking rate: 40 percent.” Um, no. (Maybe she’s thinking of Lithuania?) According to figures the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released just last week, 18.9 percent of young people aged 18 to 24 were smokers in 2011; the highest rate — 22.1 percent — was among 25 to 44-year-olds.
“I was distracted from that gross error by the general tenor of the column, which is to stick to the tried and true methods of quitting ” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. Among the advice Brody offers smokers are such gems as replacing smoking with going on walks, chewing gum (at least she recommends sugarless), and “taking deep breaths.” She mentions tobacco lozenges dismissively, saying they “lack evidence as quitting aids,” and “no clinical trials have been published showing that electronic cigarettes can help people quit.”
“This is useless blather, as anyone who has ever tried to quit (or knows anyone who has gone through that torment) knows — and it’s irresponsible at that, given her huge audience,” Dr. Ross says.
A number of comments on the NYT website have taken issue with the bizarrely glib tone of her column. “Nobody who has not been a smoker themselves should ever presume to write a ‘helpful’ article like this. It is guaranteed to incite rage amongst those who truly understand what it’s like to quit,” writes one person from Harrisburg, Pa. “If you have not quit smoking yourself, you know nothing of the subject. Nothing. Next time you know not whereof you speak, put a cork in it instead Jane Brody. And I mean that in a most ‘helpful’ fashion.”
A few have offered their own testimonials for electronic cigarettes. “That’s what my partner and I used (she still uses one occasionally) a year ago last August and haven’t touched a cigarette since,” writes one commenter from San Diego. “My doctor at Dartmouth practically insisted on it. … It made it really easy for me.”