Of all the people who have been associated with the weird form of science-denial that claims vaccines cause autism, Jenny McCarthy is the most famous. She has been the effective national face of the movement, appearing at many rallies (sometimes with her former beau, Jim Carrey), loudly shouting down people with actual medical expertise on Larry King Live, and making numerous appearances on the TV circuit, including Oprah and many other high-profile shows. Her name is so prominent as the “leader” of the anti-vaxxers that the site cataloguing the number of new infections and deaths due to diseases preventable by vaccination is known as “JennyMcCarthyBodyCount.com.”
I discussed the entire anti-vaxx movement in my new book, Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten our Future. The anti-vaxxers are one of the most serious threats to society, since they are causing the revival of many once-conquered diseases, which are infecting and killing hundreds of innocent children. Some of these child victims had parents who support vaccination, but (since they cannot vaccinate very young kids) these babies and toddlers are infected by an anti-vaxxer’s older kids who are not inoculated. As McCarthy prepares to take her seat on the most watched show on daytime TV, The View, people from across the political spectrum decried this as a truly bad move, because it gives the stamp of approval to the foremost leader of a lethal anti-science movement. As I argued in a previous post, it is comparable to putting the leader of some other science-denial movement, such as AIDS denier Peter Duesberg, or creationist minister Ken Ham or Ray Comfort, or Holocaust denier David Irving, in the panel of the most watched show on daytime TV.
Throughout her attacks on vaccination and her attempts to blame her son’s autism on vaccines, she has called the vaccines “toxins” and “poison”, and claims she has only followed “healthy” practices since her son’s autism became apparent (although most experts think her son is not autistic, but has Landau-Kleffner syndrome). Instead of vaccination, she has listened to an array of quack doctors and used a bunch of dangerous, unproven “therapies”, including chelation therapy, which most doctors regard as a quack therapy much more dangerous than vaccines. She has led a crusade for “Green our Vaccines” and claimed she wants to be advocate for healthy practices and against “toxins” in your body.
Well, guess who is now the paid spokesmodel for the latest dangerous fad, eCigarettes? Would it surprise you to find out that it is the same Jenny McCarthy? She has made a some TV ads for Blu e-Cigarettes, flaunting them as the “sexy” way to smoke, and commenting that they don’t make you smell like a chimney, but you can still look “cool” as you puff fumes out of your mouth. According to her commercial, e-Cigs have revitalized her love life (now that Jim Carrey and Brian Urlacher have left her), implying that her good looks and fame and past status as a Playboy Centerfold were not enough to attract men. No, you gotta be puffing away to be “sexy”.
Of course, this ad is truly ironic, since e-Cigs are not a harmless way to avoid smoking tobacco with no side effects. Originally developed as a nicotine-delivery system for those who were trying to kick smoking, they still maintain the strong addiction to nicotine that makes smoking so hard to stop. But as Dr. David Gorski (“Orac” of the Science-Based Medicine blog community) points out, e-Cigs are anything but harmless. As they stand right now, the FDA cannot regulate them, so they are marketed aggressively as a great alternative to smoking. Sure, you don’t inhale the tar and the other components of burning tobacco—but you do continue your addiction to nicotine, which won’t go away if you puff away on e-Cigs as often as you did on the old coffin nails. Instead you may be inhaling some of the chemicals they put in e-Cigs to give their vapors the appearance of “smoke,” which are not good for you, including propylene glycol and nitrosamine, as well as ethylene glycol, an ingredient in antifreeze. The test results are not yet clear, but there are lots of indications that inhaling large amounts of these chemical vapors is not healthy for you. More importantly, as Gorski points out, there are no data which show that e-Cigs are effective as smoking cessation devices, which was the original reason for developing them in the first place. Nonetheless, they are a huge industry that exploded into sales of $1.7 billion a year, and “vaping” e-Cigs is now the new fad for young people who used to smoke to look “cool.” And as long as the FDA has no authority over their product, they can say almost anything in their advertising, and get away with outrageous ads that hearken back to the old days when sex sold tobacco. Even more scary, their lack of regulation, standards, or quality control has resulted in huge variations in the amounts of gases delivered between different brands of e-Cigs.
So much for Jenny McCarthy’s “concern” about “toxins” and “healthy living.” She may be a leader of the anti-vaxxer movement, but she is otherwise just another paid celebrity shill with no actual medical experience to know what she’s talking about. I can understand as her acting career has vanished and she needed money before she got the job as a panelist on The View that she might want to take on a job or two to pay the bills, but why become the spokesmodel for a product of questionable safety, which releases an entirely different set of “toxins” than the cigarettes she used to smoke?
And if there were any doubt that McCarthy will follow any fad that advances her career, remember that she “absolutely loves Botox” as well. Great! Our “health” advocate thinks that injecting the toxin that causes botulism in her face is also a healthy way to live. Jenny McCarthy is just another celebrity who will do whatever she needs to do to advance her career and will say anything she’s paid to say. The entire crusade on “toxins” and “health” was just a fad for her.