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Jenny McCarthy, Hypocrite

by Donald Prothero, Sep 18 2013

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 “”

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.

16 Responses to “Jenny McCarthy, Hypocrite”

  1. Carl says:

    Dr. Gorski prefers that his alter ego not be mentioned in the same article as his actual legal name. Orac has never contributed to Science-Based Medicine, though SBM has been known to link to Orac.

  2. WScott says:

    Jenny owes me a new irony meter.

    @ Carl: I don’t know if Dr. Gorski has formally ended that separation, but the curtains been slipping more recently. In fact, the very SBM post Dr. Prothero linked to contains Gorski refering to himself obliquely as Orac.

    • That was my impression, too, since he blogged openly as himself, and yet mentioned Orac in the blog. The pseudonym was helpful for a while, but all the woo-meisters who he’s attacked know his true identity now…

  3. Cameron says:

    Just thought I’d mention that here in Canada Health Canada hasn’t approved e-cigarettes but has approved several homeopathic nosodes; how messed up is that? E-cigs seem more suited to smoke cessation and harm reduction than are homeopathic nosodes suited to vaccination.

  4. oldebabe says:

    There’s this constant disparagement of Jenny McCarthy’s current stance et al, but no actual information, that I can find, on what as a result she is exactly putting her son through… i.e. how old is he now? does he have a doc? what is his actual diagnosis? prognosis? his functioning…??? is he rational? etc. She can think whatever she likes as far as I’m concerned, but what is the effect, specifically, on this other human being who is, apparently, under her control? Others have the option to ignore her, speak up, and/or try to control her rants, but. True, I’m talking here about only one person, and I seem to be the only one doing it, but still…
    And THAT’S also the reality.

    • Frankly, I don’t think anybody knows. McCarthy has been able to keep her son out of the limelight after using his condition as a weapon in her anti-vaxx crusade. Doctors have no power to compel McCarthy to give him modern medical treatment if she insists on woo, and the law is (unfortunately) on her side….

  5. Old Rockin' Dave says:

    Here is another Jenny McCarthy fact: While she attributes her son’s autism to vaccines, she smoked all through her pregnancy.
    The body may be all Jenny (+ silicon), but the brain is totally Charlie McCarthy.

  6. Ed Graham says:

    OK, I understand that Jenny McCarthy is an air head, but the Doctors…

  7. Catzilla says:

    I thought chelation therapy was a useful tool for heavy metal poisoning, granted for the wrong purpose it’s dangerous.
    Was I reading too much into what you said?

  8. RoboSapien says:

    Donald, I get it that Jenny is a vapid, poison breathing harpy and the antithesis of everything that you stand for (plus the whole endangering children thing), but I think your hatred of her has colored your perspective on e-cigarettes.

    You clearly don’t understand the plight of the smoker, and it is apparent in the subtle condescension with which you approach the subject. Smoking addiction is a trap that nobody ever seems to fully break free of. No matter how audacious the marketing may be for cigs and e-cigs, it is not to blame for it either. It is a social disease, we start because people around us are doing it. And once you’re sucked in, no patches or gum can satisfy the neurotic obsession with filling your chest with heavy gas and blowing out clouds.

    But we don’t need cessation if we can supplant it with something safer. While there is no clinical evidence of the efficacy of vaping as a smoking cessation aid, there is also a complete lack of evidence that there is any harm to come from it, and there are no predictable side-effects aside from the nicotine high and some slight dry mouth (PG/VG are known humectants).

    Also, nobody puts ethylene glycol in e-liquid. Besides it being obviously harmful, it costs more than twice as much as propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, both of which are USP food grade materials along with everything else (excluding the nicotine) that you will find in any e-liquid made in the U.S. Feel free to take your chances with shit from China.

    So essentially we are taking stuff that is proven safe to consume and heating it into a vapor and absorbing it through membranes. The alternatives are to puff on something that is long proven to dramatically increase risk of cancer and disease, or grit my teeth and face a life encumbered by a huge insatiable void. It is a choice that you may not understand, since I guess you have superior genes or something and managed to avoid this pitfall. For me, it is pretty simple: I’ll take my chances with the nicotine fog machine.

    And I’ll finish this off with an anecdote, because I know skeptics love those. Vaping has kept me smoke free for 10 months now (after 20 years of smoking), I actually enjoy doing it, I’ve come to abhor cigarette smoke, and I feel better than I have in years.

    • Max says:

      Diethylene glycol has already caused many deaths when it was substituted for propylene glycol, and ethylene glycol is even more toxic.

      Donald didn’t even mention formaldehyde and acrolein.

      “Using a new method of testing, researchers found that in three out of the ten e-cigs studied, the level of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, came close to the amount in conventional cigarettes. Furthermore, a highly toxic molecule called acrolein was detected ‘sometimes at levels even higher than in traditional cigarettes,’ said Thomas Laurenceau, chief editor of the magazine.”

      So even if they’re not as bad as cigarettes, they’re probably still toxic and should be regulated, and it’s incredibly hypocritical for Jenny McCarthy to peddle them while decrying toxins in vaccines that ARE regulated and proven to save lives.

    • Max says:

      “there are no predictable side-effects aside from the nicotine high and some slight dry mouth”

      And instant increase in airway resistance.
      “They found that using an e-cigarette caused an instant increase in airway resistance that lasted for 10 minutes in the majority of the participants.”

      While e-cigs are probably fine for heavy smokers, there’s concern that they’re marketed to young people with a false sense of safety and flavors like bubble gum.

      • RoboSapien says:

        From the FDA study:

        Diethylene Glycol was detected in one sample (Smoking Everywhere 555 High cartridge) at approximately 1%.

        1% DEG found in 1 sample of 1 brand. Not very condemning. The article you cited conveniently leaves out the fact that DEG is already present in tobacco cigarettes, and also the fact that the FDA did not report detecting DEG in the vapor, but in the samples they extracted.

        This is the kind of “oh no toxic chemicals!” alarmist reaction that skeptics are always cautioning against. Toxicity is relative to the dose, not the substance. Even if EVERY e-cig contained 1% DG, one would have to drink nearly 50 mL of e-liquid for a toxic effect (although by that point you’ll have far more serious concern over the nicotine). To put that in perspective, I vape heavily and use about 3 mL per day.

        Even Orac conceded:

        Given that the only chemicals found in e-cigarettes that raise significant health concerns are tobacco-specific nitrosamines and diethylene glycol (believed to be a contaminant from the use of non-pharmaceutical grade polyethylene glycol), from the standpoint of the vapor, e-cigarettes probably are safer than regular cigarettes.

        So unless you’re puffing on Smoking Everywhere 555 High (not likely, since they went out of business after the FDA report), your only remaining concern should be tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which have been found in quantities less than or equal to that of nicotine patches, and thousands of times less than that of tobacco products.

        And this argument about fruit and candy flavors being marketed at kids is pure horseshit. Vaping does not warp your sense of taste as does smoking. As a smoker, you develop a sort of immunity to the awful smell and taste, but as one transitions into vaping, that immunity dissolves and the true sensation of tobacco becomes appalling (even in tobacco flavored liquid). Hence we vaping ADULTS prefer other flavors. My personal favorites are raspberry, peach, and pomegranate. Should we also ban Mike’s Hard Lemonade because kids like lemonade too? Give me a break.

        Sorry that there isn’t enough peer-reviewed pure science to support the bold claims being made by e-cig sellers, but there is insufficient evidence to suggest that it is not a safe alternative to smoking. Perhaps slightly less safe than complete abstinence, but undeniably much safer than smoking tobacco.

      • Max says:

        I didn’t bring up the ethylene glycol in e-liquid, Donald did, but I was responding to your argument that nobody would use it because it’s more harmful and expensive than PEG. I pointed out that DEG has been substituted for PEG because it’s cheaper. I was thinking of products like Chinese toothpaste. Is DEG cheaper in China but more expensive in the U.S.?

        I brought up formaldehyde and acrolein, which were found in levels close to the amount in conventional cigarettes and sometimes higher.

        I agree that e-cigs are probably much safer than smoking tobacco, but probably much less safe than abstinence.
        The idea that certain flavors or additives “sweeten the poison” for young people is nothing new. For example, “A growing number of young adults in the United States are smoking menthol cigarettes, a large new study finds.”

        “Public-health efforts to curb smoking are being hindered by the marketing of mentholated cigarette brands to children as young as 12, according to the researchers, who said kids often mistakenly believe mentholated cigarettes are safer to smoke because they are easier to inhale, particularly for beginners.”

        And yes, there are concerns about sweet alcoholic drinks too.
        “Their sweet flavorings may also be particularly suited to convincing nondrinkers to drink.”

  9. Neil-from-Waterloo says:

    To the author: I really enjoyed your book but wanted to ask you a question about the Superconducting Super Collider on page 323. You mention a cost of $14 Million but shouldn’t this have been $4 Billion which was projected to be $12 Billion at the time it was cancelled? (I realize that even this number over 10 years pales in comparison to the annual amount allocated to defense each year)

    • Max says:

      Next time someone asks me to explain why I bought some expensive gizmo, instead of explaining it, I’ll just say it pales in comparison to the cost of my house, all the appliances in it, and home insurance.