The association of tobacco use and body weight has long been a matter of concern. In 2004, I collaborated with Swedish investigators to publish the first research on whether switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco blunts some of the weight gain normally seen with quitting via abstinence (abstract here, blog post here).
As a pathologist working at two large medical centers, I have studied the effects of smoking on health for over 20 years. I’ve published scores of papers on the impressive benefits of switching from cigarettes to safer, non-combustible forms of tobacco (such as Swedish snus). This strategy – called tobacco harm reduction – has vast potential for improving public health.
The contrast between the spin put on youth e-cigarette use data last Fall and the story told by the actual data, released last month, is startling but not surprising, given the U.S. government’s over-zealous tobacco prohibition posture.
City and state officials across the nation often use tax increases on tobacco, alcohol, plastic bags, sugary drinks, and other “sin products” to help fill their budget gaps or fund pet projects. By taxing products that some governments claim have a negative effect on society, officials are able to raid taxpayers’ wallets without having to face the same level of scrutiny that normally goes hand-in-hand with proposals to raise taxes.
Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak recently tweeted, “@OxfordWords #Vape may be #WOTY but the increase in never-smoking youth using e-cigs is a not a trivial story.” The tweet referred to the Oxford English Dictionary’s having designated “vape” as the word of the year, and reflected a CDC report claiming that e-cigarette use among children had increased in 2013. The prevalence of e-cig use among youth who had never smoked was 0.3%.
There’s an interesting phenomenon playing out in both New Jersey and Ohio: Two of the country’s most prominent conservative Republican governors have proposed new taxes of a sort that haven’t appealed even to traditionally liberal, tax-hungry state legislatures in states like Massachusetts and Washington.