Legislators have long attempted to reduce the negative health impacts of smoking through taxes, bans, and regulations. Some have tried to extend these same policies to electronic cigarettes or “e-cigarettes,” even though they contain no tobacco and are substantially less harmful than traditional cigarettes. This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled new regulations placing electronic cigarettes under an avalanche of new rules requiring that they be approved as a new type of tobacco product — effectively treating them like traditional cigarettes.
Cigarette smoking has become significantly less popular in the U.S. over the past decade, it still remains a public-health scourge. Smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths every year in this country, or about one of every five death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while an additional 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease. Clearly more needs to be done to get Americans to quit smoking.
Last November, I discussed a Yale research finding that smoking increased significantly among teens aged 12-17 in states that banned e-cigarette sales to minors compared with states with no bans (here). Now this from researchers at Cornell University: “We document a concerning trend of cigarette smoking among adolescents increasing when [e-cigarettes] become more difficult to purchase.”
In an editorial calling for regulations which would put obstacles in front of adults who seek to quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes, The Sun’s editorial board relies on a powerfully debunked innuendo and preposterous logic (“Teens and e-cigarettes,” Aug. 23).
For decades, lawmakers and regulators in the United States have attempted to reduce smoking rates using taxes, smoking bans, and regulations. Despite these heavy-handed policies, the decline in smoking has leveled off over the past few years. Electronic cigarettes, meanwhile, have quickly become one of the most popular nicotine replacement products, with the total market expected to reach $1.7 billion in 2015.
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).
In this episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, research fellow Jesse Hathaway is joined by Dr. Brad Rodu, Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center. Hathaway and Rodu talk about how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) corrupt the scientific process in academia, by refusing to fund studies which do not conform to the federal government’s stated vision of a “tobacco-free world.”
Recently I attended a forum on e-cigarettes, sponsored by a political organization that wanted to educate its attendees about the devices. During the discussion my opponent [from the prohibitionist American Legacy Foundation] repeated the baseless claim that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.
The Monitoring the Future survey shows that past 30-day cigarette use among 12th graders dropped from 16.3% in 2013, to 13.6% in 2014, the largest single-year decline in the survey’s 39-year history (datahere).
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%.
As noted previously (here), Drs. Karl Fagerström and Tom Eissenberg have described a continuum of dependence among tobacco and nicotine products. They concluded that cigarettes are the most dependence-producing (addictive) product and that smokeless tobacco is intermediate, evidenced by clinical trials showing that quitting cigarette smoking is more difficult than quitting ST.
As early as 2004, various medical journals published articles claiming that small-community smoking bans resulted in nearly immediate reductions in heart disease. For example, the high-profile BMJ reported that hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) declined 40%, from 40 to 24, in Helena, Montana, after implementation of a smoke-free ordinance (here). Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, reported that AMI admissions dropped 27% “within months” in Pueblo, Colorado (here). Similar reports came from Bowling Green, Ohio (here), Monroe County, Indiana (here) and beyond.
In their war against e-cigarettes, government officials often claim that the devices are a gateway to smoking. CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden asserted (here) that “…many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes.” The National Cancer Institute last March promoted (here) Dr. Stanton Glantz’s tortured analysis of youth e-cigarette use (discussed here and here). While his data failed to support a gateway effect, his employer, the University of California San Francisco, made the claim anyway (here).
Rates of smoking and use of other tobacco products among teens are so low that they no longer provide a valid basis for the draconian anti-tobacco policy prescriptions favored by the FDA and CDC.
Cigarette smoking is the most harmful form of tobacco use. Alternatives to smoking that supply users with, yes, addictive, but not particularly harmful nicotine, are significantly less dangerous.
How obscene is it for a Florida jury to award $23.6 billion to the widow of a man who died of lung cancer in 1996? She sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company by asserting that her husband had been “fooled” into starting the smoke at age 13. Apparently he had never heard cigarettes referred to as “coffin nails”, a slang term that has been around since the last century. And how come all those patches, chewing gum, and other means to stop smoking had no effect, if used by her late husband?
In a closer vote than expected, the Los Angeles City Council today voted not to carve-out an exception for bars in that city’s new ban on public vaping (the use of e-cigarettes, which emit smokeless vapor).
One of Sunday’s most controversial Super Bowl ads came with the message “Friends don’t let friends smoke.” Bizarrely, it’s organized anti-smokers in the public-health establishment who want the commercial banned.