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Experts were not impressed with the latest Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarettes which played on fears of youth tobacco usage using biased data and science, and may actually negate the progress in tobacco harm reduction.
Counterfactual Consulting Limited Director Clive Bates stated, “The report is a major failure on the part of the Surgeon General and his ghost-writers at CDC. Looking only at risks to teenagers without looking at benefits to adults has inevitably created a highly one-sided report. Even with a focus on youth, it fails recognise that for adolescents, vaping may be a positive route out of smoking – an exit gateway. Without considering how young people and adults transition between smoking and vaping the Surgeon General misses nearly everything that matters and presents a fundamentally flawed report.”
R Street Senior Fellow Dr. Edward Anselm agrees stating, “The long tradition of scientifically rigorous messages and reports from the U.S. surgeon general appears to have ended. The new report on electronic cigarettes focuses on youth experimentation and completely omits the opportunities for harm reduction these devices offer for adult smokers. This is a continuation of the recent demonization of nicotine by some in the public health community, to the detriment of 40 million adult smokers who could be helped to reduce their risk to tobacco-related disease substantially.”
Jeff Stier, director of the Risk Analysis Division at the National Center for Public Policy Research, echoes the potential adverse effects of presenting such biased evidence commenting, “[i]f the Surgeon General goes on to make policy recommendations based only on the risk part of the equation, without considering the benefits, he will have failed his fundamental obligation of improving public health. Without a deep and thorough analysis of the issue, the Surgeon General’s approach becomes little more than platitudes.”
Brian Fojtik, Senior Fellow at Reason Foundation points to the studies that that government should point to while addressing the regulation of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. Fojtik commented that the “report fails to provide meaningful context and seriously acknowledge extraordinary opportunities resulting from the consumer-driven market for vapor products. To find a better, more sensible and responsible policy approach to these products, one just needs to look at the evolution of thinking we’ve seen in the United Kingdom. The approach taken by many there, including many government officials, is far more meaningful and advanced than what we see in the U.S. … And they’ve come to recommend that smokers who won’t quit or can’t quit, should be encouraged toward, not away from these products.”
As the Food and Drug Administration’s deeming regulations are poised to take effect in the next two years it is essential that the new administration pay attention to unbiased evidence that provides sound science and does not only include science that is meant to alarm and shock. 95% less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping devices have the potential to save billions of dollars in healthcare, savings which should not be undone due to alarmist reports.