Vaping isn’t smoking, it’s a disease prevention method
– ROBERT SKLAROFF, BILL GODSHALL, AND STEPHEN F. GAMBESCIA, 3/7/17
The Surgeon General recently joined tobacco control groups to condemn vaping, claiming this was another attack on public enemy number one.
This time, however, public health advocates need to assess and reject the mission-creep by these federal and nonprofit agencies.
And, as the new Administration pledges to slash many harmful regulations, it should include the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent vapor product regulation, which was touted as another important measure to protect children from Big Tobacco and nicotine.
Over the years, clinicians, behavioral scientists, and researchers have offered a sundry of ways to help addicted smokers to cut down on or, ideally, to quit smoking. Other than promoting price hikes and indoor smoking bans, those approaches have had humbling levels of success.
While not an elixir, a smoking reduction and abatement kit has come along — in the form of vaping — that satisfies the addiction by delivering nicotine, but sharply reduces the harm caused by inhaling cigarette smoke dozens or hundreds of times every day.
Because smoking is physically and psychologically addictive, some researchers think e-cigarettes satisfy both needs by mirroring the ritual of handling a nicotine-delivery device. Studies have found vaping to be more effective than other cessation techniques (drugs, counseling, psychotherapy, hypnosis, etc.) because of its capacity to yield sustained remissions.
Since 2009, adult cigarette smoking has declined by 25 percent and, since 2011, youth smoking has plummeted by 50 percent, due in part to vaping. But 27.6 million daily adult-smokers remain addicted to cigarettes.
Meanwhile there is no evidence that all other tobacco products combined cause more than minuscule levels of morbidity, disability, mortality and healthcare costs relaed to tobacco-related illnesses.
This is pivotal, for these other tobacco products are used by a total of 51 million adults in America (as of 2013-2014): E-Cigarettes (16.7 million), Cigars (13.2 million), Hookah (10.5 million), Smokeless Tobacco (8.6 million) and Pipes (2.0 million).
The 2015 National Health Information Survey found that 2.5 million adult vapers had quit smoking, and 5 million vapers were still smoking. In addition to helping many smokers quit, vaping has also emerged as the best strategy for sharply reducing cigarette consumption by smokers who continue to smoke.
Concomitantly, the risk associated with vaping e-cigs is negligible, save for a few reports of battery fires, largely due to consumer ignorance or negligence that can be reduced by better consumer education and repeal of the FDA’s regulation that has banned sales of all new safer vapor products in the U.S. since August.
Since cigarette smoking causes virtually all tobacco-linked diseases and deaths, it was counterintuitive that health groups lobbied President Obama’s FDA to extend cigarette regulations to vapor products. Vaping advocates rightly suspect that these nonprofits have exhibited mission-creep, as they abandoned their public health goals by lobbying to ban vaping and vapor products.