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Utah Politician Slammed For Claiming E-Cigarettes Cause Cancer

(REUTERS/David Becker)

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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A Utah Statehouse representative is under fire for claiming e-cigarettes are just as dangerous as regular cigarettes and that vapers face the same debilitating cancers as smokers.

A long-standing opponent of e-cigarettes, Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield,  is advocating an 86 percent tax increase on e-cigarettes, in the hope of deterring young people from vaping. (RELATED: Children Bused In To Lobby Capitol For 86 Percent E-Cigarette Tax)

He does give credit to smokers who have switched to vaping and assures them e-cigarettes will still be cheaper than regular smokes. H said he sees no contradiction between being a low-tax Republican and advocating a massive tax increase.

As well as being a Republican, Ray told The Daily Caller News Foundation he is also a father and has a responsibility to the health of children. He argues that smokers should pay for the costs of their own healthcare and taxes such as the one he is proposing, go some way to solving that problem.

Ray disregarded the fact that vapers have as yet not come down with any of the illnesses related to smoking.

“Vapers will have lung cancer and a whole lot of other things because they’re puffing formaldehyde,” Ray said. “Formaldehyde is five to 15 times more likely to cause cancer than a cigarette. In five to 10 years from now you guys are gonna be turning around trying to sue these companies because of the health issues.”

Ray’s views on the risks of e-cigarettes are way outside the medical mainstream, saying he “absolutely” believes e-cigarettes are just as dangerous as their tobacco-filled rivals.

In August 2015, Public Health England released a report concluding that e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than e-cigarettes. Ray’s comments inflamed vaping groups.

“Over the last decade, there have been hundreds of scientific studies performed by the world’s foremost experts on tobacco control showing little to no risk of long-term harm clearly demonstrating no risk of cancer or any other serious harms when used as designed,” said Aaron Frazier, director of The Utah Smoke-Free Association.

“Representative Ray has been provided with copies of many of these over the last 5 years yet he fully dismisses every fact. He instead chooses to create moral panic and spread rhetoric to his constituents and the public. If you have influence over others, as with health agencies and most importantly elected officials, then being wrong becomes being harmful to the health of our citizenry,” he added.

“We encourage Representative Ray to open his eyes and mind to the scientific facts. There are a billion lives at stake in getting this right and we choose to stand with them fighting rather than regulating.”

President of the American Vaping Association Gregory Conley was just as scornful. “This claim is about as fanciful and unsubstantiated as others made by the sponsor in the half-decade that he has spent demonizing vapor products,” Conley told The Daily Caller New Foundation.

“There are ex-smokers in the United States who have been using vapor products for nearly ten years with no major side effects being reported. We remain hopeful that Utah legislators will listen to the science instead of allowing ideology and wild predictions to obscure their voting decisions.”

Ray’s claims about the harms of e-cigarettes are so extreme that they could, in fact, be harming public health, according to Jeff Stier, head of the risk analysis division at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

“As an elected official assemblyman Ray should recognize he has a responsibility to speak accurately to the public. His comments, which are both unscientific and inaccurate, are reckless and will undermine public health by causing people not to make the effort to switch,” said Stier.

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