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LA Times Uses Old Data To Push ‘Prohibitionist’ Stance Against Vaping

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The Los Angeles Times tore into a decision from federal regulators to ease restrictions on vaping in an editorial Monday, using alarmism and old data to push the view that e-cigarettes are a threat to public health.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced Friday the agency is pushing off the deadline to comply with the FDA’s contentious “deeming rule,” which requires businesses to retroactively submit each individual product to the FDA for approval before it can be sold. The FDA also announced their intention to reduce nicotine levels in all tobacco products. The deeming rule threatened to bankrupt much of the industry through a costly application process and takes products off market that are actively helping reduce the U.S. smoking rate, but the LA Times is staunchly against the rule delay.

The LA Times editorial board begins by praising the decision on nicotine reduction but argues the action on vaping “undermines” the message that tobacco poses health risks. They claim that vaping products will remain available to consumers and cite data from a study in 2016 in an attempt to argue the devices are rising in popularity with America’s youth.

The trends however suggest teens and young adults are largely giving up e-cigarette use. A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released June 15, which the LA Times ignores, shows 11.3 percent of high school students used a vaping device in 2016, down from 16 percent in 2015.

“It looks to me like the editorial was written from a prohibitionist mindset, and I find with people like that is they are arguing more on the basis of faith than on the basis of reason,” David Sweanor, adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law and Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It doesn’t matter how many times you present the facts, they will use the same data. It’s not because they are engaging in a rational debate. What you’re dealing with is pre-enlightenment reasoning, its faith.”

The editorial board also tries to drum up fear that vaping companies are marketing flavors specifically designed to appeal to children, despite age restrictions on buying the products. Former smokers also note that flavored vaping products are key to quitting because they help the user disassociate from the taste of tobacco.

The article further devolves, asking if Gottlieb used the announcement on reducing nicotine levels to distract from the FDA’s action on e-cigarettes. The editorial board says they “want to believe Gottlieb,” but argue his decision ultimately causes immediate damage to public health.

A study from the University of California released July 26 shows a record number of Americans are ditching cigarettes with the aid of vaping devices, bolstering the image of e-cigarettes as an important tool for improving public health.

Researchers found the rate of Americans quitting smoking jumped from 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2011 to 5.6 percent between 2014 and 2015. That means roughly 350,000 smokers gave up the habit between 2014 and 2015, which the researchers largely attribute to the rising popularity of vaping.

The study also revealed that roughly 65 percent of people who use vape devices are likely to attempt to quit smoking compared to only 40 percent of smokers who do not use them. The researchers conclude e-cigarettes give smokers trying to quit a leg up on their peers.

“They are dismissing the big picture,” Sweanor told TheDCNF. ” When you are dealing with close to half a million deaths a year, and it’s all due to dirty delivery systems, and we know we can replace it with something that is a tiny fraction of the risk, refusing to think more broadly has really serious ethical implications. It results in the deaths of more and more people. I think we have an obligation to get vision on something like this. To think more broadly about what we can accomplish.”

Many medical professionals actually advise smokers to give the devices a try. A survey published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last year found 57.8 percent of practicing physicians recommend e-cigarettes to smokers trying to quit, although the push to cast public doubt on vaping may be impacting this number.

Vaping eliminates up to 95 percent of the risk associated with cigarettes because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke.

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