Lawmakers in Guam are using a widely criticized surgeon general report on vaping from 2016 to push a ban that treats nicotine delivery systems as combustible tobacco cigarettes.
Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz is proposing to broaden the scope of a law banning the use of tobacco products in indoor spaces to include electronic cigarettes. The proposal expands the 2005 Natasha Protection Act, which bans smoking in workplaces, bars, restaurants, and any other establishments, reports Pacific News Center.
Cruz cited a surgeon general report released Dec. 8, 2016 by Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general under President Barack Obama, warning that the devices pose a grave threat to kids and require a regulatory crackdown. The “misleading” report stated that “secondhand aerosol from electronic smoking devices is not harmless water vapor,” a claim Cruz is seizing on to push the new restrictions.
“Vaping is a choice,” Cruz told Pacific News Center. “Breathing isn’t.”
Researchers panned the study in September for “misleading” the public and misrepresenting the safety profile of vaping devices. A study published in the Harm Reduction Journal reveals that the surgeon general report relied primarily on the effects of exposure to nicotine found in cigarette smoke to draw conclusions, not the aerosol nicotine released by vaping devices.
The researchers note that the surgeon general report exaggerates the health risks from exposure to certain chemicals found in liquid nicotine, while ignoring data showing large drops in the smoking rate since the emergence of vaping products.
The surgeon general report also fails to distinguish experimental use with regular use, giving a slanted picture of the vaping population among American teens. Riccardo Polosa, professor in the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine at the University of Catania and lead author of the study, said the report “failed to acknowledge that these products are a much less harmful alternative to cigarettes.”
Ricardo said the report was “so misleading and so evidence-baseless that it demanded critical appraisal.”
Vaping devices heat liquid nicotine and do not contain tobacco, but continue to be labeled as tobacco products and included in restrictions applied to traditional cigarettes.
Medical experts focused on harm reduction say these misrepresentations, often driven by political interests, damage overall public health and risk costing smokers lives. They also note the public policy danger in reports like these, which lawmakers and public officials rely on for guidance.
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