Tobacco controllers are continuing their recent media crusade to create a “moral panic” around teen use of vaping devices as smoking rates among adults and youths plummet.
Officials with the Delaware Division of Public Health are the latest to speak out against the increasing prevalence of e-cigarettes — harm reduction devices helping millions of former smokers in the U.S. quit. Fred Gatto, chief of the Division of Public Health’s Health Promotion Bureau claimed Sunday that, “there’s really no evidence to prove that” vapor products are aiding in smoking cessation, reports Delaware Public Media.
Such a claim ignores multiple studies from esteemed medical bodies including Public Health England, which found Feb. 6 vaping devices are improving the quit rate of smokers in the U.K. and accelerating annual declines in the country’s smoking rate. A 2014 European Union-commissioned study showed roughly 6 million European smokers have already quit cigarettes using vaping devices.
U.S. Health officials are particularly focused on teen use of the Juul device, which regulators are increasingly using as justification for blanket and crushing regulation of the vaping industry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (RELATED: Anti-Tobacco Groups Sue FDA Over Vape Ban Timing. But Why?)
Juul devices are light and slim, resembling the feel of a cigarette, and deliver a large concentration of nicotine. The devices are solely intended for adult smokers trying to quit combustible tobacco, and judging by their explosive growth are proving popular with their intended audience.
Tobacco controllers claim teen use of Juul and other vaping products serve as a “gateway” to smoking combustible cigarettes, and further allege that companies are intentionally targeting teens with flavored nicotine liquid. The latter claim ignores one of the more basic functions of vapor products for adult smokers, which is using flavors to disassociate from the taste of tobacco.
Despite the supposed “gateway” effect, the favorite argument of anti-vaping tobacco controllers, both adult and youth smoking rates continue to fall to historic lows. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey, released Dec. 14, 2017, shows reported cigarette use among 12th graders fell to 4.2 percent in 2016 — down from 24.6 percent in 1997 — even as the number of youth experimenting with vaping devices increased.
A recent study, by renowned tobacco researchers Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Greece and Dr. Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania in Italy, found regular use of electronic cigarettes is “rare” among youths who do not smoke.
The adult smoking rate fell from 15.8 percent in 2016 to 14.1 percent over the first nine months of 2017 — a significant decline many argue vapor products are accelerating. (RELATED: A Majority Of Adults Still Falsely Believe Nicotine Fuels Tobacco Cancer)
The quit rate of American smokers jumped from 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2011 to 5.6 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to a University of California study released July 26, 2017 — a statistically significant increase attributed to growing vaping popularity.
Despite the avalanche of evidence in the U.S. and around the world that proves vaping, while not entirely free of risks, drastically cuts combustible tobacco’s physical harms, the media continues to push misinformation about the devices.
“The media has been whipped up into a full blown moral panic over vaping,” Clive Bates of Counterfactual, a public interest consultancy and advocacy group, recently told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Dr. Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an editorial in Forbes April 11 pointing out how the panic being created around vaping in the public mind, “may have deadly results,” by spreading confusion about the safety of vaping among adult smokers. Satel notes that, “U.S. cigarette sales volumes continue to decline to their lowest ever, strongly suggesting that such products have vast public health potential.”
The media’s insistence to frame harm reduction products like e-cigarettes, which are largely manufactured outside the purview of the big tobacco companies, as massive threats to public health appears to miss the underlining premise of harm reduction.
“Getting viable non-combustion alternatives to smokers should be the key priority when smoking is killing 480,000 Americans a year,” David Sweanor of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa recently told TheDCNF. “Dealing with any unintended consequences, such as youth usage, should not be allowed to be used by abstinence-only advocates to prevent alternatives to cigarettes.”
Instead of alarmism over the alleged threats posed by vapor products, users should be taught about the relative risks of those products when compared to smoking.
Public health advocates say efforts to spread misinformation on alternative smoking options that minimize their benefits simply deny smokers less harmful options while tacitly encouraging them to keep using a more dangerous product.
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