The war on e-cigarettes being waged by the federal government has a lot of allies, including many health organizations around the country. Though health organizations are supposed to be trustworthy and do what is in the best interests of the public health, the attitudes about e-cigarette that are prevalent are clearly going against the science that is available. In many cases, statements being made about e-cigarettes appear to be deliberate lies, quite possibly motivated by a desire to keep tax dollars coming in from cigarette sales, or replace those dwindling dollars with e-cigarette taxes.
The facts as we know them to date are that there is no real evidence that e-cigarettes do any harm in the short term, and no more reason to suspect long-term harm than there is with any other product. With this knowledge, most products are allowed to be sold and no one complains. Not so with e-cigarettes. Opponents of e-cigarettes use different reasoning for their position. Some worry more about youth picking up a vaping habit than they do about current smokers having a safer alternative; others believe that nicotine, in any form, is bad and switching to a less harmful form of nicotine delivery is not a viable solution; and some believe that e-cigarettes should be banned because of the possibility that they might be dangerous though science has not discovered this fact yet. Ironically, science has known for decades that smoking cigarettes is unsafe, yet new laws are positioned to make it harder for companies to get e-cigarettes on the market than cigarettes.
Misinformation about e-cigarettes has come from many authorities and the United States government. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy proclaimed that e-cigarettes are a threat to the public health several months ago. He backed up his statement by misrepresenting data on smoking and vaping among teenagers. A study showed that while more vaping teens eventually tried cigarettes than teens who had never vaped, it also found that very few vaping teens tried cigarettes after vaping; only a handful out of 100 teenagers surveyed. But headlines read “Vaping leads to smoking.” A more accurate headline reflecting the entire study would have been “Vaping very rarely leads to smoking.”
Elsewhere around the country, North Carolina’s Dare County Department of Health & Human Services used grant money to purchase a billboard that warns of the dangers of e-cigarettes, especially to kids and teenagers. The billboard calls e-cigarettes “the next generation cigarette for the next generation of addicts.”
In Kentucky, the Coalition for a Healthy Oldham County ran a print ad warning of the dangers of e-cigarettes, and even spread fear about e-cigarette hardware by pointing out that it can be used to vape other things besides nicotine, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
Smokers across the U.S. are getting no help from governments and health departments by this damnation of e-cigarettes. The true facts are that youth vaping is of little concern according to studies, and any serious dangers of vaping to adults are either hiding from scientists or they don’t exist. It has been stated as fact by British health authorities that vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking. But even the UK has had its share of wrongheaded ideas about e-cigarettes, such as a sting operation that caught vape shop owners selling e-cigarettes to adults without checking first to make sure they were smokers. This, according to those who undertook the operation, was good reason to limit the amount of nicotine content and e-liquid available to UK residents. Laws doing just that went into effect in May 2017.
The news coming from around the world on e-cigarette legislation continues to be a mixture of good and bad. In the United States, the best news now is that there are efforts going forward to alter the FDA’s deeming rules, which if successful could make e-cigarettes much more widely available for smokers. A bill that would have allowed all vaping products manufactured prior to August 2016 to remain on the market without the expensive testing the FDA is going to require failed in the Senate, but it is likely to be reintroduced at a later time. Another bill that is still to be voted on would remove e-cigarettes and e-liquid from the realm of “tobacco products” and put vaping products in its own category.
The illogical attitude governments have towards e-cigarettes is assumed by most people to being motivated by money. First, pharmaceutical companies that produce nicotine gums and patches are in competition with e-cigarettes, and these companies have a tremendous amount of lobbying power. And tax revenue is a huge issue, as governments have been seeing smoking rates decline and cigarette tax dollars along with them. Insisting that e-cigarettes are dangerous is a good way to have an excuse to tax them like cigarettes. Meanwhile, the truth that e-cigarettes are a valuable harm-reduction tool has to fight to be heard. The public health and the personal health of smokers is under threat as long as governments continue to deny the harm-reduction potential of vaping.