Ecigs are getting a lot of media coverage this summer, but a good portion of it relates to negative stories about bans and prohibition. This week, the Huffington Post finally offered a voice of reason to the ecig debate with an article from Tony Newman, the communications direction from the Drug Policy Alliance. With a long history in drug prevention, Newman defended ecigs, insisting that it’s time for the truth to emerge among the wealth of myths surrounding vaping. The bottom line is that “e-cigarettes and vaping flavors help people quit smoking,” he said.
While many politicians claim that ecigs are a danger to children, Newman said these officials should take a look at the facts and get acquainted with scientific evidence that gives a true picture of vaping. “It seems like every day we hear a new attack – yet these products are actually helping some people quit or cut back on the much more dangerous alternative of smoking tobacco.”
He pointed to a large ecig study published in England this spring. Researchers found that when smokers used ecigs, they were 60 percent more likely to quit tobacco than if they went with typical cessation products like nicotine patches or gums. With abundant evidence to suggest that ecigs could make a huge dent in the number of smokers, Newman said it’s time for politicians and anti-smoking advocates to stop treating vaping like an enemy.
Last week, Senator Jay Rockefeller was very vocal about his anti-ecig agenda. He said that fruit flavored e-liquids like cherry, coconut, and peach were drawing in children and causing them to start smoking. He even went so far as to tell ecig companies that they are “what’s wrong with this country.” Newman said that this ridiculous point of view is really hurting the potential for ecigs to help smokers that feel trapped by their addiction. “While I understand the concern of marketing e-cigarettes to young people and nonsmokers, we cannot lose sight of the fact that these products are helping millions of people stop or cut back on smoking.”
Newman defended flavored e-liquids, pointing out that many long-time smokers enjoy the variety of flavors. In fact, that is one of the biggest appeals of vaping so it makes no sense to condemn it. While Senator Rockefeller and other critics make the case that the flavors appeal mostly to children, Newman said that simply isn’t true. Kids need to hear the truth about ecigs and they need to hear it now.
“I have worked to end our nation’s disastrous war on drugs for the last 14 years at the Drug Policy Alliance. Whenever we propose programs that reduce the harms of drug use, our opponents respond with the false claim that we are sending the ‘wrong message’ to young people. We should never let politically expedient sound bites trump interventions proven to minimize the health consequences of drugs,” Newman said.
So how should adults teach kids about ecigs in the proper way? Newman suggests that they simply present the facts. “We rightly tell them that while we need more research, dozens of health experts sent a letter to the World Health Organization urging them to embrace e-cigarettes as a life saving intervention… We should explain to them that millions of people are deciding to improve their health with the much safer practice of vaping instead of smoking tobacco.”
Kids can handle the truth about ecigs. In fact, we know that giving kids the unfiltered truth is effective by looking at tobacco control efforts over the past decade. Since anti-smoking advocates have launched graphic, in-your-face ads about the impact of smoking, the number of tobacco users is declining. The truth works… there is no need to hide it.
Young people already know that smoking is dangerous and even deadly. But now they need to know that ecigs offer a better alternative. Ecigs were created to help smokers that want to quit using tobacco. For the teenage boy that worried about his mom’s pack-a-day habit, this information could be liberating. For the little girl that is afraid her dad will die if he lights another cigarette, learning about ecigs could give her hope that there is another way.
We should embrace ecig technology for all the hope it offers, rather than trying to present it as a dangerous enemy. Are kids going to try ecigs? Yes. The truth is that kids also try nicotine gum. But when they realize that it’s only meant to help smokers quit, it’s not quite as enticing anymore and they don’t stick with it. How many people do you know that developed a lifelong tobacco habit from chewing nicotine gum as a teen? The same is true for ecigs.