The National Parks Service is adding electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) to its tobacco ban in parks across the United States. This is thanks the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Surgeon General, who recently declared that e-cigarettes are a threat to public health.
Anyone who has been paying close attention to the science behind the claims that e-cigarettes are dangerous knows that the full findings of studies are being misinterpreted and sometimes downright discarded, while any odd result that shows some potential for harm from e-cigarettes is being quickly published and touted as absolute proof that e-cigarettes are dangerous. The studies behind all these e-cigarette bans and danger warnings have generally shown overall that there is no evidence of real harm from e-cigarettes and that they are definitely much less harmful than tobacco smoking, but the U.S. government has chosen to pretend the opposite is true.
The Surgeon General’s report released in late 2016 claimed that e-cigarettes encourage young users to take up smoking. A close look at the report by experts points to the opposite conclusion, which is more often becoming the standard result when e-cigarette studies are performed and reported on. U.S. government agencies interpret e-cigarette studies in the most negative way possible without flat out lying, while scientists and health officials see the reality, which time and time again shows no evidence of real harm from e-cigarettes, less harm from e-cigarettes than from tobacco cigarettes and no evidence of the “gateway effect” of e-cigarettes leading people to tobacco cigarettes.
The situation is clearly that the government wants to discourage people from using e-cigarettes, and is doing this by taxes and restrictions. The reasons for this are unknown, but may include money, politics, or knee-jerk reactions to e-cigarettes because they look like cigarettes. The FDA and now the Surgeon General have joined The American Lung Association and others in lining up against e-cigarettes. The problem, in part, is that there may be a domino effect: Where one agency goes, others follow. The National Parks Service apparently believes the Surgeon General and the FDA, and therefore only skimmed the surface for “evidence” that e-cigarettes are harmful before deciding to ban them along with smoking.
The NPS is taking public comments on the proposed e-cigarette ban until March 7, 2017. This is an opportunity for health experts and regular smokers alike to make their voices heard. Though there have been many studies conducted that demonstrate that e-cigarettes are less harmful – as much as 95 percent less harmful – than tobacco cigarettes, much of the evidence that e-cigarettes actually help smokers quit smoking is anecdotal. In addition, the anti-e-cigarette lobby has armed itself with the phantom “gateway effect,” which is difficult to either prove or disprove, and it is actively using this weapon in its efforts to make it difficult for people to obtain and use e-cigarettes.
People who use e-cigarettes and especially those who have successfully quit smoking because of them should contact the NPS with their comments on the proposed e-cigarette ban. Public comments about the success of e-cigarettes in helping smokers quit; demonstrations of common e-cigarette advertising campaigns, which are accused of targeting children but in reality are clearly aimed only at adults who already smoke; testimonials that demonstrate that using e-cigarettes tends to cause an avoidance of tobacco smoking and not the opposite, and presentation of sound scientific data could encourage the National Parks Service to reconsider its ban. If that were to happen, it could be an important event, as it would contradict the recent trend in official e-cigarette discouragement.