Editorial: Vaping saves lives by helping smokers quit

Published on Monday, 12 June 2017 12:34 - Written by

Harm reduction is a vital component in public health decisions. That’s why the current war against vaping - the use of so-called electronic “cigarettes” which contain no tobacco at all - is misguided.

Thankfully, some in government are starting to see this.

“Consumers, small businesses, and public health won a small but important victory in the city of San Leandro, Calif., Monday night,” writes Guy Bentley for the Washington Examiner. “The city council refused to enact a ban on local retailers selling flavored tobacco products, throwing it back to a rules committee for reconsideration in September. Proposals for tobacco flavor bans have spread rapidly across the Bay Area and are under active consideration in Oakland and San Francisco. While occasionally well-meaning, these prohibitions are always misconceived.”

That’s because the war on tobacco - a noxious weed, to be sure - has been taken too far. Vaping isn’t smoking, and there’s no evidence at all that it leads to smoking. Instead, there’s an incredible amount of proof that many people use it to successfully quit smoking.

“Quitting nicotine cold turkey often proves too difficult for many, and as a consequence, they continue smoking until they suffer an early death,” Bentley explains. “As the late professor Michael Russell said, ‘People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar.’ Anti-smoking activists may wish for a world in which adults could switch from smoking to abstinence at the drop of a hat, but in the real world the most effective policy to help smokers quit is to give them more options to reduce their risk of smoking-related disease - It is here that flavors play such an important role. A survey of vapers published in 2013 showed more than 91 percent classified themselves as ‘former’ smokers, with the majority saying flavor variety was a ‘very important’ factor in their journey to smoking cessation.”

Why ban such an effective tool? Most cities and the FDA say it’s because vaping could lean young people to try smoking. Statistics disprove this.

“The teen smoking rate has been in free fall, dropping to its lowest point in recorded history at 9.3 percent in 2015, at the very same time as experimentation with vaping has risen,” Bentley writes. “Furthermore, the number of teens who vape on a daily basis as opposed to those who have tried vaping remains minuscule.”

At the same time, the FDA has paused its so-called deeming rule, in which it deems products such as e-cigarettes (as well as cigars and pipe tobacco) to be as bad as cigarettes.

The fact is, vaping has been extensively researched, and shown to be far less harmful.

“According to Britain’s Department of Health, vapes are at least 95 percent less harmful,” writes Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Studies on both animals, human cells and human test subjects have demonstrated that the carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic substances found in cigarettes are almost completely, though not entirely, nonexistent in e-cigarettes.”

The phrase “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” applies in public policy. Don’t ban vaping.