Vaping Is Much Safer than Smoking Cigarettes

by on April 4, 2017 · 0 comments

in Health

By Brian Fojtik / New York Post / March 29, 2017

New York Gov. Cuomo’s Department of Health last week released survey data that he’s using to bolster his case for a $12 tax on 30 ml bottles of vaping liquids and a ban on vaping indoors. Yet the survey data — and much other evidence — undercut his case.

That hasn’t stopped legislators from piling on with efforts to ban coupons for vapor products, prohibit sales in pharmacies, ban flavored e-liquid and even ban the sale of liquid used in vapor products altogether. State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) says he’s reached an agreement with Cuomo to pass the vaping ban.

The first thing the governor, Hannon and other legislators fail to recognize is that e-cigarettes aren’t tobacco products. E-cigarettes contain no tobacco. Most contain nicotine, which is heated in a flavored liquid to produce an aerosol users inhale. But nicotine isn’t exclusive to tobacco. The same nicotine is used in nicotine gums and patches used to help smokers quit.

Scientists have recognized for years that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the smoke, which contains thousands of harmful chemicals. E-cigarettes contain no tobacco and produce no smoke. While we may prefer living in a fantasyland where teens never engage in any risky behavior, the Health Department report demonstrates that New York teens are actually making better, more health-conscious choices.

A glance at the report provides cause for celebration, not panic. It reveals that increased experimentation with e-cigarettes among teens has been associated with a dramatic reduction in smoking. Teen cigarette use in New York fell gradually, from about 27 percent in 2000 to about 12 percent in 2012, a drop of 1.25 percentage points a year. Since then, it has fallen to around 4 percent, a rate of 2 percentage points a year.

Confirmation of this effect comes from research by Dr. Mi­chael Pesko of Weill-Cornell Medicine, who found that states that limited teen access to e-cigarettes experienced a slower rate of decline in smoking. To put it simply, allowing smokers or potential smokers the opportunity freely to choose safer alternatives has done proportionately more to reduce teen smoking in a short period than a 50-year, expensive, taxpayer-funded, all-out government assault on the problem.

While it’s true that “any” use of e-cigarettes has risen dramatically among teens in New York — standing at around 20 percent in 2016 — most of that use is likely experimentation. Using data from a 2014 national survey, Dr. Kenneth Warner of the University of Michigan concluded that “nonsmoking high-school students are highly unlikely to use e-cigarettes; among those who do, most used them only on 1–2 of the past 30 days.”

And make no mistake, vaping is much, much safer than smoking. Last year, Britain’s Royal College of Physicians, one of the oldest and most respected medical societies, published a comprehensive report on e-cigarettes stating that “the hazard to health arising from long-term vapor inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5 percent of the harm from smoking tobacco.”

In other words, vaping is at least 95 percent safer than smoking. That’s the same Royal College that in 1962 published the first major report on the harms of smoking — a full two years before the US surgeon general did so. Sadly, in New York and around the country, we continue to trail the United Kingdom in understanding the potential of e-cigarettes to offer consumers safer choices.

Based on science, rather than propaganda, public-health authorities in Great Britain don’t demonize e-cigarettes. They take a radical approach for government — they tell the truth. In providing guidance for physicians, they recommend that smoking patients who cannot or will not stop smoking switch to much safer vapor products — products that appear to be less addictive, contain no tobacco and produce no smoke.

If doctors don’t feel comfortable recommending a specific product, they send smokers down the street to a local vape shop to find products that will work best for them. While UK authorities focus on fighting smoking, which kills people, their US counterparts focus on fighting nicotine, which doesn’t.

In his revenue memo, Cuomo argues that “the unregulated marketing of vapor products threatens the gains that have been made in reducing tobacco use by youth and adults in New York.” The report from his own Health Department demonstrates the opposite — that e-cigarettes and other vapor products might actually prove to be the best way to reduce youth smoking.

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