U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy released a report last week stating the growing use of e-cigarettes among young people “is now a major public health concern.” Murphy recommended the Food and Drug Administration put regulations into effect immediately
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“If Surgeon General Murthy only addresses the serious risks of e-cigarette use by minors, something we agree on, but fails to address their benefits to adult smokers who would like to quit, he’ll have missed an important opportunity.
“If the Surgeon General goes on to make policy recommendations based on only the risk part of the equation, without considering the benefits, he will have failed his fundamental obligation to improving public health. Without a deep and thorough analysis of the issue, the Surgeon General’s approach becomes little more than platitudes.
“The Surgeon General would have been wise to adopt the clear approach used by the Royal College of Physicians in its landmark report last year, by saying, ‘It’s very simple: adult cigarette smokers who switch to e-cigarettes dramatically reduce their risk, by using ‘nicotine without smoke.’”
“It’s disappointing that Surgeon General Vivek Murthy failed to seize an opportunity to improve the understanding of these revolutionary products. It’s shameful that his report will contribute to the widespread campaign of misinformation about products that will discourage smokers from quitting and improve the quality and length of their lives.
“This report is a great example of how public health groups and even government use the cause of ‘protecting children’ to further their own agendas rather than actually protecting kids. Yes, teenagers have been experimenting with e-cigarettes and vapor products. Teenagers also experiment with a wide range of novelty-seeking and risky behaviors. A most basic investigation by the Surgeon General would have revealed that youth smoking rates are declining considerably and the number of U.S. smokers recently fell below forty million Americans for the first time in fifty years. The most significant change in the market and the move away from cigarettes has been the introduction of vapor products into the marketplace and rapid, consumer-driven innovation that has dramatically improved safety and efficacy without government interference.”
“The Surgeon General’s report fails to acknowledge that e-cigarettes are an effective tobacco harm reduction product. In 2015, a Public Health England study found e-cigarettes to be ‘95% less harmful’ than traditional tobacco cigarettes; that study is only referred to twice in the nearly 300 pages of the Surgeon General’s report, with less than one paragraph noting the reduced tobacco-related illnesses found in e-cigarettes compared to traditional tobacco cigarettes.
“Once again, unelected and unaccountable government officials are negating the benefits of tobacco harm reduction by casting even more false and biased uncertainty over products that have proven to be effective smoking cessation devices. The potential savings in health care costs through the reduction of tobacco-related illnesses, which e-cigarettes are currently providing to millions of former cigarette smokers, is huge and should be acknowledged by regulators.”