Thursday, February 23, 2012

Utah Health Official Touts Benefit of Tobacco Cigarettes Over E-Cigarettes: At Least You Know How Much Nicotine You're Getting

According to an article in the Deseret News, a Utah health official has touted as a benefit of regular cigarettes the fact that at least consumers know how much nicotine they are getting, in contrast with electronic cigarettes which the official contends will lead to ex-smokers just vaping away because they don't know how much nicotine to take in. The remarks were apparently made in the context of supporting a proposed state law that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places.

According to the article: "Last summer, the Utah Department of Health adopted a rule banning the use of hookah and e-cigarettes in public places but has not enforced the rule awaiting legislative action on the issue. Manufacturers of electronic cigarettes claim the battery-powered device is safer than cigarettes, which use tobacco. However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, e-cigarettes contain harmful levels of nicotine, a substance the agency classifies as a stimulant drug. "There is no safe level of tobacco smoke," said David Neville, spokesman for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program at the Utah Department of Health. With tobacco cigarettes a user generally knows how much nicotine is being consumed. "They know if they are a half-a-pack-a-day smoker. When it comes to an electronic cigarette, you just don't know. You just keep on smoking," Neville said. The measure, which passed on a 45-31 vote, now moves to the Senate."

The bill would add electronic cigarettes to the state's existing ban on smoking in public places.

The Rest of the Story

This story demonstrates how ridiculous the arguments of anti-smoking advocates have become in trying to attack electronic cigarettes. They are now actually defending the real ones in an effort to cast dispersions on the much safer electronic ones.

Is the Utah Department of Health serious about this? Is it truly an advantage of cigarettes that the user knows exactly how much he is smoking? Should ex-smokers who have quit using e-cigs discontinue their use of electronic cigarettes and return to cigarette smoking because they are better off knowing how much nicotine they are getting?

This is the kind of blind ideology that is taking over the anti-smoking movement and which clouds our decision-making ability. Instead of seeing the broader picture and understanding that use of electronic cigarettes in most cases leads to drastic reductions in health risks because the users are either quitting smoking or greatly decreasing the amount they smoke, we are getting stuck up on the concern that we can't translate electronic cigarette use into cigarette pack equivalents?

Moreover, unless the health official's comment was taken out of context, his argument that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke is irrelevant to the issue of banning electronic cigarettes, because e-cigarettes do not produce any tobacco smoke. Or smoke of any kind. In fact, the argument that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke should lead one to support an intervention (e-cigarettes) which, by definition, reduce the amount of tobacco smoke exposure for the user.

The rest of the story is that ideological arguments are now starting to take the place of scientific arguments in the anti-smoking movement. And the result is that the public's health is no longer being served. In some cases, the resulting policies and actions are actually causing public health harm.

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