In a shocking, but revealing statement, the American Heart Association (AHA) has expressed disappointment that kids are moving away from smoking.
In a December 16 press release, the AHA stated: "While the downward trend in teen cigarette smoking is a wonderful
victory, this success has been sullied by the disturbing trend of young
Americans turning to e-cigarettes and cigarillos, and away from
If the statement seems to you to be self-contradictory, you are right. The AHA first expresses its pleasure that teen smoking is declining, and then in the same sentence, it expresses its displeasure that youth are turning away from smoking.
How can we explain this schizophrenic position?
I believe that the second half of the sentence represents a sort of Freudian slip. Subconsciously, the AHA - along with most of the (formerly) anti-smoking groups, are disturbed by youth moving away from traditional cigarettes and towards e-cigarettes instead. More specifically, I think the anti-smoking groups are threatened by this change in the status quo. And although it may not be conscious, these organizations are responding to this threat by lashing out at e-cigarettes, even at the inadvertent expense of protecting cigarette smoking.
The statement is self-contradictory because although the American Heart Association does indeed view the decline in smoking as a victory (consciously), it is threatened by the nature of this decline (a shift away from combusted tobacco and towards non-combusted, non-tobacco cigarettes) and therefore, subconsciously, it is disturbed by this shift. Thus, the organization becomes capable of writing a sentence that makes absolutely no sense and which contradicts itself, and it apparently doesn't even recognize the contradiction (presumably, since this is a prepared press release and not just a spontaneous response to a reporter's question, the organization had time to think about and review this statement).
At the same time, the organization has lost sight of the fact that e-cigarettes are helping tens of thousands of Americans to quit smoking or cut down substantially on the amount that they smoke. It is willing to throw these Americans under the bus (again, inadvertently) because the thought of youth enjoying a flavored vape with some unknown risks instead of using toxic tobacco cigarettes with known risks is not tolerable.
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story is that the American Heart Association has been caught by a Freudian slip which reveals its conflicting yet palpable, underlying inquietude with a societal shift away from combustible tobacco products and toward safer alternatives which may not even contain nicotine, but which, unfortunately, look like smoking.
At the end of the day, e-cigarette use is being viewed as a disaster, not because it is harmful, not because it is addictive, and not because it leads to smoking, but simply because it looks like smoking and it is enjoyable.
We already know that the concern about nicotine use and addiction is not the only driving force behind the anti-smoking movement's opposition to e-cigarettes. After all, even when data emerged revealing that the majority of youths who vape are not using nicotine-containing products, these groups did not change their position or their arguments one iota. Even if every youth who vaped used a flavored product only, without any nicotine, I have no doubt that the anti-smoking groups would still be opposed to e-cigarettes, and they would still call for a ban on the flavorings.
When you get down to the core, it is clear that the anti-smoking groups simply cannot tolerate the possibility that youth are actually getting some enjoyment from a flavored product whose use resembles smoking, even if it contains no nicotine, is not addictive, and is relatively benign. That threat is apparently so great to these groups that they are willing to throw adult smokers under the bus, disregard the scientific evidence, and even lie about that evidence in order to support their precarious position.
You don't hear these same groups expressing concern over the tremendous appeal of flavored alcoholic beverages to youth. None of them are calling for a ban on the sale of flavorings in alcohol (here, I'm talking about health groups whose issue goes beyond just tobacco and whose mission includes protection of youth from the hazards of alcohol, such as the American Cancer Society, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, etc.). How could flavored alcoholic beverages (which truly are attracting youth to drinking and resulting in many of them proceeding to dangerous alcohol use - binge drinking) be acceptable, while flavored e-cigarettes (which are much more benign than flavored alcohol) be unacceptable? The answer is simple: it is OK for people to get some enjoyment out of a product that you drink, but it is not acceptable for people to get enjoyment out of a product that you "smoke".