Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Jersey State Senators Tell Public that Electronic Cigarettes are More Dangerous than Regular Ones; Call E-Cigarettes a Tobacco Industry Ploy

A pair of state senators from New Jersey have publicly asserted that electronic cigarettes are more dangerous than traditional ones, and have claimed that e-cigarettes are a ploy by Big Tobacco to deceive people into thinking that their new product is safer than cigarettes.

According to a press release issued by the offices of state senators Bob Gordon and Joseph Vitale: "A bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Gordon and Sen. Joseph Vitale was signed into law this week banning the use of electronic smoking devices, commonly known as “e-cigarettes,” in indoor public places and the sale of the devices to minors. “This is yet another victory for public health,” said Sen. Gordon (D-Bergen). “No matter how manufacturers attempt to market these devices, they are still cigarettes. In many ways, they may be more dangerous than traditional cigarettes because of their lack of oversight or any conclusive studies into their health effects.”

“With all of the overwhelming statistics on the hazards of smoking, the e-cigarette is nothing more than an attempt by the tobacco industry to reinvent itself as a healthier alternative,” said Sen. Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Meanwhile, they are using propylene glycol, a known irritant, to create the vaporizing effect of the cigarette.” ...

“The legend of Joe Camel rears its ugly head. Tobacco product manufacturers know they have a much better chance of hooking people on their products if they can get to them when they’re younger, less informed and feel invincible. This law sends a clear message that we’re not going to stand for that,” added Sen. Vitale, who also sponsored the Smoke Free Air Act and a 2008 law banning the sale of flavored traditional cigarettes in New Jersey."

The Rest of the Story

It appears that Senator Gordon needs a remedial basic science course. There is no way that a product which delivers nicotine from a vaporized propylene glycol solution with only traces of carcinogens is more dangerous than cigarettes - which deliver nicotine plus thousands of other chemicals, including more than 40 carcinogens. By asserting that these products may be more dangerous than cigarettes, Gordon is actually telling the public that there is reason to believe that cigarette smoking is safer than vaping. Such an assertion is not only scientific hogwash, but it is irresponsible and amounts to what I would consider as public malpractice. It is going to cause major harm to people because if vapers believe Gordon and return to smoking for fear of health effects from electronic cigarettes, they are going to suffer substantial health harm.

Senator Vitale may not need a remedial science course, but he may need a lesson in not telling lies to the public. It is a material misrepresentation of the truth to assert that electronic cigarettes are produced or marketed by the tobacco industry. Big Tobacco has nothing to do with the electronic cigarette. These products are not manufactured by nor marketed by tobacco companies.

I believe it is irresponsible for public policy makers to be so misinformed about issues of this magnitude and importance. They have every right to take a different position on the issue of the use of electronic cigarettes in public, but to justify their decision based on untruths is inappropriate and it represents a major disservice to the public they are supposed to be serving.

I believe public policy makers ought to do a little more careful research before taking positions and making public pronouncements like Senators Gordon and Vitale have done. At least, get your facts straight before you end up disseminating lies to the public.

Fortunately, the judicial branch of government may be serving as a balance to the apparent ignorance of many in the legislative branch. The DC district court has ruled that the FDA may not ban electronic cigarettes and if the ruling holds, I believe states will not be able to ban electronic cigarettes either. This is because the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act preempts states from enacting their own tobacco product standards. Those standards include provisions for the banning of certain types of tobacco products, according to the Act. Thus, there is a strong argument that federal law now preempts states from banning electronic cigarettes. That will keep misinformed state legislators like Gordon and Vitale from taking potentially life-saving electronic cigarettes off the market.

The tobacco industry must really be enjoying this. Their products are being described as safer than relatively clean solutions of nicotine and propylene glycol. With "enemies" like Gordon and Vitale, it's hard to imagine the tobacco industry's need for legislative friends.

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