Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Debunks the E-Cigarette Gateway Myth

In an op-ed published today in the Wall Street Journal, I highlight the fact that many legislators and health organizations have demonized electronic cigarettes, largely on the basis of the erroneous conclusion that there is scientific evidence demonstrating that these products are a gateway to cigarette smoking among youth. The piece points out that there actually is no such scientific evidence and in fact, it presents evidence to the contrary.

As I point out in the piece, the CDC is partly responsible for the backlash against e-cigarettes because it publicly concluded that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking:

"Last September, in an interview with Medscape (a website for medical professionals), Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that "many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes." The same month he was quoted by the Associated Press as warning that e-cigarettes are "condemning many kids to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine."

I then explain that the gateway hypothesis is actually unsupported by any scientific evidence and that there is some evidence which is inconsistent with the hypothesis.

I conclude as follows: "By promoting a message that flies in the face of the government's own statistics--which show a sharp decline in youth smoking concurrent with a dramatic increase in e-cigarette experimentation--some federal public health official appear to be trying to create a "gateway" narrative where none exists."

"The government has an obligation to carefully scrutinize any new consumer product that is presented as an alternative to smoking. But government agencies and public health officials have no business discouraging or disparaging e-cigarettes in the absence of any data that they are causing harm. This is especially the case when these products have so much potential to curb cigarette smoking, the public health scourge that still claims half a million lives a year."

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