Thursday, February 19, 2015

Washington Governor Asserts that Smoking May Be No More Hazardous than Vaping

According to a "fact sheet" on electronic cigarettes put out by the office of Washington governor Jay Inslee, cigarette smoking may be no more hazardous than using a product which merely heats nicotine and propylene glycol, contains no tobacco, and involves no combustion.

According to the policy brief:

"“Vaping” may not be safer than smoking traditional cigarettes."

What is the reasoning behind the governor's proclamation that smoking is no more hazardous than vaping?

"E-cigarettes emit more than water vapor."

The policy brief goes on to state that:

"Former smokers and new smokers may be attracted to e-cigarettes because of unproven claims that they are safer and more accepted than traditional cigarettes."

Governor Inslee concludes by calling for taxes on e-cigarettes and restriction of e-cigarette flavors.

The Rest of the Story

I find it despicable that a state governor is publicly asserting that cigarette smoking may not be any more hazardous than vaping, given the abudant scientific evidence that electronic cigarettes are far less damaging to health than real ones.

The governor's action is undermining decades of public education about the severe hazards of smoking. Moreover, is essentially lying to the public, since it is widely accepted by reputable scientists that vaping is less hazardous than smoking.

The governor wants some of the tax revenue from the imposition of an e-cigarette tax to go to smoking prevention programs. But what's the point of having a smoking prevention program if, out of the other side of your mouth, you are telling the public that smoking is probably not very hazardous (since vaping is almost certainly not very hazardous)?

And why would you want to put a tax on e-cigarettes when such a tax will certainly result in more smokers sticking with their deadly smoking, rather than switching to e-cigarettes and potentially saving their lives?

The stated purpose of the e-cigarette tax is to prevent e-cigarette use. But preventing e-cigarette use - among adults - is tantamount to a campaign to encourage cigarette smoking because realistically, this is the alternative for most smokers who are considering using e-cigarettes. These folks are not deciding between NRT, Chantix, Zyban, electronic cigarettes, and smoking. They are almost by definition accepting the fact that they do not believe they can quit smoking using the traditional methods. So the choice is essentially electronic cigarettes or continued smoking. Why does the governor of Washington want smokers to choose continued smoking?

The governor's actions are essentially promoting cigarette use and protecting cigarette profits at the expense of the improvement of the public's health.

While one part of his proposed legislation - the restrictions on selling e-cigarettes to minors - makes sense, the other two major provisions - the e-cigarette tax and the limitation of flavors - would significantly harm the public's health by promoting cigarette smoking.

It is one thing for a state to do nothing about preventing smoking. That is completely unacceptable. But for a state to make public statements and push for legislation that would promote smoking is almost sickening to me. It really turns my stomach to think that this is what the anti-smoking movement has come to.

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