Monday, June 15, 2015

Is It Just Me, or Have Anti-Tobacco Activists Completely Lost Sight of the Goal?

According to an article in The Times of India, public health officials in Maharashtra are thrilled because electronic cigarettes are soon to be banned.

According to the article:

"On World No-Tobacco Day, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave anti-tobacco activists a gift by making sales of e-cigarettes illegal in Maharashtra. The move may not have been made primarily for public health, but activists are happy nonetheless. Last week, state FDA issued show cause notice to importers and sellers of e-cigarettes on the grounds that the product was being sold without proper permissions from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). The absence of permissions means that selling e-cigarettes becomes illegal as it violates Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Calling e-cigarette the evil twin of cigarettes, dean of city's Government Dental College Dr Vinay Hazarey said, "Banning e-cigarettes at this stage is like nipping an evil in the bud as the product has only recently started catching the fancy of youngsters. E-cigarettes and hookah are among products that introduce many young people to tobacco consumption." He is worried, however, that kids could still order these products online."

The article notes that: "Electronic cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) is exactly like a cigarette, containing nicotine, liquids and flavouring agents. The only difference is that it is battery operated."

The Rest of the Story

Are we hearing this straight? Anti-tobacco activists in Maharashtra are happy because the sale of e-cigarettes will become illegal in the state, while the sale of cigarettes and all other actual tobacco products will not be touched.

The article should have stated:

"On World No-Tobacco Day, the state FDA gave cigarette companies a gift by making sales of e-cigarettes illegal in Maharashtra. The move was contrary to public health, and activists are angry.

Since e-cigarettes contain No Tobacco and help many smokers quit or substantially reduce their tobacco consumption, shouldn't the availability of e-cigarettes be something to celebrate on World No-Tobacco Day? And shouldn't a law which bans these non-tobacco-containing products be shunned, as it gives a huge competitive advantage to tobacco products, and shields them from any competition from alternative non-tobacco products?

It is not exactly reassuring to hear that getting it exactly backwards about e-cigarettes is not unique to anti-tobacco groups in the U.S., but appears to be common throughout the world. And there is a strong parallel. In the U.S., misleading and often false propaganda from leading groups and agencies such as the FDA, CDC, California Department of Public Health, the Mayo Clinic, and the University of Kentucky have influenced state and local public health groups in their taking a backwards position. Similarly, misleading information disseminated by the World Health Organization has influenced public health bodies in a number of countries to take the same backwards position.

At the end of the day, these public health groups have lost sight of the actual goal, which is supposed to be improving health, saving lives, and decreasing morbidity and mortality from smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Financial analysts have predicted that e-cigarettes could eventually cut a dent in cigarette sales, on the order of a 50% reduction in cigarette consumption over the next decade. If the ultimate goal is to save lives, especially from smoking, then electronic cigarettes are a critical strategy to help accomplish this goal. Banning electronic cigarettes while keeping tobacco cigarettes on the market, unchecked, makes absolutely no sense if saving lives is our goal.

No comments: