By The Editorial Board, LA Daily News
The evidence is mounting that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, so why do state and local governments keep banning them or regulating them like tobacco products?
The latest research on the effects of e-cigarette use comes from a study, published in the British Medical Journal, of more than 160,000 Americans over a 14-year period.
“[I]n 2014-15, e-cigarette users in the United States attempted to quit cigarette smoking and succeeded in quitting at higher rates than nonusers,” the study concluded. “This provides the clearest result to date that e-cigarette use is not only associated with a higher smoking cessation rate at the individual user level but also at the population level.”
This comes on the heels of several other respected studies in recent years supporting the use of e-cigarettes as an effective smoking cessation, or nicotine replacement therapy, tool. A study last year from the Royal College of Physicians, a respected British doctors’ group that helps establish medical standards in the country, noted that “the available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely,” and found “no evidence” of any significant gateway to smoking among young people.
The report, further, asserted that the long-term health hazards of vaping are “unlikely to exceed 5 percent of the harm from smoking tobacco” — in line with a 2013 study that found that “the levels of potentially toxic compounds in e-cigarette vapor are [nine-fold to] 450-fold lower than those in the smoke from conventional cigarettes.”
Despite this evidence, a package of state anti-smoking bills passed last year included measures to regulate e-cigarettes like smoking by banning vaping from certain public places and raising the minimum age for purchasing e-cigarettes to 21. And the Proposition 56 “tobacco tax” hike passed by voters last year also contained an equivalent tax on e-cigarettes, which do not contain any tobacco. There have been numerous local bans and restrictions as well.
In some encouraging news, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced on Friday that the FDA will be delaying by several years regulations that would have effectively killed the e-cigarette industry, and put forth a tobacco and nicotine regulatory plan that would provide “an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging development of innovative tobacco products that may be less dangerous than cigarettes.”
Perhaps politicians are ignorant of the research and incorrectly lump e-cigarettes in with tobacco cigarettes under the banner of “smoking.” Or perhaps they are so blinded by their hatred of the tobacco industry — which, seeing the rise of e-cigarettes and the fall in tobacco products, has increasingly gotten into the e-cig market — that they are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater to punish the tobacco companies, even if it means eliminating many small businesses selling a less harmful product that helps people to stop smoking.
Whatever the reasons, they are not justified by scientific research, much less the notions of basic personal liberty that recognize an individual’s right to do what one wishes with his or her own body.