Cigarette consumption in the United States is at its lowest in years, and the CDC says the Northeast has the second lower percentage of smokers in the country. Yet millions of American adults are smokers, as are approximately 1 billion people on the planet.
In New England, New Hampshire and Maine have higher rates of lung and bronchial disease Cancer, both of which are primarily caused by smoking, that rates in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont.
So what is the solution to keep people away from smoking?
Some doctors are starting to see the benefits of vapers and e-cigarettes as harm reduction measures. People are not addicted to cigarettes, they are addicted to nicotine.
This is the point of view of Dr. Daniel Wikler, professor of ethics and population health at Harvard.
“These e-cigs provide an opportunity to escape the one in two chance of dying from smoking for many people who otherwise might not simply be able to quit,” Wikler told NHJournal at a panel discussion hosted by InsideSources.
“A version of an electronic cigarette or other nicotine delivery device that does not involve smoking should be considered a public health tool,” Wikler said. “It’s not a vaccine, but it’s another one of those tools that we can use to save a lot of lives that would otherwise be lost and without any corresponding benefit.”
“We have to continue to develop these devices so that they are attractive to more people. If they are to be flavored, they have to be, whatever it takes to convince everyone who wants to quit smoking.”
Some do not take his advice. In Maine, the state legislature is seeks to prohibit the use of any product flavored with nicotine. The legislation is expected to pass and Democratic Governor Janet Mills has already set aside $ 32 million in her annual budget to make up for lost revenue.
Jeannie Cox, a longtime smoker in her 60s, was also on the roundtable. She recounted how she was able to quit smoking after hearing about e-cigarettes in a radio commercial.
“I grew up right after WWII where everyone smoked. Both sides of my family were in the military, everyone smoked,” Cox said. “The government distributed cigarettes to the military. The doctors smoked, the teachers smoked, you could smoke anywhere. So I smoked, I started around 15, 16 years old.”
“I watched a lot of friends and family try to quit over and over again. I said, I just don’t live up to that disappointment. cigarettes on the radio and I thought, well, I could try that. “
That was almost a decade ago, and Cox continues to vape. She said she preferred the fruity flavors that Maine is likely to ban.
Another panelist, Dr. Michael Cummings of the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, agreed with Wikler that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
“The successes in tobacco control are primarily aimed at keeping young people in high-income countries from smoking. They reject cigarette smoking. They take up vaping,” Cummings said. “Maybe this is a good compromise, I wouldn’t recommend it. We don’t want kids to use nicotine, but if you had to choose one of the types of nicotine products you wouldn’t want to go. to Marlboros. “
As for what it will take for e-cigarettes to be considered harm reduction products, Cummings has a simple solution.
“For our government agencies to approve them as less harmful than [traditional cigarettes]. And it didn’t happen. ”
Cummings and Wikler estimated that alternative products such as vaping, e-cigarettes, and non-burning heat devices present “90 to 95 percent less risk” than traditional cigarettes.
Cummings doesn’t think e-cigarettes are a solution to a tobacco-free world, but they are a good first step.
“I mean, there is uncertainty. We don’t know what the long term risks of these products are. I think it will probably be less than cigarettes. It’s hard to get worse.”
This story was originally published by the NH Journal, an online news publication dedicated to providing fair and unbiased reporting and analysis on new policies of interest to New Hampshire. For more stories from the NH Journal, visit NHJournal.com.