A virtual summit in the UK next week aims to set the record straight: if you think smoking is bad, you’re right. But if you think attacking alternatives like e-cigarettes will make things better, you really are wrong.
“The E-Cigarette Summit UK comes at a historic moment for global tobacco policy, where restrictive bans and higher taxation on e-cigarettes have become the dominant direction for tobacco control, with an emphasis on restriction big next-generation addictive tobacco, ”event organizers said in a statement.
In this country, some public health decision-makers want to address alternatives to traditional cigarettes – vaping, snus and no-burn heat technology – like smoking.
“In the United States, the government has either been silent on the switch of smokers to electronic cigarettes or nicotine patches and heated tobacco products, or they have been hostile to such a change,” said Michelle Minton, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). “Once you get out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the information passed on to lawmakers, to many journalists, to public health advocates, is that message that the change is don’t stop, that e-cigs are no less harmful than smoking, which is nonsense. “
In Britain it’s a very different approach.
“Public Health England has done a remarkable job not only in assessing safety, which is very low risk, but also in helping adult smokers quit,” says Jeff Stier of Taxpayers Protection Alliance. “The government evaluated the science and said, ‘These products are about 95% less harmful than combustible cigarettes.’ And the government’s public health agency not only encouraged smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, but also helped them. “
Part of the reason that e-cigarettes or vaping – the act of using an e-cigarette – is poorly packaged in the United States has to do with the lung injury associated with e-cigarette or vaping use. (EVALI), which made a lot of headlines before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Lawmakers and regulators across the country have tried to say that there is this serious danger of vaping,” said Stier, who developed a health and environment policy within the mayor’s office during the Giuliani administration in New York. “Well, it was about vaping illegal cannabis oil that was adulterated and not vaping nicotine e-cigarettes. “
A distinction was never made, and because of that “additional misperception that hasn’t been fully corrected,” Stier says people remember, “Oh, yeah, there is something dangerous about it. of these electronic cigarettes “.
The Biden administration has the opportunity to set the record straight and promote e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking. However, the chances of that happening are slim at best.
“The Build Back Better bill provides for a huge ‘sin tax’ on electronic cigarettes, and that would be a higher tax on electronic cigarettes than the current tax on combustible cigarettes,” Stier said. “Economists will always say that if you are going to have an excise tax or a ‘tax on sin’, the tax has to be proportional to the sin.”
If traditional smoking is more harmful, then Stier says traditional or fuel cigarettes are the big sin and electronic cigarettes the little sin.
“They’re a lot less harmful and the UK says they’re not a sin, they’re a benefit,” says Stier. “Economists might say you should get a tax credit for using an electronic cigarette if we’re going to use incentives. “
It is these incentives that Minton points to as one reason the UK has been successful in helping consumers quit traditional cigarette smoking.
“When it comes to climate change, we’re not saying ‘destroy the automakers’,” notes Minton. Instead, we’re pushing automakers to make so-called greener products like electric vehicles (EVs), while encouraging consumers to change by giving them tax credits or discounts to buy EVs deemed less harmful. .
“There’s no reason we can’t do this when it comes to preventing death and harm from smoking,” says Minton.
And what about claims that products like vaping or no-burn heat are just as dangerous as smoking?
“Frankly at this point it’s a lie to anyone saying that,” Minton said.