As if the Food and Drug Administration’s deeming regulations weren’t enough to stall the future of the vaping industry, numerous county health departments have decided to lodge themselves in the war against electronic cigarettes, increasingly spreading misinformation and exaggerated claims through targeted ad campaigns.
“Get Healthy Clark County,” organized by Nevada’s Office of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, claims to “advocate for policies that support healthy lifestyles,” but it urges against the use of e-cigarettes. In one radio commercial, a youthful-sounding speaker informs listeners “tobacco companies have gotten around a ban on selling candy and fruit flavored cigarettes by marketing flavored cigars, hookah, e-cigs, or vapers to us instead.”
In Kentucky, the Coalition for a Healthy Oldham County has another campaign against e-cigarettes. It claims e-cigarette “use is not proven safe (and) is not an effective way to quit smoking,” as well as purporting e-cigarettes “are also used to smoke marijuana, cocaine and heroin.” The coalition is also running a print ad campaign rejecting the evidence electronic cigarettes help people quit smoking.
In North Carolina, the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services recently received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Partnerships to Improve Community Health initiative to address electronic cigarette use. The grant was used to purchase a billboard displaying a message claiming electronic cigarettes are “the next generation cigarette … for the next generation of addicts.”
These efforts conducted by multiple county health boards across the country further show how unelected and unaccountable officials are working to demonize devices that can help improve public health. Research increasingly indicates e-cigarettes and vaping devices are far less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes. In 2015, Public Health England found e-cigarettes to be 95 percent safer than cigarettes. The Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians urges that it is in the “interest of public health” to promote the usage of electronic cigarettes as alternatives to smoking.
These ad campaigns also exaggerate youth access to e-cigarettes, as studies have consistently shown evidence contrary to their messages. A 2015 study found state bans on youth access to e-cigarettes actually increase cigarette smoking rates in users 12-17 years old. Another 2015 study, conducted by the University of Michigan, concluded teens who do vape do not use nicotine, thus falsifying claims e-cigarettes lead to nicotine addiction and eventually tobacco cigarette addiction. Further, vaping-industry associations support bans on youth access, including the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association and the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association.
It is of the utmost importance e-cigarettes be treated differently than traditional tobacco products. Though they mimic the sensations of cigarettes, e-cigarettes are tobacco harm reduction tools that have proven to be successful in aiding millions of people in their quest to quit smoking. A study by the Reason Foundation found between 6.1 million and 9.2 million people in the European Union have quit tobacco cigarettes through the use of electronic cigarettes.
E-cigarettes could save states money as well, as data by J. Scott Moody, chief executive officer and chief economist at State Budget Solutions, shows. Moody examined the associated costs of tobacco cigarette smoking on Medicaid spending and estimated that if electronic cigarettes were adopted in place of tobacco cigarettes, savings to Medicaid expenses could have amounted to $48 billion in 2012.
These county campaigns, coupled with FDA’s deeming regulations, mean it’s likely government officials who hate e-cigarettes, based on absolutely no solid scientific evidence, will get their way in shutting down what could be a $32.11 billion industry by 2021.
Legislation has recently been introduced to amend FDA’s deeming regulations to exclude e-cigarettes, and it has bipartisan support in Congress and support from many public policy groups, including The Heartland Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, the R Street Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the National Taxpayers Union. Now is the time to question why taxpayer dollars are being used to fund erroneous fear-mongering campaigns that aim to destroy the e-cigarette industry and contradict evidence that has consistently proven e-cigarettes are tobacco harm reduction tools, not the monstrosities their opponents say they are.