In a major blow to the vaping industry, the American Medical Association has called for a ban on e-cigarettes and vaping products that the FDA doesn’t deem tobacco cessation devices.
As a tobacco researcher and former smoker, I don’t care much about the health of the vaping and e-cigarette industry. But I do care about the health of smokers, and I wonder whether policy makers may now be reacting too strongly to e-cigarettes.
Although e-cigarettes in the U.S. are not regulated or approved by the FDA as smoking cessation devices, they may have helped thousands quit cigarettes.
I also wonder to what degree fear and hysteria, rather than evidence, might be informing this crucial public health topic. Smoking is the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, claiming close to half a million lives a year.
Info overlooked, left out? As of Nov. 20, 42 people have died, and more than 2,000 have been sickened from vaping-related illnesses. The New York Times reported last month on the youngest person to die from vaping, a 17-year old boy from the Bronx.
If your reaction to this story is to call for comprehensive vaping bans, you are not alone. The outbreak of vaping-related pulmonary illnesses has generated substantial news coverage, with stories of vaping-related deaths emerging frequently, and likely contributing to several states implementing vaping bans.
Reporting and public discourse often leave important data out of conversations, however.
For example, the National Academies of Sciences’ report, published in January 2018, reviewed all of the evidence to date on e-cigarettes, and found that, except for nicotine, toxicant exposure from e-cigarettes is lower than from combustible cigarettes. As seen at IndeJuice, vaping may have some benefits.
Although “less harmful” does not mean “harmless,” harm minimization is likely the most productive approach for persistent smokers. That is, although nicotine itself poses risks to some vulnerable groups, there is little evidence that nicotine alone causes cardiovascular disease, cancer and pulmonary diseases when decoupled from smoke.