A truly remarkable paper was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health that challenged the prevailing largely negative attitude toward vaping held by many in the media and the field of public health.
"Our objective is to encourage more balanced consideration of vaping within public health and in the media and policy circles," wrote the authors of the paper.
Entitled "Balancing Consideration of the Risks and Benefits of E-Cigarettes", the paper succeeded in doing just that. What made the paper particularly impressive was the fact that it was authored by a list of scientists in the tobacco control field who hold impeccable credentials, including 15 past presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.
"Most US health organizations, media coverage, and policymakers have focused primarily on risks to youths. Because of their messaging, much of the public—including most smokers—now consider e-cigarette use as dangerous as or more dangerous than smoking. By contrast, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that e-cigarette use is likely far less hazardous than smoking. Policies intended to reduce adolescent vaping may also reduce adult smokers’ use of e-cigarettes in quit attempts," wrote the authors.
While it is clearly of immense importance to guard and protect vulnerable youth in this country, as discussed on this blog numerous times, often lost in that rallying cry is any care or concern for the nearly HALF A MILLION adult cigarette smokers who die EVERY YEAR in the United States. 1 out of every 7 Americans smoke cigarettes. A truly sane public health policy would take them into account as well, yet they are rarely even mentioned in the debate about vaping.
"The paper argues that public understanding of vaping has been poisoned by powerful interests that have exaggerated the risks of e-cigarettes to youth and largely ignored the potential benefits of vaping for adults who smoke," wrote Jim McDonald, who is on the board of vape advocacy organization CASAA.
It certainly does seem rather suspect that there is so much urgency to rush vaping through the FDA PMTA process when cigarettes, which are known to be one of the leading causes of death, killing about 1 out of every 5 Americans each year according to the CDC, are exempt.
The paper also challenges the prevailing claim that vaping is causing an "epidemic" of youth nicotine addiction, noting that, whatever experimentation some youth may be doing with vaping, there is no population-level increase in nicotine dependence and most underage vapers are not vaping regularly, indicating a lack of actual addiction to nicotine.
The paper came out at a crucial moment, right when the FDA is poised to make some major decisions about the future of vaping as the September 9th deadline for PMTA submission review draws near.
Will the paper shape the narrative and guide regulatory enforcement toward a more balanced approach that guards the health of adult smokers as well as youth? We will soon find out.