Since 2011, teen smoking has declined at a rapid rate that outpaces any prior fall in American history. Moreover, after virtually stagnating from 2004 through 2009, we also have seen adult smoking plummet over the last five years.
Many public health advocates, including a dozen health nonprofits in the United Kingdom, believe that e-cigarettes and vapor products have played a key role in bringing down smoking rates across the world. Indeed, recent survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that nearly one-fourth of ex-smokers who have quit in the last year are using vapor products.
Ideally, public dialogue about these smoke-free, tobacco-free, and often nicotine-free products would be based on evidence and science. This is rarely the case. Instead, tobacco control activists have focused on using emotionally charged arguments to demonize vapor products.
The latest example of this phenomenon comes from the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control, who generated headlines earlier this week by callously claiming that the vapor product industry is marketing to children. His evidence is limited to the fact that teens reported seeing advertising for e-cigarettes. The CDC could not even bring forward evidence that vapor product companies have advertised during television shows or in magazines with substantial youth audiences. Notably, CDC Director Tom Frieden seems to take no issue with the fact that alcohol advertising is far more prominent in the United States than e-cigarette advertising.
While there may be a role for the government in setting limits on when and where vapor product advertising may run, a total ban is certainly not the answer. In order to want to switch to these dramatically reduced risk products, adult smokers need to be aware not only of their existence, but also of new technological innovations that could finally help them quit.
On the issue of vapor products, the CDC and tobacco control activists should stop blowing smoke.
Gregory Conley, JD, MBA, is the president of the American Vaping Association.
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