Up In Smoke: The Need for Harm Reduction Alternatives
Bottom Line: In order to help the 70 percent of adult American smokers who want to quit -- an estimated 29 million people -- lawmakers must recognize that e-cigarettes have massive benefits for public health. Vaping is a scientifically proven nicotine replacement therapy and should be regulated as such.
Providing current smokers with the tools they need to reduce the harms of smoking should be a primary goal of organizations like the FDA that claim to promote public health. A study conducted by Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency in the United Kingdom Department of Health and Social Care, found that vaping can reduce the harms of smoking by up to 95 percent.
The Trump administration and the FDA have considered banning flavored e-cigarettes. The most stringent proposals suggest that the administration might ban e-cigarettes altogether. These approaches are misguided. Most people are attracted to flavors because they are less harsh or offer a different sensation. They are a means to quit smoking, not a gateway to it. Such a claim is analogous to asserting that the federal government should ban Mike’s Hard Lemonade or any flavored alcoholic beverage because it is somehow marketed towards children.
Flavored e-cigarettes have many health benefits for adults who desire to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. Without access to these alternatives, many will be forced to access black market products with potentially deadly side effects or to return to traditional smoking, a more harmful method of nicotine delivery. The unintended consequences of e-cigarette regulation or an outright ban far outweigh the supposed health benefits espoused by FDA regulators within the administration. Look to the history of alcohol prohibition nearly a century ago for proof.
There is no alternative to traditional combustible cigarettes in existence as promising as e-cigarettes. Vaping is a tool for harm reduction, not harm elimination. Those struggling with nicotine addiction can get their fix in a way that causes far less harm to the human body with e-cigarettes. Therefore, policymakers should proceed with a light regulatory touch.
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