How E-Cigarette Panic Benefits Health Activists
Bottom Line: There is an orchestrated disinformation campaign regarding the danger of e-cigarettes led by individuals and groups that ought to be among the most supportive of lower-risk tobacco alternatives—anti-smoking health advocates. For public health regulation to do more good than harm, regulators need to base decisions on an objective analysis of sound research and a thorough examination of the potential unintended consequences of policy proposals.
Presently, the evidence increasingly indicates that e-cigarettes not only carry significantly less risk than combustible smoking, but also help people to quit smoking and do not attract non-smoking individuals to nicotine use. In fact, smoking among both adolescents and adults is currently lower than it has ever been.
Instead of recognizing the historic opportunity e-cigarettes represent to displace traditional smoking, powerful charities like the American Cancer Society and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, state and federal health agencies, and some academics have condemned the proliferation of vaping products. Their influence on public opinion and public policy stems largely from their image as credible, apolitical entities motivated purely by an interest in protecting public health.
In reality, health focused groups use taxpayer funds to obscure facts, lobby government, collude with activists in government agencies, and create unwarranted public panic. This strategy increases funding.
Health charity-government agency alliances have proven so effective and lucrative that it has given rise to a vast, nationwide network of groups that includes government bodies at the local, state, federal and international level; charities; grassroots organizations; universities and even scientists. While seemingly independent from one another, these entities are in fact deeply financially interwoven. In the case of e-cigarettes, this interconnected network of health groups and advocates has helped fuel public fears about tobacco alternatives. To the general public, these disparate groups appear to have reached the same conclusion about the health effects of e cigarettes independently of one another.
This campaign to restrict or ban e-cigarettes does a huge disservice to public health, decreasing the likelihood that smokers will utilize these devices as a means of quitting their deadly habit. Groups and individuals vested with the power and funding of the government seemingly prioritize their organizational interests over public health.
Public fears about the supposed dangers of e-cigarettes appear to be fueled by anti-smoking advocates’ successful execution of a long-term and well-funded strategy to promote fears about e-cigarettes, then exploit those fears to lobby for progressively stricter regulations on—and the eventual elimination of competitors to—nicotine replacement products.
The loser in this scenario is the public, especially smokers. As the evidence indicates, increasing e-cigarette taxes, eliminating flavors, and restricting entry into the vaping market will have little to no benefit for adolescents, but potentially catastrophic consequences for adult smokers.
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