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Published: Thu, 27 Jul 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2017 14:51:48 -0400


Don't Buy the Hype About an Increased Smoking Age

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:15:00 -0400

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill increasing the smoking age from 19 to 21 last week, he said that the higher age would give young people a "better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be" and that the fewer smokers there are, "the less strain there will be on our health care system." These claims are ubiquitous among anti-smoking activists, who have gotten some 250 localities and now four states to increase their smoking ages to 21 on the promise that it will slash smoking rates among high schoolers and others under 18. But closer scrutiny suggests that these promises are speculative at best—and that the immediate fiscal consequences of the change will put more strain, not less, on budgets. "Increasing tobacco age to 21 decreases high school use by about half," says Rob Crane, president of Tobacco 21. As evidence, he cites the example of Needham, Massachusetts, the first city in America to raise its smoking age to 21. The percentage of high schoolers there who reported using tobacco subsequently fell from 35 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2014. Crane's conclusion is undercut by a 2015 Institute of Medicine study (found on Tobacco 21's own website). "Although Needham...has been cited as having seen significant declines in tobacco use and tobacco-related disease, there are no published data on these outcomes," the paper notes. The paper explains that no baseline data exists for Needham prior to its raising the smoking age, and that other factors could have been responsible for the decline. Indeed, teen smoking has fallen across the United States independently of whether jurisdictions raise their smoking age. In 2005—just as Needham was getting its ban up and running—some 50 percent of American high school seniors had reportedly tried tobacco. By 2015 that figure had fallen to 31 percent according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study. The number who have smoked in the last 30 days is down even more, from 23 percent to 11.4 percent, the lowest the rate has ever been in the University of Michigan's data. Proponents of a higher smoking age—from the American Cancer Society to Vox—fall back on that Institute of Medicine study's conclusion that raising the legal age to 21 will reduce smoking for those aged 15 to 17 by 25 percent. Yet that number is not based on empirical data of smoking age increases. Little of that exists, given how recent most of these laws are. Instead it relies on complex logic models that try to predict the ability of teenagers to get cigarettes from retailers and older friends and family in a world with a nationwide smoking age of 21, and then tries to extrapolate the rates of smoking and smoking related diseases from those models out to the year 2100. You don't have to be a hardcore Austrian economist to doubt the efficacy of this approach. Nor do you have to be a doctrinaire libertarian to question the idea of criminalizing the habits of 20-year-old smokers in the hopes of stopping 16-year-olds from doing something that is already illegal. We do have some pretty good forecasts on one effect the bill is likely to have. Legislative analysis of New Jersey's "raise the age" bill estimates that it will cost the state between $4.5 to $12.5 million this fiscal year in foregone tax revenue. That matches the experience of Oregon and Maine, both of which also passed smoking age increases this year. Maine will lose $4 million a year. Oregon will lose nearly $2 million a year by 2019, with most of that money coming out of public health budgets. Smoking is risky, but it is victimless and consensual. Individuals are in the best position to determine if that risky behavior is worth it to them. Governments, activists, and speculative public health studies are not.[...]

FDA's Vaping Regulations Will Hurt Smokers Trying to Quit

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 14:46:00 -0400

Electronic cigarettes are now the most popular technique used by Americans who want to quit smoking. But that pathway could close later this year, thanks to shortsighted federal regulations that effectively prevent innovation. When Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act in 2009, few electronic cigarettes were on the market. Under the terms of that law, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have the authority to approve or deny any new tobacco products introduced after February 15, 2007, while products that had been on the market before that so-called "predicate date" would be free from the new level of scrutiny. That works out fine for cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and other items that have been around a long time, but it effectively froze the market. Any new products—including almost all vaping devices and the nicotine-laced liquids used in those devices—would have to go through an expensive and vague regulatory process before being offered to consumers. The deadline for filing those applications is November 8 of this year, unless Congress and the FDA act to change the rules and let e-cigarettes remain on the market. Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, explains it like this. If you have not filed a retroactive application for any vapor product that has come to market since 2007—which is every single product on the market today—your product is banned. If you file an application before November 8, and the FDA doesn't like what you have included, you're banned. If you file an application on November 8, and the FDA hasn't ruled on that application by November 8, 2019, you are banned. "So you could spend millions and millions of dollars to try to comply with very vague requirements that have been put out by the FDA, and the FDA could still simply never review your application or just turn it down for an arbitrary reason," Conley said at a recent forum sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. The FDA's own economic analysis of the regulation suggests that 98 percent of all e-cigarette products will not apply to stay on the market. That's bad news for vaping businesses, but it's also bad news for Americans hoping to stop smoking cigarettes. According to research from the Center for Disease Control, 35 percent of Americans who sought to quit smoking from 2014-2016 used electronic cigarettes as a substitute. Vaping allows would-be smokers to get a hit of nicotine and to maintain the same physical routine, while avoiding the dangerous chemicals and soot that come from burning tobacco and inhaling it into their lungs. Compared to other methods used to quit smoking, the CDC reports, e-cigarettes are the most popular, beating out nicotine gum, anti-smoking patches, and FDA-approved medications such as Zyban and Chantix: Killing the majority of vaping products currently available on the market while leaving cigarettes available is almost certain to drive some e-cigarette users back to combustible tobacco options. That means the FDA—the very government agency that claims it is "responsible for protecting the public health" and "for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations"—will be banning innovative products that are helping Americans improve their health. They'll be doing that because Congress, a decade ago, made an arbitrary decision that tobacco products made after 2007 should have to face a different level of scrutiny than those that came earlier. Imagine how a similar rule would effect any other industry. What would computers look like today if Congress decided in 1999 to force any new microchip-using devices to jump through additional regulatory hurdles while leaving older models on the market? What car would you be driving today if any innovations to internal combustion engines were banned in the 1970s? It's the same story with electronic cigarettes. Because lawmakers lacked the foresight to understand that the future might bring new, better products, Americans might soon be stuck with only the old, dirty options.[...]

As Vaping Exploded Among Teenagers, Smoking Fell by Half

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 09:15:00 -0400

Survey data published last week cast further doubt on warnings that e-cigarettes are a gateway to the real thing for teenagers. Between 2011 and 2016, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), the share of high school students who reported smoking cigarettes in the previous month fell from almost 16 percent to 8 percent, even as past-month use of e-cigarettes rose dramatically. The incidence of past-month cigarette smoking among high school students in the NYTS, which is conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fell from 9.3 percent to 8 percent last year, continuing a downward trend that began in the late 1990s. The incidence of past-month vaping, which rose steadily from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015, also fell last year, to 11 percent. From 2011 to 2016, in other words, e-cigarette use more than septupled, while cigarette smoking was cut in half. "The rate of decline in youth smoking is unprecedented," writes Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel on his tobacco policy blog. "This despite the rapid rise in e-cigarette experimentation. These data are simply not consistent with the hypothesis that vaping is going to re-normalize smoking and that e-cigarettes are a gateway to youth smoking." In theory, it is possible that adolescent smoking would have declined even faster if e-cigarettes had never been introduced. But on the face of it, these trends do not look like evidence that vaping entices teenagers who otherwise never would have tried tobacco into a nicotine habit that ultimately leads to smoking. Making that scenario even more unlikely, most nonsmoking teenagers who vape use nicotine-free e-liquids, and very few of them vape often enough to get hooked on nicotine in any case. If anything, it looks like e-cigarettes have taken the place of the conventional kind for at least some teenagers who otherwise would be smoking. That is unambiguously an improvement from a public health perspective, since smoking is far more dangerous than vaping. Yet the CDC continues to talk as if there is little or no difference between smoking and vaping as far as health hazards go. "Current use of any tobacco product did not change significantly during 2011–2016 among high or middle school students," says the article on the latest NYTS data in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That is true only if you classify e-cigarettes, which contain no tobacco, as tobacco products, which they aren't. The report's authors concede that "combustible tobacco product use declined" during this period but obscure the significance of that development. "Use of tobacco products in any form is unsafe," they say, ignoring the enormous difference between combustible cigarettes and alternatives such as e-cigarettes, which are something like 95 percent safer. By exaggerating the threat posed by adolescent experimentation with vaping (and experimentation is all it typically amounts to), the CDC hopes to justify policies that will make e-cigarettes less accessible and less appealing to adult smokers. "Sustained efforts to implement proven tobacco control policies and strategies are critical to preventing youth use of all tobacco products," say the authors of the NYTS report, citing the Food and Drug Administration's regulation of e-cigarettes as an example. But the FDA's rules threaten to cripple an industry that could help millions of smokers prolong their lives by switching to a far less hazardous source of nicotine. The CDC therefore is endangering public health when it rationalizes those regulations as sensible safeguards against adolescent vaping.[...]

Trump's Charge for FDA Regulatory Reform Could Be Good News for Snus

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 14:48:00 -0500

If President Donald Trump is serious about reforming how the Food and Drug Administration operates, he could start by requiring the agency to use common sense when regulating alternatives to smoking. Alternatives like snus, for example. The Swedish-made tobacco product consists of a small packet, similar to a tea bag, that's filled with tobacco powder and placed in the upper lip. It delivers a jolt of nicotine but doesn't come with the same health risks as smoking or using chewing tobacco. But you wouldn't know that by looking at the label. Swedish Match, the company that makes snus, has been trying since 2014 to get permission from the FDA to identify its product as a safer alternative to smoking. In Sweden, where snus is marketed that way, its popularity is credited with cratering smoking rates and associated diseases, and Swedish Match executives believe they could reshape the American tobacco market (and improve smokers' health) in much the same way. In December, the FDA ruled that snus would have to continue carrying a warning about the potential for causing tooth decay and gum disease, but punted on the more important question: whether snus could be marketed in the U.S. as less dangerous than cigarettes. "Because there is already a warning label, they're not inclined to remove it no matter how much evidence we present," says Jim Solyst, vice president for federal regulatory affairs for Swedish Match, in an interview published by Tobacco Reporter, a trade publication. That's where Trump enters the picture. In his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, the president specifically identified the FDA as a target for his administration's regulatory reform effort. The FDA's "slow and burdensome approval process," Trump said, prevents too too many advances from reaching those in need. He was talking specifically about the FDA's approval process for new drugs—an area where FDA foot-dragging can literally cost lives, as Reason's Ron Bailey pointed out earlier this week—but the same logic makes a case for changing how the administration regulates tobacco, with an eye towards improving Americans' health. Slow and burdensome certainly describes what Swedish Match has gone through. The company has filed more than 130,000 pages of applications with the FDA since May 2014, according to Tobacco Reporter, in trying to become the first product to gain the coveted "modified-risk tobacco product" designation. "We think that telling smokers that these products are 97 percent safer than similar products is the key message; this message is getting lost," Solyst told the trade publication. Swedish Match sees the obvious marketing benefit of earning that designation, but that doesn't cancel out the very real public health benefits that could be realized if snus was more widely used. The research continues to pile up. A peer-reviewed study published in Tobacco Control found that snus "does not appear to cause cancer or respiratory diseases" and cardiovascular risks from using snus were lower than with smoking. A study conducted in Norway and published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research found that using snus was much more effective at getting smokers to quit using cigarettes than nicotine replacement products like patches and gum. Snus-ers were three times as likely to quit smoking as smokers using nicotine gum, the researchers found. They believed snus was so effective because it delivered a nose of nicotine that was almost the same as cigarettes and provided a "sensory effect that medicinal nicotine products perhaps lack" because snus smells and tastes like tobacco. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported in 2007 that 200,000 smoking-related deaths per year could be prevented if tobacco uses across the whole of the European Union adopted snus at the same level as Swedes. While there hasn't been any official announcement of changes in FDA policy towards tobacco, there's good reason to believe the agency's new boss is open t[...]

Study Confirms Health Advantages of Vaping

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 00:01:00 -0500

The first surgeon general's report on e-cigarettes, published in December, describes them as "an emerging public health threat." A "tip sheet for parents" that accompanied the report recommends evasion in response to the question, "Aren't e-cigarettes safer than conventional cigarettes?" Curious teenagers (and adults) will have to look for an answer elsewhere, such as a study reported last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It confirmed that e-cigarettes are much less dangerous than the traditional, combustible sort, a fact that may come as a surprise to Americans who get their health information from government officials. The researchers, led by Lion Shahab, a health psychologist at a University College London, tested the saliva and urine of 181 volunteers representing five groups: current smokers, current smokers who also use e-cigarettes, current smokers who also use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as gum or patches, former smokers who have switched to e-cigarettes, and former smokers who have switched to NRT. Shahab et al. found all five groups were receiving similar amounts of nicotine, but the switchers showed "substantially reduced levels of measured carcinogens and toxins." The differences between vapers and smokers were dramatic, ranging from 57 percent reductions in three volatile organic compounds (ethylene oxide, acrylonitrile, and vinyl chloride) to 97 percent reductions in acrylonitrile (another VOC) and in a tobacco-specific nitrosamine, a potent carcinogen. The levels for vapers were at least as low as those for NRT users and in some cases lower, which is striking because NRT is widely accepted as a safe alternative to cigarettes. This study, which involved long-term e-cigarette users, reinforces the results of a 2016 study finding large reductions in toxins and carcinogens among smokers who switched to vaping during a two-week experiment. Shahab et al.'s findings also jibe with chemical analyses of e-cigarette liquids and the aerosol they produce, work that led Public Health England to endorse an estimate that vaping is something like 95 percent safer than smoking. The huge difference in risk between vaping and smoking is hardly surprising, since the former involves inhaling an aerosol that typically consists of propylene glycol, glycerin, water, flavoring, and nicotine, while the latter involves inhaling tobacco smoke, which contains thousands of chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic or carcinogenic. Yet misconceptions about the hazards of vaping are widespread, thanks to public health officials and anti-tobacco activists who seem intent on obscuring the truth. In a recent survey of American adults by Vanderbilt Law School professor W. Kip Viscusi, 48 percent of respondents erroneously said e-cigarettes are either just as hazardous as the conventional kind or even more hazardous. Thirty-eight percent said e-cigarettes are less hazardous, but only 14 percent correctly said they are much less hazardous. It's no wonder the public is confused, when the surgeon general, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention portray e-cigarettes as a menace to public health instead of an opportunity to reduce smoking-related disease. All three inaccurately describe e-cigarettes as "tobacco products," falsely implying that the risks posed by vaping are similar to the risks posed by smoking. Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer a few weeks after Surgeon General Vivek Murthy's report came out, a local physician took her cue from him, dodging a straightforward question about the relative hazards of vaping and smoking with an irrelevant litany of speculative warnings. Such efforts to scare people away from e-cigarettes are positively pernicious and potentially lethal to the extent that they deter smokers from making a switch that could save their lives. For Donald Trump, who was elected on promises of disruption and deregulation, an obvious target [...]

FDA Says Explaining the Main Advantages of E-Cigarettes Would Confuse Consumers

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:15:00 -0500

In a "clarification" published this week in the Federal Register, the Food and Drug Administration indicates that e-cigarettes cannot legally be sold as tools to quit smoking unless their manufacturers go through the prohibitively expensive process of getting them approved as new pharmaceutical products. The FDA also says e-cigarettes cannot legally be sold as a less hazardous alternative to the conventional kind unless their manufacturers go through the prohibitively expensive process of getting them approved as "modified risk tobacco products." The upshot is that e-cigarette companies are forbidden to be honest about the main benefits offered by their products, a form of censorship that is bound to retard the shift from smoking to vaping, thereby endangering lives that could have been saved by switching to a much less dangerous nicotine habit. The FDA's new rule is supposed to clarify when "a product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption will be subject to regulation as a drug, device, or a combination product." That can happen in two ways, one of which is "if the product is intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease." The FDA regulates nicotine products such as gum and patches as medical products, based on the dubious premise that nicotine addiction is a disease, the treatment for which is nicotine in a different form. The label on Nicorette gum, for instance, identifies it as a "stop smoking aid" that "reduces withdrawal symptoms, including nicotine craving, associated with quitting smoking." As far as the FDA is concerned, selling e-cigarettes as a competing form of nicotine replacement for smokers trying to quit (which is what they are) puts them in the same regulatory category as Nicorette: Claims related to smoking cessation have long been recognized as evidence of intended use conferring drug or device jurisdiction. Smoking cessation claims have also long been associated with intended uses of curing or treating nicotine addiction and its symptoms....Against this backdrop, smoking cessation claims on any product generally create a strong suggestion of intended therapeutic benefit to the user that generally will be difficult to overcome absent clear context indicating that the product is not intended for use to cure or treat nicotine addiction or its symptoms, or for another therapeutic purpose. The FDA does not explicitly rule out any reference or allusion to smoking cessation in the marketing of e-cigarettes. The agency even allows that "evidence may be developed showing that, in some situations, 'smoking cessation' is understood in context as referring to ending the use of traditional cigarettes and switching to a non-combustible product made or derived from tobacco." It's a mystery why new evidence would be required to prove that point, since that surely is the way that millions of people who have used e-cigarettes to quit smoking understand the concept. In any case, the FDA promises to "closely scrutinize 'smoking cessation' claims," creating a strong presumption that will encourage manufacturers to steer clear of the subject. The FDA says "the rule's treatment of smoking cessation claims as generally suggestive of a therapeutic purpose means that products marketed with such claims would generally be regulated as medical products." It adds that disclaimers of therapeutic intent generally will not be sufficient to keep e-cigarettes out of that category. Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel, an advocate of vaping as a harm-reducing alternative to smoking, questions the FDA's legal reasoning, arguing that smoking (unlike nicotine addiction), is a "health-related behavior," not a disease. Hence "a claim that e-cigarettes are intended to help someone quit smoking is not necessarily a claim that the product is intended to treat a disease." Rath[...]

Vaping Is Not a Gateway to Smoking, New Study Shows

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 13:00:00 -0500

Vapers at the Virginia Commonwealth University were 3.4 times as likely to be smoking cigarettes a year later as young adults who were vape-free, according to the first-ever longitudinal study examining the progression of college students from vaping to smoking. Researchers followed 3,757 freshmen for one year to discover if e-cigarette use at the baseline was associated with a progression from not smoking to trying a cigarette or currently using cigarettes at the follow-up. The study, according to one the most die-hard e-cigarette opponents in the public health lobby today—Dr. Stanton Glantz—is yet another confirmation of the so-called 'gateway' effect of vaping. "The evidence just keeps piling up," proclaims Glantz. The findings lead the study's authors to conclude that "limiting young adults' access to these products may be beneficial." In plain English, more age restrictions, vaping bans, and higher taxes are just the ticket. But far from being the smoking gun finally proving e-cigarettes are a gateway to their tobacco-filled rivals, the study itself finds there is still absolutely no evidence of a gateway effect from vaping to regular cigarette use. Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, points out the study's most relevant finding, totally ignored by Glantz: "Current e-cigarette users at baseline were no more likely to progress to current smoking than young adults who were not using e-cigarettes." So students who were vapers at the beginning were no more likely to become regular smokers than those who didn't use e-cigarettes at all. "What this means is that all we know for sure about the young people who Dr. Glantz would have us believe have become smokers because of e-cigarettes is that they have at least once tried a cigarette, but that they have not smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days," writes Siegel. "So all these kids who Dr. Glantz would have us believe have been addicted to cancer sticks because of e-cigarettes are actually not current smokers." The conclusion of the study's abstract also leaves out the finding that current vapers were no more likely than non-vapers to start smoking. Yet the authors arrive at the view that limiting young adults' access to e-cigarettes may be beneficial, despite failing to produce any evidence of a net public health harm from young people vaping. Out of a sample of 3,757 students just six transitioned from vaping to smoking. But before anti-e-cig enthusiasts jump on this statistically insignificant number, Siegel points out that another 20 students who had used cigarettes at the baseline stopped smoking and were exclusively using e-cigarettes at the follow-up. A further 45 students who were dual users at the beginning were only vaping by the end. Despite the very best attempts of Glantz and Co to push the 'gateway' narrative, reality is just not playing ball. "For nearly a decade, anti-harm-reduction activists have been claiming that e-cigarette use would inevitably lead young people to become smokers," says Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association. "The data is proving them wrong. As this study shows, young e-cigarette users may experiment with smoking, but that does not mean that these users are actually becoming smokers." src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

National Park Service Will Permanently Ban Vaping Wherever it Bans Smoking

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 13:30:00 -0500

Because things can always be at least slightly worse, the National Park Service wants to permanently ban vaping wherever it bans smoking. According to a press release, the wide-open grandeur of, say, Yellowstone and the wind-swept, garbage-strewn beaches of Gateway National Park's Sandy Hook Beach in New Jersey, are threatened by that guy with an e-cigarette: The National Park Service (NPS) today proposed revisions to the regulations that address smoking in national parks. The proposed revisions would change the regulation that defines smoking to include the use of electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). The proposed revisions would also allow a superintendent to close an area, building, structure, or facility to smoking, which would include the use of ENDS, when necessary to maintain public health and safety. "Protecting the health and safety of our visitors and employees is one of the most critical duties of the National Park Service," said Michael Reynolds, Acting Director of the National Park Service. "It is clear from a recent rule by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a report by the Surgeon General that electronic cigarettes are a threat to public health, especially to the health of young people." These rules would make permanent earlier orders that banned e-cigs anywhere smoking tobacco was already restricted. Which is everywhere indoors and an increasing number of places outdoors, with some exceptions. If Let's be real. Electronic cigarettes are not a threat to public health. If anything, by giving people a vastly less-toxic (and perhaps fully non-toxic) way to "smoke," e-cigs are good for public health, here and abroad. As Jacob Sullum has noted, one of the main arguments against vaping is that it leads to the smoking of actual cigarettes, a finding that is evident everywhere except actual data of teen habits, European smokers, and elsewhere. Overwhelmingly, vapers use e-cigarettes to cut back on smoking or never progress beyond huffing air to sucking down menthols. And if you're worried about "second-hand vaping," don't bother. You don't need to believe that vaping is a technology that might "save a billion lives" (the title of a new documentary about e-cigarettes' potential to reduce smoking around the globe) to wonder why the hell the NPS is pursuing such a stupid goal. And a vague one, too: Follwoing the FDA's language, the proposed revisions talks about "nicotine delivery systems," which leaves open a serious legal question about e-liquids that don't contain any nicotine. You also don't have to take the proposed regulations without voicing your opinion. The rules will be published here tomorrow (you can download an advance PDF right now) and there's a 60-day comment period where you can weigh in. In 1947, the NPS introduced a famous ad campaign featuring its mascot Smokey the Bear telling campers that "Only YOU can prevent forest fires!" Over the years, that led to sensible restrictions on flammable materials and heightened caution about smoking in the parks. By 2003, smoking was banned in NPS vehicles and buildings not out of fears of starting fires but due to concerns about second-hand smoke. In 2009, those rules were revised and various parks have considered going totally smoke-free or further limiting the areas in which a visitor can smoke (and hence, vape). Various groups, such as Truth Initiative, are pushing for completely smoke-free national parks, meaning a complete ban within a park's boundaries. In December, Reason's Zach Weissmueller talked with Aaron Biebert, director of A Billion Lives, a documentary that makes the case that regulatory agencies and non-governmental organizations are engaged in a campaign of misinformation against e-cigarettes. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" framebor[...]

Adolescent Smoking Falls Again, Confounding E-Cigarette Alarmists

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 08:45:00 -0500

New survey results deal yet another blow to the hypothesis that vaping leads to smoking, showing that conventional cigarettes are less popular than ever among teenagers despite the recent surge in adolescent experimentation with e-cigarettes. In the Monitoring the Future Study, the percentages of eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders who reported smoking cigarettes during the previous month fell again this year, continuing a downward trend that began in the late 1990s. This survey began asking about e-cigarette use in 2014, and the share of teenagers who report vaping in the previous month has been falling since then. Among eighth-graders, past-month use fell from 8.7 percent in 2014 to 8 percent last year and 6.2 percent this year. Among 10th-graders, the rate was 16.2 percent in 2014, 14.2 percent this year, and 11 percent this year. Among 12th-graders, it fell from 17.1 percent in 2014 to 16.3 percent last year and 12.5 percent this year. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, past-month vaping among high school students rose dramatically between 2011 and 2015—"an astounding 900 percent," as Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently put it. The latter survey also shows a continuing decline in adolescent smoking, which last year hit a record low. Somehow that trend has not put a damper on warnings from alarmists like Murthy that e-cigarettes might be a gateway to the real thing. Even Richard Miech, a Monitoring the Future researcher who recently pointed out that most adolescent vapers do not vape nicotine, seems unable to shake this unsupported fear. "Vaping may lead to friendship networks that encourage vapers to smoke," he says in a press release. "Also, vapers may come to believe the dangers of smoking are exaggerated if they do not experience any immediate health consequences from vaping." Maybe, but so far there is very little evidence that anything like that is happening. "Whether adolescent vaping has peaked or only paused is something we will be able to determine in the coming years," Miech says. "In the past, we have seen new drugs follow a pattern in which use increases at a fast pace during a honeymoon period and then reverses course and declines as knowledge of the substance's drawbacks became known." If vaping by teenagers is waning, maybe the panic about it, which for too long has overshadowed the tremendous harm-reducing potential of e-cigarettes for people who otherwise would be smoking, will finally abate. "At this point," writes Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel, "it is clear that whatever the risks of youth vaping may be, one of them is not the risk of progressing to smoking. If this hypothesis were true, we would simply not be seeing the historic declines in youth smoking that are occurring. Quite clearly, smoking continues to be de-normalized, not re-normalized as anti-tobacco groups and many health agencies have claimed. It appears that a culture of vaping is largely replacing a culture of smoking. If anything, it appears that the advent of e-cigarettes has accelerated the de-normalization of smoking by largely replacing it....Vaping appears not to be making smoking more cool, as claimed by the Surgeon General, the CDC, and anti-tobacco groups, but to be making smoking less cool. It also appears that there has been a plateau and now a decline in the rising fad of youth vaping, which should help ease the concerns of anti-tobacco groups that an entire generation of kids is going to be addicted to nicotine." Note: This post, which originally said Monitoring the Future first asked about e-cigarette use in 2015, has been corrected and updated with survey numbers from 2014, which were omitted from this year's MTF report.[...]

The FDA's Unauthorized War on Pipes and Cigars

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 15:00:00 -0500

George Washington was a tobacco farmer and John Adams a pipe smoker, and every town in America has had a cigar store or pipe tobacconist since the nation's founding. But the Food and Drug Administration is determined to end all that. There are more than 2,000 cigar and pipe stores currently operating in this country, employing 35,000 Americans, and the FDA has put them all on notice that they need to stop doing business as usual and start filling their inventory with non-tobacco products. The situation is so bad that the three small trade groups representing cigars and pipes have been forced to file a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. The FDA wants for anyone hand-rolling cigars to register with the government; same with artisan pipe makers. Tobacconists would no longer be able to offer their store's unique blends without special permission, and no cigar or pipe tobacco introduced after 2007 would have much of a chance of being allowed into the marketplace. When representatives of the cigar and pipe industries pointed out to the FDA that these regulations would effectively put hundreds of stores out of business, their reply was frightening. As quoted in the lawsuit filed against the government, the "FDA's response to these small businesses is that they 'would be able to shift shelf space and other activities to non-tobacco products.'" This all started in 2009 when Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA authority to prevent the use of tobacco by young people. This was a time when the House of Representatives was controlled by Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Senate by Harry Reid (D-Nev.), with President Barack Obama in the White House. The sweeping new regulatory powers granted to the FDA are typical of the government expansion that has occurred in recent years. Without question, this was a contributing factor to the backlash vote we saw last month when Donald Trump and the Republicans, vowing to get rid of needless regulations, were swept into office. This is not intended to be a politically partisan essay, but I mention the election because now is an ideal time for the cigar and pipe industries to find legislators who will propose a bill to exempt cigars and pipes and pipe tobacco from FDA control. If such a bill were passed, that would be that. But if not, there is the federal lawsuit filed by the Cigar Association of America, the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association, and the Cigar Rights of America. If you want a case study in how bureaucracies can become tyrannical, there is no better example than the FDA's control over cigars and pipes and pipe tobacco. They were never included in the original Tobacco Control Act because everyone knew that kids were not running out and buying premium cigars or Dunhill pipes and expensive 965 pipe tobacco. Congress granted the FDA authority over four very specific tobacco products: cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own and smokeless. Well, you might ask, how does the FDA justify their regulations if pipes and cigars were not named in the original legislation? Picture the Salem witch trials, where certain people in authority would "deem" a woman to be a witch and then call for her to be burned at the stake. That is precisely what happened with the Tobacco Control Act. The FDA was given the right to "deem" newly created tobacco products to be under their control. The Act was not intended to be used as a weapon for the prohibition of the oldest forms of tobacco enjoyment; namely, pipes and cigars. Yet, that is how the FDA is interpreting the law. Whenever a federal agency wants to impose sweeping new regulations over an industry, there are several requirements they must satisfy before they are allowed to proceed. One is to ask in advance for feedback from the industry and the public. We[...]

Are E-Cigs the Market Solution that Can Save a Billion Lives?: New at Reason

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 13:50:00 -0500

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"This is a market solution to one of the biggest health crises we've ever seen in the history of the world," says Aaron Biebert, director of A Billion Lives, a documentary that makes the case that regulatory agencies and non-governmental organizations are engaged in a campaign of misinformation against e-cigarettes. "It's disturbing to me that something that's working is being demonized."

Biebert sat down with Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller to discuss the film and the state of the vaping industry in the wake of new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines that the American Vaping Association, a pro-vaping industry group, claims could wipe out 99 percent of existing e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers. The FDA, for its part, plans to "hire additional Office of Small Business Assistance staff to provide assistance to small tobacco product entities wherever possible." And just today, the Surgeon General issued a report claiming that e-cigarettes are "now a major public health concern."

But are e-cigarettes actually dangerous, or is this simply fear-mongering propaganda from public health agencies that are slow to adapt to innovation?

Watch the full interview above to hear more on that question.

Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Alex Manning and Lexy Garcia. Music by Chris Zabriskie.

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Are E-Cigs the Market Solution that Can Save a Billion Lives?

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 13:33:00 -0500

"This is a market solution to one of the biggest health crises we've ever seen in the history of the world," says Aaron Biebert, director of A Billion Lives, a documentary that makes the case that regulatory agencies and non-governmental organizations are engaged in a campaign of misinformation against e-cigarettes. "It's disturbing to me that something that's working is being demonized."

Biebert sat down with Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller to discuss the film and the state of the vaping industry in the wake of new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines that the American Vaping Association, a pro-vaping industry group, claims could wipe out 99 percent of existing e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers. The FDA, for its part, plans to "hire additional Office of Small Business Assistance staff to provide assistance to small tobacco product entities wherever possible." And just today, the Surgeon General issued a report claiming that e-cigarettes are "now a major public health concern."

But are e-cigarettes actually dangerous, or is this simply fear-mongering propaganda from public health agencies that are slow to adapt to innovation?

Watch the full interview above to hear more on that question. Click below to listen now via SoundCloud.

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Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Alex Manning and Lexy Garcia. Music by Chris Zabriskie.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

Surgeon General Launches E-Cigarette Scare Campaign That Will Harm Public Health

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 11:15:00 -0500

A new report from Surgeon General Vivek Murthy repackages familiar alarmism about e-cigarettes, which it depicts as a grave threat to the youth of America using the same deceptive techniques favored by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "To protect our nation's young people from being harmed by these products," Murthy recommends policies, such as higher taxes, vaping bans, limits on advertising, and possibly flavor restrictions, that will undermine public health by making e-cigarettes less appealing to people who currently get their nicotine from conventional cigarettes, a much more dangerous source. Murthy declares that e-cigarette use by teenagers "is now a major public health concern," noting that it rose "an astounding 900 percent" from 2011 to 2015. "These products are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United States, surpassing conventional tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and hookahs," says Murthy, who worries that e-cigarettes "could be an avenue by which kids are addicted to nicotine" and eventually start smoking. The numbers cited by Murthy come from the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that the share of high school students who reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month rose from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015—an increase of 967 percent. But according to data from the Monitoring the Future Study, another government-sponsored survey of teenagers, nonsmoking adolescents almost never vape often enough to get hooked on nicotine. In the 2014 survey, just 0.7 percent of never-smoking 12th-graders reported vaping on 20 or more days in the previous month. Furthermore, adolescent vapers typically use nicotine-free e-fluid, so the share of nonsmoking teenagers who are even theoretically at risk of nicotine addiction via vaping is even smaller—something like 0.3 percent. In addition to highlighting big numbers with little public health significance, Murthy copies the CDC's habit of calling e-cigarettes "tobacco products," which they aren't. That description falsely implies that the risks posed by vaping are similar to the risks posed by smoking, when they are in fact dramatically lower. Although Murthy concedes the difference in risk, his office deliberately obscures it. "Aren't e-cigarettes safer than conventional cigarettes?" asks a "tip sheet for parents" posted today. The recommended answer is absurdly evasive: "Because your brain is still developing, scientific studies show that it isn't safe for you to use any tobacco product that contains nicotine, including e-cigarettes. Whether you get nicotine from an e-cigarette or a cigarette, it's still risky. Some e-cigarette batteries have even exploded and hurt people." Uh, thanks, Mom, but how about answering the question? This is propaganda masquerading as science, which has already warped public perceptions of the hazards posed by e-cigarettes. In a recent survey of American adults by Vanderbilt Law School professor W. Kip Viscusi, 48 percent of respondents incorrectly said e-cigarettes are either just as hazardous as the conventional kind or even more hazardous. Thirty-eight percent said e-cigarettes are less hazardous, but only 14 percent correctly said they are much less hazardous. Since Americans already tend to think e-cigarettes are much more dangerous than they actually are, Murthy's recommendation that public health agencies and medical professionals get out the word about the hazards of vaping is rather alarming, especially if his office's educational efforts are meant to be a model. Such efforts to scare people away from e-cigarettes are positively pernicious and potentially lethal to the extent that they deter smokers from[...]

The World Health Organization's Tough Tactics Against Tobacco and E-Cigs

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 12:00:00 -0500

In India today, tobacco use is so widespread, a million deaths every year are attributed to its use. Tobacco can be stuffed inside of a wide variety of cigarettes and beedis, minced into a masala of spices known as gutka, or piled on top of paan – a leafy, addictive stimulant that multiplies a user's risk of oral cancer almost tenfold. Those million deaths a year are one reason why the Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties is being held in Delhi this year. Run by the World Health Organization (WHO), the conference is dedicated to curbing tobacco use through education, taxation, bans, and worldwide enforcement against smuggling operations. One-hundred-and-eighty signatory nations are bound to follow the bylaws passed behind these doors. But who gets a say in what the WHO does is a hotly contest matter. Only thirty members of the public and selected members of the media are treated to limited, stage managed press conferences. Nations like China, with state-owned tobacco monopolies, are warmly welcomed, but anyone with the slightest connection to a private tobacco industry is shown the exit. Large pharmaceutical companies generously fund conference attendees, while their anti-tobacco products like Nicorette gum compete with products that the WHO views unfavorably, like electronic cigarettes. The secretive nature of the conference didn't go over well with India's tobacco farmers. After a few minutes of protest outside the convention, 500 farmers were corralled by police and detained inside this local police station. After a brief negotiation and a bribe offered from an unnamed source outside of ReasonTV, leaders of the movement were temporarily released to speak with us outside the walls of the police station. As the farmers were being released from jail that evening, convention delegates voted to expel the media from the remainder of the conference. Drew Johnson, a reporter and columnist for The Daily Caller, decided to stand up for transparency by staying seated in the press gallery. He was forcibly ejected. If it's hard to understand why a $4 billion organization like the WHO feels threatened by the average Indian farmer who lives on $3 a day, it's worth recalling the source of all the hostility. By hook or by crook, the tobacco industry has pushed back against every public health measure in the last fifty years. The result is today's polarized debate, one that values the elimination of tobacco over jobs, transparency, and consumer choice. Expanding its authority beyond tobacco control, e-cigarettes and vape products now find themselves potentially subject to a worldwide ban. Delegates to the convention have expressed support for "a complete ban on the sale, manufacture, import and export of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems". Small but determined activist communities like Asian Vape Association, are already fighting back, organizing their own counter-conferences in Delhi this year. It can't be easy getting 180 signatory nations to agree on much of anything. This year, the Seventh Session of the Congress of the Parties resolved only two things of note: reaffirming their determination to regulate vaping products. And further limiting access to the convention by the public, due to potential tobacco industry interference. Two resolutions that seemed designed to elicit more public protest at the next conference, two years from now. Produced, photographed, narrated, and edited by Todd Krainin. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.[...]

Vaping Is a Gateway to Quitting

Wed, 09 Nov 2016 00:01:00 -0500

Survey data indicate that millions of Americans have used electronic cigarettes to quit smoking, thereby dramatically reducing the health risks they face. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is unimpressed. "The plural of anecdote is not data," Frieden recently told The New York Times. But when it comes to the dangers that vaping poses, he abandons his scientific stance, claiming without evidence that "many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes." No doubt Frieden and other e-cigarette alarmists will latch onto a new study that supposedly shows "Flavored E-Cigarettes May Entice Teens to Smoke," as one of the predictable headlines put it. But that is not what the study, reported this week in the journal Pediatrics, actually shows. Looking at data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, biostatistician Hongying Dai and economist Jianqiang Hao found that nonsmokers who had used an e-cigarette in the previous month were less likely than other nonsmokers to rule out trying tobacco cigarettes in the future. That is not terribly surprising, since just 3 percent of teenagers who had never smoked reported past-month e-cigarette use, a small minority that is apt to differ from the remaining 97 percent in traits, such as rebelliousness, risk aversion, and sensation seeking, that might affect the propensity to experiment with smoking. Correlation is not causation. The fact that teenagers who vape are less inclined to say they will never smoke does not mean the experience of vaping made them that way. As Dai and Hao note, "we were unable to establish causal inferences" because "the data are cross-sectional." The idea that vaping promotes smoking seems implausible in light of the fact that smoking has fallen to record lows among teenagers even as experimentation with vaping has risen dramatically. Furthermore, teenagers who vape typically use nicotine-free e-liquids, and nonsmokers rarely vape often enough to develop a nicotine habit. According to the Monitoring the Future Study, nearly two-thirds of teenagers who have tried vaping consumed "just flavoring" the last time they did it. In the same survey, less than 1 percent of never-smokers had vaped on 20 or more days in the previous month. Dai and Hao seem to view flavored e-liquids, whether or not they contain nicotine, as a menace to the youth of America. "Flavored e-cigarette use is associated with increased risks of smoking among youth," they conclude. "Comprehensive tobacco control and prevention strategies that address flavored e-cigarette products are critically needed to reduce tobacco use among youth." It is pretty clear what "address[ing] flavored e-cigarette products" means to Dai and Ho, who repeatedly note that the Food and Drug Administration does not plan to ban flavors as part of its otherwise onerous e-cigarette regulations. They worry that "widespread availability of flavored e-cigarettes will increase the use of e-cigarette products by youth" and that "the normalization of e-cigarette use among youth could also lead to e-cigarettes becoming a gateway for future smoking, marking a setback in the decades-long antismoking battle." While there is little reason to think anything like that is happening, banning flavored e-liquids would make vaping less attractive to smokers, thereby discouraging them from making a switch that could save their lives. Contrary to the claims of politicians and activists who insist that candy and fruit flavors could not possibly appeal to anyone older than 17, adults who switch to vaping overwhelmingly prefer supposedly kid-friendly e-liquids. In a 2014 survey by E-[...]