Published on March 14th, 2017 | by Jimmy Hafrey
A Berkeley professor is using a common-sense approach to underscore the benefits of vaping as well as to encourage vaping as a smoking cessation tool.
Professor Stephen D. Sugarman, who is the Roger J. Traynor Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, recently wrote an op-ed piece for RegBlog. The opinion, which you can read in full here, covers the whole issue of vaping, from highlighting the difference between smoking and vaping to measures that the US government can take to introduce vaping as a smoking cessation tool.
It is an interesting read for smokers, vapers, and advocates on both sides of the issue.
Sugarman begins his opinion with smoking and how it affects Americans. Currently, 15 percent of American adults smoke traditional cigarettes; the death toll that results from this is upwards of 480,000 people. Smoking is also one of the largest preventable causes of death in the nation; to put it another way, car accidents and gun deaths in the country account for just one-tenth of the number of deaths caused by smoking.
So why are there so many deaths caused by smoking?
The professor lays this out as well. Smoking is caused by burning tobacco leaves that are wrapped in a thin piece of paper, and the smoke that is caused by that action is delivered into a user’s mouth and lungs. Tobacco, along with hundreds of toxins and carcinogens, also delivers nicotine to a user, which many scientists believe to be addictive; new reports, however, show that it may not be as addictive as previously thought.
However, smoking itself is considered to be addictive, and can cause a variety of health-related issues. These include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. The World Health Organization’s June 2016 factsheet on tobacco estimates that tobacco kills up to half of its users; this relates to roughly six million people each year.
Of those six million people who die from tobacco-related causes, more than 600,000 are non-smokers who have been exposed to second-hand smoke.
Sugarman goes on to say that while a good majority of smokers understand the risks involved in their habit, many are unable to quit using traditional methods; these methods include using nicotine-infused patches or gum. Still others have tried, unsuccessfully, to quit using the “cold turkey” approach championed by Nancy Reagan. Those that do quit smoking oftentimes find themselves relapsing at another date, starting the cycle of trying to quit all over again.
This is why vaping is so important: it has the ability to allow smokers to continue their behaviors while reducing the amount of nicotine they take in on a gradual basis, ensuring that those who do quit will stay away from tobacco in the future. Vaping is also 95 percent less dangerous than smoking, a fact that comes from Public Health England, a governing body of health in the UK.
Vaping is a relatively new behavior, the professor says, and differs from smoking in a few ways.
First, vaping is an action that introduces vaporized liquid into a user’s mouth or lungs; there are no substances burned in vaping. Second, users vape liquids that deliver nicotine in a sterilized form that is absent of the carcinogens and toxins found in tobacco. Third, users have the option to minimize or eliminate nicotine from their vape liquids at any time. In the last case, users could not even be seen as ingesting a tobacco product, as there is no nicotine or tobacco present.
This publication would also like to note that while many companies use nicotine that is naturally derived from tobacco, other companies don’t. This is because synthetic nicotine is available in the marketplace and so cannot be considered a tobacco product.
And yet, vape products and e-liquids are considered tobacco products under the FDA regulations and classification rules. The agency has then subjected vaping to the same rules that govern tobacco in the open marketplace, ensuring that these products are taxed at the same rate as cigarettes. Some states are even proposing full bans on vaping, leaving those citizens either without vape products or having to travel out of state to purchase them.
Sugarman asks the question: why are so many anti-tobacco advocates and public officials fighting vaping?
The professor points out two scenarios: one, that critics believe that tobacco, and the nicotine derived from it, are evil and should not be consumed at all by anyone. They believe, whole-heartedly, that vaping is “an unneeded distraction” and that current smoking cessation methods are all that is needed. In fact, these critics view the rapid decline of smoking in the US as a phenomenon that has happened entirely separate from the introduction of vaping.
Another scenario is that some critics believe that smokers become what is known as dual users, a group of individuals who both smoke and vape. These critics believe that smokers are worse off for it and that no good can come from having vape products on the market.
Sugarman goes on to point out that smoking is down among adults and teens and that vaping seems to be at the root of it, though it would be a difficult mission to find any critic that would admit this. He also goes on to state how suspicious the actions of public health policy analysts and politicians are in light of the various studies that prove that vaping is better for the public than smoking.
But while the majority of the article centers on showing the differences between smoking and vaping as well as questioning the US government’s reaction to vaping, the professor also has solutions that would see the government back vaping.
He states that instead of continuing on with the vaping regulations put forth by the FDA, the government could instead create a federal cigarette tax. This tax, would be a minimum of $1.50 per pack, would be instituted in all states, even those that have ridiculously low cigarette taxes, like Missouri and Alabama, which also have the highest number of smokers. This would also give states the option to raise their taxes if they so choose, leaving people with vaping as a more affordable alternative; the fact that it could also help them quit smoking would be a bonus.
Sugarman also goes over how health care officials in the state could implement vaping as a smoking cessation program, a stance that the UK has already adopted. By introducing vaping as a medical alternative to smoking, users could have their vape products subsidized and make them cheaper.
The last option that the professor gives is also the most controversial: Sugarman states that the FDA itself could experiment with making traditional cigarettes less satisfying by lowering the amount of nicotine within each individual cigarette. This is a loaded solution, as many critics argue that it would lead to black market sales of traditional cigarettes. However, the FDA could institute other changes in traditional cigarettes that would make it a less satisfying habit.
The entire opinion is an incredible insight to vaping and should be read by both smokers and vapers alike. A common sense approach to this alternative to smoking is highly needed, and Sugarman argues the case beautifully.
In the meantime, there is hope by this publication and others that the recent change in administration could roll back the strictest regulations on vaping, thereby making it easier to obtain and easier to use to quit smoking.