Smoking is up for the first time in a generation. The public health lobby is to blame

By Yaël Ossowski

It often takes a long time for health policy influencers, advocates, and proponents to admit fault. 

When it is about topics such as diet fads, saturated fats, food pyramids, and sugar consumption, long-held consensus beliefs and government actions later proved erroneous have had a lasting negative impact.

But nothing has been more egregious and harmful in our current age than the public health lobby’s persistent denialism of the harm reduction value of nicotine vaping products and other alternatives to cigarettes.

That denialism has come in many forms: public information campaigns demonizing vaping devices, misinformation on lung illnesses caused by tainted cannabis cartridges, bans, restrictions, and taxes on flavored nicotine products (especially those without tobacco), Kafkaesque market authorization applications handled by the drug regulators, and a never-ending crusade to deny adult consumers from having access to life-saving products because of illicit and risky behavior by teens.

These public health bodies, anti-smoking groups, and allied journalists, whatever their intent, have sought to convince the public that not only is smoking bad and dangerous — an easy admission — but also that alternative nicotine devices like vaping products, nicotine pouches, and heated tobacco are just as or even riskier than a pack of smokes.

Those conclusions are easily debunked by the millions of passionate vapers who have long since put down cigarettes and taken up customized tanks, vaporizers, and flavored liquids that give them a familiar nicotine sensation without the tar and combustible byproducts of tobacco.

David Butow for Rolling Stone

The public health mission to muddy the popular perception of nicotine alternatives such as vaping — even though it is scientifically proven to be 95% less harmful than cigarettes — is causing actual damage to American public health. And now we have the proof.

That proof is found both in the increased sales of cigarettes nationwide and also in a highly concentrated study on teen smoking in a jurisdiction where flavored nicotine vaping was outlawed.

According to the sales figures collected by the Federal Trade Commission for its 2020 Cigarette Report, Americans bought more cigarettes in 2020 than they have in more than a generation.

“The total number of cigarettes reported sold by the major manufacturers, 203.7 billion units in 2020, increased by 0.8 billion units (0.4 percent) from 2019, the first increase in cigarettes sold in twenty years,” cites the report.

Americans could be buying more cigarettes for a multitude of reasons: lockdowns, stress from both the pandemic and the government responses to the pandemic, job losses, closed schools, and more. Or perhaps because they’ve been told repeatedly by trusted public health sources and news outlets that vaping, an alternative that millions of adult consumers are now using to quit smoking, is just as dangerous.

Whatever your conclusion, the trend that lowered the percentage of US smokers down to 14 percent in 2019 (when the last complete nationwide survey was completed) is halting. And that should concern us all.

We see anecdotal echoes of this in a recent style piece in the New York Times, highlighting the “comeback” of cigarettes among the bourgeois hipster crowd in Brooklyn, New York. 

“I switched back to cigarettes because I thought it would be healthier than Juuling,” claimed one woman. It seems the public health lobbies have done their job.

On the more evidentiary side, an extensive May 2021 article published in JAMA Pediatrics found that after San Francisco’s ban on flavored vaping and tobacco products, more teens took up smoking.

“San Francisco’s ban on flavored tobacco product sales was associated with increased smoking among minor high school students relative to other school districts,” concludes the paper.

As tobacco harm reduction advocates have claimed for several years, the persistent public health campaigns, echoed by headline-grabbing media outlets, to demonize and restrict access to vaping has led to a predictable rise in smoking rates, both among adults and teens.

Whatever your view on whether vaping devices, heated tobacco, snus, or nicotine pouches are the most attractive and effective gateway away from smoking, this recent uptick in smoking demonstrates actual harms result when politically-charged health lobbies seek to extinguish market alternatives. And we must ask why they persist.

The opposition of these groups, along with affiliated journalists and researchers, to the rise of nicotine alternatives may have less to do with quantitative questions of science and health and more to do with how these products were created and are delivered: by entrepreneurs providing solutions in the market.

These entrepreneurs are vape shop owners, makers of vape liquids, gas station owners, vaping technology firms, tobacco firms pivoting to alternative products, and an entire creative class of vaping influencers both on and offline who are trying to give smokers a second chance at a long life. These are the true heroes of harm reduction in the 21st century.

The fact that spontaneous markets can deliver helpful and healthier solutions because of consumer demand, rather than by edicts, funding, and programs directly controlled by public health bureaucracies and agencies, runs counter to much of the ideology in the tobacco control space. 

It is the former, therefore, that is the true American innovative spirit that has helped make this country so prosperous and competitive, while the latter has failed us again and again.

If we want to reclaim a true public health victory and help smokers quit to give them long and fruitful lives, it is time to cast aside this aversion to the innovations of the market. The future health of our nation depends on it.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center

6 Reasons Nicotine Is Not Your Enemy

This month’s Christmas festival has great news on public health. In countries that encouraged and accepted tobacco harm reduction policies, the number of smokers has dropped significantly.

In the UK, for example, smoking levels have dropped by 25% since 2013 (when e-cigarettes became popular). Over the past four years in Japan, cigarette sales have fallen by 34%, while sales of reduced-harm alternatives such as heat-not-burn tobacco surged to 30% in 2019.

This was achieved because people who usually look for nicotine do so in a harmless way.

But while these numbers are important wins for consumers, the entire army of nicotine’s unscientific scapegoats undermines their success. This approach has dire consequences: fewer people switch to less harmful alternatives such as vaping, nicotine pouches, or heat-not-burn tobacco devices.

In the Philippines, additional categories of harm reduction are being legalized, but still failing to achieve the widespread adoption required.

Read the full article here

Researchers Call for End to ‘War on Nicotine’

A new research paper attempts to clarify the confusion surrounding nicotine consumption and the role it plays in the diseases caused by smoking. The paper, released by the Consumer Choice Center, outlines six main reasons why the “war on nicotine is pointless” and should end.

“Instead of celebrating declining numbers of smokers and far fewer deaths, many governments, public health agencies and anti-smoking activists have been on the hunt for new enemies,” the researchers wrote. “They decided to scapegoat nicotine, and as a result, the fight against smoking gradually transformed into a fight against nicotine. Such an approach has dire consequences: fewer people switching to less harmful alternatives.”

Read the full article here

New Research Hopes to Help End War on Nicotine

A new research paper attempts to clarify the confusion surrounding nicotine consumption and the role it plays in the diseases caused by smoking. The paper, released by the Consumer Choice Center, outlines six main reasons why the “war on nicotine is pointless” and should end.

“Instead of celebrating declining numbers of smokers and far fewer deaths, many governments, public health agencies and anti-smoking activists have been on the hunt for new enemies,” the researchers wrote. “They decided to scapegoat nicotine, and as a result, the fight against smoking gradually transformed into a fight against nicotine. Such an approach has dire consequences: fewer people switching to less harmful alternatives.”

The paper was co-authored by Michael Landl, director of the World Vapers’ Alliance, and Maria Chaplia, research manager at the Consumer Choice Center This six reasons listed to stop the war against nicotine the paper recommends are:

  • People consume nicotine, but they die from smoking
  • Nicotine in patches and gums is not a problem — it is neither (a problem) when vaped nor in a pouch
  • Addiction is complex and not solved by a war on nicotine
  • Nicotine makes some people smarter, stronger and more attractive
  • Misconceptions about nicotine are hindering progress
  • Prohibition never works

Read the full article here

Шість причин чому не варто демонізувати нікотин

Добрі новини для початку тижня: у країнах, які пішли шляхом заохочення вейпінгу, кількість курців суттєво зменшилась.

У Великій Британії, наприклад, рівень куріння впав на 25% з 2013 року (час, коли вейпінг став популярним). 

Але для критиків цих успіхів нікотин став козлом відпущення і в результаті боротьба з курінням поступово переросла в боротьбу з нікотином. Такий підхід має жахливі наслідки: менше людей переходить на менш шкідливі альтернативи.

Шість причин чому треба перестати демонізувати нікотин:

1. Люди споживають нікотин, але вмирають від куріння

Це правда, що не слід заохочувати людей починати вживати нікотин. Але органи охорони здоров’я повинні перестати перешкоджати курцям переходити на вейпінг та інші альтернативи. Британська національна служба охорони здоров’я (British National Health Service) дотримуєтьсяпрагматичного підходу до споживання нікотину та вейпінгу, заявляючи наступне: «Хоча нікотин викликає залежність у сигаретах, він сам по собі є відносно нешкідливим. Майже вся шкода від куріння походить від тисяч інших хімічних речовин в тютюновому димі, багато з яких є токсичними».

2. Нікотин у патчах і жувальних гумках не є проблемою, а тому він не має вважатись проблемою у вейпі

Королівський коледж лікарів Великобританії узагальнив роль вейпінгу як методу споживання нікотину таким чином: «Електронні сигарети відповідають багатьом критеріям ідеального продукту для зменшення шкоди від тютюну. Хоча споживання нікотину з електронних сигарет залежить від ряду факторів, […], вони можуть містити високу дозу нікотину, але при цьому не мати шкідливих компонентів тютюнового диму […]». 

3. Залежність від нікотину складна і вона не вирішується заборонами

Безсумнівно, нікотин викликає виділення дофаміну і, таким чином, сприяє звиканню до куріння, але це не може бути єдиною причиною, чому так багато людей не можуть кинути палити. Якби нікотин був єдиною причиною залежності від куріння, кожен курець, який використовує нікотинові патчі, мав би кинути курити одразу.

Як показало дослідження, опубліковане у 2015-ому році в науковому журналі Drug and Alcohol Dependence, за відсутності тютюнового диму потенційна залежність від нікотину дуже низька, тому більшість вейперів відчувають набагато менший тиск залежності, ніж курці.

4. Нікотин має медичні переваги 

Дослідження, проведені в 1960-х роках, показали, що у курців спостерігається нижчий рівень хвороби Паркінсона, і нещодавні дослідження показало, що причиною цього є нікотин. Було доведено, що «чоловіки, які не курили, але вживали снюс (тип бездимного тютюну), мали значно нижчий ризик хвороби Паркінсона». Однією з причин є те, що нікотин має позитивну когнітивну дію.

5. Помилкові уявлення про нікотин гальмують прогрес

Сприйняття громадськості щодо нікотину, на жаль, викривлене. 57% респондентів американського опитування помилково погодилися з твердженням, що «нікотин в сигаретах є речовиною, яка викликає більшість ракових захворювань, викликаних курінням», і навіть 80% лікарів помилково вважають, що нікотин викликає рак. Ці неправильні переконання громадськості та експертів мають негативні наслідки, адже вони викривлюють уявлення про вейпінг, який є на 95 відсотків менш шкідливий ніж куріння.

Недавній огляд 755 тематичних досліджень про загальні наслідки вейпінгу прийшов до висновку, що лише 37 «відповідають точним критеріям наукової якості».

6. Політика заборон ніколи не є ефективною

Якщо політикам до цього часу слід було б чомусь навчитися з історії, так це те, що заборона не працює. Заборона алкоголю в США була повною катастрофою, що призвело до збільшення споживання алкоголю, споживання неощадливих продуктів і породило величезні картелі. Війна з наркотиками в усьому світі є повним провалом і в багатьох випадках призвела до контрпродуктивної політики. Тому справедливо припустити, що війна з нікотином матиме такі ж результати.

Оскільки куріння і хвороби, які ним спричинені, залишається одним з викликів людства, дуже важливо підходити до їх вирішення зважено і без нав’язаних ідеологій. Нікотин – не ворог.

Originally published here

Apresiasi Inggris Negara Pertama yang Melegalkan Vape sebagai Produk Medis

Isu mengenai produk rokok elektronik, atau yang dikenal juga dengan nama vape, saat ini masih menjadi kontroversi. Perdebatan mengenai isu terkait vape umumnya muncul pada aspek kesehatan, terlebih lagi, dari tahun ke tahun, jumlah pengguna vape di seluruh dunia kian meningkat.

Bagi sebagian kalangan, vape atau rokok elektronik merupakan produk yang sangat berbahaya, dan tidak jauh berbeda dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Untuk itu, akan sangat berbahaya pula bila produk ini dapat dijual bebas ke masyarakat seperti produk-produk konsumen lainnya.

Mereka yang memiliki pandangan bahwa vape atau rokok elektronik sebagai produk yang sangat berbahaya umumnya akan meengadvokasi berbagai kebijakan yang bertujuan untuk mencegah seseorang mengkonsumsi produk tersebut. 

Berbagai kebijakan ini ada dalam berbagai bentuk, mulai dari kebijakan untuk mengenakan cukai atau pajak yang tinggi, untuk mengurangi insentif seseorang mengkonsumsi vape, hingga kebijakan pelarangan total.

Sementara itu, di sisi lain tidak sedikit pula pihak-pihak yag memiliki pandnagan bahwa vape atau rokok elektronik merupakan produk yang tidak lebih berbahaya daripada rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Oleh karena itu, vape atau rokok elektronik memiliki potensi untuk membantu para perokok untuk mengurangi kebiasaan merokoknya yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan.

Mereka yang memiliki pandangan tersebut umumnya justru menentang keras berbagai kebijakan yang ditujukan agar seseorang semakin sulit untuk mendapatkan akses terhadap produk-produk vape. 

Mereka melihat kebijakan tersebut justru akan membawa dampak yang kontra produktif, karena bukan hanya akan semakin menyulitkan para perokok untuk mendapatkan produk alternatif yang dapat membantu mereka berhenti merokok, namun juga berpotensi besar akan semakin membuka praktik pasar gelap vape yang sanget berbahaya bagi konsumen.

Di Indonesia sendiri, tidak sedikit pihak-pihak yang memiliki pandangan pertama terkait dengan produk-produk vape. Mereka memiliki pandangan bahwa vape atau rokok elektronik adalah produk yang sangat berbahaya dan harus dilarang oleh pemerintah. Ikatan Dokter Indonesia (IDI) misalnya, menganjurkan agar produk-produk vape dilarang di Indonesia (cnnindonesia.com, 24/9/2019).

Tetapi ada pula negara lain yang memiliki pendekatan yang berbeda terkait dengan produk-produk vape atau rokok elektronik. Salah satu dari negara tersebut adalah Britania Raya, yang bukan hanya tidak melarang vape, tetapi justru menjadikan produk tersebut sebagai alternatif yang dapat membantu seseorang untuk berhenti merokok.

Kebijakan yang diambil oleh Inggris ini memang tergolong unik. Ketika berbagai negara di dunia berupaya untuk memberlakukan kebijakan yang membatasi hingga melarang vape, mulai dari Amerika Serikat hingga Australia, Inggris justru memberlakukan kebijakan yang berbeda 180 derajat dari kebijakan yang diambil oleh negara-negara lainnya.

Pendekatan yang diambil oleh Pemerintah Inggris ini bisa ditarik kembali ke tahun 2015. Di tahun tersebut, lembaga kesehatan publik Inggris, Public Health England (PHE), mengeluarkan laporan mengenai vape, yang isinya secara eksplisit menyatakan bahwa kandungan dalam vape atau rokok elektronik 95% lebih tidak berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. 

Tidak hanya itu, PHE juga menyatakan bahwa produk rokok elektronik dapat membantu seseorang untuk berhentu merokok (theguardian.com, 28/12/2018).

Laporan tersebut kelak menjadi salah satu dasar kebijakan resmi dari Pemerintah Inggris untuk menjadikan vape atau rokok elektronik sebagai produk alternatif untuk membantu seseorang berhenti merokok. Kebijakan ini akhirnya secara resmi diterapkan di negara tersebut pada akhir bulan Oktober 2021 lalu.

Pada bulan Oktober lalu, lembaga regulasi medis Inggris, United Kingdom Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) menerbitkan panduan untuk menjadikan produk-produk vape sebagai salah satu resep medis bagi seseorang untuk berhenti merokok. Resep tersebut bisa dikeluarkan oleh lembaga kesehatan nasional Inggris, National Health Service (NHS) (edition.cnn.co, 29/10/2021).

Melalui aturan ini, perusahaan produsen produk-produk vape bisa mendaftarkan produk yang mereka buat ke MHRA untuk diteliti agar bisa mendapatkan lisensi medis bagi produk tersebut. Proses tersebut diberlakukan sama dengan produk-produk medis lainnya.

Kebijakan ini sendiri diambil sebagai salah satu upaya dari Pemerintah Inggris untuk mengurangi jumlah populasi perokok di negaranya. Bila kelak nanti sudah ada produk vape yang lolos proses regulasi dari MHRA dan mendapatkan lisensi medis, maka Inggris akan menjadi negara pertama di dunia yang melegalkan produk-produk vape untuk digunakan sebagai produk pengobatan medis.

Namun, Pemerintah Inggris dalam hal inibukan berartoi menyatakan bahwa vape merupakan produk yang 100% aman untuk dikonsumsi, tetapi resiko tersebut jauh lebih rendah bila dibandingkan dengan rokok elektronik yang dibakar. 

NHS menyatakan bahwa, rokok elektronik tidak memproduksi tar dan karbon monoksida, yang merupakan dua zat yang paling berbahaya yang terkandung dalam rokok konvensional yang dibakar (edition.cnn.co, 29/10/2021).

Kebijakan yang diambil oleh Pemerintah Inggris ini sendiri tentu merupakan kebijakan unik dan yang patut diapresiasi, di mana Pemerintah Inggris dalam hal ini berupaya untuk bersikap pragmatis untuk mengurangi populasi perkok di negaranya. Indonesia sendiri tentu dapat mengambil pelajaran dari kebijakan yang diambil oleh Inggris tersebut.

Indonesia merupakan salah satu negara dengan jumlah populasi dewasa perokok tertinggi di dunia. Pada tahun 2021 ini, Indonesia menduduki peringkat negara dengan populasi perokok tertinggi ketiga di dunia, dengan jumlah 65,7 juta penduduk Indonesia adalah perokok aktif, atau 33,8% dari jumlah total penduduk (jpnn.com, 29/4/2021).

Hal ini tentu merupakan sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya, dan bukan hanya membahayakan kesehatan publik, tetapi juga dapat semakin menambahkan beban pemerintah untuk membiayai biaya pengobatan masyarakat Indonesia. 

Untuk itu, kebijakan pragmatis untuk menanggulangi hal tersebut adalah hal yang sangat penting, salah satunya adalah mencontoh kebijakan yang diambil oleh Pemerintah Inggris tersebut.

Originally published here

Can we please have a debate about policy issues?

Trying to talk policy with confused Le Monde activist journalists

Have you ever attempted to argue with a conspiracy theorist? 

They don’t all wear tinfoil hats and argue about vaccines or government plots. Some earn paychecks from respectable media outlets. Others are funded by billionaire philanthropists to sow doubt and spin narratives.

The Consumer Choice Center recently met with some Michael Bloomberg-funded journalists — a troubling web on its own — supposedly to discuss our campaigns on tobacco harm reduction, an important issue for us and for a billion smokers worldwide. Yesterday they published their “research” after months of inquiry.

We wanted to talk to them about policy issues. But they seemingly weren’t interested in the great work we do on consumer choice and innovative, smart policies across the globe. They did not care about our fight to save the lives of millions of smokers, or our efforts to make ride-sharing available for everyone and reduce drunk driving, or combatting criminals and drug-dealers by endorsing cannabis legalization. We advocate for innovative solutions to tackle the world’s problems — from hunger to pandemics — but they had a different narrative to sell.

Cynical activist-journalists don’t seem to care about the life-saving potential of vaping but instead aim to slander people that endorse and use it. Where is the alternative solution provided by these intrepid journalists? They also don’t care about us and our volunteers being actual consumers — this makes me look forward to displaying hundreds of video testimonials of vapers in the upcoming weeks across Europe. Nearly 70 million smokers (that’s 1% of world population and about 200-times more people than Le Monde readers) have been able to quit thanks to vaping. This is likely the largest public health victory since the invention of the Polio vaccine! 

Instead, the big story they wanted to target is that the CCC receives money from for-profit corporations. This is true, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s clearly stated on our website, and we’ve answered these questions a hundred times. If it takes three “journalists” months to figure this out, then Michael Bloomberg and those who run his foundation, who funded their research, should probably consider the return on their investment. 

Despite their ambiguous claims, CCC has ZERO ties to the Koch family, their companies, or their money, and though this was made very clear to the intrepid reporters, they devoted the vast majority of their screed to trying to force a link that doesn’t exist. This is neither honest journalism nor fact-based reporting, but it fits the illiberal and moralizing worldview of a sect of journalists, and their contrived sense of right and wrong. 

They believe that fighting for consumer choice and evidence-based policies is a fringe pursuit and lonely endeavor, which no one would dare try unless funded by various incarnations of the devil. We disagree. 

I devoted more than an hour to talking with these journalists in person, and provided responses to all of their follow-up questions, in good faith. The same can be said for my colleagues who provided answers to them in the months prior. Their suggestion that I was evasive just doesn’t match the facts. We are open and proud of the work that we do. 

There’s a massive need to raise and amplify the voice of consumers that want access to innovative products, that want to decide for themselves, and that don’t want to be lectured to by activist-journalists with an ideological axe to grind. 

The Consumer Choice Center is proud of its accomplishments in our years of existence, and that my colleagues and our volunteers work hard hours every day to bring evidence and consumer choice to the public debate. I am very thankful for all the support we have received in the past and we look forward to growing our efforts for 21st century consumer policies! 

P.S.: The story that consumers and ex-smokers (like me) fight for the right to vape seemed to be such a non-story that the writers decided it was appropriate to comment on the fashion choices of myself and Michael. When they go low, we’ll go high, so we won’t respond in kind. But I would like to say that I proudly bought my Burberry trench coat in a second hand market. But this wouldn’t fit their narrative. 

P.P.S.: All I want for Christmas is for Michael Bloomberg and the World Health Organization to realize that vaping can save millions of lives. Santa, can you help with this?

P.P.P.S: If you want to read through the result of the aforementioned 3-month-long research you can have some entertainment here.

Addition: This thread by Michelle Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute shows the undeclared conflicts of interest of some of the authors of the references ‘research’.

Leaked: Bloomberg-funded ‘Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids’ Global Strategy to Ban Vaping Products By Bribing Public Bodies

To people in the United States, billionaire Michael Bloomberg is most well-known as a swashbuckling former New York City mayor who blew a lot of money on an ill-fated presidential primary run.

But around the world, his network of charities and selected groups he provides with millions of dollars in grants are, for all intents and purposes, a sort of private government who influence government leaders, fund the entire salaries of public health officials, and write legislation that is then introduced into legislative bodies, including the recent example of vaping bans in Mexico and the Phillippines.

Some of these organizations are those directly chaired and controlled by Bloomberg, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, but most are various campaign groups that rely heavily on funding and guidance from the New York City billionaire, including those focused on the environment, education, public health, and general tobacco control.

According to the latest article from Michelle Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who was able to get her hands on internal documents from the Bloomberg-funded Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids organization, the pernicious impact of the campaigns to target developing countries goes much beyond standard tobacco-control measures such as taxes, age-gating, and advertising restrictions.

Influence and Cash-Strapped Governments

Instead, there are direct payments offered to government bodies and public health officials that implement the CTFK wish-list of legislation. Because developing nations spend less on public health measures and programs than developed nations, foreign NGOs that seek specific policy measures in exchange for millions of dollars in public funding are granted immense influence.

As such, rather than actual domestic democratic demand for measures against tobacco and vaping products, including all-out bans on vaping flavors and technology, these nations pass laws in direct exchange for grants, often much larger than their own domestic department budgets. In other contexts, this would rightly be defined as bribery.

Considering Michael Bloomberg’s charities have spent nearly $700 million globally to hurry these measures into law, the long arm of the global anti-tobacco advocacy movement has already chalked up several success stories.

In government, CTFK and its partners engage in lobbying, like most other advocacy organizations, but CTFK’s strategy for influencing tobacco policy really hinges on establishing itself as an indispensable resource for regulators and lawmakers. For example, the CTFK plan lists myriad examples of support it has provided to government entities, such as assisting in lawsuits against the tobacco industry in Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya. In Panama, it notes “collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Panama who is interested in financing a regional effort” for tobacco litigation.

Michelle Minton, Exposed: Bloomberg’s Anti-Tobacco Meddling in Developing Countries

The documents outline the efforts of campaigners from CTFK to pass various tobacco control and anti-vaping measures in countries such as Brazil, China, and Nigeria, including “financial support” to ministries and government offices.

More than just government officials and health bodies, exorbitant funding is also made available to universities and media institutions, documents show, to amplify the core messages and aims of CTFK.

The Smokescreen

Rather than advocating for general tobacco control measures, a good portion of CTFK’s campaigns has focused on banning or severely restrict harm reducing technologies such as vaping, especially in developing countries such as India, the Phillippines, China, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and more.

Diverting from their mission of truly “tobacco-free kids,” Bloomberg’s connected organizations have instead used their influence to zero in on innovative and novel technological vaping products that deliver aerosolized nicotine and have nothing to do with tobacco.

Instead, organizations like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have used powerful rhetoric on the need to eliminate smoking as a literal smokescreen for eliminating or severely restricting all non-combustible nicotine alternatives, including vaping devices, heat-not-burn devices, nicotine pouches, and more.

Considering the demonstrated health potentials that come with endorsing nicotine-delivery alternatives as a means to quit smoking, as is recommended by relative health ministries in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to undermine these efforts in developing countries with relatively high smoking rates should be a scandal of epic proportions.

But, alas, those headlines are far from prominent. Instead, we have multiple policy victories that restrict consumer choice and access to alternatives without much regard for actual public health.

Achieving True Public Health

What makes these revelations most startling is that there is no room for nuance on whether innovative new vaping devices and other alternatives, which do not contain tobacco, should be considered tobacco products. Organizations such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an organ of the World Health Organization, say they are no different.

But they’re wrong. The growing compendium of academic studies and government reports demonstrating that vaping is 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco speaks to that.

The fact that millions of people have been able to quit smoking by using nicotine vaping devices should be a testament enough to how the market can deliver solutions for public health, not to use a cudgel to hamstring and deny developing nations the real opportunity they have to improve and save the lives of millions of their citizens.

But as noted by Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “the strategy of CTFK and the wider Bloomberg-funded anti-tobacco effort appears aimed at winning policy battles and passing laws with little consideration of whether they result in actual reductions in smoking or improvements in health.”

If this is the face of the modern tobacco control movement, then we know that public health is not actually their goal.

36 Organizations Sign Coalition Letter Condemning Menthol Prohibition Proposal

Earlier today, Americans for Tax Reform released a letter signed by 36 leading national and state-based organizations representing millions of taxpayers and consumers throughout the United States urging the Food and Drug Administration to reject a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. This letter adds to a similar letter signed by 27 civil liberty and racial justice organizations organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and demonstrates overwhelming bipartisan opposition to this proposal.  

The letter noted the devastating social impact of criminalizing an activity undertaken by over 18 million Americans, primarily from minority communities, asserting “If this proposal were to be enacted, it is inevitable that it would lead to further confrontations between individuals and law enforcement and break down trust even further. In addition, by diverting law enforcement resources to preventing the sale of menthol cigarettes, this policy will reduce the resources available for the prevention and solving of property and violent crimes.” 

The letter continued, “We further draw your attention to the fact that any comprehensive analysis of the data from jurisdictions where menthol products have been banned demonstrates that, while the majority of users switch to non-menthol cigarettes, over 20% of menthol smokers moved to purchasing illicit products through the black market. Not only does this put all parties involved at risk of police involvement, the illicit tobacco market is increasingly been run by sophisticated international criminal syndicates, often with links to sex trafficking, money laundering and even, increasingly, terrorism.” 

For these reasons, as the letter noted, the U.S. State Department has explicitly called tobacco smuggling, “a threat to national security”. 

The letter also recognized the importance of promoting harm reduction over prohibition, writing, “If the FDA wishes to reduce smoking rates, the best way of doing this is not through bans, but rather embracing life-saving new technologies to help smokers quit. The science is now overwhelming that the most effective way for smokers to quit is through the use of non-combustible reduced risk tobacco alternatives, ranging from vapor and “heat not burn” devices, to oral nicotine delivery systems or moist loose tobacco (which the FDA already allows to be marketed as reducing the cancer risk for persons who make the switch).” 

The letter concluded by urging the FDA to “engage in evidence-based policy making and embrace new technologies and alternative nicotine delivery systems that have been proven will be able to save millions of American lives.” 

Originally published here.

Planet of the Vapes: Vaping is the gateway out of smoking

The Parliament Magazine is issued on a fortnightly basis to inform and educate politicians with “with balanced, objective and informative coverage”. The latest issue carries an article by Consumer Choice Center’s Maria Chaplia and World Vapers’ Alliance’s Michael Landl saying that “Vaping is the gateway out of smoking”.

The World Vapers’ Alliance has been exceptionally active lately, from attacking the SCHEER Report [link] and demonstrating at the European Parliament [link] to organising a spectacular protest in the Netherlands [link].

The Consumer Choice Center says it, “is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.”

The Parliament Magazine and its sister publications highlight, “innovation and best practice across key regional policy sectors, as well as providing up to date news and analysis of regional policy legislation and developments at EU, national and regional levels.”

In the latest edition Chaplia and Landl say: “The innovative nature of vaping has contributed to its success and allowed it to quickly gain popularity among smokers.”

They argue that despite the novel technology being targeted by opponents as a gateway into smoking the truth is the opposite, and the longer the EU continues to attack harm reduction, “the fewer smokers get a chance to switch to a safer and healthier alternative.”

The newest Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) UK report states that “only 0.3 percent of never-smokers are current vapers (amounting to 2.9 percent of vapers)”. Therefore, a gateway effect to smoking is not reflected in the data and many studies show the opposite effect. For example, smoking rates in the UK – where public health authorities encourage vaping as a gateway out of smoking – are at an all-time low and there is no sign of vaping causing more smoking.”

They address the fact that countries which have embraced harm reduction, such as the UK, have seen accelerated declines in smoking rates, whereas countries like Australia have witnessed a deceleration to abject stalls.

The correlation between the introduction and the popularity of vaping and declining smoking rates suggests that vaping is an important innovation to help people quit smoking. The 2018 US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Report found that the smoking rate has decreased overall more rapidly since vaping became more prominent in the United States.”

While politicians may read the text, will they listen to the message? It’s very clear: “Despite many voices seeking to undermine vaping as a gateway out of smoking, the evidence is sound: vaping saves lives.”

Originally published here.

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