healthcare

Democratic Presidential Debate: How did consumer choice fare?

With the 2020 presidential race running on full steam, 12 Democratic candidates for president participated in yet another televised debate last night in Ohio.

Considering consumers will be directly impacted by many of the policies mentioned, here’s a breakdown by categories mentioned by the candidates and our own spin on how it relates to consumer choice.

HEALTHCARE

Mayor Pete Buttigieg makes some good points on keeping competition for healthcare insurance, blasting Sen. Elizabeth Warren for not being straight on whether taxes will go up with her Medicare For All plan.

Buttigieg: “No plan has been laid to explain how a multi-trillion-dollar hole in this Medicare For All plan that Sen. Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in.”

He prefers “Medicare For All Who Want It,” continuing to allow private healthcare insurance and a public option for those who want it. As we’ve written before, more choice in healthcare is what should be championed.

And Buttigieg had another great line:

“I don’t think the American people are wrong when they say that what they want is a choice…I don’t understand why you believe the only way to deliver affordable coverage to everybody is to obliterate private plans, kicking 150 million Americans off their insurance in four short years.”

Warren, on the other hand, calls her plan the “gold standard,” again stating that while taxes on the wealthy will go up, costs for middle-class families will go down. Here, she’s taking an objective view of the total costs to families, mixing taxes and healthcare expenses. Of course, that’s very convoluted, and doesn’t leave much clarity to consumers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is more honest: “I do think it’s appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up…but the tax increase they pay will be substantially less than what they were paying for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “We owe it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice…we need to have a public option.” She calls Medicare For All a “pipe dream,” calling for an expansion of Obamacare.

Former Vice President Joe Biden: “The [Medicare For All] plan is going cost at least $30 trillion over 10 years.” He similarly wants to just expand Obamacare.

Overall, it seems there is still a lot of support for competition in healthcare, and that is to be celebrated. Medicare For All, which would remove all aspects of competition and free choice, only got moderate support by all except Sanders and Warren.

CANNABIS LEGALIZATION

The idea of a smart cannabis policy was quite absent from the debate. That’s quite a mishap, considering the ongoing issue of federal cannabis prohibition while select states continue with their own version of legalization.

The only two mentions came in the context of the opioid crisis, by Sen. Cory Booker and Andrew Yang. They only mentioned that cannabis could be used as an alternative for those addicted to opioids.

What about the very real fight to have smart cannabis policy implemented at the federal level? We hope this is covered more in future debates.

AUTOMATION

The idea of a federal job guarantee was fresh on the lips of Bernie Sanders, but that was shot down by most people on the stage.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang hit it out of the park with this one:

“Most Americans do not want to work for the federal government. And saying that is the vision of the economy of the 21st Century is, to me, is not a vision that most Americans would not embrace.”

He promotes his Freedom Dividend, offering $1,000 a month to every American as a replacement for welfare, as a way to boost consumer spending, and help workers who lose their jobs due to automation.

There is much that could be written about whether or not this universal basic income would be good for consumers, but it is at least a different policy debated by mainstream presidential candidates on a national state.

TECH REGULATION

There was much room for beating up tech companies that offer great services for ordinary consumers. That includes services like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. We’ve written about the trust-busters and their desire to usurp consumer choice before.

Warren led the salvo, using a quip about separating the umpire and the baseball team as some kind of strange metaphor about Amazon selling its own products on its website. Enter her zinger: “We need to enforce our anti-trust laws, break up these giant companies that are dominating big tech, big pharma, all of them.” Pretty clear there.

Yang: “Using a 20th-century anti-trust framework will not work. We need new solutions and a new toolkit…the best way to fight back against tech companies is to say that our data is our property. Our data is worth more than oil.” He made the case for his Value Added Tax on digital services as well, which we’ll examine below.

Sen. Kamala Harris pleaded her fellow candidates to support her call to get Twitter to ban President Donald Trump from Twitter but got no love.

The person who made the most consumer-friendly response about tech regulation was, surprisingly, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

“Treat them as the publishers as we are. But I don’t think it’s the role of the president to specify which companies will be broken. That’s something Donald Trump has done…we need tough rules of the road, protect your personal information, privacy, and data, and be fearless in the face of these tech giants.”

He was one of the only people in the debate to mention consumer privacy and pushed back against trust-busting, and should hence get a pat on the back.

TRADE

No Democrat mentioned the trade wars, the harmful impacts of tariffs, and the promise of free trade. Rather, trade got mostly slammed.

Elizabeth Warren: “The principal reason [for losing jobs] is trade. Giant multinational companies have been calling the shots on trade…they are loyal only to their bottom line. I have a plan to fix that: accountable capitalism.”

Warren’s version of accountable capitalism:

  • 40% of corporate boards should be elected by the employees
  • We should give unions more power when they negotiate

Again, no mention of the USMCA free trade agreement, no talk of free trade with the European Union or any other countries.

Sen. Cory Booker agrees that unions should be empowering to offer Americans a “living wage.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says universal basic income is a “good idea to help provide that security so that people can have the freedom to make the kinds of choices that they want to see.” It’s not a total endorsement for freedom of choice for consumers, but at least invokes a good notion of free choice. Not sure her take on global free trade.

TAXES

Though the candidates mentioned many new taxes they’d endorse, the one that concerns consumers the most would be the idea of a VAT – Value Added Tax.

Andrew Yang mentioned that instead of Warren’s wealth tax, he’d pass a VAT of 10%, like in European countries to help fund his Freedom Dividend. That would be akin to a national sales tax, but allowing the opportunity for businesses to claim this amount back if it’s a legitimate business expense, and the same for tourists visiting on vacation.

On its face, an American VAT would raise costs for ordinary consumers and be regressive. As the Tax Policy Foundation notes, this tax would have a disproportionate impact on lower-income households, as they tend to spend more of their income on consumption. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich made the same point while watching the debate:

Many states and municipalities have their own sales taxes or none at all, and that does impact consumers who spend more. But a move to a national VAT would mean higher prices for ordinary goods and services for all consumers.

PROTECTING CONSUMERS

Really the only direct mention came when Warren tooted her own horn on her consumer protection agency.

“Following the Financial Crash of 2008, I had an idea for a consumer agency (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) that would keep giant banks from cheating people. And all of the Washington insiders and strategic geniuses said “don’t even try” because you won’t get it passed…it has now forced big banks to return more than $12 billion directly to the people they cheated.”

The Trump Administration has taken the CFPB to court over whether or not it is constitutional, and Republicans have consistently attacked the organization since its founding during the Obama Administration.

“Make no mistake, it does little to protect consumers and was created during the Obama administration to enforce burdensome regulations which have stunted economic growth and negatively impacted small businesses and consumers,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, who has introduced legislation to abolish the agency.

“America has three branches of government – not four,” said Senator Sasse, who has also co-sponsored the bill. “Protecting consumers is good, but consolidating power in the hands of Washington elites is harmful. This powerful and unaccountable bureau is an affront to the principle that the folks who write laws must be accountable to the people.”

CONCLUSION

There wasn’t much mention of the impact the debated policies would have on consumers, and unfortunately no mention of free trade and lifestyle freedom.

Regardless, on healthcare and tech regulation, there were good debates and some good principles that should be championed, but still, more could have been mentioned on ways to promote innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice.

Trump’s Medicare executive order

CONSERVATIVE GROUPS SEND LETTER ON VAPING — A coalition of 25 conservative groups is urging Trump to keep flavored e-cigarettes on the market, arguing the products are “essential to the success of vaping as an alternative to cigarette use long-term.”

Groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, Consumer Choice Center and FreedomWorks argued the administration’s envisioned flavored vape ban would go against the White House’s deregulatory agenda and “destroy thousands of small businesses.” This comes as the White House abruptly organized, and then canceled, a meeting with conservative groups over vaping, which it said at the time would be rescheduled.

Read the article from POLITICO here.


For more facts on vaping, read our research on the Myths and Facts on Vaping: What Policymakers Should Know


The Consumer Choice Center 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 CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Counterpoint: What about freedom to choose your care?

From atop the lecterns at the Democratic presidential debates and the White House, a common trope is dismantling and rejiggering how health care is delivered in America.

For those on the left, the emphasis is on expanding who can access government-backed health insurance programs while cutting off the role of the private sector. And on the right, President Donald Trump is looking to import drugs and pharmaceutical price controls from abroad.

Missing in both of these visions is the essential component that governs every other sector of the economy: the freedom to choose.

Much like housing, transportation and education, it’s clear that the entire health care sector needs disruption. We need some out-of-the-box thinking, innovation and on-demand delivery that will bring costs down for ordinary people.

It’s this formula that has empowered millions to rise out of poverty, make a decent living for their families, and expand consumer choice to makes their lives better.

But both the Democrats and Trump are leading Americans astray on what really matters when it comes to health care.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have serious proposals to totally ban the private health care market in favor of a “Medicare for All” system. That means every American would be thrown into the government insurance program reserved for our seniors.

All administration, billing, reimbursement claims and hospital contracts for more than 350 million people would be handled by the federal government. For a country as unique, diverse and large as the United States, this just couldn’t be carried out effectively.

Such plans would make it illegal for Americans to choose the type of health care coverage that fit them best, depriving them of fundamental choices.

Many younger working people don’t have comprehensive insurance because it doesn’t make economic sense. They would rather pay out of pocket for small expenses and use high-deductible disaster insurance when necessary.

For the 8.8 percent of Americans without health insurance, would they benefit from a mass reorganization of the system that would offer the care reserved for our seniors if the cost comes in the form of higher taxes and less consumer choice?

The same applies to Trump’s well-intended but flawed plans on importing drugs from single-payer systems around the world.

The reason pharmaceutical drugs are more expensive has more to do with subsidies than cost. Most drugs are born from innovative American firms but are subsidized greatly or negotiated for lower rates by governments who import them.

Firms can afford this because it’s offset by American prices, meaning the rest of the world is free-riding on American innovation and intellectual property.

They achieve this by reducing access and choice. It’s no secret that the lion’s share of pharmaceutical drugs are available in the United States while they’re unavailable in the countries that refuse to pay for them. So yes, the prices of drugs may be cheaper in Canada or Norway, but the supply and choices are lacking.

Do we want fewer choices of drugs for lower costs or more choices and prices at market rate?

What matters most when it comes to our personal health is the freedom to choose. Whether it is our doctor, insurance program or drugs we buy, Americans want to be able to pick what works best from them.

Grandiose plans that seek to completely reorganize how many taxes we pay and how we receive care would severely restrict that.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center 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 CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Zölle schaden Ihrer Gesundheit

In New York tritt vom 17. bis zum 30. September zum 74. Mal die Weltgemeinschaft zusammen, um dringende Fragen zu diskutieren. Die Vollversammlung der Vereinten Nationen befasst sich nicht nur mit der Frage, wie die Waldbrände im Amazonas zu löschen wären, oder wie die Nachhaltigkeitsziele erreicht werden können. Die Delegierten fragen sich auch, wie in ärmeren Staaten die Gesundheitsversorgung verbessert werden kann. Dazu haben sie die Bekämpfung nichtübertragbarer Krankheiten und den umfassenden Zugang zu Gesundheitsleistungen auf die Tagesordnung gesetzt. In Schwellen- und Entwicklungsländern warten Patienten bis zu zehn Jahre auf ein neues Medikament und zahlen häufig auch noch das Dreifache des eigentlichen Importpreises.

In beiden Feldern ist der Rückstand auf die 35 reichsten Länder enorm. Patienten in ärmeren Ländern müssen häufig ihre Behandlungskosten selbst zahlen. Die Entwicklungshilfe, deren Milliarden seit Jahrzehnten auch in die Gesundheitsversorgung fließen, hat an diesem grundlegenden Missstand kaum etwas geändert. Die Förderprogramme scheitern an Korruption, Misswirtschaft und fehlender Infrastruktur.

Mit einigen einfachen und wirksamen Instrumenten kann die Weltgemeinschaft die Gesundheitsversorgung weltweit deutlich verbessern. Wenn Regierungen weltweit Einfuhrzölle und andere protektionistische Maßnahmen gegen lebensrettende Medikamente reduzieren, machen sie diese für die Ärmsten der Welt deutlich erschwinglicher.

Dort wo Krankenversicherungen nur unzureichend ausgebaut sind – wenn sie überhaupt existieren – müssen Patienten und ihre Familien die Kosten einer Krankheit allein bestreiten. Der Fiskus zockt sie dabei auch noch ab, indem er oft hohe Einfuhrzölle und Verbrauchssteuern auf innovative ausländische Medikamente erhebt. Indien beispielsweise erhebt einen zehnprozentigen Einfuhrzoll auf importierte Medikamente. Damit nicht genug. Der indische Staat hält noch einmal die Hand auf und verlangt von seinen Bürgern bis zu 18 Prozent zusätzliche Mehrwertsteuer auf ihre Arznei. Im benachbarten Nepal zahlen Patienten sogar fast 15 Prozent Einfuhrzoll auf Medikamente. Die Zölle und Sondersteuern sorgen dafür, dass den Ärmsten der Welt unnötig der bezahlbare Zugang zu lebensrettenden Gesundheitsleistungen versperrt ist. Wer ein Medikament nicht mehr bezahlen kann, weil es durch den Staat massiv verteuert wurde, muss an anderer Stelle verzichten – oder die Behandlung ganz bleiben lassen. Die gierige Bürokratie stellt Patienten vor eine teuflische Wahl: Ruin oder – potenziell tödliche – Krankheit.

In Indien 4.000 Bestimmungen zur Einfuhr von Medikamenten!

Der Ökonom Matthias Bauer hat errechnet, dass chinesische Patienten 5,5 Milliarden Euro sparen würden, wenn die Zollschranken gegen importierte Medikamente fielen. In Indien und Brasilien würde Freihandel die Medikamentenpreise nahezu halbieren.

Zusätzliche Steuern und Auflagen verursachen in Brasilien, Kenia und weiteren Staaten eine Verdoppelung – mitunter gar eine Verdreifachung! – des Endkundenpreises gegenüber dem eigentlichen Einfuhrpreis. Diese Steuern treffen die Armen der Welt am härtesten. Ihre Abschaffung macht eine würdige und angemessene Gesundheitsversorgung für hunderte Millionen Menschen deutlich erschwinglicher.

Doch nicht nur Zölle und Steuern verteuern die Medizin im Bestimmungsland. Langwierige Einfuhrprozesse, Etikettiervorschriften und missverständliche Bestimmungen erhöhen den Endpreis. Derlei Vorschriften nützen sicherlich den Zollbehörden, um ihre Budgets zu rechtfertigen. Diese bürokratischen Hürden schaden letztendlich den Patienten und treiben die Preise wichtiger Medikamente. 

Indien allein kennt beinahe 4.000 Vorschriften und Lizenzbestimmungen zur Einfuhr und dem Vertrieb von Medikamenten! Jeder Importeur muss sich diesen Regelungen beugen und die dadurch entstandenen Kosten auf den Preis für Endkunden aufschlagen. In Russland und der Türkei halten Regierungen die Patienten an, heimisch produzierte Medikamente zu kaufen und erschweren den Zugang zu ausländischen Produkten. So wird das Patientenwohl politisch-wirtschaftlichen Interessen untergeordnet. 

Und selbst wenn Patienten sich die Medikamente leisten könnten, sind diese häufig nicht verfügbar. Neue Arzneimittel erreichen diese Länder oft erst nach Jahren. Die lokalen Behörden verzögern die Anmeldung von Patenten und weiteren Rechten durch langwierige Prozesse. In Thailand dauert es 14 Jahre, ein Patent zu erteilen – 14 Jahre, in denen Patienten auf die Therapie warten, leiden und schlimmstenfalls sterben. Mit dem erteilten Patent ist das Warten aber längst nicht vorbei, denn dann geht es an die Verkaufsfreigabe.

Sieben Jahre bis zur Medikamenten-Freigabe

Es dauert lange bevor die einzelnen Länder Medikamente zum Verkauf freigeben: in China drei, in vielen afrikanischen Staaten zwischen vier und sieben Jahren. Die Aufsichtsbehörden in Entwicklungsländern wären gut beraten, sich auf die fundierten Zulassungsentscheidungen der amerikanischen FDA oder der europäischen Zulassungsbehörde EMA zu verlassen und auf einen erneuten Zulassungsprozess zu verzichten. Das käme den Patienten zugute, die nicht mehr jahrelang auf diese oft lebensrettenden Medikamente warten müssten.

Eines sollte den Delegationen bei der UN-Vollversammlung klar sein: Zölle und Vorschriften können sie einseitig und schnell abschaffen und verschlanken. Das ist in der Regel ein einseitiger Schritt des jeweiligen Landes, der besonders Entwicklungsländer bei den gesundheitsspezifischen Nachhaltigkeitszielen deutlich voranbringt. Schnellere Zulassungsverfahren und erleichterte Einfuhrbestimmungen senken den Leidens- und Preisdruck auf Patienten weiter.

Selten hat ein trockenes Thema wie Bürokratieabbau so weitreichende Folgen für große Teile der Weltbevölkerung. Zölle schaden Ihrer Gesundheit, es ist höchste Zeit für den kalten Entzug.


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Should I Stop Vaping?

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a surge of headlines that say vaping may be more harmful than we might have initially thought. Seven deaths have been linked to the use of e-cigarettes. In response, some states have banned vaping products. However, naysayers — including experts — argue that a knee-jerk reaction by health agencies is premature, overlooks the harm reduction that vaping achieves, and could cause a potential public health disaster

If smoking is the de facto predecessor of vaping, then e-cigarettes should be examined within the context of nicotine delivery systems as a whole. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Should the risk associated with vaping be a deterrent when the alternative is smoking cigarettes?

Some in the recovery community say that it shouldn’t. Many former cigarette smokers have replaced their “analog” smokes with e-cigarettes, using vaping as a means of harm reduction that swaps out cancer-causing tobacco with a safer means of nicotine delivery. Recovery purists and some clinicians, however, argue that smokers are trading one addiction for another and express concerns that, lower risk or not, most vapers are still ingesting large amounts of highly addictive nicotine. They also point to this recent rash of deaths as evidence against vaping.

Before we address the question of harm reduction, though, do the alarming headlines have any merit in science? And given that e-cigarettes have been around for 15 years, why are we only seeing deaths now?

RECENT MEDIA COVERAGE OF VAPING

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently labeled vaping “an urgent public health epidemic,” and physicians have urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act. The AMA claims that research has shown that the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products is unsafe and causes addiction, however the statement does not provide the supporting research. The AMA also says they “applaud steps to remove flavored e-cigarette products from the market.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement that together with the FDA, local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners, they are investigating a multi-state outbreak of lung disease associated with e-cigarette products. The FDA echoed the CDC’s concern, calling the outbreak “a frightening public health phenomenon.”

Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, who is leading the CDC’s investigation, said in a statement, “The recent rise of acute lung illnesses linked to vaping has deepened concerns about the safety of the devices.” 

But why now? People have been vaping for over a decade. The CDC’s Meaney-Delman says, “We’re all wondering if this is new or just newly recognized.”

Here’s what we know: As of this writing (9/21/19), the CDC states that 530 cases of lung illness have been reported from 38 states, and seven deaths have been attributed to vaping. Most affected patients also reported a history of using vaping products that contain THC. 

The CDC does not yet know the specific causes of these illnesses: “The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping products (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges) or substance that is linked to all cases.” Regardless, for those who are concerned with these issues, the CDC recommends refraining from using all vaping or e-cigarette products until they know more.

Elsewhere on the website, the CDC still states that e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers as a substitute for regular cigarettes.

E-CIGARETTE BANS GOING INTO EFFECT

Because of the media coverage and caution by public health agencies, we are seeing increasing action across the US: New York’s former mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, has committed $160 million to ban flavored e-cigarettes, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order to ban the sale of flavored vaping products in Michigan, San Francisco has banned the sale of e-cigarettes, and President Donald Trump says the FDA will ban flavored e-cigarettes. 

Is this a knee-jerk reaction? It seems that some of the pressure is a result of parents and politicians who are concerned that flavored vaping products are responsible for the surge in teen use. That’s understandable, given the potential for nicotine to harm the developing brain. According to the CDC, one in five high schoolers and one in 20 middle schoolers vape.

For adults, however, there appears to be conflicting statements by researchers, doctors, and health officials. 

In a September 2019 article, Dr. Robert Shmerling at Harvard echoed the CDC’s bottom line: Experts are unsure if vaping is causing these lung problems, and lung disease has not been linked to a specific brand or flavor of e-cigarette. A more likely culprit, they claim, is a chemical contaminant within the inhaled vapors that is causing an allergic reaction or immune system response. 

This belief is supported by a study that came out last year linking the chemical flavors within e-cigarettes to an adverse effect. Dr. Sven-Eric Jordt, PhD, one of the authors of the study, recently told The Guardian that “the liquids vaporised by e-cigarettes are chemically unstable and form new chemicals that irritate the airways and may have other toxic effects.” These new chemicals are not disclosed by the manufacturers to users. 

Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University, claims that health officials and physicians are not telling the full story: In every case in which a specific e-liquid has been identified, that e-liquid has been found to contain THC — a fact corroborated by the CDC. He states that the e-liquids in some of these cases were oil-based and typically purchased off the street; therefore, their ingredients are not strictly regulated. It is these oil-based THC liquids that are known to cause acute respiratory illness. 

Similarly, the Washington Post reported that the FDA investigation found the same vitamin E-derived oil in cannabis products that were used by those found to be suffering vaping-related illnesses throughout the country. 

CDC’S GUIDELINES: UNNECESSARILY BROAD

While Siegel acknowledges we aren’t in a position to draw conclusions about THC oils or to say that street products are definitely to blame, he believes the CDC’s recommendations are unnecessarily broad and consequently harmful, since people who vape may think it’s safer to go back to smoking cigarettes. 

“I cannot overemphasize how insane this policy is,” he says. “From a public health perspective, it makes absolutely no sense to ban these fake cigarettes but to allow the real ones to remain on the shelves.”

Instead, Siegel suggests, the CDC could offer more specific and useful guidance to the public, specifically: Do not vape THC oils (including butane hash oil), do not use any oil-based vaping e-liquid product, and refrain from buying products off the street or using any e-liquid that doesn’t disclose its ingredients. To reduce risk, people should “stick to products being sold at retail stores, especially closed cartridges where there is no risk of contamination or the presence of unknown drugs.”

Switching from smoking tobacco to e-cigarettes is a proven harm reduction strategy supported by health officials and used by individuals in recovery. 

Lara Frazier, a person in long-term recovery, explained, “I am in abstinence-based recovery and quit smoking cigarettes over four years ago, thanks to e-cigarettes.” Regarding the recent deaths associated with vaping, she says: “There is mass hysteria about vaping, with people not being properly educated on what is actually occurring.”

Frazier is concerned about the consequences of recent official warnings: “Nicotine addiction is like any addiction, and banning flavors will likely not result in less nicotine being smoked. This could cause more harm because the teenagers will have to find black-market cartridges, make their own juice, and/or switch to smoking cigarettes.”

She continues, “I think it’s ridiculous that they are going to ban all flavored juices that aren’t tobacco-based on five (now seven) deaths and illness without properly looking at the data or researching the cause of the illness.”

VAPING AS HARM REDUCTION

There is world-wide support and evidence for vaping as harm reduction. A study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine found that vaping was nearly twice as effective as conventional nicotine replacement products for smoking cessation.

In the UK, Public Health England also supports vaping as a harm reduction strategy. Even in light of the recent concerns, their position has stayed the same: “Our advice on e-cigarettes remains unchanged — vaping isn’t completely risk-free but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco. There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping,” they said.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, urged President Trump to consider the facts before reacting hastily and pushing for a ban, arguing that vaping is a less harmful alternative for consuming nicotine. Ossowski cites a 2016 report by the UK’s Royal College of Physicians, which reviewed the science, public policy, regulation, and ethics surrounding vaping and concluded that e-cigarettes should be promoted widely as a substitute for smoking. The report also sought to clear up misinformation about vaping and long-term harm, stating that while there is a possibility of harm from e-cigarettes, it is unlikely to exceed five percent of that associated with tobacco products. 

SMOKING CIGARETTES IS STILL THE LEADING CAUSE OF PREVENTABLE DEATH

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. We have abundant evidence that smoking leads to disease and disability, harming nearly every organ in the body. It causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It also increases the risk for tuberculosis, eye diseases, and autoimmune conditions. 

Worldwide, the use of tobacco products is responsible for more than seven million deaths each year. In the U.S., 480,000 people die every year from smoking, and 41,000 people die as a result of secondhand smoke. Economically, smoking has a huge impact on the United States: it costs $170 billion a year in direct medical care, and $156 million in lost productivity. 

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death. 

At this point, the evidence supports vaping as an effective means of harm reduction, thus outweighing the limited risks. Further, public health officials have yet to complete their investigations into these risks so they can conclusively identify the cause of the deaths attributed to vaping. It seems foolish to enforce blanket bans on e-cigarettes, as that may cause further harm by pushing people toward buying black-market vaping products or resuming smoking cigarettes.

This article was originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center 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 CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

What happened to the right to choose your healthcare?

From atop the lecterns at the Democratic presidential debates and the White House, a common trope is dismantling and rejiggering how healthcare is delivered in America.

For the left, the emphasis is on expanding who can access government-backed health insurance programs while cutting off the role of the private sector. On the right, President Trump is looking to import drugs and pharmaceutical price controls from abroad.

Missing in both of these visions is the essential component that governs every other sector of the economy: the freedom to choose.

Much like housing, transportation, and education, it’s clear that the entire healthcare sector needs disruption.

We need out-of-the-box thinking, innovation, and on-demand delivery that will bring costs down for ordinary people. It’s this formula that has empowered millions to rise out of poverty, make a decent living for their families, and expand consumer choice to makes their lives better.

But both the Democrats and Trump are leading Americans astray on what really matters when it comes to healthcare.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have serious proposals to totally ban the private healthcare market in favor of a “Medicare For All” system. That means every American would be thrown into the government insurance program reserved for our seniors.

All administration, billing, reimbursement claims, and hospital contracts for over 350 million people would be handled by the federal government. For a country as unique, diverse, and large as the United States, this just couldn’t be carried out effectively. The CBO’s analysis of a single-payer system admits that new taxes and an entirely new administrative bureaucracy would take years to implement.

Such plans would make it illegal for Americans to choose the type of healthcare coverage that fit them best, depriving them of fundamental choices.

This makes two grandiose and flawed assumptions. One, that a top-down government reorganization of insurance and health services would be the best method to deliver healthcare, and two, that the individual consumer cannot be trusted to make decisions about their care. That is wrong.

People choose different healthcare plans depending on their employment situation, their age, or their lifestyle.

Many younger working people, such as myself, don’t have comprehensive insurance because it doesn’t make economic sense. We’d rather pay out of pocket for small expenses and use high-deductible disaster insurance when necessary. The young and healthy tend to shy away from the large insurance plans for these very reasons.

For the 8.8 percent of Americans without health insurance, would they benefit from a mass reorganization of the system that would offer the care reserved for our seniors if the cost comes in the form of higher taxes and less consumer choice?

The same applies to Trump’s well-intended but flawed plans on importing drugs from single-payer systems around the world.

The reason pharmaceutical drugs are more expensive has more to do with subsidies than cost. Most drugs are born from innovative American firms but are subsidized greatly or negotiated for lower rates by governments who import them. Firms can afford this because it’s offset by American prices, meaning the rest of the world is freeriding on American innovation and intellectual property.

They achieve this by reducing access and choice. It’s no secret that the lion’s share of pharmaceutical drugs are available in the U.S. while they’re unavailable in the countries that refuse to pay for them. So yes, the prices of drugs may be cheaper in Canada or Norway, but the supply and choices are lacking. Do we want fewer choices of drugs for lower costs or more choices and prices at market rate?

What matters most when it comes to our personal health is the freedom to choose. Whether that it’s our doctor, insurance program, or drugs we buy, Americans want to be able to pick what works best from them. Grandiose plans that seek to completely reorganize how many taxes we pay and how we receive care would severely restrict that.

That may be a well-intended path, but one that millions of Americans are right to reject.  

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center

Published in the Chicago Tribune: https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sns-tns-bc-healthcare2-commentary-20190815-story.html

Published in Globe Gazette: https://globegazette.com/opinion/columnists/commentary-what-happened-to-the-right-to-choose-your-health/article_b941a988-7864-51e5-98e2-5e987626ce16.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Published in Duluth News Tribune: https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/columns/4636779-National-View-Column-Americans-deserve-the-right-to-choose-their-health-care

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