Quitting Rates are Up, Electronic Cigarettes May be Helping

As reported by KQED:

Electronic cigarettes may be a helpful tool for those who are looking to quit smoking, according to a recent study. This complicates the public health narrative around this new tobacco product, which have grown in popularity in the U.S. over the past decade.

E-cigarettes are relatively new to the market, and their rapid popularity has caused public health agencies to grapple to create regulations and messaging around a technology with unclear health implications. This study, published in the journal BMJ, puts some weight behind the idea the e-cigarettes can have a positive health impact on those who are trying to kick cigarettes.

The e-cigarette uses a coil to heat a nicotine solution so it can be inhaled as vapor. This process can allow users to get their nicotine fix while leaving behind the carcinogens associated with breathing in smoke. Trading in a regular cigarette for an electronic option could have significant health implications considering smoking cigarettes remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. …

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New Bay Area tobacco bans include non-tobacco products

VapingRestrictive new anti-tobacco ordinances are spreading across the San Francisco Bay Area like a cigarette-sparked wildfire. Northern California cities already have some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the nation, but a raft of new laws and proposals take aim at “flavored” tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes and fruity mini-cigars.

Health officials argue that these flavored products are particularly appealing to teens, and that their bans are designed to keep young people from picking up an unquestionably dangerous habit. They also argue that the purveyors of menthol cigarettes, for example, target minority communities, and lead to ongoing health problems there.

The ordinances, however, share one trait that has advocates for tobacco “harm reduction” concerned. They make no distinction between combustible tobacco products – i.e., cigarettes, cigarillos, pipe tobacco and cigars – and smokeless products such as e-cigarettes and snus (Swedish-style spit-less tobacco that one places on one’s upper lip).

Tobacco “harm reduction” is a public health strategy designed to reduce the harmful effects of cigarette smoking by encouraging smokers to switch to far-less dangerous – not safe, but less dangerous – types of tobacco-related products. For instance, Public Health England, the United Kingdom’s main public-health agency, argues that vaping is 95 percent safer than cigarette smoking and therefore is a potentially beneficial alternative to smoking.

“About 40 percent of former and current adult smokers predict that removing their ability to choose flavors would make them less likely to remain abstinent or attempt to quit,” wrote Carrie Wade, the R Street Institute’s director of harm-reduction policy, in a recent Washington Examiner column. “While the vast majority of quit attempts are of the ‘cold turkey’ variety, e-cigarettes beat out both nicotine replacement therapies like the patch or nicotine gum and prescribed drugs like Chantix and Zyban.”

Vape liquids are not actually tobacco but mostly contain nicotine. They almost always are flavored. Many adult e-cigarette users prefer vaping with flavored liquids than vaping with those that have a tobacco flavor. These local bans on flavors, by the way, follow a recent statewide law that taxes vaping liquids at the same rate as cigarettes. The California Board of Equalization is currently working out the details of that taxation edict.

Wade described the essence of tobacco harm-reduction policy: make it easier for smokers to switch to smoking alternatives that cause fewer health-related problems. It might be ideal, health-wise if every smoker simply went “cold turkey,” but that’s not likely to happen, so harm-reduction advocates see vaping as a reasonable alternative. They see efforts to limit access to liquids and to boost taxes on them as policies that work against this harm-reduction approach.

Even California’s official Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee explained, in a public meeting earlier this year, that insufficient numbers of smokers participate in medically approved nicotine-replacement therapies. The committee, however, made no effort to distinguish between degrees of harm, and one member depicted vaping as just another form of smoking. In Bay Area cities and elsewhere, public-health officials argue that vaping is still dangerous – and they argue (despite contrary evidence) that it serves as a gateway for teens to actual smoking.

As a result of the new rules, it will become increasingly difficult for nicotine-addicted northern Californians to purchase and use vaping products. That’s particularly true as neighboring counties and cities embrace similar bans. Supporters of these bans admit that it is one of their goals to have such ordinances spread from one community to another, thus making it more difficult for people to simply go to a neighboring city to grab some vape juice.

Some proposals have become law, such as one in the Marin County city of Novato. Others are under consideration. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is now considering a ban after one of its committees recently approved a new proposal. Likewise, officials in San Francisco and Oakland have also introduced flavor bans.

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen’s public statements focus on the sale of mentholated tobacco products. She explains that 80 percent of African-American smokers use menthol products. Nevertheless, her proposal includes all flavored tobacco, which includes vaping liquids. Oakland Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, who led a 2016 campaign to increase soda taxes in the city, has introduced a similar measure that includes vapor products in the flavoring ban.

Novato’s ordinance, which goes into effect January 2018, requires that all residential leases in the city include a clause calling it a “material breach of the agreement for tenant or any other person subject to the control of the tenant … to violate any law regulating smoking while anywhere on the property.” In other words, tenants can be evicted from their apartments not only if caught smoking – but if they or their guests are caught vaping.

The Contra Costa County health department justifies its proposal by stating that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, and includes various chemicals known to cause cancer and lung problems. But harm-reduction advocates don’t claim that vaping is totally safe, only that it is far safer than cigarette smoking.

Given the political bent of Bay Area cities and counties, it seems likely that most if not all of these proposals will eventually become law. The question remains whether in their zeal to improve the public’s health, these officials are embracing policies that will make actual smoking-related health improvements that much harder to attain.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at [email protected]

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Game Changer: World’s Leading Medical Group Backs E-Cigarettes

e-cigaretteOne of the world’s most prestigious medical organizations has delivered a groundbreaking 200-page report that supports e-cigarettes as a tool to quit smoking and demolishes several vaping myths in the process.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), the most respected medical institution in the United Kingdom, concluded e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than regular cigarettes and are likely to be hugely beneficial to public health.

Titled “Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction,” the report is one of the most comprehensive ever published examining e-cigarettes and could be a game changer for health officials and politicians all over the world. The RCP’s seminal 1962 report, which demonstrated the link between smoking, lung disease and bronchitis spurred the U.S. Surgeon General to publish the historic 1964 “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States.”

The RCP’s new report tears apart scare stories, including the ever-more popular idea that vaping is somehow a gateway to smoking. “To date, there is no evidence that any of these processes is occurring to any significant degree in the UK,” said the report’s authors. (RELATED: CDC Admits, No ‘Concrete’ Evidence E-Cigarettes Are Gateway To Smoking)

The authors are emphatic there is no evidence e-cigarette use has in any way “renormalized” smoking. “None of these products has to date attracted significant use among adult never-smokers, or demonstrated evidence of significant gateway progression into smoking among young people.”

One of the most damaging myths about e-cigarettes that caught fire in 2015 was e-cigarettes don’t actually help smokers quit. (RELATED: Study Claiming E-Cigarettes Make Quitting Harder Exposed As ‘Unscientific Hatchet Job’)

Contrary to the claims of some public health activists in the U.S., the RCP is clear: e-cigarettes can help smokers kick their habit for good. “Among smokers, e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened, and in a proportion of these to successful cessation. In this way, e-cigarettes can act as a gateway from smoking.” (RELATED: Study Finds E-Cigarettes Raise Chances Of Quitting, ‘Can Save Lives’)

The RCP does not claim vaping is totally safe, as vapers inhale nicotine and flavorings. But they conclude any risk to vapers is likely to be “very small, and substantially smaller than that arising from tobacco smoking.”

Concurring with a previous report by Public Health England, RCP believes the health risks to vapers is unlikely to reach more than five percent of the risks associated with smoking. The report also warns overzealous policymakers to resist the temptation to regulate e-cigarettes in a way that would stifle innovation or discourage use.

“This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products, and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the UK,” said Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group. “Smokers should be reassured that these products can help them quit all tobacco use forever,” he added.

Those most applauding the study’s conclusions are e-cig groups who have been fighting an onslaught of attacks from politicians and dubious public health researchers. (RELATED: Read The Stunning Correction This Scientist Dropped On Her Own Anti-E-Cig Study)

“When the RCP told the truth about cigarettes in 1962, it took two years for the U.S. government to play catch up and release its own report. It should not take two months, let alone two years, for American public health authorities to correct their past misstatements about vaping. The FDA and CDC must seriously consider the RCP’s guidance before moving forward on any new regulations or public campaigns about smoke-free nicotine products,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association.

“For those in mainstream tobacco control, the question for them is, how can you dismiss this report out of hand? The authors are credible experts without financial conflicts of interest in tobacco or vapor products. At some point, these groups will have to realize that the science has long outpaced their rhetoric,” Conley added.

Cancer charities added their voices to the chorus of praise for the RCP’s report. “This important report is an accurate summary of the latest scientific evidence on e-cigarettes and will help dispel the increasingly common misconception that they’re as harmful as smoking. They’re not,” said Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention Alison Cox.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Tobacco Tax Compromise Stumbles in Legislature

cigarette smoking ashesThe California Legislature passed a package of bills intended to diminish tobacco sales. While one measure allows county governments to seek a tax on cigarettes, a state tobacco tax was not included in the package. That’s not to say many in the Legislature would like a tobacco tax and efforts were made to convince the tobacco industry to go along with a deal that would include a state tax increase. The proposed deal would result in scuttling a ballot initiative aimed for November to increase the tobacco tax and kill some of the bills in the package.

Here’s how Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton explained the maneuvering in his Monday column:

Behind the scenes, Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) quietly is offering to negotiate with tobacco. If the industry were to allow the Legislature to pass a state tobacco tax, perhaps some of the package could be snuffed.

Then sponsors of a November ballot initiative that would raise the state cigarette tax by $2 per pack might be persuaded to withdraw their measure. That would save the tobacco industry upward of $100 million fighting the initiative.

Why wouldn’t the tobacco industry consider a more modest increase in the tax on cigarettes if some of the restrictive measures on tobacco were pushed aside and the initiative was pulled before it qualified for the ballot?

While tempting, the tobacco industry saw a big hurdle with any deal. There was no guarantee that if the deal were made a different interest group than the one behind the current ballot initiative would come along with a new tobacco tax effort in the near future. Or a future legislature could also consider a tax increase on tobacco.

Without a solid guarantee, the tobacco industry would rather take its stand now against any state tax increase. There is no way negotiating legislators can guarantee that some outside group won’t go to the ballot via the initiative with a new tax increase even if a deal is struck.

Many supporters of more tax revenue think tobacco and cigarettes is a good target because non-smoking voters outnumber smokers and tobacco users. Thus it is tempting for those who want to raise revenue to consider a tobacco tax.

The possibility that a new effort to raise tobacco taxes in the near future could not be guaranteed held back any legislative compromise on taxes.

Joel Fox is editor of Fox & Hounds and president of the Small Business Action Committee.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Billionaire Tom Steyer Donates $1 Million To Hike Taxes On Smokers And Vapers

cigarette smoking ashesBillionaire liberal activist and environmentalist Tom Steyer has donated a cool $1 million to a campaign to raise California’s tobacco tax by $2.

A long-time fundraiser for prominent Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, Steyer has turned his attention to making smokers cough up more money for their cigarettes.

“We have a moral responsibility to stand up to tobacco companies and keep kids from becoming lifetime smokers, and we can do that by raising the tobacco tax,” Steyer said in a statement.

But its not only smokers who would be hit if Steyer’s health crusade proves successful. The tax would also cover e-cigarettes, which contain no tobacco and are 95 percent safer than regular smokes.

The campaign to raise the tobacco tax is supported by a number of public health lobby groups like the California Medical Association as well as the California State Council of Service Employees, who have donated $2 million to the effort so far this year.

Supporters of the tax say it will raise $1.5 billion that will be spent on increasing the number of physicians in California. All previous efforts to introduce a tobacco tax in California via ballot initiative have failed. Californians currently pay 87 cents per pack in state taxes.

“Big Tobacco profits from a product that kills millions of people around the world every year and is the leading cause of preventable death in California,” Steyer said. “The best way to prevent these smoking deaths is by protecting children from ever becoming addicted to this deadly product in the first place.”

The polls appear to be in Steyer’s favor with a survey funded by California Wellness Foundation showing 67 percent of voters favored a $2 rise in the state tobacco tax, with only 30 percent opposing the move.

Steyer is the founder and former Co-Senior Managing Partner of Farallon Capital Management, LLC and the co-founder of Beneficial State Bank, an Oakland-based community development bank. Funded by California Wellness Foundation, the survey showed 67 percent of voters favored a $2 rise in the state tobacco tax, with only 30 percent opposing the move.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Public Ignorance About E-Cigarettes, In One Awful Poll

e-cigaretteThe University of Michigan is dealing bad news to vapers and e-cigarette supporters with a new poll showing stunning support for a raft of new regulations and taxes that could hamper the industry.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health showed that 92 percent of parents and 91 percent of teens think e-cigarettes should have health warnings, like traditional cigarettes.

The poll didn’t ask about the addictive nature of e-cigarettes thanks to their nicotine content, but simply whether they should be labeled the same as regular smokes.

The results will puzzle many medical professionals as there is no clear evidence about what the negative health effects of e-cigarettes are. There is, however, a strong consensus that the devices are significantly safer than regular cigarettes. A study by Public Health England concluded e-cigarettes are 95 percent less dangerous than regular cigarettes.

The poll suggested that the vast majority of parents and teens believe using e-cigarettes will encourage smoking among minors, 81 percent and 84 percent respectively. But again, there is little evidence to support this view aside from speculative op-eds.

In fact, a tougher policy on e-cigarettes could have the reverse effect, with one study suggesting states that banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors actually experienced a rising smoking rate. Every state with the exception of Pennsylvania and Michigan has introduced some form of regulation on the sale of vaping products to teenagers. According to the data, there is also little chance of adults taking up vaping and switching to tobacco.

A study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research by Rutgers School of Public Health concluded that “e-cigarettes have not been attracting adult non-smokers or promoting relapse in long-term former smokers. Moreover, the data are suggestive that some recent quitters may have done so with the assistance of e-cigarettes.”

The Rutgers authors added that the amount of experimentation with e-cigarettes among adults who have never smoked is “extremely low.” The original National Institute of Health shows that just 0.4 percent of adults who had never smoked tobacco were current vapers, using the device either every day or some days.

One the biggest challenges facing the e-cigarette industry is a skeptical Food And Drug Administration and an outright hostile group of Senate Democrats. Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others recently demanded stricter regulation of the industry, including an outright ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Critics claim that flavored e-cigarettes will entice children and young people to take up vaping.

A full 64 percent of parents and 71 percent of teens agreed with banning candy or fruit-flavored e-cigarettes, according to the Michigan poll. But Cynthia Cabrera, executive director and president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, told The Daily Caller News Foundation the move will be counter-productive in getting people to quit smoking.

“Flavors also play an important aspect with helping cigarette smokers make the switch, with a recent study published in the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information confirming that sweet and dessert-type vapor flavors appealed much more to adults than non-smoking teens, and other studies confirming that the variance in flavors were ‘very important’ in people’s efforts to switch to e-cigs.”

But there appears to be no limit to which parents and high schoolers want to treat vapers in the same way as smokers, with 80 and 81 percent respectively supporting taxing e-cigarettes in the same way as regular tobacco.

Cabrera commented that “from a public health and policy perspective, we should be focusing on harm-reduction strategies rather than continuing to demonize a product that has the potential to improve the public health and save health care costs caused by tobacco smoking.”

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation