E-Cigs Under Fire From CA Dept. of Public Health

With public opinion in flux and anti-tobacco activists on edge, the California Department of Public Health has rolled out “Wake Up,” a slick new ad campaign to discourage the use of e-cigarettes, or “vapes.” Recently, CDPH pronounced e-cigs a threat to public health.

In a statement explaining the campaign, CDPH described two new TV ads emphasizing “the e-cigarette industry’s use of candy flavored ‘e-juice’” and “exposing the fact that big tobacco companies are in the e-cigarette business.”

The move bolstered momentum for broad crackdowns on vapes, which have been targeted by policymakers and activists who see them as just as bad as tobacco cigarettes — if not worse.

Playing politics

Political considerations have played into CDPH’s adverse judgment against vapes. New data recently showed that, last year, the use of e-cigs outpaced the use of tobacco cigarettes among teenagers and young adults.

Defenders of the freedom to vape argued this is good news. Vaping companies have claimed e-cigs help smokers abandon far more dangerous tobacco products, especially those, like traditional cigarettes, that emit high numbers of carcinogens.

But for prohibitionists, e-cigs presented a special hazard because of their accessibility and appeal to children. As the Los Angeles Daily News detailed, those drawbacks appeared to be the product of unregulated marketing, a more pleasurable use experience and apparent carelessness among adult consumers with children:

“Most startling to health officials was the spike in calls to California Poison Control centers related to exposures to accidental e-cigarette poisonings, including drinking the liquid inside. There were seven calls in 2012 to poison control. In 2014, those calls jumped to 243. More than 60 percent of all those e-cigarette related calls involved children 5 years and under.”

As NBC News reported, “bottles and cartridges that contain the liquid for e-cigs have been known to leak and tend not to be equipped with child-resistant caps, creating a potential source of poisoning through ingestion or just through skin contact.”

Although legislation and regulation could be tailored narrowly to focus on the threat of poisoning, public health officials issued a broad warning that comports with the prevailing view among prohibitionists.

Dr. Ron Chapman, State Health Officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, said that “many people do not know that they pose many of the same health risks as traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products.” In January, hecalled for a “bold public education campaign” to roll back e-cig gains in market share. Anti-smoking advocates working in the policy arena have been all but unanimous in treating e-cigs like an integral part of the same problem as tobacco products.

Safety over freedom

Despite the unfolding research concerning the differences between e-cig effects and those of tobacco cigarettes, prohibitionists in the political arena have used heightened rhetoric of their own to advance vape bans.

Earlier this year, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, underscored how far many officials have been willing to go in departing from the scientific record. In January, he introduced Senate Bill 140, a bill that would ban e-cigs at hospitals, restaurants, schools and workplaces.

“No tobacco product should be exempt from California’s smoke-free laws simply because it’s sold in a modern or trendy disguise,” he warned. Yet, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum observed, e-cigs neither emit smoke nor burn tobacco. Instead, they heat a device which allows the user to exhale a vapor.

SB140 will go into committee hearings this spring, behind a full-steam-ahead approach to cracking down on vapes. As CalWatchdog.com reported previously, the so-called “precautionary principle” — better safe than sorry — has inspired a spate of municipal regulations that treat e-cigs the same way as tobacco cigarettes, despite widespread ignorance and uncertainty as to how the products differ.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com