Good Sense Continues to Prevail in E-Cig Debate!
Forbes commentator Jacob Sullen (also an editor at Reason) has chimed in with praise of Tavernise's article on the e-cig controversy in yesterday's Times. And not only with praise, but with the conclusion that no one who reads Tavernise's clear-headed and even-handed reportage could possibly support the anti-vaping position.
With salutory insight, Sullen notes the falsehood of the claim that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking among minors, pointing out that the much touted rise in youth vaping was accompanied at the very same time by a marked decline in smoking by the same group. Sullen already pointed out last November, in Reason, that the very same CDC study showing e-cig increases in the age group, much-reported in the press, with horrified hand-wringing, indicated the drop in smoking for the same group. The convergence of these data points renders Thomas Frieden's statement that "many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes" not just an unsupported allegation, but a bald falsehood. Michael Siegel noted the same discrepancy in his blog in November, but no one else in the press seemed to notice.
Later on, the next month, a study at the University of Michigan confirmed the drop, but the fact that it demolishes Frieden's assertion went unnoticed. In fact the text of the Michigan study attributed the decline to higher cigarette taxes and anti-smoking campaigns (which may indeed have played a role). However, a significant new factor, specific to the time period in question, was the appearance of electronic cigarettes.
Sullen goes on to point out, in the Forbes article, that former smokers who have quit with the help of electronic cigarettes are a tangible reality, enthusiastically proclaiming their success all over the internet, while anti-vaping zealots have yet to produce any of the smokers who they say will continue to smoke because they can vape. There are "dual users" of course, as Stanton Glantz continues to point out, but there is no indication of why they engage in this evil practice. The supposition that they continue to smoke because they can vape, the position taken by Glantz and his allies, just doesn't seem as plausible as the possibility that they might be using e-cigs as a way of gradually weaning themselves away from cigarettes. Or simply that their goal is substantial reduction of their smoking rather than total cessation. And the anti-vaping crowd cannot make good the allegation that a substantial reduction in smoking is a bad thing, even if it is not as good as total cessation.
Sullen chides CDC director Thomas Frieden for his claim that restricting access to e-cigarettes is the path of "safety", agreeing with Siegel that making it "too hard for this experiment to continue" will result in a wasted opportunity to save the lives of millions. Sullen opines that it is a revulsion against something that looks "like a long-reviled symbol of evil" that stands behind much opposition to vaping. The last word is given to UK epidemiologist John Britton, to the effect that the tobacco industry is the enemy and "everything they do has to be opposed.... But one doesn't want that to stand in the way of public health."