What if there were a product line on the market that long time smokers found could help them get rid of cigarettes, begin a journey to restored health, and allowed families to live and breathe better? What if this same product line did not need a big dollar government advertising campaign or need a doctor to write a prescription for the smoker to buy the products? What if public health could be greatly improved and hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved without spending vast amounts of tax dollars to accomplish it, all while cigarette use continued to decline? If such a product line existed our Texas lawmakers would be happy, albeit cautious, to guard against over regulation, right?
That is what many of the thousands of Texas vapers thought. The most recent, credible studies are showing today’s advanced vaping products can improve a smoker’s health, are not a gateway to smoking but quite the opposite, a gateway from smoking, and show promise for being a true benefit for reducing cigarette usage in Texas and around the world. Dr. Michael Siegel states, in his Wall Street Journal article, The Misbegotten Crusade Against E-Cigarettes, “Vaping technology—or something like it that may be developed—has the potential to be one of the greatest antismoking breakthroughs. I would hate to see its promise wasted because of misinformation by the very public-health authorities who should be in the vanguard of reducing the harm from cigarettes.”
Being in the vanguard simply means they should be leading the way. The Texas vaping community sure thought public health officials and lawmakers would be thrilled to see a line of products that finally appeared to be accomplishing what they had stated was there goal for decades, reduce the harm of cigarettes and tobacco while keeping minors from getting hooked on the burning tobacco sticks our grandparents were told were so cool.
While supporting make sense age restriction and protection, vapers would not have expected their otherwise competent, caring representatives to emotionally react to false fears and over regulate vaping products’ ability to continue reducing cigarette’s harm to Texans. Yet many cities and counties are already doing just that, over regulating. To make matters worse for those trying to quit smoking, lawmakers at the state level are now doing the same. There are numerous legislative proposals being considered in Austin and all of them overreact based on bad data, misunderstanding and confusion.
Even a long time champion of the people, Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa has given witness before the Senate Committee of Health and Human Services that vaping products are the same as conventional cigarettes because they have nicotine. He is selling this notion while representing the people of Texas Senate District 20, a district filled with vapers who are returning to a more healthy life thanks to the products he is railing against. As he touts his Senate Bill 97 as simply an age restriction bill he does not mention the pages of over regulation beyond the protection of minors.
Despite being provided a great deal of the current data showing quite the opposite of his claim of sameness he continues his march against vapers and has helped SB97 get out of committee on a 7-0 vote. He proudly told his constituents he is doing it for the children. He is recruiting other lawmakers to sign on to this off-track campaign. Without considering the consequences of incompetent laws, he tells the people they are the same and, if that were true, why would a smoker think there may be a product that can finally help them quit smoking? If they are the same why would a smoker who trusted his judgment bother to even try? The answer is they won’t and for many that answer will lead to poor health and potential death.
He is not alone in this “misbegotten crusade” as this same scenario is playing out all over the state and the country. Constituents tend to trust our lawmakers and turn to them for sound guidance. When it comes to the potential public health benefits of vaping products, however, most are being told the same thing Sen. Hinojosa is telling his constituents…it’s all the same so we’re going to regulate and restrict vapers just like we do smokers. So many smokers will never even try and many smokers will continue to die.
Nicotine is the favorite drug to point to as their excuse for much of this. Yet poor laws will restrict even the liquid that contains no nicotine and no link to tobacco at all. That’s right, for those vapers who have reached the Zero nicotine club they too will be treated just as a smoker and be told to go to the smoking area to vape. The same area they struggled to escape from, the area filled with the tar and carcinogens that was killing them. But there’s no tobacco link, no nicotine so how is that the same? For those marching down the same path as Sen. Hinojosa these facts will not get in the way of their “misbegotten crusade.”
Nicotine is not a benign substance. Handled improperly it can be dangerous and it does have addictive qualities. The protection of minors, the quality of eliquid production, child resistant packaging, and make sense warnings all are supported by most in the vaping community. People know nicotine is not the cause of the diseases killing smokers. “Yet many in the antismoking movement—in which I have been involved for decades—are conducting a misleading campaign against these products. And this campaign may be doing harm to public health,” according to Dr. Siegel.
Do we even know for sure nicotine is really an entirely bad substance? Is it possible there are many good health benefits for nicotine when properly used? Is everything we know about nicotine wrong? Dr. Kelly Neff has asked the question and we’ll explore her answers next time.
1. Dr. Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, has conducted tobacco research for 25 years and has been an advocate for antismoking policies. His article appeared in the February 24 edition of the WSJ.