Volume 5 Number 222
They’re at it again: the tobacco industry has found vaping, another way to harm the American public. If you were old enough, it’s hard to forget that momentous Congressional hearing in 1994, when the CEOs of the seven major tobacco companies all said that their cigarettes, to the best of their knowledge, weren’t addictive. Subsequent findings showed that they were all lying through their teeth.
Now a new generation of tobacco company leaders are fostering electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), or e-cigarettes, that emit a heated, vaporized solution called vaping, to induce young people to smoke what they say is a “safe, non-nicotine” product.
Here is a short overview about e-cigarettes:
- It’s all part of a bait and switch tactic. This means that once a teen becomes an e-cigarette smoker, there is a better chance that they will morph as an adult into a regular cigarette smoker.
- E-cigarettes are intended to resemble regular cigarettes, without actually smoking.
- They are positioned as aids to reduce or quit smoking, but few find them useful for this purpose.
- E-cigarettes come in a long tube, most often resembling a cigarette with replaceable cartridges. Users suck the mouthpiece to activate a heating element that vaporizes a flavored, liquid solution contained in the mouthpiece. The user vapes, or inhales, an aerosol solution.
- Contrary to allegations by this industry, research has shown that e-cigarettes can have a negative health impact.
Smokeless non-tobacco cigarettes were invented in 1963, but the contemporary version didn’t appear until 2005-2006, in China. The market grew rapidly and now there are close to 500 brands in the worldwide marketplace. In 2018 this was a $ 5-billion-dollar industry, compared to tobacco cigarettes at $92 billion. However, e-cigarettes are expected to grow at a rate of 24 percent annually in the near future, as conventional tobacco cigarettes decline slowly.
So some of the same cast of characters that were before a Senate committee in 1994 are up to their eyeballs in the e-cigarette marketplace. They have largely bought up the leading makers of these cigarettes, or developed their own brands. Ninety-five percent of the market is owned by five companies. They include such brands as Vuse (R.J. Reynolds) Juul and MarkTen (Altria formerly Phillip Morris) Vype (British American Tobacco) and Logic (Japan Tobacco).
The tobacco industry says that it is pushing a new kind of smoking device that is far healthier than traditional cigarettes: no tobacco, no tar, just nicotine and flavored vapors. But the real kick is that e-cigarettes are in vogue among teenagers. Fully one-fifth of high schoolers were found to be using e-cigarettes in 2018. And their use was growing at an alarming rate. It was reported there was a 78 percent increase among high school students between 2017 and 2018. During the corresponding time period, there was a 48 percent increase among middle school students.
The makers of e-cigarettes must be gleefully applauding these numbers because they are fully aware if they don’t get a teen as a smoker, chances are they won’t convert them as adults. That’s why they are so anxious to surreptitiously appeal to this market. And that is why there are so many flavored e-brands. Teens love them, just the way they do menthol brands of conventional cigarettes, which are in the process of being taken from the market by the FTC.
Sure enough, more bad news about vaping emerged on September 6, according to The New York Times. It was reported that medical experts and public health officials were now saying that the devices were causing a substantial number of severe lung illnesses that are linked to vaping. It was further being said that this was an “epidemic that begs for an urgent response” according to an article in The New England Journal of Medicine.
In the beginning of October, the bad news started to pile up. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic reported that in 17 cases, lung damage caused by vaping resembled a chemical burn. This would be like the kind of damage one sees in an unfortunate worker in an industrial accident, or after exposure to mustard gas, used in World War I. The next day there was more bad news. Illnesses and deaths linked to vaping, it was reported from around the country, had totaled 1,080 cases since March with 19 deaths. In the past week alone, 275 new cases were reported.
As usual the legislature was slow to react, and with too little. President Trump was urging a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes, a small part of the problem. A New Jersey task force also demanded the ban of all flavored vaping products and e-cigarettes. An article just the other day, on October 14, 2019 in The New York Times, headlined how, blocked by the pressure of lobbyists for the industry, the lack of action of the FDA and Congress over the last ten years has led to failure to rein in vaping or to take any initiative against this growing menace.
It is becoming more obvious that the risks in smoking e-cigarettes are substantial and include:
- Prominently, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive agent.
- The aerosol used in the e-cigarettes delivers solvents, flavoring and toxicants which are dangerous or potentially dangerous.
- There is a danger of causing lung disease from some of the ingredients.
- Continued use can lead to regular tobacco and drug use.
- Second hand smoke occurs when vaping releases carcinogens into the air, putting others at risk.
A Surgeon General’s report contains a call to reduce vaping: “Actions could include incorporating e-cigarettes into smoke-free policies, preventing access to e-cigarettes by youth, price and tax policies, retail licensure, regulation of e-cigarette marketing likely to attract youth, and educational initiatives targeting youth and young adults”.
So far the FDA has made e-cigarette purchases available only to those over the age of 18. It is also recommended that the minimum age be raised to 21 by individual states. Nine states have already banned vaping in places where conventional cigarette smoking is not allowed. The sale of e-cigarettes on line is now allowed, and this should be barred. In March, the FDA formally proposed a ban on the sales of flavored e-cigarettes, which is in the final review stage. The city of San Francisco (where else) currently voted to ban the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes citywide.
The erosion of the cigarette market took many years, and the actions of many organizations were needed to bring about changes to help safeguard the American public. A similar program is needed to help combat this latest threat, this time on a concentrated time-table. The problem is spreading like wild-fire. The lives of our children are at stake, and left to these greedy, uncaring companies this vulnerable group will be exploited.
Vaping is now the most popular form of tobacco use among teenagers in the United States.
–Yvette Brazier, Editor Healthline Media