E-cigarettes have proven effective at helping people quit smoking, a massive potential public health gain, considering nearly half a million people die every year from smoking-related illnesses. The big question is: How can we help smokers quit and at the same time discourage young people from taking up either smoking or vaping?
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has paid some lip service to “preserv[ing] e-cigarettes as a tool to help adult smokers while snuffing out the teen smoking epidemic,” but it’s difficult to believe Gottlieb or the FDA when they’ve been lying to us so far.
Teen smoking remains a concern, but let’s be honest about the size and scope of the problem: There is no teen smoking epidemic.
Adolescent use of combustible tobacco products, like cigarettes and cigars, is at an all-time low. Perhaps Gottlieb simply “misspoke,” accidentally conflating the vaping rates with smoking. A national survey showed a significant uptick in youth use of e-cigarettes in the last year. But smoking and vaping are not the same products, nor do they pose the same health risks. Unfortunately, evidence over the last two years indicates Gottlieb and the FDA may be intentionally conflating the two, and that is dangerous.
Americans’ trust in national institutions is lower than ever. If that lack of confidence extends to health institutions, it can have deadly consequences when there are true emergencies, such as outbreaks of infectious or food-borne illnesses. The ability of agencies like FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the public from immediate threats depends on the public’s confidence in those agencies and their willingness to follow agency recommendations. The disturbing rise in infectious childhood diseases, caused by vaccine skepticism, is just one example of what happens when people lose faith in health agency wisdom.
Michelle Minton – Washington Examiner – August 5, 2019.