Discussion: (0 comments)
There are no comments available.
The moral panic over teens and e-cigarettes is clouding judgment.
The sudden success of an e-cigarette called JUUL—pronounced “jewel”—is causing a backlash. Sales of JUUL, invented by two Stanford engineers, have exploded 30-fold since early 2016. JUUL doesn’t burn tobacco. It heats a nicotine-containing liquid held in replaceable pods, and, like other vaping devices, delivers nicotine far less dangerously than cigarettes.
But instead of cheers for a blockbuster of American ingenuity that’s saving lives, JUUL has sparked a moral panic. A Harvard pediatrician likened teen use of JUUL to “bioterrorism . . . a massive public-health disaster.” Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer demanded that the Food and Drug Administration douse the “fire of e-cig addiction among New York adolescents.”
Everyone agrees that teens shouldn’t vape. But the consensus cannot end there, because there is no adult activity that some kids won’t do. According to the 2017 Monitoring the Future survey, almost 1 in 5 high school seniors reported getting drunk within the previous month, while 22.9% used cannabis during the same time frame. Only 11% said they had vaped. Two major government surveys show that regular e-cigarette use by people who have never smoked is under 1%.
Some 4.2% of high-school seniors report smoking conventional cigarettes daily, according to Monitoring the Future, and 9.7% reported smoking at least once in the previous month. These are “the high-risk youth” we need to worry about, said Lynn T. Kozlowski, a tobacco expert at the University of Buffalo, at last month’s E-Cigarette Summit in Washington. Youth who have started to smoke, he added, “need to know the real costs of different nicotine products.”
Better they are told that the smoke they are inhaling comes with 7,000 chemicals, dozens of them in carcinogenic levels, plus carbon monoxide. And if they can’t or won’t quit, they should know that vaping, according to the Royal College of Physicians, is about 95% less hazardous than cigarette smoking.
JUUL Labs has pledged $30 million to fight underage vaping. But beyond “don’t start,” the best public-health message to teens, according to David B. Abrams of New York University’s College of Global Public Health, is this: “If the choice is between getting addicted to nicotine and dying from cigarettes or getting addicted without dying from e-cigarettes, the answer is obvious.”
Overheated worries about youth vaping are threatening to obscure the massive potential benefits to the nation’s 38 million cigarette smokers. Two million have already quit thanks to e-cigarettes. Vaping products are already the most widely used quit-smoking tool.
Democratic senators are also demanding that the FDA reverse its own postponement on e-cigarette regulation to 2022. The delay will give the agency time to revise its original burdensome and costly premarket approval procedure. The FDA, which values prevention but also recognizes the large population of smokers at risk of premature death, is right to apply the brakes.
Dr. Satel is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a lecturer in psychiatry at Yale.
There are no comments available.
The latest news and analysis from AEI's Health Care Policy experts
1789 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036
© 2018 American Enterprise Institute