Friday, 20 December 2013

E-cig scam set back by New York City

Our City Council has put a big dent in the tobacco industry’s stealth campaign to renormalize smoking through the E-cigarette, banning the use of the products in a decisive 43 to 8 vote.

The campaign to establish public acceptance of e-cig smoking is a remarkably insidious strategy even for the cynical peddlers of death at Philip Morris and the rest. Producers and their defenders have tried to justify the tobacco-less smoking devices as a ‘harm reduction’ tool as just needle exchanges for heroin addicts prevent HIV and Hep C infection. Their promoters insisted that the practice of ‘vaping’, or using the little tubes to inhale nicotine vapors, was a way for addicted smokers to wean themselves off more harmful cigarettes.

But from the beginning marketers quickly exploited the legality of these ‘not cigarette’ devices to renormalize images of elegant people holding little white sticks. Corner stores in my upper Manhattan and nearby Bronx neighborhoods are plastered with disturbing ads for e-cigs showing hot babes sucking on them—material that would never pass if the ads were for tobacco products.

E-cigs have enabled people to light up once again in bars and restaurants, undermining the highly effective bans now in place for over a decade. New York City’s overall smoking rates have dropped steadily from the low 20s in 2000 to about 15 percent today as the smoke-free laws pushed smoking into the streets. But getting rates down further has proven difficult, and the sight of people merrily waving their e-cigs around after dinner wasn’t going to help.

It was pretty clear that something fishy was up with e-cigs when the topic started to pop up on discussion fora related to tobacco control a few years ago. While some were open to the idea of another harm-reduction tool that might work for some people, e-cig boosters sounded suspiciously like the defenders of old-fashioned cigarettes and used a lot of the same aggressive rhetoric about ‘adult choice’ and the ‘nanny state’.

And as some advocates and public health figures have argued, nicotine replacement ‘therapy’ for smokers does nothing to address the underlying problem of nicotine addiction. Patches, gum and other nicotine-replacement therapies have worse aggregate outcomes than old-fashioned cold-turkey quitting. There is also some evidence that E-cigs may attract curious youth who might have gotten the message about the dangers of smoking but want to mess around with something cool-looking anyway.

It’s an encouraging sign that the arguments of the e-cig lobby didn’t impress many people on our council.

No comments: