America declares war on e-cigarettes. But it’s an ideological battle, not a medical one

    27 March 2015

    The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have launched a wildly expensive campaign against e-cigarettes because… well, I can’t really work out their logic, but the sickly aroma of liberal puritanism is unmistakeable. The medical arguments are risible. The Wall Street Journal reports:

    Print and radio ads starting Monday target e-cigarette users who continue to smoke traditional cigarettes. They depict an e-cigarette user named Kristy alongside a caption that reads: ‘I started using e-cigarettes but kept smoking. Right up until my lung collapsed.’

    So it was vaping that caused Kirsty’s lung to collapse, was it? Nope: it was smoking cigarettes. Of which she did less because she also vaped, but for reasons that aren’t explained she kept on smoking. Just as millions of people who chew nicotine gum have been known to relapse. But governments don’t subject manufacturers of gum and nicotine patches to this sort of thing:

    California’s state government [acting independently of the CDC] launched a more direct, $7 million media campaign against e-cigarettes last Friday. The TV, digital and outdoor ads deride e-cigarettes as ‘brought to you by the people who brought you lung cancer’ and come two months after state health officials declared e-cigarettes a health risk.

    Speaking as an ex-smoker, I can tell you exactly what subliminal message will be picked up by many smokers. E-cigs are dangerous, too, so let’s stick with the fags. Though, being Americans, they’re unlikely to use the word ‘fags’.

    Here is the best piece on the subject of e-cigs as a method of harm-reduction. It was written exclusively for Spectator Health by Dr Derek Yach, the man who drew up the World Health Organisation’s international guidelines on smoking prevention. He’s arguably the world’s most effective anti-smoking campaigner. He writes:

    At the moment, it’s estimated that there will be a billion tobacco-related deaths before 2100. That is a dreadful prospect. E-cigs and other nicotine-delivery devices such as vaping pipes offer us the chance to reduce that total. All of us involved in tobacco control need to keep that prize in mind as we redouble efforts to make up for 50 years of ignoring the simple reality that smoking kills and nicotine does not.

    Compare that sensible attitude to the disingenuous argument put forward by the CDC:

    Dr McAfee at the CDC said that if e-cigarette makers want to promote their products as smoking-cessation tools, they should apply to be classified as nicotine-replacement-therapy devices like patches, gums and lozenges. Such a classification typically requires years of clinical trials. ‘There are hundreds of manufacturers and not a single one has chosen to go down this pathway,’ said Dr McAfee.

    Let’s unpack this. The problem with e-cigs and other vaping devices is that it’s next to impossible to deliver an exact, measurable dose of nicotine per e-cig (which is what public health bodies demand). This is smoking, remember, and the more you inhale the more nicotine you imbibe. The same e-cig can deliver entirely different levels of nicotine to two smokers, depending on the number of puffs. Getting round that would indeed require years of pointless clinical trials. And why are they pointless? Because, as Dr Yach says above, smoking tobacco kills and nicotine doesn’t. Take a look at a new study that supports this view.

    On the other hand, anti-vaping campaigns keep control-freak bureaucrats in work and pour money into the pockets of ad agencies. How long before the British Government launches its own idiot campaign along the same lines?