World Vape Day is celebrated annually and occurred on May 30, 2022. It is essential to recognize that tobacco harm reduction (THR) products like vaping and e-cigarettes have significantly reduced cigarette smoking and saved lives around the world.
From 2007 to 2015, more than 3 million U.S. adults used THR products to quit smoking cigarettes. If public health is a priority, then THR products should be acknowledged as an effective tool to decrease smoking among adults.
Vaping is a less harmful alternative to cigarettes. A conventional cigarette contains more than 6,000 ingredients and, when burned, releases more than 7,000 chemicals, including arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, and tar. Traditional cigarette use is associated with cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. E-cigarettes and vaping products release nicotine without these harmful effects. The World Health Organization has estimated that tobacco use is responsible for 16 percent of all deaths in adults over 30 in Europe. Vaping can reduce the number of deaths as it is proven to be 95 percent less harmful than traditional smoking.
Fearmongering tactics and mistruths about youth vaping have spurred continuous controversy over vaping products. One of the arguments is that vaping does not reduce the number of smokers. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a significant reduction in the number of young smokers. There were 1.73 million, or 28 percent, fewer youth tobacco users in 2020 (4.47 million) than in 2019 (6.20 million).
Many countries are still enacting restrictions and taxes on THR products, including the United States. These restrictions are fear-based, not fact-based. The most recent version of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), H.R. 5376, included an excise tax of $1.01 on all tobacco products, including vaping products. This is a regressive tax that would negatively impact lower-income earners and public health. A November 21, 2021, Wall Street Journal article cited a 2020 Journal of Risk and Uncertainty study by Georgia State University economist Michael Pesko, who receives funding from the National Institutes of Health. Pesko “estimated that a tax on e-cigarettes equivalent to the one in the current House bill would result in 2.5 million additional adult cigarette smokers in the U.S.” University of Michigan School of Public Health Dean Emeritus Kenneth Warner said, “This policy would be a public health disaster, guaranteed to increase smoking and deaths from it.”
Efforts to legislate morality through a centralized government rarely work and increasing prices and restrictions on tobacco harm reduction products is a horrible idea with adverse consequences. While U.S. policies on THR products have been negative, other countries have exemplified more positive and forward-thinking approaches that have led to better health outcomes.
Citizens Against Government Waste’s 2021 issue brief, “Tobacco Harm Reduction Products Should Be Widely Adopted,” examined the impact of vaping products worldwide. The report noted that Sweden has smoking rates of 5 percent compared to France at 33 percent, with Britain and Denmark at 16 percent. This low rate can be attributed in large part to strong tobacco harm reduction policies. Japan has also embraced vaping products over traditional cigarettes, leading to significant declines in smoking. In 2016, Japan had 43.6 billion in domestic cigarette sales, which dropped by 43 percent to 25 billion by 2021. The widespread use in Japan of heated tobacco products and heated sticks to produce vapor, not smoke, increased over those five years.
If vaping products are a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes and result in more adult smokers kicking the habit, there should be increased support for policies that would further help reduce the number of smokers. THR products like vaping have resulted in fewer deaths and helped adults quit smoking. World Vape Day should be a time for government officials around the world to pledge to adopt policies that will increase the use of THR products and save lives by helping smokers to quit, rather than trying to raise taxes and increase government regulations, which would endanger more lives.