The 2018 E-Cigarette Summit: An Increase in Public Awareness
Since the advent of the vaporizer and the e-cigarette industry, tens of thousands of former smokers have attested to the benefits offered by the digital platform. At first, government agencies met these convincing, but primarily anecdotal claims with skepticism. While resistance is evident, vaporizer industry advocates are firing back with researched evidence and statistics.
Just recently on April 30th, 2018, Washington D.C. hosted the annual E-Cigarette Summit. This year’s edition was eagerly anticipated as the vaping industry as a whole garnered significant momentum and cultural significance. No longer just a fringe element, both traditionalists and vape enthusiasts – and even the general public – are well aware of the burgeoning sector’s influence.
But the overriding question is whether or not the vaporizer platform has made a positive impact on current analog smoking trends. It’s one thing to say that vaporizers offer a cleaner means to enjoy certain adult liberties; however, government officials have openly questioned the format’s efficacy in reducing cigarette smoking and other tobacco consumption.
As a result, several public health experts throughout the international community were on-hand at this year’s E-Cigarette Summit. What they were treated to was something that ardent critics of the digital arts were likely not expecting.
Vaping proponents came prepared, armed with facts, figures, statistics and a wealth of personal testimonies. What resulted was not so much a prosecution of vaporizers, but rather, the affirmation of their potential.
Here are three amazing highlights from the 2018 E-Cigarette Summit!
Is Vaping a “Gateway” to Smoking? It’s Highly Improbable.
Vaping critics have long accused the industry of being nothing more than a different name for the same game. Even if the platform itself was digitalized and therefore cleaner, the end result was that vaping merely served as a gateway to smoking. This, the critics claimed, was especially true for underaged youth.
Yet the highly-esteemed Dr. Nancy Rigotti, Director of Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and one of the primary founders of the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), argued persuasively that the evidence suggesting a link between the vaping industry and underaged smoking is slim at best. Based on her incredible body of professional research, Dr. Rigotti is deeply concerned about underaged smoking, and the possible role that vaping may play. However, Dr. Rigotti is a scientist first and foremost, and that requires examining the evidence. As she put it, the rapid decline in youth smoking presents “ecological evidence” that traditional tobacco industries are waning in popularity.
Given the statistics, Dr. Rigotti claims that it’s “hard to say there is a gateway to smoking.” Other leading vaporizer and e-cigarette advocacy groups have asserted the same point, although hearing a leading, national health expert voice the same opinion provides astounding weight and credibility.
Indeed, if you look at any long-term youth smoking study, you’ll see numbers drop like a fly. As a business, these figures represent current and future customers for the tobacco industry. If anything, the freefalling rates are a severe indictment against traditional smoking, not an affirmation.
But what about e-cigarettes? Hasn’t their usage gone up? In many cases, the vaping sub-segment has increased among underaged users. However, even here, recent trends appear to show an encouraging decline.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16% of high school students used e-cigarette products in 2015. A year later, that statistic fell to 11.3%, or a 29.4% magnitude drop! Although this is the first time the CDC recorded a year-to-year decline in youth e-cigarette usage since 2011, the trend is certainly pointed in the right direction.
Vaping Attacks are Nothing More than a Witch-Hunt
Public safety advocacy groups are right to attack tobacco industries for promoting dangerously addictive products and practices. Furthermore, they are well-justified in demanding aggressive oversight for this specific sector. The litany of evidence that dissects smoking’s hazards has been substantially documented for several decades; to suggest otherwise is sheer lunacy.
But when it comes to vaping, the evidence used to attack the industry is extraordinarily slim and ill-conceived. Nowadays, it’s not at all uncommon to hear both television and radio advertisements denouncing e-cigarettes as gateway devices. Yet a prosecution of the actual facts reveals that anti-vaping organizations are merely conflating the negative impact of combustible smoking with vaping’s perceived dangers.
And what exactly is the evidence to suggest that vaping is a cigarette gateway product? As health statistics and data proves, underaged smoking is trending down. Indeed, even underaged vaping has cratered. From what the facts state, vaping critics are deliberately creating false associations.
This was the crux of Clive Bates’ argument, who is the Director of Counterfactual Consulting. He referred to the “moral panic” regarding the vaping industry, that safety and health agencies, though well-meaning, are actually doing a disservice to the communities for which they serve. It’s one thing to say that a connection exists between vaping and increased combustible cigarette smoking, but where are the indicators to establish this connection?
Bates provided an incredibly articulate and impassioned appeal to cease this modern-day witch-hunt on the lack of scientific basis. His speech was directed at members of key government and health-awareness agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the American Cancer Society, and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
But not only does the anti-vaping agenda lack established evidence, it may be forging a deleterious impact on the very people whom it claims to help. He specifically raised the issue about JUUL, a popular vaporizer company that has attracted the ire of multiple government and health agencies. The criticism, as par for the course, is an unfounded claim that JUUL catalyzed underaged vaping, and therefore, underaged smoking.
This is where Bates asked, “have we got this all wrong?” Rather than attacking JUUL, they should instead be celebrated. He argues that one vaping company singlehandedly reduced retail consumption of traditional tobacco products. By attacking vaporizer businesses, government agencies risk reversing all the positive gains seen in youth smoking trends.
The FDA is (Slowly) Turning Around
It’s a common joke that government can’t get anything done, but one that unfortunately has more than just a ring of truth to it. Fortunately for the enthusiast community, the FDA appears to be making headway in applying actual scientific methodologies, and not relying on public perception to unfairly denounce the vaping practice.
One of the guest speakers at the E-Cigarette Summit was Mitch Zeller, Director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products. Rather than needlessly counter the vaping industry’s unassailable arguments, Zeller instead provided a breath of fresh air. He stated quite emphatically that nicotine is not the culprit that the anti-vaping zealots should focus on.
Zeller took his message a step further, expressing concerns that approximately 60% to 70% of the general public have “profound misperceptions of nicotine safety.” Broadly speaking, nicotine provides the high and adds robustness to sensations such as “throat hit.” The problem comes in how the nicotine is delivered, not the actual substance itself.
Due to the combustion process inherently involved in analog cigarettes, harmful chemicals and byproducts – such as carbon monoxide – is released. This enters the bloodstream of the smoker, and negatively impacts the air quality of those near the smoker.
However, to mitigate this issue, vaporizers have dramatically increased in technological advancements, allowing modern devices to replicate throat hits and other analog experiences. A big part of this replication necessarily involves using nicotine in the e-liquid products that are vaped. Thus, an uneducated war on nicotine would unfairly and negatively impact the vaping industry, which has already done so many positives for society at large.
Zeller is a rare government official that refuses to throw the baby out with the bathwater. He stresses the importance of public education, not only for improving awareness of the situation but also to convince similar government agencies to adopt a rational approach to vaping policies.
To that end, Zeller is working on a plan that involves both strategies for reducing nicotine independence, and helping traditional smokers shift to lower-risk alternatives. Vaporizer products clearly offer that cleaner alternative, and it appears that at least some members of the FDA are getting the message.
Now, we just need the rest of the government bureaucratic machinery to get onboard, and we’ll finally have a rational framework for the vaping industry.