When the American Cancer Society essentially endorses vaping as a safe and effective tool for tobacco harm reduction, should the U.S. Food and Drug Administration be listening? In its official position statement on electronic cigarettes, the ACS compares the perceived health risks of multiple products facing millions of Americans today. And vaping rates the lowest on the list.
In its evaluation of carcinogenic and toxicity risks associated with conventional prescription medications, alcohol, combustible tobacco, and vaping products, the ACS determined that vaping is by far the safest. On the other hand, cigarette smoke is laced with about 70 different carcinogens and a whopping 7,000 needlessly-added chemicals of varying toxicities and addictive qualities. The statement also attempts to make a clear and definitive distinction between the perceived dangers of nicotine compared to those of tobacco.
“Although many ENDS deliver nicotine, flavor additives, and other chemicals, they do not burn tobacco, a process that yields an estimated 7000 chemicals, including at least 70 carcinogens. Thus, public misunderstanding underscores the urgent need for consumer education about the absolute and relative risks posed by different tobacco products and to reinvigorate smokers’ understanding of the importance of quitting combustible tobacco. Whereas complete information on all the potential risks and benefits of ENDS is not yet available, there is sufficient information to allow ACS to act now with a clear focus on the primary goal of ending deadly combustible tobacco use, which is responsible for approximately a one-half million deaths per year and 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States.”
Peppered throughout the multi-page position statement are allegations that certain anti-vaping activist groups are employing fear-mongering tactics to intentionally misinform the general public. The ACS specifically mentions the Monitoring the Future study, but a more recent campaign called The Truth is particularly abhorrent.
The Truth campaign is publicly claiming that a single Juul pod is the equivalent of smoking twenty cigarettes. By focusing only on the comparative nicotine content while ignoring the associated tar, carcinogens, and toxicity levels altogether, “The Truth” is anything but. In fact, it’s a deviously evil attempt to persuade teenagers and young adults to switch to smoking instead of vaping.
The ACS strikes back at these types of anti-vaping organizations in its effort to simultaneously endorse vaping. The public health organization further claims that sufficient evidence exists which supports its position that vaping is a far less harmful than smoking.
“Many consumers are misinformed about the harms of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). (In this document, the term ENDS refers to the variety of products that heat, but do not burn, liquids that contain nicotine, water, and other constituents, such as propylene glycol and flavorants.) Many adults believe, erroneously, that ENDS are as harmful as combustible tobacco products, and the level of public understanding has deteriorated over time. In 2012, only 11.5% of respondents to a national survey held this view. By 2015, 35.7% of respondents mistakenly believed that the harm associated with electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) was ‘about the same’ as that of smoking conventional cigarettes. At the same time, the Monitoring the Future study reports that, as of 2017, ‘e-cigarettes have one of the lowest levels of perceived risk for regular use of all drugs, including alcohol” among adolescents.’”
Unfortunately, the ACS falls short of providing a full-throated endorsement of vaping. Like many public health organizations, the ACS continues to push the notorious and somewhat cowardly argument that more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of e-cig use. While feeble arguments like these are usually an attempt to avoid legal liability issues, they grossly undervalue the significant life-saving capabilities of e-cigs while only further confusing the American public.