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The Deadly Crusade Against E-cigarettes (Marmot’s Hole Op-Ed)

Written by Gilbert Ross, M.D.
The American Council on Science and Health

It’s the most important public health problem in the world — preventing the devastation wreaked by smoking. Experts predict the global death toll of cigarettes will approach a billion lives lost this century. Sadly, among the world’s 34 developed countries, Korea ranks highest among tobacco prevalence.
 
That millions of people in Korea, and hundreds of millions of people around the world, are addicted to cigarettes should be considered the worst global catastrophe in human history. But misguided or agenda-driven government officials and public health experts worldwide are condemning the best hope for mitigating its damage  — electronic cigarettes and certain low-risk tobacco products that have the potential to reduce the risk caused by smoking.
 
This week these bureaucrats will be gathering at a conclave in Seoul for the possible revision of an international tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), where they’ll be taking up e-cigarettes and perhaps even calling for a ban.
 
This is the bizarre and counter-productive logic employed by these bureaucrats: Since e-cigarettes look like actual cigarettes, they have concluded that they must be just as harmful. Only they’re not — although they work as a public health tool precisely because of their resemblance to the real thing.
 
Electronic cigarettes work by giving addicted smokers the nicotine they crave, without the toxic smoke.  They supply a variable amount of nicotine in a watery vapor and produce a red glow at the tip when puffed upon. That similarity — especially the nicotine, the highly addictive substance smokers crave — is what is best about e-cigarettes. The nicotine “hit” they supply matches, more or less, that of inhaling cigarette smoke, as do the behavioral mannerisms of holding the thing as though it was their familiar “friend,” and killer: the lethal cigarette.
 
But that’s where the similarity ends. There are no products of combustion to be inhaled hundreds of times a day, and hence no tobacco toxins. Nicotine is not a health threat, per se: its danger lies in its potent addictive power. E-cigarette users — they call themselves vapers — get the satisfying drug but none of the tarry smoke. That’s why many smokers who switch to e-cigarettes succeed in staying smoke-free, while those who try to quit using the FDA-approved methods so often fail.  This was most prevalent in Korea, where smoking rates plunged from 70 percent of adult males over the past decade, only to level off and leave one half of men addicted to this deadly product.
 
Among America’s 46 million smokers, well over half say they want to quit, and over one-third attempt to do so each year — but less than one-tenth succeed! Yet, in a triumph of hypocrisy over science, the powers-that-be keep touting ineffective cessation products that fail 90 percent of the time. Unfortunately, the same story is recurring in Europe, Asia and this week, at the FCTC Conference of Parties, in Korea.
 
Despite those sorry statistics, those in charge at numerous government agencies and NGOs chant in unison, “Stick with the approved cessation methods.”  This advice can be translated to “Quit, or die.”
 
The irrationality of these “public health” arguments puts into stark relief the blind-spot of the prohibitionist zealots: They fail to acknowledge the inconvenient fact that the millions of smokers in Europe, Asia and America – not to mention the billion or so worldwide – are not going to suddenly accept being regulated off their nicotine. The millions who have succeeded in quitting thanks to e-cigarettes and reduced risk tobacco products will not kick their habit and become nicotine-abstinent if these products are prohibited. No — they will revert to the widely available, deadliest source: cigarettes.
 
Prohibiting the safest form of nicotine delivery will increase, not stem, the tsunami of cigarette-related death. Truly informing smokers about reduced-risk nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, and increasing access to these products is the best way we have to save millions of lives.
 
Dr. Gilbert Ross, M.D. is executive and medical director of the American Council on Science and Health

Marmot’s Note: More on the “global tobacco tax” here.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    It’s enough to make one wonder if the tabacco industry is secretly funding the campaign against e-cigarettes. I also have to wonder why nicotine gum is so expensive – is it also taxed?

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    The state of NY has literally waged war against e-cigs. Why? Because regular cigarettes generate so much tax revenue for the state that they have banned e-cigs. Short sighted decision by the government. I wonder how much of of the state’s Medicaid expense is tied to smoking related illnesses?

    http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/09/05/gov-cuomo-signs-new-electronic-cigarette-restrictions-into-law/

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    The State of New York has, with the approbation of upper middle-class prigs, arranged to pick mostly working-class smokers’ pockets to the tune of $12.00 a pack. It’s criminal. Every time I fly there I buy two cartons of smokes and hand them out on the street. Ireland was just as bad — it’s $15.00 a pack there. Who can afford to smoke? I don’t care for state oppression of people’s bad choices.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    BC,

    but how dare you question the state? TK will be all over you. Don’t you realize that what the state decides is what is moral by definition?

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    but how dare you question the state? TK will be all over you. Don’t you realize that what the state decides is what is moral by definition?

    That must be why this moonbat professor at a public university in New Jersey can so loudly and aggressively defend Josef Stalin as having “committed no crimes”. What’s worse is how half the room full of students laughed and applauded.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Wow.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Im not really surpised. I would be more surprised if Obama did not share similar views as this “professor”

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Sometimes I don’t know if TK covets the title of People’s Commissariat for Justice.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Seems to me he believes that, based on his dinky blog and the fluff he writes there, that he is somehow intelelctually fit to tell people how to live their lives. A great book was written on this by Thomas Sowell, “Intellectuals and Society,” and TK fits the bill perfectly.

    From the book:

    “Those whose careers are built on the creation and dissemination of ideas — the intellectuals — have played a role in many societies out of all proportion to their numbers. Whether that role has, on balance, made those around them better off or worse off is one of the key questions of our times. The quick answer is that intellectuals have done both. But certainly, during the 20th century, it is hard to escape the conclusion that intellectuals have on balance made the world a worse and more dangerous place. Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the 20th century was without his supporters, admirers, or apologists among the leading intellectuals — not only within his own country, but in foreign democracies, where intellectuals were free to say whatever they wanted. ..intellectuals are people whose end products are intangible ideas, and they are usually judged by whether those ideas sound good to other intellectuals or resonate with the public. Whether their ideas turn out to work — whether they make life better or worse for others — is another question entirely.”

    It should be noted Sowell has a very condescending attitude towards these people he labels intellectuals. They come off in his book much like TK comes across on this blog: a blowhard with very little mental acuity.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Could we lay off the TK bashing please? The dude hasn’t even commented yet.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    #10, When he eventualy does, will he comment in the 3rd person? That always makes one sound smarter and more important.

  • Wedge

    #10: Anticipatory retaliation.

  • tinyflowers

    Sounds like TK is living rent free inside your head Salaryman.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    #13, more like rent free in my bowels. But thats not the only thing living rent free there and it wont for much longer.

  • Wedge

    #5: That guy is going to like Oliver Stone’s new Showtime documentary.

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani

    I wish the ASSH0LES (these bureaucrats) would F Off!

    Nicotine is beneficial!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It is generally believed that the principal beneficial action is due to the nicotine administered, and that administration of nicotine without smoking may be as beneficial as smoking, without the higher risk to health due to tar and other ingredients found in tobacco.

    For instance, recent studies suggest that smokers require less frequent repeated revascularization after percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

    Risk of ulcerative colitis has been frequently shown to be reduced by smokers on a dose-dependent basis; the effect is eliminated if the individual stops smoking.

    Smoking also appears to interfere with development of Kaposi’s sarcoma in patients with HIV.

    Nicotine has a mild laxative effect and can reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

    Nicotine reduces the chance of breast cancer among women carrying the very high risk BRCA gene, preeclampsia, and atopic disorders such as allergic asthma.

    A plausible mechanism of action in these cases may be nicotine acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, and interfering with the inflammation-related disease process, as nicotine has vasoconstrictive effects.

    Tobacco smoke has been shown to contain compounds capable of inhibiting monoamine oxidase, which is responsible for the degradation of dopamine in the human brain. When dopamine is broken down by MAO-B, neurotoxic by-products are formed, possibly contributing to Parkinson’s and Alzheimers disease.

    Many such papers regarding Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s Disease have been published. While tobacco smoking is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, there is evidence that nicotine itself has the potential to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease.

    Nicotine has been shown to delay the onset of Parkinson’s disease in studies involving monkeys and humans.

    A study has shown a protective effect of nicotine itself on neurons due to nicotine activation of α7-nAChR and the PI3K/Akt pathway which inhibits apoptosis-inducing factor release and mitochondrial translocation, cytochrome c release and caspase 3 activation.

    Recent studies have indicated that nicotine can be used to help adults suffering from autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. The same areas that cause seizures in that form of epilepsy are responsible for processing nicotine in the brain.

    Studies suggest a correlation between smoking and schizophrenia, with estimates near 75% for the proportion of schizophrenic patients who smoke. Although the nature of this association remains unclear, it was recently argued that the increased level of smoking in schizophrenia may be due to a desire to self-medicate with nicotine.

    More recent research has found that mildly dependent users got some benefit from nicotine, but not those who were highly dependent.

    There is very little research done on this subject, including the research by Duke University Medical Centre which found that nicotine may improve the symptoms of depression in people.

    Nicotine appears to improve ADHD symptoms. Some studies are focusing on benefits of nicotine therapy in adults with ADHD.

    While acute/initial nicotine intake causes activation of nicotine receptors, chronic low doses of nicotine use leads to desensitisation of nicotine receptors (due to the development of tolerance) and results in an antidepressant effect, with research showing low dose nicotine patches being an effective treatment of major depressive disorder in non-smokers.

    Nicotine (in the form of chewing gum or a transdermal patch) is being explored as an experimental treatment for OCD. Small studies show some success, even in otherwise treatment-refractory cases.

    The relationship between smoking and inflammatory bowel disease is now firmly established but remains a source of confusion among both patients and doctors. It is negatively associated with ulcerative colitis but positively associated with Crohn’s disease. In addition, it has opposite influences on the clinical course of the two conditions with benefit in ulcerative colitis but a detrimental effect in Crohn’s disease.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine

    I want my NICOTINE!

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #3 Brendon Carr: “The State of New York has, with the approbation of upper middle-class prigs, arranged to pick mostly working-class smokers’ pockets to the tune of $12.00 a pack. It’s criminal. Every time I fly there I buy two cartons of smokes and hand them out on the street.”

    That is your Robin Hood cum Santa Claus charitable act of contribution to society and those less fortunate??? Not exactly Doctors Without Borders, is it?

    I would think that as an attorney you could find more deserving recipients for your skill set and much more worthy causes. Even disregarding your legal training, you could provide a greater contribution to society by, I don’t know…. Staying away from New York.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #9 SalarymaninSeoul: ”
    From the book: “Those whose careers are built on the creation and dissemination of ideas — the intellectuals — have played a role in many societies out of all proportion to their numbers. Whether that role has, on balance, made those around them better off or worse off is one of the key questions of our times. The quick answer is that intellectuals have done both.”

    I suppose that the same thing can be said about rock stars, authors, billionaires, generals, U.S. presidents, or anyone else who does. Substitute anyone of those labels for “intellectuals” in the quote above and see whether the truth value of the statement changes.

    “Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the 20th century was without his supporters, admirers, or apologists among the leading intellectuals — not only within his own country, but in foreign democracies, where intellectuals were free to say whatever they wanted.”

    A small subgroup of those labeled intellectuals, whether they are truly intellectuals is another fundamental question, get to tar the whole group? Was Goebbels an intellectual?

    To avoid the “intellectual problem” in the future, I suggest that we disqualify anyone who considers an issue to have any input into the issue. Oh crap, I just disqualified myself on this issue.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #5 Brendon Carr: “That must be why this moonbat professor at a public university in New Jersey can so loudly and aggressively defend Josef Stalin as having “committed no crimes”. What’s worse is how half the room full of students laughed and applauded.”

    I took the time to look at your link. I totally disagree with your interpretation and doubt the moonhat was a professor. The presentation looked more like a 7:00 p.m. open presentation by the local chapter of the last vestiges of the local moonhat communist party to the university community. More than half the empty room was his home slice.

    The short (a short paragraph), intro blurb even passed the judgment of the few students who attended:

    Pay attention to how defensive this Communist gets when he is confronted. He immediately, ridicules the gentleman, who tries to explain that the killing of those who disagree with the regime is a tool of communism.

    Your post was misleading.

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  • feld_dog

    @SalaryMan:
    Thomas Sowell says, “But certainly, during the 20th century, it is hard to escape the conclusion that intellectuals have on balance made the world a worse and more dangerous place. ”

    Huh. Actually, I found it surprisingly easy to escape that conclusion, Tom.

  • feld_dog

    “Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the 20th century was without his supporters, admirers, or apologists among the leading intellectuals.”

    Actually, the first step in the dictator’s playbook is to murder the leading intellectuals. Whether they support him or not.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #21 feld_dog: “Actually, the first step in the dictator’s playbook is to murder the leading intellectuals. Whether they support him or not.”

    Then the Triple-A bench players get promoted to major league intellectuals. Duuuuh His statement still stands.

  • slim

    feld_dog – He was talking about Western intellectuals supporting the likes of Stalin, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh… pretty much a relic of the Cold War although there is a bit of it still with us, with China apologists and the odd outfits that still carry water for the DPRK.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Then there are the intellectuals supporting the modern day version of Stalin, Obama.

  • feld_dog

    @SalaryMan:
    “It should be noted Sowell has a very condescending attitude towards these people he labels intellectuals. They come off in his book much like TK comes across on this blog: a blowhard with very little mental acuity.”

    Thomas Sowell’s resume: degrees from Harvard, Columbia, U.Chicago. Professor at Rutgers, Howard, Cornell, Amherst, Brandeis, UCLA. Currently senior fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford. Author of over 30 books.

    Physician, heal thyself.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    @25,

    So, he’s an intellectual then, is he?

    Get the rope.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    #25,

    as you so nicely point out, he is an intelligent man with an interesting point of view. And, he is an intellectual ready to speak out against his fellow intellectuals, and to earn their wrath.

  • feld_dog

    Indeed, the track record of bona-fide intellectuals in making life better for mankind is spotty at best.

    Nevertheless, it’s much better than the track record of bona-fide morons.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    The worst is the track record of bona-fide psychopaths (government) supported and cheered on by intellectuals.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectuals_and_Society

    Gives a good summary of the arguments Sowell is making in the book.

  • Wedge

    “Intellectual” is a state of mind, not a sign of intelligence per se. It’s something that someone with a lot of useless degrees might style himself as. The rest of us work for a living.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #30 SalarymaninSeoul: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectuals_and_Society

    Gives a good summary of the arguments Sowell is making in the book.

    Salaryman, I read the wikipedia article, and it was a book report rather than an encyclopedia article. There were no other voices except those of the author.

    What struck me was the low opinion in which he held the non-intellectuals:

    “Intellectuals rely heavily on what Sowell calls “verbal virtuosity” – clever phrasing, vague euphemisms, witty quotes, deceptive labeling and name-calling and sneering asides- to substitute for, and avoid evidence, logic and analysis.”

    I am bogged down in such a quagmire with Q, JK, and tinyflowers (if you limit them to the “deceptive labeling and name-calling and sneering asides-” part “to substitute for, and avoid evidence, logic and analysis.”) in another thread. Would the author consider them intellectuals?

    Does the author (and by your advocacy of his book) or you think that we can’t see through all that? Particularly today with the education, literacy, and access to information of so many university educated Americans and other citizens in relatively (I don’t want to get into this either) free countries? (I know that has the potential to be a softball sized meatball I just tossed, but try to avoid the obvious.)

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Can we? Again, I think this comes down to the very low level of public education: I simply do not believe most people can. access to information is no good when you have been stunted in your development by the very system “meant” to elevate you. But in reality, all it really is meant to do is to keep you just smart enough where you can be productive but docile. Are the ones you mention intellectuals? I think they aspire to be and monkey what intellectuals do.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Salaryman, I have more faith in the invisible hand that is guided by the collective wisdom (or is it the rational self-interest with a sprinkle of aspiration for a better world) that manipulates small events in our immediate neighborhoods to sum for a net positive in the global community.

    …oh crap. With the way I can turn a phrase, I just realized that I’m an intellectual. Just a slow one, because it’s taken me all these years to realize it.
    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    (Have at it, BC. I figure you figure you owe me one. ;-) )

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I dont think the invisible hand has much to do with wisdom. Hayek explained it best: its simply people who have the fullest knowledge of local conditions making decisions. They need not be wise, per se, or even very smart, but the magic is that a million dumb people making decisions for themselves will lead to a better decision than 10 geniuses in a room.

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