The Marmot's Hole

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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.

International nanny staters gather in Seoul to kill tobacco farming

Sure, pot looks like its gaining global acceptance (pretty much Uncle Marmot’s only cause for celebration on Election Day. That and the gay marriage referendums), but tobacco is still evil, apparently.

So evil, in fact, that UN busybodies will be gathering in Seoul this week with the aim of limiting tobacco production, putting millions out of work in the process:

Technically known as the fifth Conference of the Parties (CoP5), the week-long meeting at COEX in Gangnam will focus on controversial proposals that attempt to artificially reduce, and eventually phase out the crop through absurd regulations that will have no impact on smoking rates in the world. Although their livelihoods are at stake, not one of the 30 million people who are dependent on tobacco farming worldwide has been invited to attend COP5. Among those being affected will be 25,000 Koreans who are dependent with tobacco farming.

On the table are illogical measures such as regulating the seasons tobacco can be grown and limiting the land on which it can be grown. These ideas are so radical that even tobacco control advocates are calling them “simply impractical.”

The FCTC is also calling on governments to outlaw financial support to tobacco growers, banning technical assistance and contracts between growers and buyers, dismantling the bodies linking growers to governments, and banning minimum prices. And although the recommendations contain some guidance on how to identify and promote economically viable alternatives for tobacco farmers, we are a very long way from being able to provide adequate solutions for farmers in every corner of the world whose livelihoods would be affected by these measures.

It gets worse—it seems they even want to go after cigarette alternatives:

When the World Health Organization’s (WHO) tobacco control group meets in Seoul this week, it risks harming smokers who need help quitting. The group will consider bans on less harmful alternatives to cigarette smoking such as Swedish-style smokeless tobacco, or snus, and E-cigarettes. These products have been shown to help smokers stop smoking. The type of regulation applied to these products is especially important to Korea, which has among the highest rates of cigarette smoking within the OECD.

Much to the chagrin of New York City Nanny-in-Chief Michael Bloomberg, I’m sure, the United States is not a party to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which gives me hope that there may be a God.

You do wonder, though, whether the same folk who were so opposed to the KORUS FTA will be out in force protesting this attempt—by unelected international bureaucrats, no less—to destroy farmers’ livelihoods. Korean tobacco farmers are making a stink, at least.

Let’s watch how this unfolds.

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