Although 2015 was a year full of loud and ludicrous claims about the effects of e-cigarettes, one public official is finally talking with some sense. American vapers received an early Christmas present on December 23rd when Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller issued a statement supporting e-cig use for tobacco harm reduction. His first sentence is a basic fact that we all know, and others need to hear it: “The harm of the combustible cigarette is dramatically greater than the harm of the e-cigarette.”
That is even a bit of an understatement, which he goes on to explain. Miller makes reference to e-cig safety studies without citing specific sources, but he clearly references Public Health England’s evidence-based report on e-cigs, which indicates “e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking.”
Attorney General Tom Miller and His Support for E-Cigs
Miller, a staunch anti-tobacco activist, was heavily involved in a major 1998 settlement between America’s largest tobacco companies and the 45 states that sued them. The states wanted to recoup the taxpayer money necessary to treat an epidemic of illnesses related to smoking. Over the past decade, Iowa has been awarded well over $1 billion as a result of the lawsuit.
In his statement, Miller calls tobacco cigarettes the “most harmful consumer product” in existence based on the fact that they contribute to the death of half-a-million Americans every year. This is because tobacco cigarettes emit thousands of poisonous toxins when they combust. Vaping, on the other hand, does not involve combustion: e-cigarettes simply warm a liquid containing far less chemicals and toxins than traditional cigarettes to produce vapor, rather than smoke.
Despite the large number of studies in 2015 that suggests e-cigs could have a positive impact on pubic health by helping people quit smoking tobacco, Miller concedes that public opinion is not keeping up with the science. About a third of adult Americans still believe that tobacco cigarettes and e-cigs are equally dangerous. Without naming names, he attributes this misconception to anti-vaping campaigns that use shaky science to conflate vaping and smoking. Unfortunately, Miller laments, smokers who hear this kind of misinformation are, “unlikely to switch when switching may save their lives.”
Miller acknowledges that people who parrot inaccuracies about e-cigs are well intended, and many parents are concerned about their children becoming addicted to nicotine through these new products. Their fears are justified considering claims made by the National Youth Tobacco Survey like, “13 percent of high school students use e-cigs.” The survey actually found that 13 percent of students had tried an e-cig once within the past 30 days whereas only 2 percent were actually regular vapers. Miller notes that the “13 percent” figure is repeated in the survey report without qualification to insinuate that all of those students vape every day.
“Adults misleading kids to get them to do what we want has always been a failed strategy,” Miller warns. When it comes to e-cigs, we all need to check our facts before giving advice to kids lest we erode their trust.
Attorney General Miller understands the principles of tobacco harm reduction and the role e-cigs could play in saving lives. Hopefully, other public officials will hear his words and read up on the science so that we can band together against everyone’s common enemy: the smoking epidemic.