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July 19, 2016

A new study published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in June 2016 provides additional evidence showing e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) are an effective tobacco harm-reduction tool. The study is the first qualitative analysis on e-cigarette users and VNPs “using individual interviews of adult current and former vapers” in an effort to understand the reasoning behind “initiation” of such products.


Utilizing a sample size of “13 males and 17 females,” the study sought to uncover the reasons why smokers initiate the use of e-cigarettes and VNPs; “to relate the findings to an established theory of behavior change”; and the study considered “the implications of the findings for policy research.”


The study found many factors encouraged individuals to try e-cigarettes and VNPs, including “the concept of harm reduction, easy access to cheap cigalikes in shops … encouragement from social network members, ability to vape in public places, and belief in their effectiveness.”


The study is just the latest example of growing research displaying the effectiveness of e-cigarettes and VNPs as tobacco harm-reduction strategies. In 2015, Public Health England encouraged policymakers to promote the use of these products as smoking-cessation devices, pointing to the fact the chemicals found in e-cigarettes and VNPs are “95 percent less harmful than cigarettes.”


In 2016, the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians repeated Public Health England’s call, reiterating health problems “arising from long term [vapor] inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.” The group also suggested the importance of promoting e-cigarettes and VNPs for the interest of public health.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco cigarettes are accountable for “more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States,” and an estimated 16 million Americans are living with smoking-related diseases. Tobacco cigarettes carry a total economic cost of over $300 billion a year, making it one of the most expensive, preventable costs associated with health care in the United States. One study estimated Medicaid savings due to e-cigarette “adoption, and the resulting tobacco smoking cessation and harm reduction” totaled $40 billion in 2012.


Despite this study and other similar studies showing the benefits of e-cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration recently ordered e-cigarettes and VNPs to be classified and regulated as though they are tobacco products. The new ruling, which takes effect in August, requires any e-cigarette or VNP product that was introduced to the market after 2007 to apply for a “premarket tobacco application.”


Policymakers should continue to analyze the growing body of literature on e-cigarettes and VNPs before overregulating the market. Overregulation of the industry could bring more harm to health than good. States should take sound science into consideration when deliberating the creation of regulations or taxes on e-cigarette products. States imposing bans, excessive regulations, or high taxes on e-cigarettes could be creating an environment in which consumers choose to use more-harmful traditional cigarettes, rather than less-harmful alternatives.

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Link Majority of Vaping-Related Hospitalizations to THC: Welcome
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