The e-cigarette phenomenon: why the silence?

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Simon Cowell is into vaping.

Simon Cowell is into vaping.

Reports of recent sales and earnings from tobacco companies and surveys of e-cigarette users (vapers) yield a drumbeat of near-miraculous good news: parallel historic declines in Big Tobacco s cigarette sales, paired with annual doubling of e-cigarette sales. Remember two key factors:

1-electronic cigarettes provide vapers with their craved drug, nicotine, along with water vapor and GRAS (generally recognized as safe, according to federal regulators) flavorings; but none of the toxic and carcinogenic tar and gunk inhaled by cigarette smokers.

2-well over half of smokers say they want to quit, but only one-tenth (or fewer) succeed, despite having access to many FDA-approved cessation aids such as nicotine patches (NRT), gums, and drugs.

Millions of smokers have in fact successfully switched from deadly addictive cigarettes to e-cigarettes. While the evidence confirming this is not yet in hand, that is the inescapable conclusion anyone with an IQ over 55 can infer from the 6-7 percent cigarette sales decline last quarter with the marked increase in e-cigarette sales (it should be added that some of the decline in cigarette sales is attributable to a less-marked increase in smokeless tobacco consumption, another low-risk alternative segment of the tobacco harm reduction approach).

How crazy is this scenario? On April 24th, reports of these findings appeared widely in both mainstream and financial reports. Both of these articles noted the increasing participation of Big Tobacco in this burgeoning market, noting that the handwriting on the wall was easily perceived by the industry, and they d have to go along or be swept away by ex-smokers seeking longer lives. But, both articles also noted that among the large U.S. companies, Altria/Philip Morris USA was not involved.

Less than 24 hours later, this news arrived: Marlboro maker Altria to jump into e-cigarettes. So in the 21st century tobacco wars, fasten your seat belts, you re in for a bumpy ride!

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross had yet another, disturbing perspective: Given the good news about unexpectedly profound declines in cigarette sales the Holy Grail of public health, given the frightful toll of smoking on America s health why haven t the federal agencies and public health organs such as the CDC, the NIH and the FDA, commented on this salutary trend? Nor have any of the big NGO s, such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart or Lung Associations, nor the tobacco-specific groups such as Legacy and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, made a peep on this crucially important news. Why not? My theory is that to do so, they would have to take some note of the apparent shift of smokers to low-risk products such as e-cigarettes, even by implication. And they are so fixated on their 20th-century dogma of hatred, fear and suspicion of anything related to tobacco or anything even resembling a cigarette as e-cigarettes do that they are willing to just let this miraculous news slide by unnoticed by them anyway. Sad.