Public health expert calls ‘moral panic’ over vaping as ‘ridiculous’

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to attack teen vaping by labeling it as a national epidemic, a growing number of public health experts are growing increasingly concerned.  Many feel as if the ensuing moral panic over teen vaping is causing public health officials to lose sight of the bigger picture.  How do government agencies help people to stop smoking combustible tobacco by refusing to endorse vaping?

In an interview with Brent Stafford of Regulator Watch, Penelope Hutchinson expresses her concerns for the smoking rather than the vaping population.  A public health consultant for the Centre for Disease Control in British Columbia, Ms. Hutchinson claims that the majority of smokers now reside in the more disenfranchised and often poorer demographics of the general population.  Without a strong voice in government, these constituents are simply not being heard when they voice their need for government assistance to help them quit smoking through vaping.

Let’s talk about hospital smoking and vaping policies

She begins by telling a common story about hospital smoking policies.  In many cases - both in the United States and in Canada - hospital administrators often implement no smoking policies that include specially designated areas outdoors for both smoking and vaping.  By forcing smokers outside rather than providing similarly designated smoking areas indoors, administrators are essentially engaging in a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” strategy to battle smoking addiction. 

Related Article:   Public health expert says ‘moral panic’ over teen vaping is vastly overblown

Meanwhile, many public health agencies and non-profits still refuse to publicly endorse vaping as a safe and effective alternative to combustible tobacco.   The excuse most often given is that the scientific evidence is lacking which shows that vaping is completely harm-free.    Hutchinson makes clear that there is a distinct difference between a product having zero harm and one that is substantially less harmful than smoking.  

“So, I think the sad this is that we haven’t actually taken into account the latest evidence on vaping.  If you look at most public health websites, if you go to QuitNow.ca or HealthLinkBC.ca which is kind of the government regulated website here in this province…HealthRight.org doesn’t have any...hasn’t regulated any vapor products…there’s no short-term or long-term evidence about vapor products."
But we know that’s not true.  In fact, there’ve been a substantial number of systematic reviews showing immediate short-term health impacts – positive impacts – on people who completely switch, who completely quit combustible tobacco cigarettes, and use only vapor products.  There are like multi-system organs that have improved health outcomes."

"So, it’s a bit funny – if many other public health initiatives – if there was something so evident like this that had such a huge impact on health, usually we’d switch right away.  But with this one, we have a tendency to have a moralistic – we just assume that tobacco and vaping products are the same and cut them out.”

When asked by Mr. Stafford how this moral panic over vaping came to be, Ms. Hutchinson expresses her confusion, as well.

“I don’t understand.  I mean, this is kind of a worldwide phenomenon – except for the UK which is taking a completely different approach and is not pro-vaping but is supportive of it as a smoking cessation tool.  But maybe it’s because our friends across the border in America have a very – have taken for a long time around tobacco an abstinence approach…”

The interview goes on to discuss the many issues surrounding the legalization of vaping in Canada – past and present.  Stafford notes that many of the non-profit public health organizations are “begrudgingly” accepting the fact that vapor products are now legalized, but they refuse to allow any of their promotional campaigns to compare the health risks of vaping to those of smoking.  Ms. Hutchinson responds by calling these strange practices of these very wealthy organizations which should know better “ridiculous.”

“I know.  It’s ridiculous.  I actually don’t understand it.  And we’ve been having a big discussion about how do we deal with that.  How do we make progressive public health policy in this atmosphere that’s clouded in misinformation around vaping.”

Hutchinson further states that public health officials in many nationals around the world are simply ignoring these poorer, disadvantaged populations of people who make up the majority of smokers.  In her mind, these agencies are not listening to the average consumer and “what they need” to help them quit smoking. 

Related Article:   Public health expert says ‘Fear Profiteers’ are behind FDA push to kill vaping

(Image courtesy of Regulator Watch)

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