The Leaflet: Vaping Less Harmful than Smoking

Published September 29, 2017

E-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) continue to prove beneficial as tobacco harm reduction products. Recently, Health Scotland issued a statement in which the agency pointed to conclusions made by more than 20 organizations about the benefits of using ENDS, especially for those struggling to break their addiction to traditional combustible cigarettes. “There is now agreement based on the current evidence that vaping e-cigarettes is definitely less harmful than smoking tobacco. … Thus, it would be a good thing if smokers used them instead of tobacco,” stated Health Scotland.

Other U.K. health organizations have reached similar conclusions on the safety of vaping products. Earlier in 2017, researchers at University College London reported e-cigarette use has been one of the primary factors in helping the United Kingdom attain higher smoking-cessation rates. It also determined e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to traditional smoking.

In 2015, Public Health England, a national health education agency, found evidence showing e-cigarette use is correlated with reduced rates of smoking and smoking-related diseases, does not lead to nicotine poisoning, and is 95 percent safer than smoking.

In Vaping, E-Cigarettes, and Public Policy Toward Alternatives to Smoking, Heartland Senior Fellow Dr. Brad Rodu describes the many U.S. policies that unfairly target ENDS. In many states, Rodu writes, high “sin taxes” are levied on vaping products, just as they are on gambling, smoking, and alcohol, with the goal being to discourage consumption of these “vices.” For example, in 2016, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a 40 percent wholesale tax on all vaping products sold in state, which resulted in the closing of more than 100 businesses and the loss of several hundred jobs.

Other burdensome and punitive policies include indoor and outdoor bans on the use of vaping products, which do not emit the “secondhand” toxins and smoke that cigarettes do, and Food and Drug Administration mandates requiring ENDS manufactures to submit lengthy and costly pre-market tobacco applications.

Heartland Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud wrote in a new Research & Commentary, “In 2010, 8.7 percent of U.S. health care spending, about $170 billion per year, was attributable to tobacco cigarettes. ENDS could help offset health care costs, an argument J. Scott Moody, chief executive officer and chief economist at State Budget Solutions, made in a 2015 Policy Analysis.”

Medicaid is one of the largest expenditures in states’ budgets. Conventional cigarette smokers constitute a higher percentage of Medicaid enrollees (51 percent) than of the general public (21 percent). Moody estimated a switch from cigarettes to ENDS could have resulted in a savings of up to $48 billion in fiscal year 2012.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing as many as 480,000 premature deaths every year. If policymakers wish to lower health care costs and government spending, they should be pushing for policies consistent with the latest research, which shows clearly ENDS are a less harmful alternative to combustible cigarettes.

Stroud concludes, “Rather than demonize ENDS, state officials should welcome their use and refrain from imposing unnecessary regulations on them and from treating them as though they are similar to combustible cigarettes.”


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