April 1 is April Fools’ Day and it also marks the 26th annual Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action hosted by the nanny-state organization Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK). The prohibitionist nonprofit uses the day as a “signature platform for empowering people to stand up and speak out against the tobacco industry.” Having its event on April Fools’ Day is only appropriate considering the foolish science it’s peddling to prevent people from using tobacco harm reduction products.
Regrettably, in its mission to take down tobacco, CTFK is harming adult smokers who rely on tobacco harm reduction products. Indeed, in the picture on official Take Down Tobacco Day are teenagers holding signs with wording such as “1 pod = 1 pack” and “Fight Flavored Tobacco.” Further in the article, CTFK blames the tobacco industry for “[peddling] a wide range of addictive and dangerous products,” including e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and heat-not-burn products.
Despite the misinformation CTFK continuously spouts, Big Tobacco did not create vapor products to lure children. In fact, vaping technology is a consumer-driven technological revolution that was the answer to the cigarette problem. The very first e-cigarettes were introduced to the U.S market in 2007 and in 2009, and “neither Reynolds nor Altria Group Inc.’s Philip Morris USA” were marketing e-cigarettes. The e-cigarette industry would continue to grow without any Big Tobacco companies’ influence and “between 2009 and 2012, retail sales of e-cigarettes expanded to all major markets in the United States.”
It would also be in 2012 that the first Big Tobacco company would begin selling e-cigarettes, when Lorillard purchased Blu eCigs for $135 million. The other “Big Tobacco” companies waited longer, and in 2014, Reynolds American and Altria introduced their own e-cigarettes to the market, almost a decade after e-cigarettes were first presented to U.S. customers.
In any other consumer sector, companies switching to less-harmful products would be lauded, but CTFK couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge the reduced harm of e-cigarettes. In a recently published rebuttal to a scathing editorial questioning the organization’s integrity and relationship with billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the organization falsely claims that “no e-cigarette company has even tried to prove to the FDA that is products are effective at helping smokers quit.” This is a dangerous lie because in the premarket tobacco product applications, which every e-cigarette manufacturer had to complete, companies were required to demonstrate that their products were used by adults, preferably smokers, and that their products were not going to increase youth tobacco and cigarette use.
And guess what? E-cigarettes have effectively snuffed out youth combustible cigarette use. In 1999, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one year after the states settled with tobacco companies, 70.4% of high school students reported ever trying a combustible cigarette and 36.4% cited smoking the 30 days prior to the survey. In 2019, 24.1% of high school students reported ever trying a cigarette and only 6% reported smoking in the month prior. In 20 years, current combustible cigarette use among high school students decreased by 82.8%.
There is also strong correlation that the introduction of e-cigarettes has led to such low youth cigarette use rates. For example, between 1999 and 2009, among high school students, current combustible cigarette use declined by 44%, averaging a 10.4% decline annually. Between 2009 and 2019, or the 10 years after e-cigarettes market emergence, current cigarette use among high school students declined by 69.2%, with average annual declines of 20.4%.
It should be worthy to note that in 2019, only 50.1% of high school students had ever tried vapor products, and 32.7% current use. These are lower rates of use than in 1999 when 70.4% of students reported ever-use of combustible cigarettes and 34.8% reported current use. Lawmakers didn’t ban cigarettes then, there is no reason to ban a reduced harm alternatives now.
Moreover, in the aforementioned rebuttal piece, CTFK misleadingly claims that e-cigarettes are not effective at helping smokers quit. There are numerous studies that indicate the exact opposite and real-world evidence that CTFK claims to be just “anecdotal.” In the United Kingdom, a country that actively promotes the use of vapor products as an alternative to smoking, more than 4.4 million ex-smokers have tried e-cigarettes, and an estimated 2.2 million have quit smoking through the use of vapor products. In 2016 in the United States, it was estimated that nearly 3.3 million American adults had quit smoking by using vapor products. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to track current use because the CDC has only asked about adult e-cigarette use in national surveys in 2016 and 2017.
It is utterly disgusting that policymakers still give credit to an organization that actively promotes only prohibitionist “solutions” to address youth vaping and spouts falsities and flat out lies about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as an alternative to vaping. While CTFK may be one of the many recipients of Bloomberg’s billions, the United States spends $40 billion per year in Medicaid costs due to smoking-related health issues. E-cigarettes could help reduce those costs and states can’t afford not to listen to the real science on tobacco harm reduction products.
Lindsey Stroud is a policy analyst with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.