California Declares E-Cigarettes a 'Community Health Threat'

The state's Department of Public Health sees no upside to a product that can save smokers' lives.



This week the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) declared electronic cigarettes "a community health threat" in a report that crosses the line between hyperbolic scaremongering and outright lying. The report includes the same lame claims that people who hate vaping for subrational reasons tend to offer when they try to justify their gut reactions to products that offend them mainly because they look too much like the real thing. There is the purported epidemic of poisonings involving children whose parents fail to keep e-cigarette fluid out of reach, the absurd insistence that candy or fruit flavors must be aimed at children because they could not possibly appeal to adults, the worry that vaping will encourage teenagers to smoke by making it seem cool again or by getting them hooked on nicotine (even though smoking among teenagers has reached record lows as experimentation with e-cigarettes has risen dramatically), and the warning that e-cigarette vapor, despite very low levels of just a few problematic substances, may pose a threat to bystanders because no one has conclusively proven that it doesn't. Generally speaking, these claims amount to unsubstantiated speculation or an alarmist spin on actual facts. But at least one crucial statement in the report is simply false: "There is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers successfully quit traditional cigarettes."

It would be fair to say there is not a lot of scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are effective in helping smokers quit (although the testimony of former smokers surely should count for something). But there is some evidence. For instance, a randomized trial reported in The Lancet two years ago found that the six-month quit rate for e-cigarette users was 7.3 percent, compared to 5.8 percent for subjects who used nicotine patches. A survey reported last year in the journal Addiction, by comparison, found that people who try to quit smoking with the aid of electronic cigarettes are twice as likely to succeed as people who use nicotine replacement products such as gum or patches.

The differences between the results of these two studies probably have a lot to do with self-selection in the latter, which can be viewed as methodological problem but also more accurately reflects what happens in the real world. If e-cigarettes are especially effective for certain types of smokers, a randomized study would not show that. It also seems likely that randomized trials involving newer models of e-cigarettes and vaporizers, which deliver nicotine more effectively, would show higher quit rates (although even the Lancet study found e-cigarettes were more effective than nicotine patches). In any case, when CDPH Director Ron Chapman says there is no evidence that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, he is just making shit up.

The reason that's important, of course, is that vaping, because it does not involve tobacco or combustion, is much less hazardous than smoking. So if e-cigarettes help even a small share of smokers quit, the benefits in terms of reduced tobacco-related disease and death could be huge. Chapman is desperate not to acknowledge that potential, because it implies that what he identifies as a public health threat could in fact be a public health boon. Given the ongoing debate among anti-smoking activists and public health specialists about the benefits of e-cigarettes, his completely one-sided approach is dishonest and reckless. His message to smokers, supposedly grounded in science, is that there is no point to trying e-cigarettes, since they won't help you quit and are nearly as bad as conventional cigarettes anyway. This is the sort of bad advice that puts lives at risk.

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  1. The real threat to publick health is lack of alt text.

  2. E-cigs are even better than the real thing:


  3. Has the CA Leg figured out how to save us from the ill effects of the Santa Anas yet?


    1. Are you talking valley fever there son?

  4. Legislators are a much more grave community health threat.

    1. ‘No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.’
      -Mark Twain

      1. It was a simpler time, now none of those are safe even when they aren’t.

        1. Sadly, this. In Twain’s time the bureacracy wasn’t nearly as large and didn’t have near the level of “rule making” authority that they have now.

  5. Why this big deal about helping people quit?

    I quit smoking, then started vaping last year. I like nicotine; I just don’t like what tobacco does to my body.

    1. I had a professor in college who had never smoked, but habitually used nicotine gum. Nicotine is a pretty nice, mild mental stimulant sort of like caffeine. Though I think it still has some negative cardiovascular effects. But it doesn’t make your lungs hurt.

      I should probably try vaping again. I really should quit smoking. I think the technology has improved since I last tried it. I think I’m more attached to actual smoking than to the nicotine addiction.

  6. Is bubblegum-flavored nicotine gum a similar health threat? After all, if it’s bubblegum-flavored, it must have been done so to appeal to kids, right?

    1. I’m vaping apple pie flavored liquid at this very moment.

      1. Clearly you’re a child, since only children would find such flavors appealing.

  7. As soon as they find a way to extract the correct amount of taxes and apply the necessary warning labels, this will all go away. The goal was never to stop people from smoking, but to get a lot of evil tobacco money to fund pet projects. If any of this was actually effective, it might hurt the revenue stream and they don’t want that.

  8. They can’t say “Hey, we want to tax that shit because we want more of your money!”

    So instead they declare it to be a health threat, then they can tax it while claiming they’re doing people a favor.

  9. I’ve long held that anti-tobacco activists really hate tobacco users and want to save them in the spirit of Spanish conquistadores saving native central americans.

    1. I think I have heard some actually say that they would rather smokers all die than have a safer cigarette or a satisfying alternative that doesn’t involve smoking. It would be worth it to rid the world of nicotine, so they say.

    2. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  10. Ladies and gentlemen, your precautionary principle in action.

    Because e-cigs are not perfectly safe, because they have some risk, however minuscule, they must be banned.

    if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.

    So here we have a product that, although not perfectly safe, is a much safer substitute for another product currently on the market. To a PPer, though, once you get to “not perfectly safe”, you’re done. Ban it.

    1. This is old news and I bring it up a lot when e-cigs get mentioned, but it is just so perfect.


      Council member Linda Krug told MPR’s The Daily Circuit that e-cigarettes have made it more complicated to enforce the statewide smoking ban.

      “From a distance, I would argue you can’t tell the difference. So how can you go to this one person and say ‘oh, that’s tobacco, you’re out of here’ and ‘oh wait, that’s not, that’s an e-cigarette so you can stay?'” she asked. “Once you start picking and choosing what’s allowed, that’s a slippery slope you go down.”

      1. “Once you start picking and choosing what’s allowed, that’s a slippery slope you go down.”

        What’s ALLOWED!!??!!!


      2. Once you start picking and choosing what’s allowed, that’s a slippery slope you go down.

        She’s just this close to getting it.

      3. It’s pretty easy to tell if someone is smoking or vaping. Vapor disappears quickly. Smoke doesn’t. She’s just making shit up.

        1. The people who earnestly tell you vaping should be banned because you can’t tell it from smoking, will just as earnestly tell you they choke on secondhand smoke if someone on the other side of a football stadium lights a cigarette.

      4. So require that e-cigs glow a non-red color, or not have a white shaft, or be distinctly bigger, or all three.

        1. Magazine capacity limits?

          “Cop killer” bullets?

          Talk about slippery slopes.

  11. I read on a Forbes article that E-cig users are actually organizing and fighting back at the political level.

    In Canada we have a lot of black market cigarettes because of indian reserves, bless them. Is it possible to create a similar black market for the e-cig liquid? How hard is it to make that stuff?

    1. Not especially, though there are difficulties with extracting and working with high concentrations of nicotine. The stuff is a poison in high doses, after all.

      Of course, like just about every other black market, the end product will be of far lower quality and purity, but it’s only smokers’ health at stake, so who cares?

    2. This is flavorless e-liquid. Really heavy vapers use 10 ml or se per day. IOW, if you don’t care about complicated flavors (apple pie ITT) this stuff is dirt cheap.

  12. Another awesome thing about e-cigs is that they don’t stink. I can vape (on the sly of course) all day long at work without having to brave the elements.

  13. To be sure, California’s government is a greater threat to the health, wealth, and well-being of people than most anything else we face in the United States. It’s a wonder we haven’t drone processed Sacramento.

  14. Harm reduction is perfectly righteous and valid when it comes to sex and intravenous drug use, but tobacco users are, like, icky and stuff. Quit or die, fuckers.


    1. Harm reduction is perfectly righteous and valid when it comes to sex and intravenous drug use,

      Obviously you’re unfamiliar with the folks who want to prohibit young people from learning about birth control and STD prevention, and the folks who oppose making naloxone available and distributing clean needles.

  15. My father passed away from a smoking related cancer when he was 54. He started smoking when he was 12 and could never kick the habit. There is little doubt in my mind that if vaping would have existed 30 years ago my dad could have had the opportunity to live a better and longer life. I can’t wait to leave this sorry retarded clusterfuck of a State.

    1. I have an uncle who died of smoking related cancer at 62. Same goes for him. He’d probably still be alive today if vaping had been around 30 years ago.

      /sarcasm on: But who gives a shit about filthy tar-lungs anyway? Besides, if they had lived they’d be collecting Social Security now, so it’s all for the Greater Good anyway. /sarcasm off

  16. Vaping should be regulated as public douchbaggery. Which we don’t regulate.

    Damn mall I go to for the food court now has a vaping shop, and half the frickin’ building now smells like a perfume warehouse exploded.

    1. Still no where near as offensive as stores that sell scented candles and potpourri and such, I’d guess.
      Most of the vapors I have encountered barely smell at all.

  17. a report that crosses the line between hyperbolic scaremongering and outright lying.

    otherwise known as the typical govt report released on days ending in Y.

  18. There should probably be more safety standards around e-cigs. The e-liquid bottles — which contain enough nicotine to seriously overdose on and possibly die from — are about as secure as a knock-off Visine bottle.

    That said, the industry is probably more than capable of coming up with these standards on their own…

    1. There should probably be more safety standards around e-cigs.

      You left out “voluntary”.

    2. Somehow I’ve managed to have a couple bottles of the stuff in my fridge for a few years without killing myself.

  19. It is known in the state of California…

  20. His message to smokers, supposedly grounded in science, is that there is no point to trying e-cigarettes, since they won’t help you quit and are nearly as bad as conventional cigarettes anyway. This is the sort of bad advice that puts lives at risk.

    You’re assuming that the state actually gives two shits about smokers quitting. Actually, it’s in the state’s interest that smokers continue using cigarettes so that they can collect the taxes on them.

  21. It’s not like we don’t already KNOW about everything used in e-liquids. All of the ingredients are considered harmless and have been for decades by the most nanny of nanny-state agencies, the FDA.

    The e-liquids use ingredients — glycerol and propylene glycol — that have been around for decades in our foods and are nearly impossible to overdose on. If either is actually found to be dangerous in the rather low volumes we currently consume them in, that would rock multiple industries that currently rely on them (which, of course, isn’t an impossibility).

    1. The new supposed danger is that if you heat the propylene glycol beyond what any vaper does so that it burns and tastes like shit, it can create formaldehyde (I think, could be some other common carcinogen).

  22. Another example of social liberals promoting freedom of choice.

  23. Please accept my anecdotal evidence. Haven’t smoked in 3 months now due to switching to a vaporizer. It’s lovely. 🙂

  24. Greg Gutfeld on todays The Five spelled out how flawed the study was. As a 3rd generation Californian I can attest that our government is totally dependent on cigarette tax money. They’re opposed to e-cigs while at the same time pushing the legalization of marijuana. Adding to this nonsense, they’ve passed a no cage laying he policy that has raised the price of a dozen eggs from $2.99 to $5+

    1. raised the price of a dozen eggs from $2.99 to $5+

      Totally justified. After all, a dozen eggs looks like twelve (12) incandescent light bulbs, which need to be banned and replaced with the squiggly bulbs that have mercury in them.

      See? I could run Calyfornia!

    2. Somewhat off topic, but you piqued my curiosity. What is a 3rd Generation Californian? A third generation American has at least one native born parent, but at least one foreign-born grandparent. That is, the immigrant generation is counted as “first generation,” their native born children as “second generation,” and their grandkids as “third generation.” By that measure, I am “third generation” immigrant to California (as my Mom and I were both born here). My son is “fourth generation.” This is confusing for me, as I always thought that the generation count started with the first generation to be born in the area in question. Under THAT measure, my Mom would have been “first generation Californian,” I would be “second generation,” and my son would be “third generation.” How do you count, and why?

  25. It is a matter of time that it all gets regulated. I hope I can still buy e-juice at a decent price. Well if they regulate or tax it too much there will just be a black market for it in my opinion.

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