Tobacco

Snus and E-Cigarettes Are Indisputably Safer Than Smoking, Contrary to What The New York Times Wants You to Think

The paper worries about "harms and risks" that are "potentially dangerous."

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The New York Times has a long history of producing inane editorials that read like they were written by a sleepy committee of high school students. Its usual approach is to regurgitate information from a recent news story about some perceived problem, then endorse a half-baked statist solution that restricts individual freedom in the name of public safety. Yesterday the paper ran a fine example of the genre, headlined "The Perils of Smokeless Tobacco." Here is how it starts:

The makers of smokeless tobacco products like to claim that their products are safer than cigarettes because users don't inhale the tars and toxic chemicals from burning tobacco. Of course, they play down other harms and risks, which are also potentially dangerous. For federal regulators, protecting public health will require looking beyond the smoke to other hazards.

When the Times says "the makers of smokeless tobacco products like to claim that their products are safer than cigarettes," it implies that the statement is not true. But the statement is true: Inhaling combustion products is definitely more dangerous than not inhaling them, which is why the disease rates among consumers of smokeless tobacco—especially snus, Swedish-style oral snuff—are dramatically lower than disease rates among cigarette smokers. Despite its skeptical stance, the Times offers no evidence to contradict that point. The fact that using smokeless tobacco products may entail "harms and risks"—even "potentially dangerous" harms and risks (as opposed to the safe kind?)—does not negate the point that snus is much less hazardous than cigarettes.

The Times nevertheless urges the Food and Drug Administration to reject a labeling change requested by snus manufacturer Swedish Match, which would like to inform consumers that although "no tobacco product is safe," snus "presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes." The issue is not whether that statement is true—it clearly is—but whether consumers can handle the truth. The Times worries that "snus might lead some nonsmokers to take up the nicotine habit, and progress on to cigarette smoking, when abstention would be the safest approach." So the paper's position is that the government should censor truthful, potentially lifesaving information because it's not sure what people will do with it.

Snus currently carries rotating government warnings, including one saying "this product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes," which is not very helpful to smokers contemplating a switch. The Times likewise insists on conclusive evidence of complete safety, saying "some studies have linked snus with pancreatic cancer, fatalities from heart attacks and strokes, diabetes and bad pregnancy outcomes." But while there remains some controversy over exactly how dangerous snus is, it is indisputably far less dangerous than cigarettes, which is the relevant point for someone choosing between the two products.

The Times displays the same inability to comprehend the difference between safer and safe in its discussion of electronic cigarettes, which it misleadingly shoehorns into an editorial about "smokeless tobacco products." That's misleading not because e-cigarettes are not smokeless but because they are not tobacco products. As with snus, the Times brushes aside the product's huge health advantages:

Even without burning tobacco, e-cigarettes carry real health risks. Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain and cause lasting cognitive damage. It is also possible that once addicted to nicotine, young people will progress to smoking traditional cigarettes.

The Times cites two alleged health risks, both of which are speculative at best. "It is unlikely that the sporadic exposure to the low levels of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes is sufficient to cause serious brain damage," notes Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel on his tobacco policy blog. "There is absolutely no evidence to support this contention." As for progression to conventional cigarettes, it was never a very plausible concern, and it plainly is not happening in any significant way, since vaping and smoking rates among teenagers are moving in opposite directions.

Even if we concede these two unsubstantiated risks, they pale compared to the well-established hazards of cigarette smoking. Yet the Times describes "the growing market for electronic cigarettes" as "a big problem" that the FDA needs to solve by banning flavors and restricting advertising. It worries that flavors "appeal to youngsters," completely ignoring the fact that they also appeal to adults, who overwhelmingly prefer fluids that taste like things other than tobacco (which is itself an added flavor, since, contrary to what the Times seems to think, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco). As usual, the Times insists on protecting children by treating adults like kids.

NEXT: How Do You Smuggle a Whole Library of Banned Books? In Your Pants!

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  1. While I understand why the FDA gets down on e-cigs/snus–basically because of a combination of expressing their power plus retarded animism–I just don’t get it from the likes of the NYT. I’m sure the NYT editorialists are plenty animist, but the degree to which they unquestioningly regurgitate the most inane shit that runs directly counter to what they say they care about speaks differently. I think major media is so used to sucking up to whoever is in any position of power that they literally cannot conceive of countering bullshit like this. It’s not even possible for them any more.

    1. It’s almost like they care more about their Puritan Boners than actually helping people be healither.

    2. It’s like peacock tails and turkey feathers — it’s how the NYT signals to the leaders that they are the same loveable water carriers they have always been. It also lets the faithful followers know how such signalling works.

      Sort of like Warty jokes here. I am not yet fully conversant in them, so try to avoid stepping in with Warty references.

    3. Mostly, FDA gets down on them because Congress makes them?not directly, & w some administrative re-interpret’n they could get around it, but yeah.

    4. The Times is going to have some trouble maneuvering between positions on pot & vape, or pot & snus.

  2. Save for a cigarillo which made me almost throw up, I haven’t touched tobacco in a month now that I’ve switched to vaping. Apparently, they’d rather I stop being able to breathe or go bonkers from trying to stop all at once. Lovely people.

    1. I’ve dropped from a pack a day to one or none. I run an e-Leaf 30W iStick with an Aspire Nautilus. What’s your set-up?

      1. I went to 0 smokes a day about 45 days ago. Still running ego/ijoy basic batteries with an aspire BDC tank. Works pretty damn well and for the first time I can honestly say it is better than smoking.

        Looking for an upgrade to a variable wattage deal and experiment with different tanks.

        1. e-leaf iSticks are awesome batteries. Zero complaints. But watch out for the Nautilus tanks, they have a QC problem with their coils that cause some of them to leak. Mine is fine, but my husband’s is a nightmare. Kangers are good tanks, but I think they are ugly as sin.

          1. I have a couple of these.

            For 5-ish dollars they have been a great upgrade from the basic plastic clearomizers I was using. No leaking. The plastic ones did leak and didn’t handle pressure and temperature changes well at all. I realized that a critical mass of batteries and tanks with ample redundancy is essential to making sure I don’t ever get desperate enough to buy another pack of smokes. So far, great!

      2. I use the ‘Vuse’ brand ecigs. I’ve gone about 6 months without a cigarette now. My life has been enhanced and lengthened (presumably). I can finally go to sleep at night without a smoke which has always been my hardest trigger time for a craving.

      3. I run a 440 super commando with a 4 speed.

        1. +MOPAR

      4. I’ve got a Kanger EVOD2 and a couple of Blus with a recharger – nothing fancy.

      5. eGo-T batteries with whatever vaporizers that fit.

      6. When I wore out my ego battery a couple months ago I figured a general upgrade was necessary so I got a Genesis style rebuildable tank with a big adjustable battery that lasts for days.

        Takes a little bit of finessing and break in to get the stainless mesh wick right, but after that its pretty much keep it clean and replace the coil every now and then.

        Of course if you don’t like to tinker with things nothing wrong with clearomizers.

      7. I run an e-Leaf 30W iStick with an Aspire Nautilus.

        Wow, this might as well be Greek to me. I’ve tried ‘Blus’ a couple times, ‘nJoy’ once – nothing that requires tinkering, thanks.

    2. I had no idea there was this much modding in e-cigs. I might start vaping just for the opportunity to mod something.

      1. I was waiting for someone to say they use an arduino.

        1. OMG, my wife is going to hate you Raston. I had no idea arduino was a thing. I mean rednecks usually mod things out of necessity, you have show me the way to mod things for no earthly reason.

          1. Have you been introduced to the Raspberry Pi?

            It can be everything from a weather station, handheld gaming device, or the brains of a robotic bartender.

            1. I’ll check it out

      2. Graduated from Kanger EVOD VV to SMOK Magneto II Mech-Mod w/ SMOK Gimlet Giant tank. It’s kind of a fun hobby …

        For Central Floridians, there is a great vape shop in Oviedo, Mountain Oak Vapors, ironically where Harry’s Cigar and Brew used to be …

      3. If you want to go straight to the heart of vapor geekdom, walk into a vape shop and say you’re interested in sub-ohming.

  3. The Times worries that “snus might lead some nonsmokers to take up the nicotine habit, and progress on to cigarette smoking, when abstention would be the safest approach.” So the paper’s position is that the government should censor truthful, potentially lifesaving information because it’s not sure what people will do with it.

    Is the Times also a supporter of abstinence-only sex education programs for young people, which are predicated on extremely similar logic?

    1. Of course not.

      Ideology, censorship and bad science have no place in public health policy.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12……html?_r=0

    2. The Times would be vs. sex ed if some independent businesses stood to make $ on it.

  4. For federal regulators, protecting public health will require looking beyond the smoke to other hazards.

    Protecting their power, actually.

  5. The Times worries that “snus might lead some nonsmokers to take up the nicotine habit, and progress on to cigarette smoking, when abstention would be the safest approach.”

    So it’s almost as though vapes and snus are some kind of “gateway” to harder forms of tobacco? I can’t believe no one’s argued that before. . .

    1. Yeah, PS, Times – know how most of us ended up smoking. STEALING CIGS FROM OUR RELATIVES. We went straight to the tobacco. Which is a “gateway” to trying to QUIT – using snus or vaping.

      Dumbasses literally couldn’t have it more backward.

  6. Yeah, I’d much rather have that 2 1/2 pack of Marlboros a day habit than try something ICKY like snus or e-cigs that might actually make me QUIT! Ewww!

    I used Chantix. Whatever it takes, it’s worth it in my book.

    Fuck these idiots.

    1. Is Chantix a shampoo? I had you pegged for a Pert guy.

      1. No, no – I’m far too cheap. “Red Roof Inn” or “Comfort Inn” are my shampoos of choice.

        1. Come on. Be honest.

          It’s Super 8, right?

          1. *kicks at ground*

            It’s true…

        2. OK if there’s one nearby you can swipe off the service carts from. Otherwise, can’t beat a cake of soap.

          Mmmm, cake….

  7. ‘Potential’, ‘Suggest’ and ‘unlikely but’ are code words/phrases for ‘more control’ under the precautionary principle.

    People eat that shit up because ‘arrrrggghhhh’!

    1. I’ve notice many people I work with have a high level of fear. They are scared of everything. I don’t get it.

      1. The rustling in the next bush could be a lion.

        1. It’s a good thing I have this lion-repelling rock in my office. Never had a lion show up in my office. Not once.

        2. I know it is evolutionary, but Jesus, we live in one of the safest places and in one of the safest periods of time. If we lived in Central America in the 60’s I could see being afraid all the time.

          1. Exactly, I lived in Northern Ireland in the 70’s and the US is utterly tame and safe.

  8. At least there’s some anti-propaganda propaganda.

    I like these guys. Their longer video is great. It tells the story of how the states spent all the money from big tobacco lawsuits and need to recoup it in tobacco taxes. With tobacco purchases on the decline they need a new source for their filthy lucre. And a new scapegoat.

  9. It was the Times’ insistence on tobacco-related hate that first turned me against them. It’s good to see some things never change.

  10. Most of these newspapers are similar to those magazines you find in the grocery store. Full of emotional rants and void of critical thinking, reason, and facts.

    Throw in the desire to control others through the violent state, and calling anyone that opposes being enslaved all kinds of names to include racist, bifot, hateful, heartless and so on. Along with the statist nonsense they attempt to support their case with buzzwords like free market, while defining it as something it is clearly not.

  11. Not long ago, I saw an editorial (most likely NYT) which breathlessly trumpeted the shocking revelation that “some people” use both* cigarettes and e-cigs on a regular basis, thereby demonstrating the failure of e-cigs to modify smoking behavior everywhere and in all cases. Proof that e-cigs are bad, or useless, or something, and desperately in need of banning.

    *Who would have guessed some people would use e-cigs where regular cigarettes are verboten, and smoke ’em at home?

  12. Snus currently carries rotating government warnings, including one saying “this product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes,” which is not very helpful to smokers contemplating a switch. […] But while there remains some controversy over exactly how dangerous snus is, it is indisputably far less dangerous than cigarettes, which is the relevant point for someone choosing between the two products.

    So… the government warning is factually incorrect?

    1. Well… I wouldn’t say it’s factually incorrect: smokeless tobacco probably isn’t 100% “safe” (is anything?). But the warning is being used to imply much more than it says.

      It’s kind of a “motte and bailey” gimmick: write something which seems to be making a very strong claim, and behave as if that’s what you mean. When someone this out as bullshit, you just fall back to the literal interpretation of the words, and defend those instead.

      1. Uh, “when someone CALLS this out as bullshit”, of course.

    2. So… the government warning is factually incorrect?

      I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

  13. Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain

    I am sick to death of this “developing adolescent brain” nonsense.

    1. This.
      It’s like the universal excuse for banning minors from ingesting things.
      Alcohol – developing adolescent brain!
      Marijuana – Developing adolescent brain!
      Nicotine – Developing Adolescent Brain!!

  14. Its usual approach is to regurgitate information from a recent news story about some perceived problem, then endorse a half-baked statist solution that restricts individual freedom in the name of public safety.

    That should be easy to parody…

    1. Here’s an idea…

      An article on how women are underrepresented in majors like engineering and men are underrepresented in majors like psychology then calling for a program to equalize representation in different majors that would result in ~50-50 distribution of men and women in college by only allowing one male per female (and vice-versa) in all major and the praising the inevitable small class sizes.

      Or an article about how men and blacks are overrepresented as criminal defendants and calling for affirmative action in investigations to consider more women and whites to be investigated for crimes and then calling for a tax on underrepresented groups amongst criminals and victims to encourage them to commit more crimes or make themselves more vulnerable to crime.

    2. That should be easy to parody…

      Not if you expect the parody to outweird the original.

  15. This is what comes from using irrational mechanisms like the fetishizing of cigarettes as disgusting, to turn people off smoking. You get people translating that “eww, cigrettes, gross” indoctrination they have received over to things that superficially resemble smoking, but just *aren’t*.

    In case you don’t believe me consider the extent to which counter-programming against cigs already leads people to treat smokers as social inferiors – there the whole standing 50 ft away from the building, and how dare you smoke anywhere where might catch a whiff of it from several blocks away.

    1. There was a woman at work claiming teenagers can but e-cigs and middles schoolers are using e-cigs. I told her teenagers can buy tobacco too (18-19) and e-cigs are safer than traditional for kids. She had no idea, but that didn’t quell her outrage.

    2. I don’t exactly agree with your assessment. To some people, like me, the smell of cigarettes is honestly disgusting. I wasn’t “programmed”. But just because I think that doesn’t mean I’m automatically against e-cigarettes (or smoking bans for that matter). In fact, I love e-cigs because they don’t smell as bad.

      1. I feel the same way about patchouli.

  16. An e-cigarette that tasted like raw, rather than burnt, tobacco would be great.

    Because that stuff smells wonderful, the way raw coffee does (not the same, but the same *sort of thing*).

    (I like coffee both ways, but it does smell better than it tastes, whereas I can’t stand smoking a cigarette, no matter how good one smells when it’s not lit.

    Pipes and cigars are much better, but still not nearly as good as the non-burning stuff.)

    1. An e-cigarette that tasted like raw, rather than burnt, tobacco would be great.

      I’ve never been one for taste with smoking, but this was the impression I got when I tried vaping.

      Cigars, pipes, and cigarettes always gave me the sensation of “inhaling burning shit that would kill me” which is was distinctly absent from e-cigs. E-cigs was like inhaling thick, cloudy and weak perfume. Almost like a mini censer for your face.

    2. I think there’s a rule 34 for e-juice. If you can imagine a flavor, somebody somewhere has made it. And if they haven’t, there’s nothing stopping you from making your own.

      1. I keep hoping the Henley Vaporium would stock flavors like broiled meat w mushrooms, gazpacho, etc. rather than only stuff that tastes like dessert.

        1. Make your own. Get some unflavored e-juice and add your own flavorings. The caveat with flavorings is that they must be food grade and don’t degrade at high temperatures. Broiled meat with mushrooms isn’t even a stretch.

        2. I have a friend who works in his father’s vape shop. The dessert flavors are the big sellers, but there is a very small niche that prefers savory umami flavors to the sweet fruity. He likes inventing new flavors, but his father discontinues the ones that don’t sell over a certain amount. You’d probably like this stuff my friend invented named Hawks Juice, it tastes like fine leather smells, if that makes sense.

  17. The New York Times is pretty selective on the science that it cites… they will drone on and on about global warming studies, but outright ignore other studies that support a position on a topic they don’t like.

    Obviously they are more political than actual scientists looking for the truth – which makes it harder to believe anything they say on other scientific based topics.

    I also have had a really good time at quitting cigarettes with ecig. I have a basic Kanger Ego. They are really nice to have around when you are going to be near other smokers – even if you use the juice with zero nicotine.

  18. While it’s unlikely that e-cigs are 100% safe, it really shouldn’t be that controversial of a position that they’re safer than normal cigs. At the very least I think it’s very likely that my uncle, who died of lung and pancreatic cancer at age 62, would be much more likely to still be alive today if he’d vaped instead of smoking a couple of packs a day for virtually his entire adult life. Fuck you NY Times.

  19. I love my current vaper. I had/have no intention of ever giving up my nicotine. It provides too many benefits for me. So I jumped on the alternative nicotine delivery systems pretty early on. Snus was awesome until the gov added all these new restrictions on it which made it harder and more expensive to get than cigs, so back to cigs. I used the very first of the e-cigs, but they sucked: short battery life, not much vapor, going through a zillion prefilled cartridges and pricey to boot. Once the manufacturers got away from the idea that we vapers wanted it to look like a cigarette –I certainly don’t; it confuses and frightens the anti-tobacco animists–they were able to correct all the things I didn’t like about the first gen e-cigs.

  20. I read the article on the NYT site, then thought I’d check the comments to see people smacking them down for their pseudo-science and nanny-statism. OMFG! The people that read that rag are unbelievable! They are so much worse than the Times itself I had to close the browser window and delete my history just in case I caught something through my fingertips. I had no idea!

  21. The Times should just snus the fuck up, and leave folks free to dip, chew, or light up.

    Oh wait, but they want you to pay for the healthcare of someone that is 400 lbs, and would never demand their eating vice be restricted with laws and eventually state violence for non compliance.

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