Surgeon General Undermines Harm Reduction by Pushing Anti-Vaping Policies and Propaganda

In the name of fighting "the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use," Jerome Adams wants to raise prices and ban indoor vaping.


PS3 / Patricia Schlein / WENN / Newscom

Today Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that urges state and local governments to fight "the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use" by "implementing price policies" and banning indoor vaping. Those measures directly attack products that even Adams concedes "have the potential to reduce risk for current smokers" in the name of preventing underage vaping, which itself may be driving down tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

While raising the price of e-cigarettes may deter teenagers from buying these products (which they are not legally allowed to do in any case), it will have a similar effect on adult smokers interested in making a switch that could save their lives. One major advantage of e-cigarettes, in addition to a dramatic reduction in risk, is that they cost substantially less per dose than the combustible kind. A Juul pod, which sells for about $4, is roughly equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, which can cost as much as $10.45, depending on the state. The "price policies" Adams is advocating would undermine that advantage.

Another selling point of e-cigarettes is that they can be used in many settings where smoking is prohibited. Adams wants to eliminate that advantage as well, based on the dubious premise that e-cigarettes "can potentially expose" bystanders to "harmful substances" such as "heavy metals" and "volatile organic compounds." These "harmful substances," even when they can be detected in e-cigarette aerosol, are typically present at very low levels, which is one reason vaping is so much less hazardous than smoking.

A recent analysis of the aerosol generated by eight Juul pod flavors, commissioned by Juul Labs, looked for 22 potentially harmful constituents. In every case, the substance either was not detected or the level was too low to quantify. "Even breathing e-cigarette aerosol that someone else has exhaled poses potential health risks," Adams' office warns. The implication is that bystanders are endangered by minute quantities of chemicals that probably pose no measurable risk to vapers themselves. Since Adams frames bans on indoor vaping as a way to discourage underage consumption, it's clear that his real goal is not to protect bystanders from imaginary risks but to make e-cigarette use less convenient, which is bound to have an impact on adult vapers who would otherwise be smoking.

The same can be said of Adams' fearmongering about the dangers that e-cigarettes pose to vapers. As is typical of public health officials, he obscures the health advantages of e-cigarettes by erroneously describing them as "tobacco products," even though they do not contain tobacco. He links to an FDA "fact sheet" that claims the "e-cigarette use surge" led to an "uptick in overall tobacco use" by teenagers, as if vaping and smoking are interchangeable from a public health perspective.

The reality is that the "epidemic" of adolescent vaping has coincided with the lowest levels of smoking by high school seniors ever recorded in government-sponsored surveys. A recent analysis in the journal Tobacco Control, based on data from five national surveys, found that downward trends in smoking by teenagers and young adults accelerated as e-cigarette use in those groups took off. That correlation strongly suggests that young people who would otherwise be smoking are vaping instead, which represents a huge improvement in terms of health risks.

The Surgeon General's Office advises parents whose kids ask about the relative hazards of vaping and smoking to dodge the question. "Aren't e-cigarettes safer than conventional cigarettes?" a hypothetical child asks. "It's still risky," Mom or Dad is supposed to respond, while mentioning nicotine's potential impact on developing brains and noting that "some e-cigarette batteries have even exploded and hurt people." In other words, the surgeon general wants parents to obscure the enormous difference between the dangers of vaping and the dangers of smoking.

"Vaping can expose the user's lungs to harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, diacetyl, and acrolein, as well as toxic metal particles like nickel, tin, and lead," says an FDA lesson plan that Adams recommends. Again, that is highly misleading, judging from chemical analyses of the aerosol produced by the leading brand.

While these warnings are ostensibly aimed at scaring teenagers away from e-cigarettes, they have an impact on adults as well. The share of American adults who incorrectly believe that vaping is just as hazardous as smoking is already on the rise, thanks in no small part to overwrought, misleading, and sometimes flat-out inaccurate warnings from activists and public health officials. In one survey, the share of adults who incorrectly said vaping is as harmful as or more harmful than smoking tripled between 2012 and 2015, from 13 percent to 40 percent. The surgeon general's propaganda can only encourage that trend, making it less likely that smokers will switch to vaping and more likely that those who have switched will resume smoking.

This is the second advisory Adams has issued, USA Today notes. The first "urged people to carry the overdose antidote naloxone" as a way of preventing opioid-related deaths. In that case, Adams was promoting harm reduction. Now he is actively undermining it.

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  1. I heard on the radio it contains nicotine hence….well, you know the rest.

    Does it contain nicotine?

    I speed read the article so if I missed it my apologies.

    1. Yes, products such as the Juul contain nicotine. If you chose to purchase your own juice (not pre-fab), you can get different levels of nicotine, from none at all up to 15-18mg. But so what? Nicotine is obviously not “good” for you, but chemically it is slightly more dangerous than caffeine. And like it or not, everyone who eats a tomato is ingesting nicotine, just at a very low dosage.

      1. Nicotine is obviously not “good” for you, but chemically it is slightly more dangerous than caffeine.

        I believe that Nicotine, according to current research is THE best cognitive enhancer known to man.

        1. Yeah, but it’s still not very good for your circulation.

          1. So just distribute electronically.

          2. Research is still out on that, but so far it seems it’s only an issue if you already heart problems.

      2. Thanks.

        I guess they don’t care about kids drinking their fancy Starbucks drinks filled caffeine.

    2. “I heard on the radio it contains nicotine hence….well, you know the rest.”

      Cola contains caffeine, does that make it legally coffee?

    3. Not all vapes contain nicotine. Some are just for flavor. Others contain cannabinoids.

  2. I listen to a local “libertarian” who has a 3 hour program on News-Talk radio here in Atlanta. All morning, when they broke for news, this story was reported on. This particular talk show does not take call ins, but have an “open mike” where you can leave a message, and sometimes they will play that message. I left 8 messages with them this morning asking the “libertarian” why he is not refuting the news reports being played during his show. This is just one area where the government is absolutely WRONG, They are deceiving the public intentionally. I asked him to ask why the station he works for is not also reporting that teen smoking rates are at their point since 1975. Of course, that topic was ignored.

    1. It’s a process. First they tell you it’s dangerous and must be stopped. Then they tell you that to keep it within the bounds of safety and propriety, they must regulate it. Once they regulate it, they can tax it.

      1. Shorter: First you crawl, then you walk, then you run.

  3. I know the Sturgeon General is actually a Sturgeon Admiral, hence the uniform. But what has this political flunky done in the last two years to earn any medals? Perhaps he has been the secret conduit to Russia. Can anyone see the ribbons clearly enough to say what they are?

    1. Never mind, Wikipedia to the rescue!

      Public Health Service Outstanding Service Medal

      Public Health Service Regular Corps Ribbon

      Commissioned Corps Training Ribbon

      A “Training Ribbon” — isn’t that precious! Something to fiddle with while waiting for the others. Did he wear that in boot camp, or did he have to go to an “A” school first?

      1. ” Did he wear that in boot camp, or did he have to go to an “A” school first?”

        It’s a “Commissioned Corps Training Ribbon”. That means it would be from Officer Training School, not boot camp.

        1. Snark is snark is not your cup of tea, apparently.

  4. What is the Surgeon General’s opinion on menthol cigarettes.

    And yes, I am asking for a friend.

    1. Flavors in cigarettes are EVIL.

      1. But menthol is tricky because while on the one hand it’s racist to ban menthol cigarettes, on the other hand it is racist not to ban menthol cigarettes.

  5. So, do Surgeons General actually think they are the commanding General of all the surgeons or something? What’s with the uniform?

    Come to think of it, why does the job even exist?

    1. Come to think of it, why does the job even exist?

      They need someone to wear the uniform

    2. OK, I read the Wikipedia stuff linked above. “Public Health Service Commissioned Corps ” What the hell?

      1. I think it has something to do with the Panama Canal and yellow fever and so on. It used to have some real dangers associated with it. See Walter Reed.

  6. The fact that this administration, supposedly on the side of less regulation, has been coming down so hard against vaping is disturbing. What will be much worse is when there is a Democrat congress and POTUS, then we can really say goodbye to just about any vaping device and liquid, and they will at least tax whatever they don’t ban up the wazoo.

    1. Trump’s public health nominees have been pretty awful.

    2. Maybe Roger Stone can get to Trump. In 2016 he argued that protection of vapers would be a vote-winner and after the election he said that results proved he was right.

  7. Today Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that urges state and local governments to fight “the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use” by “implementing price policies” and banning indoor vaping.

    What?! Not by teaching masturbation?!

    1. That might be more effective.

      Though I’m not sure why anyone ever thought that people had to be taught to masturbate.

    2. They most certainly don’t want you to vape Viagra: https://tinyurl.com/ybrcb5n2

  8. Would the critics’ heads explode if they saw a vaping mixture of cannabinoids & nicotine being used? By someone medicinally? By a child under a doctor’s prescription?

  9. Here goes another multi-Billion dollar smear campaign based on nothing but propaganda. The Cointelpro model is becoming the standard instead of being a crime.

    Experiment shows how easily sheeple are lead around by propaganda. (check out wikis on passing bans)

    1964 – Gov start funding and passing FCC regulation requiring media to stigmatize smoking.
    1964 – Gov started anti-smoking campaign at $54 Million
    2010 – Gov spent $518 Million on anti-smoking campaign

    Gov spending on anti-smoking campaign $2.754 Billion to $26 Billion

    Very few “studies” not funded by this campaign can demonstrate a link to lung-cancer.
    No studies can demonstrate any health effects of secondhand smoke. (Common – smoke? give me a break!)
    Nicotine an effective treatment for ulcerative colitis.
    Nicotine an effective treatment for Alzheimer and Parkinson disease.
    Nicotine an effective treatment for ADHD.
    Nicotine stimulates cognitive functions (as mentioned before).
    Nicotine increases blood flow in diabetes patients.
    Nicotine one of the greatest stress reducers known to man.

    The oldest human to ever live at 122-years was a smoker.
    Today; only 10-15% of smokers get lung cancer. Another 55% are chalked up to “have ever had a cigarette” leaving about 20% of lung-cancers with no excuse.

    Hitler / Nazis ran their own propaganda driven anti-smoking campaign.

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