This Anti-Vaping Congressman Insists 'There's Simply No Evidence' That E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit

Although Raja Krishnamoorthi says "adults can do what they want," he is determined not to let them.


In my syndicated column last week, I noted that politicians who favor new taxes and restrictions on nicotine vaping products tend to ignore the lifesaving potential of this harm-reducing alternative to conventional cigarettes. One of those politicians, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D–Ill.), responded with a letter to the Chicago Sun-Times that proves my point. Krishnamoorthi exaggerates the threat posed by underage vaping, conflates vaping with tobacco use, and insists "there's simply no evidence" that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.

Krishnamoorthi, who last year spuriously urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban e-cigarettes as a COVID-19 hazard, thinks "vapes are a huge health threat to millions of America's young people." To back up that claim, he cites data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), which show that vaping by high school students fell by 29 percent in 2020 after rising substantially the two previous years. Ignoring that drop, Krishnamoorthi instead emphasizes that "20% of high schoolers [are] currently using this highly addictive product," meaning they reported vaping in the previous month. That figure is down from about 28 percent in 2019.

Krishnamoorthi also does not mention that cigarette smoking by teenagers, a far more dangerous habit, has been falling since the late 1990s, reaching record lows in recent years. In the 2020 NYTS, 4.6 percent of high school students reported smoking cigarettes in the previous month, down from 5.8 percent in 2019 and 15.1 percent in 2011—a 70 percent drop. In the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, that rate fell from 27.5 percent in 1991 to 6 percent in 2019—a 78 percent drop. According to the Monitoring the Future Study, which covers a longer period, the prevalence of past-month cigarette smoking among high school seniors fell from 36.5 percent in 1997 to 7.1 percent in 2020—a drop of more than 80 percent.

This downward trend accelerated as vaping became more popular among teenagers, which suggests that e-cigarettes are replacing combustible tobacco products in this age group. That is unambiguously good news from a "public health" perspective, since e-cigarettes are a much less hazardous source of nicotine—another point that Krishnamoorthi conspicuously ignores in his statements about vaping.

Most high school students who vape (61 percent in 2020) are occasional users. An analysis of NYTS data from 2017 through 2019 found that frequent use (on 20 or more of the previous 30 days) was concentrated among current or former smokers, which is consistent with the hypothesis that teenagers increasingly are vaping rather than smoking. "Frequent use and signs of e-cigarette dependence remained rare in students who had only ever used e-cigarettes and never any other tobacco product," the researchers reported.

"Vaping likely addicts some young people to nicotine," David J.K. Balfour and 14 other leading tobacco researchers say in an American Journal of Public Health article published last month. "However, the evidence does not suggest it is addicting very large numbers."

And contrary to the fears frequently voiced by critics of vaping products, there is little evidence that vaping products are encouraging smoking among teenagers who otherwise never would have tried nicotine. "With high-school students' smoking declining at an increasing rate since youths began using e-cigarettes, some may vape to reduce or quit smoking," Balfour et al. note. "If vaping causes some young people to try cigarettes, the aggregate impact must be small. A recent study estimated that if vaping increases nonsmoking youths' odds of trying cigarettes by 3.5…smoking initiation among young adults would increase less than 1 percentage point. Furthermore, US survey data demonstrate that smoking among young people has declined at its fastest rate ever during vaping's ascendancy. If vaping increases smoking initiation, other unknown factors more than compensate."

Krishnamoorthi glosses over these considerations by misleadingly equating vaping with "tobacco use." In September 15 press release, he says federal excise taxes on vaping products "can reduce tobacco use in America and prevent a generation of kids from getting hooked on smoking and vaping." Yet e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and do not burn anything—crucial differences that explain why Public Health England estimated that switching from smoking to vaping reduces health risks by at least 95 percent.

"Laboratory tests of e-cigarette ingredients, in vitro toxicological tests, and short-term human studies suggest that e-cigarettes are likely to be far less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes," the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported in 2018. The British Royal College of Physicians likewise concluded that "vaping isn't completely risk-free but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco." A 2017 study in the journal Tobacco Control estimated that, depending on how many smokers make the switch, the availability of vaping products could prevent as many as 6.6 million premature deaths in the United States alone.

Krishnamoorthi avers that "there's simply no evidence that vapes help [smokers] to quit." Yet as Balfour et al. note, "a growing body of evidence indicates that vaping can foster smoking cessation, although the evidence is not definitive."

A 2020 meta-analysis of 26 randomized controlled trials concluded "there is moderate-certainty evidence that [e-cigarettes] with nicotine increase quit rates compared to [e-cigarettes] without nicotine and compared to nicotine replacement therapy." The results of population studies, Balfour et al. say, "are consistent with a near doubling of quit attempt success, found in the randomized controlled trials, and the fact that e-cigarettes are smokers' most used aid in quit attempts." They also note that declines in U.S. cigarette sales accelerated sharply as sales of vaping products took off, which reinforces the impression that more vaping means less smoking.

While denying that any of this evidence exists, Krishnamoorthi says he thinks "adults can do what they want." But that is not true either.

Krishnamoorthi supports federal excise taxes that would double or triple the cost of nicotine liquids, discouraging smokers from quitting and driving vapers back to a far deadlier habit. He wants to ban the e-liquid flavors that former smokers overwhelmingly prefer, which likewise would make these products less appealing as an alternative to conventional cigarettes. And he wants to mandate reductions in e-liquid nicotine content, which would have a similar effect, while authorizing the FDA to order further reductions.

Krishnamoorthi says the FDA should have the power to make nicotine concentrations so low that they are "minimally addictive or non-addictive," which would make vaping products an unsatisfactory substitute for cigarettes, effectively nullifying this potentially lifesaving option. Even the FDA, despite its foot dragging on approval of the products it calls "electronic nicotine delivery systems" (ENDS), recognizes that they promise to reduce smoking-related disease and death. Krishnamoorthi's attitude, by contrast, is crystallized in the name he chose for his nicotine reduction bill: the END ENDS Act.

Krishnamoorthi says FDA regulation is aimed at making sure that vaping products "have a net positive public health benefit," because "the unregulated, untaxed marketplace now requires no such proof." Krishnamoorthi's admission that e-cigarettes could "have a net positive public health benefit" is rather puzzling given his position that there is no reason to think they help smokers quit. And it's a mystery how imposing new taxes on e-cigarettes provides information about the relative hazards of vaping and smoking—unless it's misinformation, since Krishnamoorthi says he wants to treat both types of products the same.

In any case, tobacco cigarettes remain on the market despite their well-established hazards. Krishnamoorthi, who wants to "END ENDS," seems to have concluded that it is better for public health to eliminate competing nicotine products that dramatically reduce the dangers that smokers face. He reaches that implausible conclusion by pretending that the millions of Americans who have chosen vaping as a risk-reducing alternative to smoking don't exist.

NEXT: Stealthily Wielding Caesar's Sword

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  1. “ Krishnamoorthi, who last year spuriously urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban e-cigarettes as a COVID-19 hazard, thinks “vapes are a huge health threat to millions of America’s young people.””

    That’s impossible, only Republicans want to control my body.

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    2. Pro-Life really belongs in the Democrats Authoritarian Circle … but too many religious Republicans can’t seem to *resist* their elite-moral purity cleansing of the world by Gov-Gun-Forced instincts instead of actually obeying their religion and letting God himself judge others personal lifes.

      Especially when the Democrats have already established the authoritarian Gov-Gun Nazi-Regime.

      That day; Gov-Gods became more important than Individual Liberty.
      Sell your souls to the [WE] foundation; because you don’t own YOU, [WE] own you!

      1. i.e. Pro-Life has but only ONE glaring defect; using the Gov-Gun-Forces.
        Which is also what wrong with EVERYTHING the Democrats do.

      2. “[WE] own you!”

        What’s up with the random [ ]’s?

        1. Ensuring that people who read it understand that “we” is a pronoun as a substitute for a noun/entity… The [WE] foundation … That abstractly defined yet most highly regarded institution of the DNC platform. As was every curs-id governing ideology from Communism to Nazism (def; National Socialism). The USA wasn’t founded on the concept of the [WE] foundation; It was founded on the concept of Individual Liberty and Justice for *all* as in every Individual.

  2. Krishnamoorthi should go smoke a 12 gauge.

    Fucking nanny statist cunts.

    1. Indeed he should. His entire party, plus the RINOs should follow his lead.

  3. Never confuse a (D) with silly things like facts.
    And never, ever, mention the words “individual freedom”.

    1. Are you intentionally summoning sarc?

      1. No, to summon him you have to say his name three times while looking in a mirror.

        1. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice . . .

        2. If you do, keep a 12 gauge ready.

        3. We really have no power over when he shows up. It’s based on his level of intoxication, and how much time he’s spending on his family/legal issues.

  4. His own figures belie his claims. If use dropped from 28% to 20% in one year, it can’t be very addictive.

    1. That’s because the difference went back to cigarettes, not quit.

  5. Put your mask on, get in line for your booster shot and shut the fuck up.

    1. Fuck Joe Biden

      1. Make Tony do it.

    2. What does The Science™
      say? I’m only interested in what The Science™ says.

  6. Progressives are only concerned about appearances; if something looks like smoking, it must be smoking. Split reins look a little like whips. Facts don’t matter if visuals can be made to do.

    1. Don’t forget hugging a constituent is slapping.

      1. And don’t even get me started on “military-style assault weapons”

        1. I only buy freestyle assault weapons.

    2. A progressive is someone who’s worried that someone, somewhere, somehow, might be having a good time.

      California is infested with progressive public disservice ads, nagging us about vaping, nagging us about tobacco use, nagging us to save the planet (usually it’s kids, frowning and blaming us, rather than being thankful they were born at the best time to be alive in human history), nagging us to use less electricty between 4 and 9 PM “when renewable energy is less available” (even though the wind kicks up here around 4 PM every day.)

      1. Maybe there shouldn’t be progressives anymore.

  7. When you elect Democrats, you get shit like this.

    1. When you elect Democrats politicians , you get shit like this.

      This one just happens to have a “D” by his name. There’s plenty of this sort of “don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up” on both sides of the aisle.

      (I’m not sticking up for this yutz, he should be bounced out of office based on this issue alone.)

      1. It never fails. As soon as it’s a Democrat caught being a Nazi someone starts yelling “b0tH siDEs”.

        1. Fucking infantile TDS-addled pieces of shit can’t help themselves.
          Hey, GT, go fuck your self with a rusty garden spade.

        2. Brandyshit has been screaming the same ever since we got what he deserved, attempting to justify his arrested-development, TDS-driven politics.
          Yep, there are plenty of reprehensible Rs, but the simplistic thinking that ‘they’re all the same’ is analogous to the adolescent in ability to recognize the good if it is not the perfect.
          Want perfection? Go sit in a sealed room where your all at (cap-L) Libertarians.
          And fuck off and die.

      2. “(I’m not sticking up for this yutz, he should be bounced out of office based on this issue alone.)”

        No, you’re just making a public ass of yourself, proving a lack of an ability to make intelligent distinctions.

  8. There’s simply no evidence that Congress helps average Americans; we should therefore outlaw Congress.

    1. ^90% True today and growing by the year.
      How easily history was forgotten that the Union was established solely for national defense.

      1. “and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”

        So you need to include international relations other than war; a state department for treaties, and some sort of monetary system for commerce.
        So State department, Treasury, and military.
        Wait! could this be a way to reduce federal spending?

  9. second to last paragraph is what this is all about. Unregulated, untaxed. These shitty congresscritters only care about the grift. Vape companies didn’t slide enough cash under the table.

    1. Pretty sure it was in “Winners, Losers & Microsoft” covering the Internet Explorer anti-trust trial; prior to the trial, MS had practically zero presence in DC.
      That changed pretty promptly; not tossing some backsheesh that way? Well, ‘nice little company you have there’.

  10. I’ll leave this here and repost tomorrow morning linx:
    “Appeals court strikes down sweeping order to house L.A.’s skid row homeless”
    “A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who issued the homelessness order in the spring, failed to follow basic legal requirements.
    The panel said most of those who sued the city and county of L.A. had no legal right, or standing, to bring the case. Carter deployed “novel” legal theories that no one had argued, and ruled on claims that no one had alleged and on evidence that was not before him, the 9th Circuit said…”

    First, this is the 9th, kicking an even-further-left judge in the butt, and secondly. pointing out he pulled the ruling out of his ass rather than any law book.

    1. Hmm, wonder how that pull-it-out-of-my ass guy got there?
      “Carter was nominated by President Bill Clinton on June 25, 1998 to fill a seat vacated by William J. Rea. Carter was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 21, 1998, and received his commission the following day.[4] He now sits in the Southern Division of the Central District of California in Santa Ana, California.[5]”

      Yep, one more pathetic left-over from Slick Willy & Co.

      1. The judge is free to house these folks at his place. Am assuming that has not occurred; they might spook the au pair.

        1. In the Bay Area, only the brain-dead Oaktown mayor was stupid enough to propose such a solution to this issue: that Oakland residents welcome bums into their homes!
          When asked how many she intended to house, in a lack of self-awareness approaching the piece of shit Breed’s whining about the ‘fun police’, Schaaf claimed that her family really didn’t have enough spare room!
          Yes you do, asshole: Move into the RV and let the bums shit on your bed!

  11. Who the fuck cares what this guy or anybody else thinks? The customer is the one who decides if the product works or not.

    1. because he has some authority to make what he thinks law.

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  15. What a fucking idiot. The evidence is the millions and millions of people who actually no longer smoke because they were able to vape.

  16. Krishnamoorthi needs a tent-pole issue to build his career around and it sure as hell isn’t going to be fiscal restraint, immigration, abortion, executive overreach, or any other of the big issues that hundreds of other politicians are attempting to build their careers around, there’s too much competition for attention in those arenas. Pick a lesser issue that appears to be an up-and-comer and push that one, jump on it early so that when it explodes you’re the guy that gets the credit for having the foresight to see the problem first. Like buying Apple stock when it was going for $15 a share, you gotta pick your issues and your positions carefully.

  17. The donkey party likes to bray a lot about following the science and protecting “the children”, but have secretly been protecting big tobacco all along, starting with FDA regulation and now this pants shitting over vaping. They may ban vapes but will never ban Marlboro reds. The good news is that it is pretty easy to make bathtub vape juice and they will never ban vaporizers because you can use them for THC (do they want the Portland rioters to turn on them?)

    1. Ots not about protecting big tobacco, its about protecting the revenue from big tobacco.

  18. Sullum ignores the most egregious lies about the NYTS data on teen vaping by CDC and FDA.

    From 2016 to 2019, the CDC (and FDA) falsely claimed the NYTS found the number/percent of high school students who reported using an e-cigarette (in the past 30 days) had more than doubled, and repeatedly cited those increases to justify FDA’s regulation of e-cigarettes as tobacco products.

    But from 2016-2019, the CDC’s NYTS also asked the high school students if they vaped THC/cannabis/marijuana (in addition to inquiring about nicotine vaping), and found that the number of teens reporting vaping THC had quadrupled, and accounted for more than half of all students who reported vaping in the past 30 days.

    But the CDC and FDA deceitfully categorized/labeled all students who reported vaping THC as “tobacco users” (in order to generate public support for FDA’s regulation that recently banned the sale of all nicotine vapor products sold in the US).

    After several of us presented these facts to the FDA, CDC and the news media (I presented this data at several FDA public hearings on the subject), the CDC responded by eliminating the question about THC vaping from the 2019 NYTS (but still classified all teens who vaped THC as “tobacco users”) in order to continue exaggerating the number/rate of high school students who vaped nicotine.

    Since THC vaping (and THC vapor sales) is now as prevalent as nicotine vaping, nobody should be surprised that THC vaping by teens has also sharply increased in the past five years.

    Besides, just as vaping nicotine is far less harmful than smoking cigarettes (by about 99%), vaping THC is less harmful than smoking cannabis.

    The reason why teen vaping declined in 2020 was due to EVALI, a lung illness that was caused by one or several brands of illegal THC vapor products, but which the CDC also falsely claimed was caused by nicotine vapor products.

    Since CDC and FDA have lied about vaping for more than a decade (which has primarily protected the world’s largest cigarette companies), nobody should trust anything the CDC or FDA (or Fauci) have said about covid during the past 18 months.

  19. Who cares if it doesn’t help smokers quit anyhow? Should be just as legal as cigarettes to use. Who cares man?

  20. Assuming the news-media information I’ve consumed over many years is still accurate, our version of the FDA, Health Canada, allowed novelty-flavored vaping products to be fully marketed — even on corner stores’ candy counters — without independent, conclusive scientific proof that the product (as claimed by its tobacco-industry creator) would not seriously harm consumers but rather help nicotine addicts wean themselves off of the more carcinogenic cigarette means of nicotine deliverance. Yet, they (i.e. Health Canada) had sat on its own research results that indicated seatbelts would save lives and reduce injury; it said it wanted even more proof of safety through seatbelts before ordering big bus manufacturers to install them in every bus (presumably because of additional cost to bus makers). It applied a double standard, in both cases favoring big business interests.

    1. You posted this exact same thing before, Frank. Please be more original.

  21. OH NO, how long have I got before I relapse back into smoking? For 46 years I smoked cigarettes and carried an 800 lb. tobacco tax ‘gorilla’ on my back. About seven and one-half years ago I switched to vaping to get rid of that big old ‘gorilla’. Things seemed to be going well. Since switching I have not had a single cigarette but have not missed smoking at all. I thought I had switched permanently but now many “experts” are telling me there is “no evidence” I will be able to continue vaping. They say that, sooner or later, the addiction to tobacco smoke must return. So how long have I got before the government’s pet ‘gorilla’ climbs back on?

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