Is This a Cautious Endorsement by The American Cancer Society?

The vaping news over the last week has stayed true to form with extreme polarity and agenda pushing. Flavors versus no flavors, the rights of adults to vape versus the take up of tobacco products by teens. The same headlines continue to rage on, BUT…

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has made an announcement that is both cautious and welcome.

They stated in a recent press release that, “These individuals should be encouraged to switch to the least harmful form of tobacco product possible; switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing to smoke combustible products.  Of course, these individuals should be regularly advised to completely quit using all tobacco products.  The ACS strongly discourages the concurrent (or “dual”) use of e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes, a behaviour that is far more detrimental to a person’s health compared to the substantial health benefit of quitting smoking.”

The ACS clearly states that if a person wishes to move away from tobacco and they choose to use e-cigarettes as the means, then this should be encouraged.

This is big news.

This is yet another gradual endorsement that e-cigarettes have a role to play in helping people move away from tobacco.

Slowly, very slowly, we are getting there.

However, we need to return to one of the raging debates. It is becoming clear that an agenda is emerging regarding teens and vaping. The American Cancer Society is totally on message with the FDA regarding this, in that the agenda is no teens vaping.

This sounds very worthy on face value, but it is a lofty goal. Yet, we must ask ourselves, how realistic is it, and what will be the consequences of chasing it?

We have written quite a few posts over the years about teen vaping, and we point out that if you look at quality research, there is no evidence that teen vaping leads to smoking. Despite this, this belief remains the clarion call of tobacco control.

There is evidence that teens are vaping, and in decent numbers, but this is occurring at the same time that smoking rates are plummeting.

It is time for an open and honest debate on this issue.

It is time that parents spoke up, vapers spoke up, and an open debate was had so that everyone can benefit from e-cigarettes. The last thing any of us want is unintended consequences, and sadly this could be where we are heading.

Flavors and teens are the issue.

According to the latest tweet from Tobacco Free Kids –  flavors are the number one reason teenagers vape. This is however not the case as it is the second highest quoted reason with 39% being parents and friends, and 31% being flavors.

Carl Philips, a scientists and vaping advocate with close ties to CASAA, has pointed out that there are many cofounding factors that lead to teen vaping. Even Scott Gottleib in his tweets mention some of these very factors – e.g. friends and family vaping. There is generally never ‘just one reason’.

(As a note aside – why is this nation now being manged via twitter??)

Confounding factors must be considered. This cannot be stressed highly enough. To pick only one possible cause of teen vaping is simplistic. Using the ‘one issue’ leads to regulation by soundbites, which generally means poor regulation and unintended consequences.

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Teens are vaping. Is this a contentious issue?

And if so, why?

Stop and think about this for a minute, because this issue is leading vaping down a path it probably doesn’t want to go down.

If vaping is less harmful than smoking, which more and more scientists are agreeing that it is, including the ACS, then there is the argument that it should be encouraged over smoking.

For all smokers.

Which leads us to ask, how much does it matter about the age of the smoker who decides to vape? What is causing the underlying fear in admitting that a vaping teenager might be taking a sensible route out of smoking? Or even avoiding smoking altogether?

One of the reasons that teen vaping has hit the headlines in a big way is due to ‘Juuling’, the latest e-cigarette craze.

Juuling is vaping, only using a device that looks like a USB stick. It was designed allegedly by two graduates from Stanford, so it is “perfect” for the student. It is a discreet and easy to stealth vape. It comes with pods of 5% nicotine, different flavors, and has been marketed as one pod being the equivalent to 20 tobacco cigarettes.

It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 years of age. So, who is the Juul really aimed at? Is it as some are saying, tobacco companies deliberately targeting teens?

Not according to the website however. According to the website, this is not a tobacco company.

Take the USB design, is it aimed at the student, or is it simply a design concept, for those that don’t want a mod, or a pen style, and want something discreet?

Just because teens have taken a hold of it, should adults be punished?

What of the mounting evidence that e-cigarettes have a high tobacco quit rate when compared to other methods?

Should this be ignored for teens?

With e-cigarettes we have the tobacco harm reduction theory in play – A less harmful product that is used to transition successfully away from a harmful product.

Should this harm reduction tool be made so hard for teens to take advantage of that it stops adults from using it as well?

Because the FDA could decide to use flavors to get us there.

Which then begs the question – why is the FDA so focussed on stopping teens from vaping if the evidence is that teens that seriously vape are already smokers?

The evidence shows that teens try vaping, but not many become serious vapers. Plus, what if those that do, what if they would have become serious smokers, yet this was avoided because they now vape?

These are uncomfortable questions, but they need asking.

Which then leads to further questions of how important are you, as an adult vaper? Are you less important than the teen that tries vaping once or twice and becomes a statistic to be played with? Because if your flavors go, will you still vape?

We need to get out of the knee jerk paradigm and into the realm of sense. We need get into real life, away from the CDC and FDA ivory towers, where kids are kids and life is not a clear-cut theory.

The reality is that we have been unable to stop people from smoking for decades. We have been unable to stop people partaking in all manner of things – look at the current opioid crisis – both in legal and illegal drugs.

Humans do stuff.

Teenagers are designed to push boundaries and rebel, and this is a very healthy part of being a teenager. They find out who they are, how strong they are by pushing back against adults. No one is suggesting that teens should harm themselves in the process, but if adult activities are there to be tried, there will be some teens that try them.

This cannot be ignored.

Tying up vaping so no teens can access or want to access will mean adults won’t want it either. To have such a narrow focus on teen vaping is myopic. How can the FDA regulate what is an adult product, but only do so with teens in mind?

Where vaping is flourishing, the adult population is moving away from smoking in droves. Teens smoking rates are falling as well. We do not want teens smoking or vaping, we feel the entire picture needs looking at. This is not a simple issue that can be fixed by banning stuff. Neither can it be an issue that is solved by headlines and fear. By holding a conversation, people become educated. Parents become educated, teens become educated. Solutions are found that work. Work for the teens and for the adults.

Here in the USA, we have the FDA fiddling about with reducing nicotine in cigarettes, which will still mean combustion, which will still mean harm. Teens will try those reduced nicotine cigarettes, because well, the FDA is reducing the nicotine, so they must be safer?


But they will not be reducing the combustion. It is the combustion that is the harmful part.

Where is the logic in thinking about banning flavors in a product that is less harmful, but not banning the combustion of a product that is harmful?

Back to realism and more tough questions:

  • What would you think of your teen vaping instead of smoking?
  • Would you be more relaxed with them vaping if you knew the chances of them moving to smoking were less?
  • Do you trust your teen to make sensible life choices in some areas?
  • Have you had a conversation with your teen about vaping?
  • How much responsibility are you, as an adult vaper wiling to take?
  • Should USB type, or certain e cigarette designs be banned?

These questions need to be explored and examined, because we are not being honest if we keep sweeping the issue under the carpet for fear of ‘upsetting others’, of not being ‘on message’, of not being pc, and not really getting the debate away from the FDA and back with us, the vapers and the parents and the teens.

Using ‘teens’ uses emotions, and emotions are used to control reactions and to push agendas.

There is no sensible reason for removing flavors from vaping. Yet, if you start saying that they entice teens…. even without the hard evidence to prove it – then you are using emotion, not facts. We have all become brain washed by the media into believing opinion not facts, into reading the ‘spinning’ and believing that one or two headlines without substance is the truth, this becomes enough to start the agenda ball rolling.

Well, via Twitter, the Tobacco Free Kids have started that ball rolling.

Facts have been removed to make way for opinion, and rather like the ‘you can’t offend me’ stance so common today to stifle any debate, using emotion instead of facts means it is harder to argue against, and in fact logic and reason fall on deaf ears, because the emotions are engaged.

So how about we let the emotions out, have that raging debate, and include the facts? How about we discuss all facets of teen vaping, discuss vaping in real life terms, the pros, and the cons. Include the vaping teens, give them a voice, because from what I have seen recently, the teens we have here are not by any means stupid, and can clearly see the wood from the trees.

While it appears that we are making progress in one area, with the American Cancer Society, we still have a way to go with the FDA and the teens.


What do you think? Leave your comments below!