Dr. Sally Satel is a respected psychiatrist who writes about the intersection of medicine and society
Concerns over the effect of vaping on teens have been going on as long as vaping has been around. Some worry that accepting e-cigarettes for their smoking cessation and harm reduction benefits will only lead more teens to think that vaping is harmless. So while the evidence is still majorly lacking, many legislators are contented with equating vaping and smoking, sweeping any potential benefits under the rug.
Dr. Sally Satel thinks that this could ultimately have deadly consequences for many smokers. According to a recent Op-Ed she wrote, Dr. Satel believes that while wanting to keep students safe is a noble cause, rushing to ban vaping will significantly reduce the number of smokers who are able to switch from smoking successfully. She explained her stance last month in an article called Why The Panic Over JUUL And Teen Vaping May Have Deadly Results on Forbes.com
Hasty FDA Decision May Put Smokers at Risk
Dr. Satel says she feels a lot of the recent coverage and panic over teen vaping is related to a lawsuit against the FDA’s decision to delay their deeming rule. This lawsuit claims that delaying the FDA’s ruling on vaping, from 2018 to 2022, is unlawful. Satel disagrees, saying that postponing this ruling on the safety of the products in question is good, not only for vapers, but for the FDA, and especially for smokers.
Smokers who switch to vaping have been proven to have lower risks of pneumonia and high blood pressure, as well as improved lung function and cardiovascular health. These new delivery methods for nicotine, which Dr. Satel would like noted, do not cause cancer and are helping this population greatly. The population of smokers turned vapers is growing every day; as vape and e-cig sales grow, especially Juul Labs, the sales of cigarettes and the number of adult smokers have both fallen to record-breaking lows. Even from December 2016 to September 2017 the rate of adult smokers went from 15.8% to 14.1%. To be clear that’s a 1.7% drop in less than a year, a trend that appears to be continuing.
The Effect on Teens
Another historic low is the rate of teens smoking. This statistic tends to get glossed over in the panicked news stories and hysterical articles. The National Youth Survey found that only 0.3% of teens who have never smoked do vape. The data suggests that if any “Gateway Effect” leading vaping teens to start smoking exists, it’s incredibly mild.
There are certainly matters that need to be addressed right now, like how underage students are getting access to these products? But should we let the panic about one potential outcome kill liveliness of another? Using teens as a scapegoat for why regulation should be rushed only lets this frenzy overcome the scientific process. Doing so could very well be detrimental to those people already struggling to quit smoking. After all, the research looking into any “Gateway Effect” has been clear. In 2016, a study looking into the perception of vaping and smoking among vaping teens found that only a very small percentage of them felt that they were more likely to start smoking after starting to vape. What’s more, a large-scale study of over 60,000 students between the ages 11-16 found that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of those who had never smoked, currently vaped on a regular basis. That’s just the rate of non-smoking teens who picked up vaping, the number of those who might eventually turn to smoking is much smaller than even the 0.1% figure.
It’s more important now than ever that the reputation of vaping in the general public improves. For a long time vaping was niche enough to fly under the radar, but with companies like Juul Labs exploding onto the market, legislators are taking notice. Their insistence on equating the dangers of vaping and smoking is little more than a way to avoid doing their own job. Vaping and smoking are empirically different, so it should be on elected officials to figure out how to properly regulate them. Instead, most just choose to throw vaping under the “tobacco product” label. The direct result of such policies by legislators is a pathetic public perception of the benefits of vaping.
A poll by Action on Smoking and Health found that only around 13% of respondents felt that vaping was much safer than smoking, while a full 26% said that the believed vaping was just as, if not more dangerous. With that being the case, it’s no wonder why so many smokers decide never even to attempt a switch to vaping. After all, if it’s basically the same amount of harm, why switch from something you already know and enjoy? If politicians were truly worried about the health and well-being of all citizens, they would do their job and regulate vaping based on its own studies.
Do you agree with Dr. Satel, if not why? Do you think it’s important that vaping and smoking are treated differently by legislators? How can we help improve the pathetic public perception of the benefits of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.