Congratulate the New York Times, vapers. After years of looking away while the FDA and CDC demonized vaping, the paper suddenly seems to have grown a sense of curiosity about the propaganda.
Or at least reporter Sabrina Tavernise has. Her front page story highlights the effort by harm reduction proponents to make e-cigarettes widely available to adults who can’t or won’t stop smoking. But it goes farther than that, and questions the tobacco control-driven American public health abstinence philosophy, comparing the U.S. approach to what is happening in the U.K.
In April, Tavernise wrote a good article about the British Royal College of Physicians’ e-cigarette report. In that story, she asked for a reaction from Stanton Glantz, the California professor who is the dean of American anti-nicotine zealots. Perhaps his dismissive attitude triggered the reporter to look at vaping differently.
Or maybe an editor just thought it was a good story. Who knows? The bottom line is that the timing is right, because it could be helpful during the drive to get the Cole-Bishop amendment included in the year-end omnibus spending bill that Congress must pass.
Who cares what the Times thinks? A lot of people
The New York Times carries a lot of weight, particularly with those on the left. The story seems careful to quote experts who are likely to also be acceptable to those who may have dismissed e-cigs out of hand before. People like David Abrams of the Truth Initiative, Kenneth Warner of the University of Michigan, Daniel Wikler of Harvard, and David Sweanor of the University of Ottawa won’t be confused with wild-eyed right-wingers or legalize-everything libertarians.
“We may well have missed, or are missing, the greatest opportunity in a century,” Abrams told the Times. “The unintended consequence is more lives are going to be lost.” Abrams earlier this year published a study that used computer modeling to forecast a potentially huge health benefit from large-scale adoption of vaping.
“When [vapor products] are regulated just like tobacco, people draw the conclusion that they are just as dangerous,” said Wikler. “You didn’t say it, but you didn’t have to. People make that assumption and you don’t try to disabuse them of it.”
Committed anti-vaping CDC director Thomas Frieden weighed in with the condescending assertion that “the plural of anecdote is not data,” ignoring the actual data showing that in 2015 over four million Americans said vaping had helped them quit smoking during the past five years. That’s four million anecdotes, Dr. Frieden.
The messages of relative risk and harm reduction won’t sound new to advocates active in the fight to save vapor products from the FDA’s deeming assault. But they might ring a bell for some Democrats in Congress who have been reluctant to embrace vaping.
It’s probably a good time for vapers to write their representative again, and include chunks of the Tavernise article in their letters. Remember, when you use the August8th.org site, you can modify the suggested language to include whatever you like. Alerting your elected officials to a change of public attitude signalled by a front-page New York Times article could make a big difference when they consider how to vote on the Cole-Bishop language.