Some vapers have gotten very excited this week about the American Cancer Society’s “new position” on vaping. Many are billing it as a major step forward in acceptance of e-cigarettes by a mainstream public health organization.
But is it really a major shift?
“Some smokers, despite firm clinician advice, will not attempt to quit smoking cigarettes and will not use FDA approved cessation mediations,” says the position statement. “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.”
That’s fine, of course. The ACS is aware that many smokers can’t or won’t try to quit smoking using “FDA-approved” cessation methods like nicotine gum and patches or Chantix. And they admit that switching to e-cigarettes is better than continuing to smoke. That’s all well and good, right?
But the ACS isn’t changing its policy recommendations. The most influential tobacco control lobbying organization will carry on opposing any legislation or regulation that encourages the vibrant independent vaping market we have now. The ACS chief executive officer, Gary Reedy, isn’t a valued member of the board at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for nothing.
“The ACS encourages the FDA to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to the full extent of its authority, and to determine the absolute and relative harms of each product,” the statement says. That’s a demand to enforce all parts of the Deeming Rule — including premarket tobacco application (PMTA) requirements
And they want e-liquid flavors to go away too. “Furthermore, the FDA should use its authorities to reduce the toxicity, addictiveness and appeal of tobacco products currently on the market,” says the ACS statement. Reducing the appeal isn’t a metaphor; they want vapes to be as boring, sterile, and unattractive as a nicotine patch. Flavors just don’t fit the ACS game plan to medicalize vaping.
The American Cancer Society and its lobbying arm the Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) form the most powerful anti-tobacco and -nicotine advocacy force in the country. The ACS sends representatives to just about every public hearing, meeting, and open discussion about vaping in every state, county, and city. ACSCAN reps are the boots on the ground for tobacco control — and those reps are not telling the city councils and state legislatures how great vaping is.
“E-cigarette manufacturers may claim the ingredients are just ‘water vapor’ or ‘safe,’ but there is no sure way for e-cigarette users to know exactly what they are consuming,” says the ACSCAN website right now. “Nor is there any way of knowing what nonusers are exposed to and the extent of their health risk.”
The vaping advocates who see the ACS in action every day aren’t holding their breath that this statement signals a meaningful change by the ACS. “Current generation #vapor products are stuck in 2016 & if @AmericanCancer keeps trotting out this stale message, consumers will be left with 1st gen products from 2007,” tweeted CASAA CEO Alex Clark.
Stefan Didak of Not Blowing Smoke wrote an excellent summary of what the new statement really means to vapers. “Unless in the coming weeks and in upcoming flavor ban hearings ACS suddenly changes its position in support of these terrible ordinances we would have to call the change in position weak and disingenuous,” he said. “Similarly, we do not believe ACS will stop funding and engaging in efforts to curb the sale, use, and availability of electronic cigarettes.”
The bottom line? If the ACS says it will continue to urge the FDA to “regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to the full extent of its authority,” take the ACS at its word. The ACS is not a friend to anyone who wants adults to have access to a wide variety of high-quality vaping products.