Dear Sen. Durbin: Research shows vaping acts as roadblock (not gateway) to smoking

On Wednesday, Senator Dick Durbin published a scathing letter to the newly appointed Acting FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless, calling a recent meeting about teen vaping both “disappointing and alarming.”  Like a growing number of politicians on Capitol Hill, Durbin often claims that teenage use of e-cigarettes acts as a gateway to their becoming future smokers of combustible cigarettes as adults.  However, the data is not on his side.

Sharpless was appointed to his post after the resignation of his predecessor, Dr. Scott Gottlieb who notoriously labeled teen vaping in America as a national “epidemic.”  According to Durbin’s letter to Sharpless, the Senate Minority Whip seems to have swallowed Gottlieb’s unproven hogswallop hook, line, and sinker.

“As a Senator and Congressman I have literally hosted hundreds of meetings in my office. Our meeting on May 14, 2019 was one of the most disappointing and alarming meetings in my time in public service. It was my hope that we would be able to sit down and have a productive conversation about what steps you, as Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), plan to take to reduce youth use of e-cigarettes. Instead, I walked away from that meeting with the belief that you have no intention of addressing this “public health epidemic”—as your predecessor declared it—during your tenure at the FDA…”
“… I write today to once again reiterate the specific actions that FDA should be taking, today, to protect children from a lifetime of addiction.”

Durbin’s grandstanding is also playing well in the mainstream media as portions of his letter are appearing in CNBC and elsewhere.  And Durbin is not alone in his anti-vaping crusade.  Politicians from both sides of the political aisle are now calling for congressional legislation that would increase the legal purchasing age of both vaping and tobacco products to be raised from 18 to 21.  Yes, if Durbin and his ill-intentioned colleagues get their way, teen vaping will become a federal crime.

Related Article:   The McConnel Bill: Making teen vaping a federal crime

The legislative proposal is even being spearheaded by the Senate Majority Leader himself, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – of which tobacco farming is the state’s major cash crop.  A second senator from another tobacco-growing state, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, is co-sponsoring the McConnell bill.

What these lawmakers fail to make clear is that the data now indicates that teen vaping experimentation (as opposed to the teen smoking experimentation of decades past) actually acts as a deterrent rather than a gateway to future tobacco addiction.

In other words, the rise in popularity of vaping in recent years is shining an even brighter national spotlight on the fact that conventional tobacco cigarettes are truly unhealth and quite possibly deadly.  And Americans are taking notice.

CDC debunks vaping gateway theory

Senator Durbin needs to look no farther than national statistics compiled and published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  A recently published CDC report indicates that while teen vaping levels were increasing rather dramatically from 2011 to 2016, they are now gradually decreasing.  Furthermore, during this same timeframe, underage smoking rates plummeted dramatically and remain at historic lows to this very day.  The CDC report also indicates that both smoking and vaping rates among college-age students are in a steep decline. 

Related Article: CDC says U.S. smoking lowest in history; so why is the FDA trying to destroy them?

The CDC data is further supported by research conducted in the United Kingdom entitled E-cigarettes: Gateway or roadblock to cigarette smoking (Science Direct).  After conducting extensive interviews with hundreds of young people ages of 16 and 25 in Great Britain and Scotland, the researchers discovered some rather unexpected findings. 

"There was very little indication amongst the young people interviewed that e-cigarettes were resulting in an increased likelihood of young people smoking…In fact the majority we interviewed, including those who were vaping, perceived smoking in very negative terms and saw vaping as being entirely different to smoking."

The reasons why politicians like Durbin, McConnel, and Kaine are so aggressively attacking vaping may have very little to do with their collective desires to “to protect children from a lifetime of addiction.” The true reason may be much more sinister.

As e-cigs gain in popularity among adult smokers trying to quit, Big Tobacco is losing billions of dollars in lost revenues.  As the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns begin to kick into high gear, politicians like Durbin, McConnel, and Kaine may be relying more heavily than most Americans realize on Big Tobacco’s millions of dollars in potential campaign contributions to get re-elected.  And what better way to get paid than to attack one of Big Tobacco’s biggest enemies – the American vaping industry.

Related Article:  Red Handed: CDC Chief resigns amid reports of Big Tobacco trading

(Image courtesy of Durbin.senate.gov)

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