The Rutland Herald recently reported on the efforts of our local lawmakers to remove all flavored tobacco products in the state of Vermont. I’m writing to support them, and to offer my perspective as a pulmonary and critical care physician.
Here is the truth: Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease across the country. The current conversation about flavored tobacco should be an easy one, given that flavored tobacco products have been used for years to attract and initiate children and teens to tobacco use. Any effort to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic must include mint and menthol flavored products to be effective – and yes, that includes menthol cigarettes.
The oft repeated argument that vaping tobacco is safer than smoking it, or is an effective tool to quit smoking, is unfounded and not based in any long-term scientific study. It will take many years of following long-term users of vaping products to know this answer, but there is no logic to assuming that igniting chemicals and inhaling them is “safe” or safer than igniting and inhaling traditional, combustible tobacco. Our lungs are meant to inhale clean, healthy air – and with the exception of approved, prescribed medications – that is all that is healthy for them.
As a doctor who treats lung cancer patients daily, I take the issue of tobacco use to heart. Simply, e-cigarettes are not approved cessation devices, and it is premature for anyone to suggest otherwise, until there is scientific research to back it.
If we can’t agree on everything, we must at least agree that nicotine addiction is unhealthy. Then, the most important thing we can do is protect the next generation from beginning this dangerous addiction with comprehensive, evidence-backed policies.
David A. Kaminsky, MD
Professor of Medicine