Tobacco Center Faculty Blog

October 21, 2015

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Recently I received the following email from a colleague working for a state health department:

Throughout the last six months my colleges and I have been hearing professionals refer to e-cigarettes as harm reduction. A  few months ago I was attending a Youth Engagement Alliance webinar where Dr. Terry Pechacek was presenting. During his presentation made it sound like e-cigarettes are harm reduction and mentioned moving all current cigarette smokers to exclusive use of e-cigarettes. Then a few weeks ago after meeting with an individual who works at our state health department he stated that he had heard something similar at a conference he attended a few weeks ago by Dr. Brian King. Now we are seeing more and more information come out to the public referring to e-cigarettes as less harmful than cigarettes. How should public health advocates respond to statements like this from well-known individuals when a large amount of our work has been focused on educating on the harms of e-cigarettes?
Any insight or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

To provide some clarity, I contacted both Brian King and Terry Pechacek to see if this is an accurate understanding of what they think.
Here is what Brian King said:

October 18, 2015

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Joe Nocera, the New York Times business columnist, ran another column extolling the virtues of e-cigarettes on October 17, 2015.  He posed the rhetorical question, “Can e-cigarettes save lives?” and, not surprisingly, answered it “Of course they can.”  Consistent with the industry’s position, he argued that public health would be better off if smokers switched from cigarettes to less dangerous e-cigarettes.
He would be right if that was all that was happening, but it isn’t.  While some smokers do switch to e-cigarettes, most continue to use both at the same time (so called dual users).  More important, there is consistent evidence that smokers who use e-cigarettes are less (not more) likely to quit smoking than smokers who do not use e-cigarettes.

October 3, 2015

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Yesterday (October 2, 2015) the New York Times reported that the Obama Administration has proposed language for the Tran Pacific Partnership designed to make it harder for tobacco companies to use trade agreements to sue countries that enact sensible public health regulations (like plain packaging).  While this is a step in the right direction, it leaves a huge loophole open by continuing to allow tobacco farmers to sue.
The multinational tobacco companies have already created an organization that supposedly represents farmer interests, the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) which it used to oppose development of the FCTC and oppose limitations on use of child labor in tobacco farming.   The tobacco companies could easily use this, or some other custom-created farm group to sue countries over tobacco control laws and regulations, just as they bought off or created phony hospitality associations to fight smokefree restaurants and bars.

September 30, 2015

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Add Norway to the list of countries where there is strong, consistent evidence that onscreen smoking in movies causes young people to smoke.
Gunnar Sæbo and Ingeborg Lund from the Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research, just published their paper, “Exposure to smoking in films and smoking behavior among Norwegian 15- to 20-year olds: A cross-sectional study,” which shows that, similar to other countries all over the world, Norwegian youth who see a lot of smoking in movies are about twice as likely to smoke.
It also shows that even among youth who are not yet smoking, seeing a lot of onscreen smoking increases their susceptibility to smoking, i.e., makes it more likely that they will start smoking in the future.
In addition to generally adding to the global case that smoking in movies causes youth to smoke, it shows that this effect is independent of local culture.
They also show that, like most other countries, virtually all movies with smoking are rated for youth.  They also call for an “18” rating (equivalent to a US R) for movies with smoking to reduce their effect as advertisements for smoking. (Tobacco advertising has been illegal in Norway for decades.)