- FAMRI Center
NY Times' Nocera continues promoting e-cigs while ignoring the industry's behavior and real use patterns
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.
He blames the public health community for not working with the e-cigarette companies for not working with the companies to “come up with a set of standards for marketing … and keeping e-cigarettes away from kids.” The ignores the fact that the companies control the marketing now and, thanks to their aggressive use of flavors (including NJOY’s use of flavors in violation of a California court order) and mass media marketing in channels favored by youth, has been followed by doubling or tripling use every year, including among many who are at low risk of starting to smoke cigarettes.
Nocera also repeats the 40-year-old assertion that “Though nicotine is addictive, it is the tobacco that kills.” While this view was innovative back in 1976, we now know that, while not the worst thing in cigarettes, nicotine has many toxic effects beyond addiction, particularly on the developing brain.
He also attached Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids President Matt Myers for suggesting that the FDA (I would say the Obama Administration) deserved criticism for not yet acting to regulate e-cigarettes. Nocera ignores the fact that the FDA did try to regulate e-cigarettes as nicotine delivery devices in 2009, which would have required the companies to demonstrate the reduced harm benefits that Nocera trumpets. NJOY blocked the FDA in court, which led to the current slow rulemaking process. Back in 2009 NJOY could have just submitted the scientific evidence to support the claim – as yet unproven – that e-cigarettes are an effective harm reduction tool.