President Trump nominated Alex Azar, former president of the American division of Eli Lilly to replace Tom Price as Health and Human Services secretary. Azar served as general counsel and deputy secretary at HHS during the George W. Bush administration. Azar will require Senate confirmation before taking up the post at HHS.
Three academics, Dr. Amy Fairchild of Texas A&M University and New York University College of Global Public Health Professors Dr. Ray Niaura and Dr. David Abrams published a commentary in The Hill calling for more openness and honesty from government in providing truthful information about reduced-risk products and encouraging smokers to switch.
“America needs a candid smoking control champion,” the three wrote. “Ten years after e-cigarettes became available, governments and scientists know enough to assure smokers that e-cigarettes are safe enough for smokers to switch. Each year of delay endangers half a million lives in the U.S and over 7 million globally.”
Reason’s Brian Fojtik was published in National Review calling on government agencies and tobacco control organizations to stop lying to smokers about safe nicotine alternatives. Fojtik highlighted a critique of former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s misleading report on youth and e-cigarettes in the Harm Reduction Journal.
The FDA docket on the modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) application from Philip Morris for its I-Quit-Ordinary-Smoking (IQOS) heat-not-burn tobacco product remains open for public comment. Reason Foundation filed a public comment with FDA in support of the application. Reason Foundation’s Brian Fojtik and Guy Bentley commented on the MRTP application here.
Science and Harm Reduction
Rodu writes that e-cigarette flavors “were consumed by 7 out of 10 current users. Never-smokers were significantly more likely to use them than current and former smokers (84% vs. 67% and 69%), and they were significantly less likely to use liquid containing nicotine (69% vs. 93% and 88%). Notably … 5.2% of current smokers, 7.8% of former smokers, and 25.9% of never-smokers used e-cigarettes that contained flavor, but no nicotine.”
The top five reasons for vaping listed by former smokers were: Less harmful to me (94%), less harmful to persons around me (88%), help to quit smoking (86%), don’t smell (80%), and use when/where smoking not allowed (78%).
The majority of vapers were misinformed about risks of nicotine, with 84% of never-smokers believing nicotine causes most kinds of cancer. More than three-quarters of current smokers and 66% of former smokers agreed. However, 94% of former smokers who vape believed e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes. The figures were significantly lower for current and never smokers at 78% and 77% respectively.
New York has the highest inbound cigarette smuggling rate in the country, with 56.8% of cigarettes consumed in the state derived from smuggled sources in 2015, according to a new study from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. These findings are perhaps unsurprising given New York also has the highest state cigarette tax in the country at $4.35 per pack, with New York City adding an extra $1.50 per pack.
“Public policies often have unintended consequences that outweigh their benefits,” commented Scott Drenkard, director of state projects at the Tax Foundation and one of the study’s authors. “One consequence of high state cigarette tax rates has been increased smuggling as people procure discounted packs from low-tax states to sell in high-tax states. Growing cigarette tax differentials have made cigarette smuggling both a national problem and in some cases, a lucrative criminal enterprise.”
“One of the first priorities of those in public health should be to serve the public. But the misrepresentations of government agencies, politicians, and anti-tobacco groups, repeated ad nauseam by the media, mislead smokers — and keep them smoking,” – Reason Foundation Senior Fellow Brian Fojtik
What’s Coming Up
On December 6-8, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will be holding its Nation & States Policy Summit in Nashville, TN.