Leading tobacco foe is fighting Big Tobacco again, this time because the industry has taken over the electronic cigarette trade

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

One of the nation’s top anti-tobacco advocates told his Kentucky allies last week that the debate about electronic cigarettes makes him feel like he’s “gotten in a DeLorean and gone back to the ’70s,” like they did in the movie “Back to the Future.”

Stanton Glantz
photo: ucsf.edu

“Is it bad? Is it polluting? Does it have second-hand smoke? Blah, blah, blah, freedom, blah, blah, blah,” Stanton Glantz ranted at the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy’s spring conference April 28, lamenting how Big Tobacco has taken over the e-cigarette business and is using old marketing strategies to get kids to use e-cigs.

“The business is being taken over by the big multi-national tobacco companies and they are the ones who are doing all the advertising,” Glantz said. “They are the ones who are doing all the marketing to kids; they are the reason the use among kids is exploding.”
Glantz, a University of California-San Francisco professor and tobacco-control researcher, acknowledged that e-cigs are less toxic than cigarettes. But he said that doesn’t make them safe, and most e-cig users also use tobacco, so they are not reducing harm. He also blasted the claims that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, saying the claims are anecdotal.

However, the Royal College of Physicians, a major British medical organization, just published a report that says those who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking have a 50 percent better chance of success than if using no aids or using nicotine patches without counseling, Sabrina Tavernise reports for The New York Times.

Glantz disagreed with the report. He cited a meta-analysis he published a few months ago that found e-cigs don’t help people quit smoking.

“On average, smokers who use e-cigarettes are 30 percent less likely to quit smoking than smokers who don’t use e-cigarettes,”he said. “So, they are extending the tobacco epidemic.”

Glantz said that the British researchers predicted what they think is going to happen, but U.S. data shows what is happening. “They have collectively lost their minds,” he said.

Youth and e-cigarettes

Glantz said that he would normally not encourage advocates to focus their efforts on children, because “kids do what adults do,” but he said that isn’t so with e-cigs, which are being directly marketed toward them with candy flavored products.

“I think e-cigarettes are different. E-cigarettes are different because this is an epidemic that is growing from the bottom up,” he said. “And the data on kids is like very scary. Non-smoking kids who use e-cigarettes, if you come back a year later, they are three times more likely to be smoking cigarettes than the non-smoking kids who aren’t using e-cigarettes.”

Glantz wrapped up saying, “So, the bottom line on e-cigarettes is they are likely to prolong the tobacco epidemic because they are restoring social acceptability of tobacco use. They are depressing quitting among smokers and they are attracting kids to nicotine, a lot of whom are going to convert to cigarettes.”

Glantz is best known for leading the movement to call out the deceptive marketing messages of cigarette manufacturers and expose the dangers of tobacco during the 1990s, with the help of documents showing that tobacco executives were aware of the dangers of their products while marketing them aggressively toward young adults and teens.

Glantz’s current research focuses on the health risks associated with secondhand smoke and the correlation between high smoking rates and heart attack deaths. He also works to change policy that would mandate an “R” rating for any movie with smoking in it.

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