NEW YORK (AP) — Sixty years ago, the U.S. surgeon general released a report that settled longstanding public debate about the dangers of smoking and led to dramatic changes in smoking in the United States.
Today, some public health experts say a similar report could help dispel doubts about vaping.
Many American adults believe nicotine vaping is as harmful as, or even more dangerous than, smoking. This is wrong. The FDA and most scientists agree that, based on available evidence, vapes are far less dangerous than traditional cigarettes.
But that doesn’t mean vaping is harmless. Public health experts disagree on exactly how harmful or helpful these devices are. Lawrence Gostin, an expert in public health law at Georgetown University, said clarifying information is urgently needed.
“There’s a lot of confusing information out there about vaping,” Gostin said. “The Surgeon General’s report could clarify all of this.”
One major obstacle: Vapes haven’t been around long enough for scientists to know for sure whether vape users develop diseases like lung cancer and heart disease.
“The evidence is clearly lacking,” said Dr. Kelly Henning, director of the public health program at Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Smoking and Vape
Smoking has long been recognized as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the death toll at 480,000 annually. According to a study published last year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, that number should begin to decline around 2030, in part due to a decline in smoking rates that began in the 1960s.
At the time, ashtrays were everywhere and more than 42% of American adults smoked.
On January 11, 1964, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry issued an authoritative report stating that smoking causes disease and death and that the government should take measures. The report was considered a watershed: Over the following decades, warning labels were slapped on cigarette packages, cigarette advertising was banned, governments raised tobacco taxes and imposed new rules on where people could smoke. limit.
By 2022, the adult smoking rate will be 11%.
Some experts believe that vaping deserves some of the credit. The devices are promoted as a way to help smokers quit smoking, and the FDA has approved some vapes as less harmful alternatives for adult smokers.
In the 2010s, vaping was popular among adults and teenagers alike. In 2014, Vape surpassed combustible cigarettes to become the most used tobacco product among young people. As of 2019, 28% of high school students were vaping.
U.S. health officials are sounding the alarm, fearing that children addicted to nicotine will rediscover cigarettes. But that didn’t happen. Last year, less than 2% of high school students smoked, far lower than the 35% smoking rate 25 years ago.
“This is a great public health victory. It’s almost unbelievable,” said Kenneth Warner, who studies tobacco control policy at the University of Michigan.
“Without Vape, I think we would be hearing the public health community clamoring about the success of getting kids to quit smoking,” he said.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Vape
Cigarettes have been called the deadliest consumer product of all time. Their smoke contains thousands of chemicals, at least 69 of which cause cancer.
Vape vapor is estimated to contain far fewer chemicals and carcinogens. Some toxic substances are present in both, but the concentrations in vape vapor are much lower than those in cigarette smoke.
Studies show that smokers who fully switch to vaping have better lung function and other health conditions improve.
“I would rather see someone smoking a Vape than someone smoking a Marlboro. There is no doubt in my mind that the Vape is safer,” said Donald Shopland, who wrote the report in 1964 A staff member on the committee and co-author of a forthcoming book on vaping.
But what are the dangers for someone who has never smoked?
Dr. Neal Benowitz of the University of California, San Francisco, a leading academic voice on nicotine and tobacco addiction, said there are 100 to 200 studies on vaping. , with mixed results. He said the studies used different techniques, many of which were limited in their ability to differentiate between the effects of vaping and previous smoking.
“If you look at the studies, the results are mixed,” Werner said.
Research has found that young people who vape have symptoms of bronchitis and exacerbations of asthma. Studies have also shown that vaping also affects cells in blood vessels and the heart, looking for links to heart disease. Perhaps the biggest concern is nicotine, the stimulant that makes cigarettes and vapes addictive.
Animal studies show that exposure to nicotine in adolescents affects the development of areas of the brain responsible for attention, learning and impulse control. Some studies on humans have shown links between vaping and ADHD symptoms, depressio
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