Great strides have been made within the past five years to introduce new tobacco products that would, from my perspective, reduce harm when compared with traditional cigarettes. So despite all the naysayers and anti-tobacco crusaders—who care less about the health of smokers and more about their own agendas—safer tobacco products are a reality that convenience store owners should embrace.
The debate about electronic cigarettes is an interesting one. The debate centers on old-school versus new-school thinking, as the anti-tobacco folks just don’t have the ability to think rationally. If these products, or any other product, shows promise in the quest to reduce harm, isn’t it in the best interest of those who use tobacco to push for advancement? Or, must we live in a world where individuals aren’t rational and act like the child who decides to go home with the football because things aren’t going his way?
Unfortunately, the voice of reason is being muffled by those who are being misled by a group with an agenda. “Whether that agenda is driven by politics or by irrational zero tolerance zealots, people deserve to know the truth,” tobacco consultant Lou Maiellano told me recently. “Many entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes are either developing or supporting these new innovations.”
Do the Right Thing
But beyond personal grudges that stem back decades and the obvious bias many have toward tobacco, both sides need to come to an agreement that this battle must move from the court of public opinion to the laboratory. New research is emerging regularly that e-cigarettes are, in fact, safer for adult smokers than traditional combustible cigarettes. So it defies logic then that so many anti-tobacco lobbyists and lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels want to increase the taxes on e-cigarettes or ban them altogether. If the health of smokers was really their first priority, they would look to make these products more affordable.
Imagine the outrage if lawmakers wanted to add a 20% tax to some of the life-saving medications people consume every day.
“I’m a scientist, and I’ve tried to take a very scientific approach to this,” Dr. Brad Rodu, professor of medicine and the endowed chairman of tobacco harm reduction research at the University of Louisville, told Convenience Store Decisions. “We do know this: smoking is killing 400,000 Americans every year—and so I’m stunned that anyone would criticize or otherwise try to ban a product that is known to be a substitute for cigarettes.”
When government and health officials and others criticize electronic cigarettes, Rodu maintained, they hedge their bets. “They will say, ‘Maybe someone will pick them up and then switch to cigarettes. Maybe children will get a hold of one.’ It’s maybe, maybe, maybe, but they never talk about the benefits of transitioning from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. That’s where we have to start. E-cigarettes are clearly booming. Their use is expanding exponentially, and there is no rational basis for limiting their availability to smokers.”
“I can tell you that e-cigarettes are absolutely not as dangerous as some people allege,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the head of its risk analysis division. “They are tremendously safer than cigarettes. We’re looking at more and more data that is telling us that they are either not harmful or very unlikely to be harmful.”
Stier, who has testified at scientific meetings of the FDA, has met with members of Congress and their staff about science policy, and has submitted testimony to state government legislative hearings, echoed Rodu’s position that the newness of e-cigarettes contributes to the lack of clarity and misinformation about them.
This puts the pressure on retailers and e-cigarette manufacturers who must join together to get this message out. The spread of disinformation is overwhelming and it’s getting worse. Don’t sit on the sidelines while the crusaders take aim at your business.