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Protecting The Youth

America doubles down on attacking ‘teen vaping’ at the beginning of 2019. The Surgeon General and the FDA are still not listening.

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Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the Food and Drug Administration’s Scott Gottlieb are pushing on with attacking vaping and tobacco harm reduction under the guise of protecting America’s youth. Polite commentators are saying the pair are being disingenuous, others are claiming this is a politically driven campaign of lies.

Jerome Adams told CNN: "Studies show youth like my son [who is 14] have no clue what's in these products." The studies he fails to cite also claim that teens think vaping is “cool” and “safe”, and a third of teen vapers are abusing illegal substances with their devices.

Adams and Gottlieb are clinging on to the twisted fact of an “epidemic 75% rise in teen vaping” to justify a continued assault on vaping. Adams continued his interactions on social media during the Christmas holiday period and into the New Year as part of him claiming to be engaging with the vaping, advocate and scientific communities.

Adams continued: “I'm talking about my own kids. My 14, 13 and 9-year-olds are all familiar to these products since elementary school. The number one reason teens say they use these products is because they say they have flavours in them. We will not stand for another year of exponential rise in the use of these products. We're far too often, in health and public health, late to the game. Now is the time to take action.”

Odd that the top doctor in the United States should be basing his primary argument on a personal anecdote? At least Gottlieb pretends to be using science, even if it focuses on ‘ever-use’ and omits to mention the underlying figure of the number of actual, regular teen vapers.

“I'm deeply concerned that kids use of e-cigs is accelerating, and we could see sharp rises in middle and high school use of e-cigs in 2019, on top of the 78% increase in teen use 2018; even despite interventions we’ve already taken and more steps we’ll soon implement,” Gottlieb said.

“We’ll apply the new actions we announced to confront these trends. But data I’ve seen raises alarm. There’s no reason manufacturers must wait for FDA to more forcefully address the epidemic. Yet some already appear to back away from commitments made to FDA and the public. I’m writing CEOs of e-cig manufacturers asking them to meet to discuss commitments they made last month, and why some are changing course. This is an urgent matter. We're at a critical juncture. The opportunity for harm reduction for adults could be lost for a generation.”

At this point Gottlieb is again failing to appreciate that the Big Tobacco ecig market does not equate to the entire market – nor reflect the devices used by the majority of adults who’ve used vaping to quit smoking tobacco products. Plus, the data he has seen still hasn’t been released for public inspection.

Worse, he then shifts responsibility for not enforcing sales legislation onto the vapers: “The vaping community that supports harm reduction for adults should also focus more of their efforts on select manufacturers that are primarily responsible for the youth epidemic if, like FDA, they seek to preserve these opportunities as a way to transition adult smokers.”

It is not our responsibility to police the retail sector, and ridiculous for him to imply that if we fail to do so he will punish vapers and smokers. Gottlieb appears to believe that unless the vaping community holds its collective hands up and says, “We agree, there’s a teen epidemic and something should be done”, that our toys should be taken away.

Clive Bates commented on some of Gottlieb’s outpourings: “If this is his analysis, Scott Gottlieb hasn’t tried hard enough to understand what is - and is not - a material risk in these youth vaping numbers.  Yet he appears willing to put millions of adult lives at risk by imposing regulatory overkill on a life-saving product for smokers.”

“[He] has entirely lost focus on youth and adult *smoking*, yet that is the actual public health problem.  The response from the FDA is massively ‘anti-proportionate’ - demanding the vape industry does things they never demand of the cigarette business.”

Meanwhile Adams is sticking to his anecdotes. Before Christmas he told us how a teacher had diagnosed her son with nicotine-related symptoms that no competent doctor would have repeated. This weekend it was his trip to fill up with petrol: “I stopped at a gas station in Indiana over the holidays and got the same story- was told they made more on ecigs last year than on gas. (FYI, For balance I also stopped at Vape shops and spoke to adult users- they also said youth use a concern).”

Selective use of quotes (if they are real) does nothing but lend the impression Adams is twisting the debate to his personal agenda – one that has little to do with two-way dialogue.

Quoting a reply pointing out that he is ignoring the impact attacking vaping will have on tobacco harm reduction, Adams states: “this as another example of people who clearly don’t want to acknowledge youth use as a problem, or work towards balance.”

Jerome Adams, there can be no acknowledgement of a teen epidemic because you haven’t released the data and refuse to accept that vaping reduces teen smoking rates. Rather then engaging by inviting advocacy groups to meet with you in person, you are protracting a diatribe on Twitter and citing newspaper articles in place of real evidence.

Instead of engaging, Adams is enraging. In place of facts, Adams lies: “It is absolutely mind boggling to me that [he implies a person is suggesting] 30-40% of youth (in this instance) addicted to nicotine is a good thing.” Where is the research showing 30-40% of American youth regularly vaping? It doesn’t exist.

No vaper thinks that non-smoking children (or anybody else) should take up vaping. As a recent article from The Independent Institute reads: “Teen vaping is bad, but the alternative is much worse.”

It quotes the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre: “Up to 6.6 million cigarette smokers will live substantially longer if cigarette smoking is replaced by vaping over a ten-year period... In all, cigarette smokers who switch to e-cigarettes could live 86.7 million more years with policies that encourage cigarette smokers to switch completely to e-cigarettes.”

Adams and Gottlieb aren’t saving children from cigarette smoking; the FDA’s actions will condemn them to it. They need to have an honest and genuine dialogue with tobacco harm reduction experts and vape advocates, and this needs to happen now.



Scott Gottlieb –

Jerome Adams –

The Independent Institute -

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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