LETTER TO THE EDITOR: E-cigarettes ‘far, far safer’ than tobacco

The statements of Terry Towne in your recent article “Butt out: If you’ve got ’em, don’t light ’em,” (May 28) are wrong. Although Ms. Towne is to be commended for helping people to quit cigarettes and working to reduce second-hand smoke, she’s incorrect in saying that e-cigarette use “isn’t better than smoking.”

All of illness and death data she speaks of is due to a single product — the tobacco cigarette. All of this is due to the tar and components of cigarette smoke other than the nicotine. All of the deaths among non-smokers from second-hand smoke come from the tar in the cigarette smoke, not the nicotine. And nicotine delivery products differ substantially in risk and addictiveness. None are perfectly safe, but e-cigarettes are far, far safer than tobacco cigarettes.

There’s little evidence that promoting their broader use would lead to significant problems. Teens may experiment with them and use them occasionally socially for the novelty. Despite hype to the contrary, this occasional use does not lead to nicotine addiction among teens. E-cigarettes are very effective in satisfying the urge to smoke. Transitioning to these vapor products enables smokers to continue to secure the satisfaction they seek from cigarettes while eliminating almost all risk of potentially fatal disease.

Ms. Towne needs to reconsider her negative stance on e-cigarettes and begin to think of them as an alternate pathway to reducing cigarette-related addiction, illness and death. A program that embraced this would do far better than the initiative that Bayhealth is launching.

Edward Anselm, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, N.Y.
Senior Fellow, R Street Institute, Washington, D.C.

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