California Declares E-Cigarettes a Health Threat

Sunday, February 01, 2015
(photo: Reuters)

In a bid to deny youngsters an opportunity to ape all their parents’ and grandparents’ worst habits from their youth, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a report (pdf) warning against a serious health threat posed by e-cigarettes and called for action to restrict their use.


“Comprehensive steps taken now can prevent a new generation of young people from becoming addicted to nicotine, avoid future health disparities and avert an unraveling of California’s approximately $2-billion, 25-year investment in public health efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use in California,” the report warns.


Vaping’s popularity is exploding nationally, especially among the young. It is expected to be a $10-billion industry by 2017. California passed an early milestone last year when the number of 8th-, 10th- and 12th-graders vaping exceeded those smoking traditional tobacco. 


The CDPH report warned that “e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive neurotoxin” and that mainstream and second-hand smoke from them “contain at least ten chemicals that are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.”


E-cigarettes, which vaporize liquids containing nicotine, have been marketed as a less harmful way of smoking and a way to help kick the old-school tobacco habit. The report acknowledged that vaping may, indeed, be safer than cigarettes, but that doesn’t mean it is safe. “Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can harm brain development,” it says, while maintaining there is “no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers successfully quit traditional cigarettes.”


The tobacco industry, which saw its sales and profits hammered the last two decades, has struck gold with vaping. Advertising campaigns target children using cartoon characters hawking products that use sweet-flavored “vape juices,” while dangling the prospect of older smokers reclaiming a favorite addiction at “low-risk.”    


This wasn’t supposed to happen—another generation hooked on a dangerous drug sold legally and advertised everywhere to young and old. The state passed a law in 1988 that taxed cigarettes 25 cents a pack and put the money in the California Tobacco Control Program to educate the public about the dangers of smoking.


Ten years later the tobacco industry capitulated and agreed to give the states hundreds of billions of dollars as compensation for the ravages its products wrought on public health and to fund prevention programs. 


So, what went wrong?


A report from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, points a finger at “the combination of weak leadership at the state level, willingness of political leaders to accept tobacco industry money, and inflation eroding the spending power of the California Tobacco Control Program.”


The program wasn’t indexed for inflation, so it only packs about 53% of its original punch. And California, like many other states, parceled out its billions of tobacco lawsuit dollars to the counties and a few cities. They in turn traded the revenues for Wall Street bonds that gave them an instant cash return (at a very high cost), which they spent on any number of non-tobacco-related activities.


The CDPH report came just days after state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation that would treat e-cigarettes like tobacco products. Right now, they are exempt from laws that forbid sales to minors and restrict where smoking is allowed.

-Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Labels E-Cigarettes a Public Health Threat (by Reid Wilson, Washington Post)

California Declares Electronic Cigarettes a Health Threat (by Elizabeth Aguilera, Associated Press)

E-Cigarettes Come Under Fire from State Health Experts (by Victoria Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle)

California Declares Electronic Cigarettes a Health Threat (by Tripp Mickle, Wall Street Journal)

California’s Tobacco Control Efforts Losing Steam, Finds UCSF Report (by Elizabeth Fernandez, University of California, San Francisco)

California Helps Wall Street Pocket 44% of Landmark Tobacco Settlement (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

$2-Billion E-Cigarette Industry Unleashes Lobbying Blitz to Limit Taxes and Regulation (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

State Health Officer’s Report on E-Cigarettes (California Department of Public Health) (pdf)


Tim 9 years ago
I think big tobacco is just realizing how much they are losing to all of the small e-cig startups and some are starting to get pretty big, the policy makers are still in their pockets. The dangers of e-cigs are minor compared to the thousands of chemicals they pack into traditional cigarettes. Where are all these studies done? What accredited medical journals are they cited in? It is all just corporate propaganda. Big tobacco underestimated e-cigs from the beginning, the only way to get kids hooked on their cigarettes again is to have their people in the government ban them?
ted 9 years ago
I have emphysema from smoking tobacco. If I had a real cigarette I would most likely keel over. I have been using E-Cigarettes for approximately 3 years now. No effect on my breathing at all. In fact it has improved to the surprise of my Doctor. I never told him I vape thou! Today I reorder enough vaping supplies for about 6 months of use for what I used to pay for 1 week of tobacco cigarettes. Only loser is the Government not getting my tax money. This is why they want to regulate, then tax e-cigarettes.
just kickin it 9 years ago
“no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers successfully quit traditional cigarettes.” Tell that to the 30 people I know that did quit using e-cigs. They do not even use the e-cigs now. A few succeeded in 3 months most took from 6 months to a year. I do know one person that still uses the e-cigs after a couple of years. oh and there are studies on it. this might point you in the right direction. I also quit. Please tell the busy bodies to stop telling me what I can do. I thought that it was illegal to have them if you are a kid.
Danny 9 years ago
It's amazing how far the government will go to control what we do. The vapor cig is much healthier than smoking a cigarette. I can understand the control of such things as alcohol and serious drugs that inhibit our brain and cognition, but not cigarettes. If I smoked cigarettes, I would be fighting against this legislation.
Gooby 9 years ago
Bring back candy cigarettes!
charlie 9 years ago
Nicotine is NOT addictive. We know that because the FDA approved over the counter sale of nicotime gum and patches 18 years ago. Kids who never smoked that experiment with vaping will lose interest. If that takes several years at least they won't be smoking cigarettes, which are addictive. Too bad for me that vaping wasn't around when I was a kid. Vaping is highly effective for quitting smoking. That is why demoand is growing exponentially and vape shops are opening at a fast pace. The gas station cigalike products are only designed for casual use and are not effective for replacing cigarettes. The tobacco control people can't control vaping or vapers. That is why they oppose it.

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