WASHINGTON (Dec. 8, 2016) – The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General today released its first ever report on e-cigarettes and nicotine vapor devices. While the R Street Institute continues to review the report’s findings and recommendations, the following statement from R Street Senior Fellow Dr. Edward Anselm offers some initial thoughts on the report:

The long tradition of scientifically rigorous messages and reports from the U.S. surgeon general appears to have ended. The new report on electronic cigarettes focuses on youth experimentation and completely omits the opportunities for harm reduction these devices offer for adult smokers. This is a continuation of the recent demonization of nicotine by some in the public health community, to the detriment of 40 million adult smokers who could be helped to reduce their risk to tobacco-related disease substantially.

Every study of e-cigarettes has shown a dramatic reduction in harmful and potentially harmful compounds that cause cancer, emphysema and heart disease. While the knowledge base is far from perfect, the Food and Drug Administration has created a roadmap to approve new tobacco and nicotine products that can be marketed as having reduced risk.

Overall nicotine use, for both smoking and e-cigarettes, is at an all-time low. This is especially true for young people, for whom use of e-cigs exceeds use of combusted cigarettes. Young people who try e-cigarettes are more likely to experiment with other adult behaviors, including smoking. If there were no e-cigarettes, they would go straight to smoking.

Regarding indoor air quality, the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently reviewed the literature and determined that there was insufficient evidence to support bans on indoor use of e-cigarettes in residential settings. Smoke-free environments in the home or in workplaces are well-grounded in science. People who live with smokers or work in close proximity acquire the same diseases. There is no scientific literature to show the toxicity of vapor. By highlighting the mere presence of toxic substances, the surgeon general again deviates from science.

While the future health of children is vital to us all, the imbalance of this report does the science and the crucial policy issues a disservice.

Reporters with further questions can reach Anselm at 917-364-1154 or [email protected]. In addition, R Street Senior Fellow Dr. Joel Nitzkin can be reached at 646-808-6567 or [email protected]; and R Street Associate Fellow Damon Jacobs can be reached at 646-808-6567 or [email protected].

Featured Publications