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Is steaming safer than cigarette smoking?

Photo credit: Ramachandra Babu / © Gulf News

I was 1

5 when I started smoking, and so were most of my friends. We smoked to rebel against our parents. Because the squeamish kids do it. Because cigarettes were banned and easy to get: 10 quarters in a cigarette vending machine that could still be found in most pizza shops and donut shops in New Jersey in the early 1990s.

All this – the charm, the access, the fornication of cigarettes – was by design. By the time my friends and I were born, cigarette manufacturers had so thoroughly sewn their products into the fabric of our culture that not even a century of research was enough to tie these products to a series of slow, painful deaths, many of them to deter us.

Tobacco factories turned cigarettes into a diet tool and a matter of fashion. Most people who start smoking at the end of puberty will never do so. The cigarette manufacturers knew that. In their ads, they used cartoon camels, pictures of Santa Claus, and larger-than-life cowboys. Her main ingredient was very addictive. As concerns about nicotine addiction, cancer and heart disease arose, they kept regulators in check by eroding scientific uncertainty. Then they bought scientists and camouflaged corporate propaganda as independent research. By the time their deceptions were revealed, a new generation of smokers – promising billions of dollars in the industry – was strained.

In the late 1990s, Big Tobacco was eventually held accountable for his practices and a range of health issues. Guidelines were introduced that have almost completely eliminated the scourge of teenage smoking over the past three decades. But many of us who became tobacco consumers with 13, 14, 15 remain at 39, 40, 41. And in recent years we have seen history repeat itself.

The tobacco industry is pushing for a new type of smoking device – the e-cig or vape pen – that is, far healthier than traditional cigarettes: no tobacco, no tar, just nicotine and flavored steam. These devices, according to the industry, will finally help us to let adult smokers quit or restrict their habit. But here's the catch: e-cigs have brought smoking back into fashion for teens. As a result, the cost of this new cure could be another generation exposed to the same addictions that we are still fighting.

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death. Smoking kills about 480,000 people every year – more than AIDS, auto accidents, illicit drugs and suicide – and annual health spending is $ 170 billion, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (19659003)]. Cig manufacturers say, and some health experts believe that e-cigs could help lower those terrible numbers because they contain far fewer toxins than traditional tobacco cigarettes. It is believed that if all current smokers were switched to these devices, the burden of illness and death could be dramatically reduced.

Few were more fascinated by this argument than Scott Gottlieb, who resigned as Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration of the Federal Government. The authority responsible for the regulation of tobacco and nicotine products.

Since joining the agency two years ago, Gottlieb has sought to strike a balance between encouraging adult smokers to switch to e-cigs and avoiding minors. Children and adolescents are at a disproportionate risk from smoking, in part because nicotine is known to damage the developing brain. In 2016, the FDA prohibited the sale of e-cigs to minors and introduced a series of new regulatory requirements for steam generators. Under Gottlieb's tenure, the agency extended the deadline for meeting these requirements by several years and also announced plans to reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes.

This plan erupted last year, as vaping of teenagers reached epidemic proportions. Gottlieb has since attempted to control the industry, forcing E-Cig manufacturers, among others, to devise plans to keep their products away from children, and issuing thousands of warning letters to retailers who caught minors selling nicotine products Goods makers were responding to this pressure with a bait and switch that would make their big tobacco predecessors proud.

Juul, the company most responsible for the increase in youthful steaming, scrubbed his Facebook and Instagram accounts and agreed to act dramatically restricting the sale of his most youthful flavors such as mango, cream and fruit. However, in December, the company received a $ 12.8 billion minority stake from tobacco company Altria. This will allow Juul products to be shown alongside regular cigarettes in the country's stationary retail sector. Altria volunteered to withdraw all flavored products from the market until the epidemic of young people was eliminated with steam. Gottlieb's boldest anti-smoking measures, which include reducing nicotine and banning menthol flavors in traditional cigarettes, are still in the pipeline. It is unclear whether his successor translates them into politics.

In the meantime, a number of Juul imitators are entering convenience stores in violation of an FDA rule prohibiting the sale of new e-cig products, according to Reuters. August 2016. Juul is promoting itself as a health-conscious one Companies as it develops new, potentially more addictive steam products. Philip Morris International has established a nonprofit organization – the Foundation for a Smoke Free World – through which it has sought to work with the World Health Organization. The stated goal of the foundation is to reduce the global health burden of using cigarettes. According to tobacco industry watchdogs, leaked PMI documents indicate that the ultimate goal is to promote the company's own steam products.

None of this should surprise. The tobacco industry was built around a product that is inherently dangerous and unhealthy. And it has a long history of duplicity.

There are still many unanswered questions about the effectiveness and safety of e-cigs. It is not clear how well they work as a smoking cessation tool. And although they are almost safer than traditional cigarettes, they are not necessarily safe.

– New York Times News Service

Those Interlandi is a well-known columnist who writes about health, science and education.

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