According to the Jerusalem Post, a committee of Israel's Ministry of Health has recommended that Israel enact a regulation that would ban the production, importation, and marketing of electronic cigarettes for a period of 5 years. This would mean that the 22%+ of adult Israelis who smoke cigarettes would be able to freely buy real cigarettes (the kind that kill approximately 10,000 Israelis every year), but would not be able to purchase low-risk, smoke-free electronic cigarettes.
Jeff Stier of the National Center for Public Policy Research, who recently spoke about harm reduction at a conference in Israel co-sponsored with the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, has sent a letter to Dr. Boaz Lev, the deputy director general who led the committee that recommended the 5-year ban.
Stier is an ardent ally and THR advocate who has co-written two articles on e-cigarettes with CASAA Legislative Director Gregory Conley. You can follow him on Twitter at @JeffAStier.
CASAA is encouraging its members to comment on this article on the Israeli Government's website [the link is to a Google Translation version of the article -- you can comment in English]. Our hope is that the testimony from tens or hundreds of vapers who have had their lives changed by e-cigarettes will lead Dr. Lev to modify his recommendation.
Stier's letter to Dr. Lev is printed below.
Dear Mr. Boaz:
I’m writing to ask you to take a critical look at the factual and scientific basis for the recommendation of a five-year ban on E-cigarettes. I also ask you to take into account the unintended consequences of such a rule.
The report states that there are carcinogens in E-cigarettes and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about them in 2009. Carcinogens are found in hundreds of foods and beverages such as chips, bread, coffee, and wine. Even barbecued food produces carcinogens. The FDA, in a rush to issue a cautionary statement, failed to take this cardinal rule of toxicology into account: It is the amount of exposure that matters. Because the levels of carcinogens found by the FDA in E-cigarettes was trace -- about the same levels as found in FDA-approved nicotine gum and the patch -- the FDA’s statement has since been widely criticized by scientists and disregarded by judges sitting in two different U.S. federal courts. Moreover, the FDA has not acted to regulate E-cigarettes, which are still legal for adults throughout the U.S.
Just this month, the British Medical journal’s anti-tobacco journal, Tobacco Control, published a study:
that finds that E-cigarettes are 9-450 times lower in toxins that cigarettes, putting them in a category similar to FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies.
It is critical to note that cigarettes are harmful because smokers burn tobacco and inhale the smoke. Nicotine is the addictive component of cigarettes, but it is not particularly harmful. It is much like the caffeine in soda. It is too much soda that can make one gain weight, not the caffeine. E-cigarettes contain zero tobacco and there is no combustion. Furthermore, the nicotine used in E-cigarettes is pharmaceutical grade and not unlike the nicotine used in products like the gum and the patch.
The report also claimed that E-cigarettes are not effective at helping people quit smoking. There is a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence that cigarette smokers who haven’t been able to quit have finally quit smoking with the help of E-cigarettes. This is consistent with everything we know about the complexity and difficulty of smoking cessation. E-cigarettes meet certain users’ need for hand-to-mouth activity, a puff of smoke, or in this case, vapor, and self-dosed nicotine, just like in smoking. Non-nicotine e-cigarettes are also available for those who prefer that option. And now, more and more scientific data is coming in to support this conclusion. Some of those studies are listed at:
Education about the dangers of smoking have led to lower smoking rates. But too many people continue to smoke cigarettes, and public health experts are concerned that we are having a hard time lowering the rate below current levels by education alone. This is why the field of "tobacco harm reduction" is so promising. Just like clean-needle programs and methadone clinics provide less risky alternatives to at-risk populations, tobacco harm reduction offers a compassionate and effective alternative to “abstinence only” methods that, for many smokers, lead to repeated failures and a return to cigarette smoking.
There is real-world data that supports the efficacy of tobacco harm reduction. Long-term population-wide studies in Sweden show that men who use snus, a form of smokeless tobacco, don’t smoke cigarettes, and, not surprisingly, have health profiles that match those of non-smokers. It is no wonder Swedish men have the lowest rates of tobacco-related diseases, including heart disease and lung cancer, throughout Europe. Because of the widespread use of snus as an alternative to smoking in Sweden, snus is a lifesaver.
E-cigarettes, which contain no tobacco, may not appeal to all smokers. But because they present negligible risks at most and are a valuable tool to help smokers quit, the government should not stand in the way of their availability for even one day. For every day a smoker continues to use cigarettes instead of potentially switching to a less-harmful product, that smoker increases his risks from the well-documented and wide-ranging fatal diseases that come from cigarette smoking.
Director, Risk Analysis Division, National Center for Public Policy Research