Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

It is not often that well-respected nonprofit organizations take the side of the powerful against the weak. Yet that, in my view, is where the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Truth Campaign find themselves these days in the debate over e-cigarettes.

That’s why I’ve been spending time lately reporting and writing about e-cigarettes, and why I hope to continue to do so. The topic has been neglected, and it’s important because the lives of tens of millions of smokers are at stake.

Yesterday in Medium, I wrote a story about bans on flavored e-cigarettes that have been enacted by three states — New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island — and a number of cities, including San Francisco and Chicago. Similar bans are being debated around the country.

Public health experts, some of whom have worked on tobacco issues for decades, tell me that these bans are misguided. E-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking. Their use by teens is declining. They are also a tool that can help smokers quit.

So why the bans? Because parents, most of them white and middle-class, have been whipped into a frenzy about vaping by groups like Tobacco-Free Kids and the Truth Initiative, as well as by the U.S. Surgeon General and the CDC. My reporting has led me to believe that they have exaggerated the dangers of vaping and downplayed the benefits. This isn’t to suggest that anyone who is not a smoker should vape. They most definitely should not. The nicotine in e-cigs is addictive and it may have negative affects on developing brains.

But fears of a so-called epidemic of vaping among teenagers have led to these bans, which keep flavored vapes out of the hands of smokers for whom they could be life-saving. (In England, the government recommends vapes as an aid to quitting.) The 34 million smokers in the US tend to be less-educated, poor, more likely to suffer from mental illness, LGBTQ or Native American, when compared to the total population. They don’t have political clout. They’re mostly unheard in this debate.

You can read my story here.

3 thoughts on “These bans on flavored e-cigarettes could do more harm than good.

  1. Sarah Gunther says:

    I’m really loving this reporting!! The class and race dynamics are so interesting, especially as it relates to what big philanthropy funds.

    On Thu, Apr 22, 2021 at 8:28 AM Nonprofit Chronicles wrote:

    > Marc Gunther posted: ” It is not often that well-respected nonprofit > organizations take the side of the powerful against the weak. Yet that, in > my view, is where the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Truth Campaign > find themselves these days in the debate over e-cigar” >

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Marc Gunther says:

    You are correct that all tobacco products should only be sold to people over 21. That’s now the law. Better enforcement would help keep cigarettes and e-cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers.
    As for flavors, they help to make e-cigarettes as attractive as possible to former smokers who would like to quit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bcole72 says:

    This reporting or opinion piece or industry funded scare mongering is very short sighted. E-cigarettes without extra flavoring would do just fine. Flavorings are designed to attract new users and make the nicotine delivery system more palatable to a wider number of people. Also, the companies delivering these products to market have very dubious quality control systems, if any at all. Kids are vaping substances with who knows what in them. Finally, once addicted, kids will do anything to find nicotine, including smoking cigarettes, using chewing tobacco, whatever. Make all of this 21+

    Liked by 1 person

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