A leading tobacco control expert believes that quitting cold turkey is not an effective strategy for smokers, stating that the anti-vaping movement is no better than the abstinence movements against other societal ills. David Sweanor told news site The Daily Caller that he has been a long time opponent of the tobacco industry, but he considers the anti-vaping movement’s anger misplaced. He thinks that we should focus on harm reduction, rather than completely eliminating nicotine.
Over time, we went from being more pragmatic public health-oriented, to a culture that was more absolutist, that it wasn’t a matter of reducing death and disease, it was like a battle against evil. It’s not an issue to save the lives of people so much as we’re here to tell them how to live their lives, he stated.
Sweanor has spent a good deal of his life fighting the tobacco industry, with over 30 years of work with the World Health Organization, World Bank, and organizations and entities involved with lawsuits against the cigarette companies. In other words, he’s a big deal in the anti-tobacco movement.
Despite what seems like a recipe for yet another hostile voice against vaping, his arguments only serve to help us, and confirm our own beliefs. Most of us have found vaping to be the only solution that successfully helped us quit smoking, and it seems like the anti-vaping lobby fails to recognize that the majority of research has proven that vaping is far less harmful to public health.
The Data is On Our Side
Just take a look at the long list of studies we’ve gathered over the past few years. We cover all the major e-cig and vaping studies — both positive and negative — and it’s obvious that the positive ones far outweigh the negative.
And this positive research isn’t just coming from organizations friendly to our cause: researchers from Drexel University, Oxford Unversity and Penn State agree that vaping is far less dangerous than the anti-vaping lobby makes it out to be. Even more substantial, in 2015 Public Health England became the first major government health organization to support vaping with a widely cited report that found e-cigarettes to be “95 percent less harmful than tobacco.”
Sweanor thinks a lot of the anger is due to misdirected political frustration.
I think a lot of people are very well meaning but they have very rigid morality, they see the world in terms of black and white, right and wrong, and they see this as a battle not so much a public health battle as a political battle against companies.
It’s also not clear what the anti-vaping lobby wants vapers to do once they do destroy the industry. Do they want us to quit cold turkey? If so, they might just end up pushing us back to smoking and right into the hands of the companies they despise. Studies have shown that quitting cold turkey rarely works.
‘Cold Turkey’ Not an Effective Strategy
The American Cancer Society reports that the success rate for quitting without any assistance from medications or some other “crutch” falls somewhere between 3-7%. But even with medicines, that success rate is still only about 25%.
While the ACS has not exactly come out in support of vaping, it certainly has taken a less antagonistic stance in the past several years. And it should: a 2014 study suggests that e-cigarette users are 60% more likely to quit smoking long-term over other alternatives such as the nicotine patch or gum.
Additionally, the abstinence movement hasn’t worked well against other societal problems. Take for example birth control: while groups like Planned Parenthood do note that it’s 100 percent effective, they also say that “people may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time and may end their period of abstinence without being prepared to protect themselves against pregnancy or infection.”
It’s hard to see how abstinence from smoking, especially for those who have struggled to quit for years, will be effective. The data just doesn’t support it.