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Americans Can’t do Math, But Policymakers Can and This Could Vaporize Tobacco Harm Reduction

September 17, 2019

It should come as no big surprise that Americans are not the world’s best mathematicians.

It should come as no big surprise that Americans are not the world’s best mathematicians. After all, our federal government has accumulated a mindboggling $22 trillion debt and American students have borrowed more than $1.6 trillion just to attend college. In 2017, only 34 percent of eighth-grade students scored “proficient” in mathematics, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. Even worse, the average American adult scored an abysmal 253 points out of a possible 500 on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2012 Survey of Adult Skills.

Perhaps this widespread inability to perform basic math can partially explain why Americans (mistakenly) believe electronic cigarettes and vaping devices are more harmful than combustible cigarettes. Or maybe this goes beyond the general public lacking simple math or rudimentary reasoning skills.

Maybe Americans should pay more attention to governments’ reliance on tobacco taxes and settlement payments, which are used, overwhelmingly, to prop up extraneous programs and budget shortfalls.

Fortunately, e-cigarettes are disrupting the government’s fuzzy math. In fact, e-cigarettes have become more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in helping smokers quit. Keep in mind, the government also applies its nonsensical mathematical approach to NRT via massive subsidies.

To understand the less harm produced by e-cigarettes compared to traditional cigarettes, one needs to simply look at the numbers — after all, they say that numbers never lie. For starters, combustible cigarettes contain nearly 600 ingredients. When burned, combustible cigarettes emit “more than 7,000 chemicals.” By the way, cigarettes include ammonia and magnesium carbonate, which “has a role as an antacid and a fertilizer.” Even worse, chemicals in cigarette smoke include acetone, butane, and formaldehyde.

On the other hand, e-cigarettes typically contain five ingredients (595 less than cigarettes, for those having trouble with the math): glycerol, propylene glycol, nicotine, flavoring, and water. Nicotine salts also include benzoic acid. All of these ingredients can be found in a combustible cigarette, but are not what cause the most harm. Indeed, cigarette smoke (and the terrible chemicals within it) is directly linked to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, numerous types of cancer, and other health issues.

As early as the 1940s, researchers noted nicotine makes cigarettes addictive. However, they also noted it does not cause major harm. Finally, in 1976, more than a decade after the U.S. Surgeon General’s report linking cigarette use to cancer, Michael Russell declared “people smoke for nicotine but die from the tar.”

This groundbreaking notion launched the concept of tobacco harm reduction (THR). Soon after, products were developed that effectively deliver nicotine without the harms associated with combustible cigarettes. Initially, these products included smokeless tobacco, snus, and NRT. In 2007, electronic cigarettes debuted on the U.S. market. Almost immediately, they had a positive impact. Indeed, in just over a decade, three million American adults have quit smoking by using e-cigarettes.

Several countries, including many in Europe, promote the use of e-cigarettes. According to John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, “It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety.”

However, across the pond, in the United States, the public is receiving a muddled message when it comes to the efficacy of e-cigarettes. How could this be? In other words, why would politicians, with an assist from the fake news media, deceive the public about a product that could (and has) helped millions of smokers quit combustible cigarettes? The answer is simple: follow the money. It doesn’t take a math genius to understand that governments rely on the millions of tax dollars and settlement payment money that they receive from big tobacco.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, states “will collect a record $27.3 billion from tobacco taxes” and settlement payments. However, only $655 million, about 2 percent, will be spent on tobacco education and prevention in 2019. Even worse, several states, including Connecticut, Tennessee, and West Virginia, have not dedicated a single penny of tobacco tax or settlement funds on smoking cessation programs.

Maybe lawmakers are unduly influenced by the 66 percent of eighth-graders who scored below proficient in math when they pass legislation that would ban adult access to e-cigarettes and vaping devices. Believe it or not, these children actually testify at such legislative hearings.

Regardless of one’s mathematical prowess, it should be fairly simple to understand the valuable potential of e-cigarettes. Already, these devices have helped three million—a very large number with seven digits—American adults quit smoking. Moreover, if more American adult smokers switched to e-cigarettes, this would result in billions — an even larger number with 10 digits — of savings to state Medicaid programs.

Unfortunately, it seems that policymakers know as much about e-cigarettes as most Americans know about math. 

[Originally Published at Townhall]

Article Tags
Alcohol & Tobacco
Author
Lindsey Stroud is a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute.
lstroud@heartland.org