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Forum editorial: Don’t be fooled by e-cig hype

The North Dakota Legislature is buying into Big Tobacco’s clever but dishonest narrative about e-cigarettes. Lawmakers would be better served by paying attention to Dr. Terry Dwelle, the state’s chief health officer.

In comments published a few days ago, Dwelle said without equivocation that, given current research and information, the “cons” of e-cigs outweigh the “pros.” He said more work is needed to further define the risks and any potential benefits of the nicotine-delivery devices. He said the assumption that vapors produced by e-cigs are less risky than smoke from traditional tobacco products is not backed up by sound research.

Lawmakers likely will ban e-cig sales to minors, as several North Dakota cities have done already. But there is wrong-headed sentiment among some lawmakers that the devices should not be taxed and otherwise treated the same way tobacco is. Under the state’s smoking ban law, e-cigs are treated like cigarettes and other tobacco products. The e-cig provision was part of a voter-approved smoking and secondhand smoke measure. The measure passed with 66 percent approval.

Yet, lawmakers have smoke in their eyes when it comes to the clear message North Dakotans sent about tobacco use – and the stealth campaign to paint vaping with e-cigs as an innocent tobacco-free option.

There is nothing innocent about it. Big Tobacco has become Big Vaping. The companies have jumped into the e-cig market with slick advertising campaigns and legitimate-sounding claims about the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes. The push has all the elements that peddlers of tobacco used a generation ago to convince the gullible that cigarettes did not cause cancer. The lie then has morphed into the lie now.

There is less-than-definitive indication that e-cigs help smokers quit. If it’s true, it’s a good thing. But that unproved aspect of e-cigs has nothing to do with taxing a nicotine-delivery device that by some studies can be a gateway for young people to tobacco use. It is counterintuitive to grant a tax break to devices and substances that use candy flavors and faux fashion to attract users of all ages to a nicotine-delivery tube. It’s also stupid policy. It’s playing into the dirty hands of the folks who for years peddled the fiction that tobacco was good for us.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.