Saturday, November 11, 2017

Ad spending on electronic cigarettes drives up use of product, but don't call users 'vapers,' anti-smoking expert says; it's not vapor

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

MADISONVILLE, Ky. – Tobacco companies are "normalizing smoking again" through electronic cigarettes, misleading children and adults about them "in more insidious ways," Kentucky's leading crusader against smoking told Western Kentucky journalists Friday.

Ellen J. Hahn, Ph.D.
Ellen Hahn, a University of Kentucky nursing professor, also talked about efforts against secondhand smoke at "Covering Health: A News Workshop," held in Madisonville by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the funder of Kentucky Health News.

"E-cigarette use has risen in an astounding way, and it's exactly correlated with the amount of money companies have spent advertising the product," Hahn told the journalists. She said tobacco companies spend $266 million a year marketing their products in Kentucky, while the state spends $2.4 million on tobacco prevention.

Additional advertising comes from "vapor shops" for "vapers" who use e-cigs, but the words are misleading, Hahn said: "I would discourage you strongly from using the word 'vaping' because that is the word the industry is using."

Hahn explained that e-cigs don't produce vapor, which is diffused matter suspended in the air, but an aerosol, which is a liquid or solid of fine particles in a gaseous medium. She said e-cig aerosols have "at least 10 chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other harm."

There are over 400 types of e-cigs, with lots of flavorings, Hahn said: "That gives some false hope. People say, 'It tastes good. How could it be bad for me?'"

The flavors help attract children, she said. The last health poll of Kentucky high-school students, in 2015, found that 41.7 percent reported using an e-cig and 23.4 percent reported using them in the previous 30 days. Those rates were about the same as national rates. Meanwhile, the percentage of Kentucky high-schoolers smoking tobacco declined to 17 percent, still well above the U.S. rate of 10.6 percent.

Hahn said e-cigs can be a pathway leading children to cigarettes: "It's kind of like a little door, a little opening, to nicotine addiction."

Hahn runs the nursing college's BREATHE (Bridging Research Efforts and Advocacy Toward Healthy Environments) program and its Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, which campaigns for local ordinances that ban indoor smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes and the "heat not burn" product that is expected to hit the market soon. She is also part of the campaign for a $1 increase in the state's 60-cents-a-pack cigarette tax, to reduce state's smoking rate, which is the nation's second highest and the cause of many health problems.

Hahn was asked about private-property rights and individual freedom, the main arguments used by opponents of smoking bans. She said Kentucky's heritage of growing tobacco also makes anti-tobacco efforts difficult, even though the state has fewer than 5,000 tobacco farmers.

"This is not about going after farmers in any way, shape or form," and tobacco farmers tell her they don't want their children to smoke, Hahn said. Still, "Politicians are worried it's going to make people mad, it's going to affect them politically. . . . I don't think anyone wants our tobacco heritage to stay in the way of our health."

She said Kentuckians don't know how toxic secondhand smoke is; that it has 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer: "It's like a toxic waste dump on fire." Research has estimated that 34,000 Americans a year, 900 in Kentucky, die because of exposure to secondhand smoke, and Hahn said even brief exposure can narrow blood vessels,

She said 67 percent of Kentuckians are exposed to secondhand smoke at work, and restaurant servers and bartenders are more likely to have heart disease and cancer.

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