An article published yesterday on NJ.com said that the State Assembly’s health committee voted 7-2, with two abstentions. Last year the state Senate panel passed this bill (S298/A3704) despite protests to the contrary. Now, the full state Senate and Assembly would each have to pass the bill before it is passed on to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.
The misguided ‘Gateway Theory’ still at play
Promoters of this bill insist that their intention is to protect adolescents from being lured into smoking via vaping. “Going back to the days of ‘Joe Camel,’ we’ve seen how nicotine companies carefully market their products to young, impressionable consumers in the hopes of attracting life-long customers.” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), a co-sponsor and a physician by trade.
Conaway who is also the chair of the Assembly’s health committee added, “The appeal of electronic smoking devices is just as bad, if not worse, because the products are available in almost every candy-like flavour imaginable, from a public health perspective, it makes sense to extend the ban on flavoured tobacco products to electronic smoking devices, as well.”
Irreparable damage in the making
Despite the fact that many health experts challenged the gateway theory and the Surgeon General’s report, and most importantly the fact that ultimately several studies found that the gateway theory is unsound, the damage done by these claims is clearly still active.
Adding insult to injury, stop smoking centres in NJ were closed down
An article published by the Daily Record last January shed some light on a very serious underlying issue. Since Chris Christie has been Governor, his administration “has slashed state funding for smoking cessation from around $7 million when he took office to zero dollars since 2013. Spending cuts on the programs over Christie’s administration ended all state funding for five quit centers.” The administration’s argument is that they are focusing on the Opioid addiction problem, as numbers of smokers have lessened.
The article pointed out that when state funding for tobacco control was at its highest, in 2002, New Jersey funded 17 quit centers, but sadly now the state funds none. Additionally the 13 full-time positions at the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program that were created to conduct outreach and education programs were wiped out. This information was derived from Dr. Michael Steinberg, vice chairman of the Rutgers Department of Medicine who now runs the program as a volunteer.
This year the state of New jersey starts “handing over to bondholders cash that pours into New Jersey’s coffers every year thanks to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and the tobacco industry.” An agreement of which the aim was to ensure that the tobacco industry would keep paying states billions of dollars, dollars that were supposed to be spent towards stop-smoking programs.
The US in dire need to catch up
Only last week, the Canadian Government launched a public consultation with the aim of renewing the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy that expires next year. The document acknowledges the fact that the devices may hold potential as harm reduction tools, refers to the fact that the UK has endorsed the products and most importantly adds that the Canadian government is currently also weighing the idea.
In the meantime countless lives are lost
Although the current situation in the US looks quite grim, the combination of the undeniable positive data that keeps surfacing about the products, and the fact that Canadian authorities are starting to change their perspective, a change in stance by US authorities is only a matter of time. Unfortunately in the meantime, thousands of lungs and lives that could be saved are being lost, just because smokers are being kept away from the safer alternatives.