Madison, Wsconsin — January 14, 2014
In a joint press release issued Monday, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association credited the state’s cessation and prevention program and recent tax increases for lowering smoking rates among adults and youth, now at 18% and 10% respectively.
At the same time, the organizations expressed dismay at the increased use of e-cigarettes, which seem not to have any impact in slowing the declining smoking rates at all. In fact, the same Wisconsin survey that found record low teen smoking rates also found the rate of Wisconsin teens using e-cigarette is 75 percent higher than the national average. Some might argue that the products may have had a hand in the significant reduction of actual smoking.
“The tobacco industry is aggressively marketing e-cigarettes to teens and young adults,” said Dona Wininsky, with the American Lung Association in Wisconsin. “Bubble gum, candy apple and cotton candy are just some of the kid-friendly e-cigarette flavors. Obviously these products are being pushed on kids and are not just another way for adults to quit
smoking,” said Wininsky.
“The claim that only youth would find these flavors appealing is a bit disingenuous,” said Kristin Noll-Marsh, of the Wisconsin Smoke-free Alternatives Coalition, a statewide group that promotes tobacco harm reduction policies. “Vodka companies sell vodka flavors in bubble gum, root beer and birthday cake. Obviously, if adult vodka drinkers like those flavors, so would adult consumers of vapor products. Even nicotine gums and lozenges come in sweet flavors like cherry, fruit chill and orange, not tobacco and menthol. E-cigarettes are about getting away from smoking and for some smokers, that includes getting as far away from the flavor of cigarettes as possible.”
Noll-Marsh says she’s shocked that public health groups want to treat vapor products as an enemy, rather than as an ally. “It’s so obvious that as the number of people using vapor products rises, the number of those smoking is going down,” she said.
“It’s like reporting a significant decline in STDs in both adults and youth and in the next breath saying you are concerned about increased use of condoms by youth.” Noll-Marsh pointed out. “Of course we’d much prefer youth remain abstinent, but demonizing a product that is obviously doing more overall good than harm makes no sense.”
The 2015 Burden of Tobacco Report released Monday by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, shows Wisconsin is losing billions of dollars to tobacco-related health care costs and lost worker productivity. The report estimates smoking costs Wisconsin $4.6 billion annually; including $3 billion in health care costs and an additional $1.6 billion in lost productivity. Tobacco use is also responsible for nearly 7,000 deaths in Wisconsin and is the cause of 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths and 14 percent of all heart attacks in the state.
“The tobacco-related health care costs are something like 99.9% related to smoking alone. So, it’s more accurate to call it “smoking-related costs,” Noll-Marsh emphasized. “And this is after a statewide smoking ban, yet another tobacco tax increase and, ironically, an “F” rating for tobacco prevention from the very American Lung Association that says those efforts have somehow still worked to lower our smoking rates. Obviously, we need new tools and strategies to cut those costs and save lives.
Noll-Marsh says tobacco harm reductions policies – which support methods such as providing safer alternatives for high risk behaviors – is what is making the difference.
“WSAC takes a realistic approach,” she said. “Just as with safe sex, we can’t keep pretending that we can get all people to stop high-risk behaviors like smoking, so providing them with a viable alternative is the next best thing. And vapor products reduce those risks to such a low level, it’s nearly as good as having gotten them to quit altogether.”
For more information,contact:
Wisconsin Smoke-free Alternatives Coalition