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Opinion

We’re seeing an emerging youth epidemic, public health catastrophe with e-cigarettes: Shatenstein

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Re: “Dramatic spike in teen vaping and smoking requires urgent legislative remedies,” (The Hill Times, July 3, online) and “Scrapping e-cigarette ads would hurt adults to curb smoking, says vaping company,” (The Hill Times, July 10, letter to the editor) and “Governments must find optimal balance in regulating vaping,” (The Hill Times, July 17). I find it regrettable that The Hill Times has run a pro-vape column and a letter to the editor in the space of a month. To say that Public Health England (PHE) conducted “a review of scientific evidence” and found “e-cigarettes are 95 per cent less harmful than conventional cigarettes” is incorrect. The figure has its origins in a single paper in one journal five years ago. Was this a cross-sectional or longitudinal study? Was it included in a meta-analysis? Was it a proper review of the scientific literature? The answer is “no” on all counts, but even if you try to argue that the 12 men sitting around a table comparing the relative harms of different toxic substances were engaging in some kind of review process, this took place more than five years ago and meets absolutely none of the criteria for assessing relative risk in actual human beings.

The biggest fact about e-cigarettes that consumers need to know is that we are seeing an emerging youth epidemic when trends on tobacco use across all age groups had been heading in the right direction for years. We’re careening towards a public health catastrophe and that’s what consumers should be hearing, not promised benefits based on cherry-picked numbers and scant or absent data.

Stan Shatenstein
Editor & Publisher, STAN Bulletin
Smoking & Tobacco Abstracts & News
Montreal, Que.

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