Vapers May Be Turning Back To Tobacco During Pandemic, Says Altria
Marlboro Maker Highlights Worrying Trend For Public Health
Over the past year, vaping has been the subject of constant fear-mongering misinformation and regulatory crackdowns. Now amid the evolving coronavirus crisis and associated quarantine orders, some former smokers are being forced back toward old habits.
Older vapers may be turning back to smoking amid a slew of negative news coverage and restrictions on access to vapor products, says big tobacco giant Altria. This confirms concerns aired by members of the vaping industry as quarantine and other stay-home orders began to take effect throughout the country.
It is interesting to note that many of these relapsed smokers are opting for discount cigarettes, a trend that directly cuts into Marlboro’s market share and is likely to carry forward as the economic downturn continues. Older smokers, aged 50 and over, are more likely than younger smokers to purchase discounted cigarettes and are the active driving force behind this new trend.
Public health experts and harm reduction scholars cautioned against restrictions on vaping long before the pandemic hit, for this very exact reason. It has been long understood that restricting access to vapor products while allowing open access to tobacco would directly lead to increased smoking rates.
According to big tobacco giant Altria, a number of former smokers are relapsing due to restricted access to vapor products. The sudden shift has largely been driven by vape shops and similar retailers being closed amid stay-home orders, although it does continue a trend that began last year following regulatory crackdowns and a slew of negative publicity.
In the summer of 2019, a series of outbreaks of mysterious lung injuries began popping up throughout the country. While initially attributed to vapor products, investigators ultimately found tainted cannabis products to be the culprit, unfortunately, the public perception had already shifted by the time this was clarified.
Following these reports and shifts in public perception, lawmakers began systematically targeting the vaping industry in a series of regulatory crackdowns ranging from flavor bans to the complete prohibition of vapor products. Recently, stay-home orders driven by the coronavirus crisis have led to a majority of vape shops throughout the country being forced to shutter, either temporarily or permanently.
This new trend causes a variety of potential public health concerns which may further overburden our healthcare systems. We may see a number of complications resulting from an increase in the smoking rate, including those requiring hospitalizations, that may take up precious space and resources in hospitals.
Despite this trend, there is an extensive collection of research noting both the efficacy of vaping as a form of smoking cessation and the reduced risk of harm compared to tobacco. Both public health scholars and harm reduction experts alike routinely note that the public health benefits of vaping vastly outweigh any hypothetical drawbacks.
In an article published in the journal Science, a group of renowned health experts came together to speak out against prohibitive policies targeting vaping. This group of acclaimed scholars notes there is currently no evidence that vaping is harmful, and those prohibitive policies will only push former smokers back toward tobacco, as demonstrated.
A multitude of studies has highlighted the efficacy of vaping as a smoking cessation aid and tool. One such study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that vaping is more effective than conventional nicotine-replacement therapies in helping people both quit smoking and remain tobacco-free. An additional study, from the University of Louisville, found that vaping was the most effective form of smoking cessation available, even more than prescription options such as Chantix.
Not only has vaping been repeatedly demonstrated as one of the most effective forms of cessation available, but it has also been proven to be a reduced harm alternative to tobacco as well. In fact, research from both Public Health England and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center each found that vaping is 95% and 93% safer than smoking, respectively.
This massive shift in vaping trends is worrying not only for the industry itself but for public health as a whole. Complications from smoking-related conditions often lead to hospitalization, which amid a pandemic is risky for the patient and places additional strain on an already overburdened healthcare system.
It is imperative, now more than ever, for members of the vaping industry and community to stand together in support of what has helped so many so far. Lawmakers and other regulators must be lobbied to increase access to vapor products for the sake of public health and the future of this nation.
What are your thoughts regarding former smokers relapsing? Do you believe increased access to vapor products could reverse this trend? Let us know what you think in the comments below, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive all the latest vaping news!
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