CAGW Submits Comments to APPG Inquiry | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW Submits Comments to APPG Inquiry

Letters to Officials

May 24, 2021

The Honorable Mark Pawsey, MP
Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping 
House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA

Dear Mr. Pawsey,

On behalf of the more than one million members and supporters of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) in the United States, I am pleased to express our views on tobacco harm reduction products and the new report released on March 31, 2021 from the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping that calls on “Global Britain to make its mark in fight to end smoking.”

 CAGW is a 501(c)(3) private, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing more than 1 million members and supporters in the United States.  CAGW’s mission is to eliminate waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.  Founded in 1984 by the late businessman J. Peter Grace and late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jack Anderson, CAGW is the legacy of President Ronald Reagan’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, also known as the Grace Commission.

The APPG argues that because the U.K is no longer under the thumb of the European Union (EU) and its draconian approach to tobacco harm reduction products, it should “champion its progressive, successful and evidence-based, domestic policies on tobacco harm reduction on a global stage.”  

The report urges U.K. representatives at the November 2021 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the Parties 9 (FCTC COP) to fully embrace its harm reduction policies, to ensure that the World Health Organization (WHO) returns to founding principles that include harm reduction; restrict any decision to ban vaping and other reduced risk alternatives to smoking; and guarantee openness and transparency in any of their decisions concerning tobacco and tobacco harm reduction products.  The report suggests that the U.K. should substantially reduce its support for the WHO if these recommendations are not accepted.

CAGW agrees with the conclusions of the report that restoring the WHO harm reduction principles will continue to move people away from smoking combustible cigarettes to less harmful products that assist individuals to quit smoking entirely.  The U.K. has long been a leader in demonstrating the effectiveness of harm reduction projects like e-cigarettes.

At a March 23, 2021 Westminster Hall debate, Mr. David Jones, MP, led a debate on harm reduction products, noting it was not his first time to do so.  He said, “This year, we have an opportunity that we must embrace.  Our exit from the European Union has provided us with the opportunity to take control of our own policy to improve public health, to contribute to the Government’s levelling-up agenda and to enhance the United Kingdom’s reputation as a world leader on tobacco harm reduction.”  He noted in his argument that the WHO has taken positions that “run completely counter to our own.  Worryingly, just last month the WHO proposed a ban on vaping.”  He reminded his colleagues that the U.K. has a goal to have a smoke-free society by 2030 and that there is “no time to waste” as an analysis by Cancer Research U.K. demonstrated that the government is not on track in reaching the goal.

During the debate, Mr. Gareth Johnson, MP, noted the 2030 deadline would be difficult to reach because the WHO lumps tobacco harm reduction products with all tobacco products, including combustible products, causing some people to believe that vaping is as dangerous as smoking.  He said, “Through Government changes to regulations, we can change that and ensure that people who smoke are made aware of the comparative benefits of vaping.  Post Brexit, there is a great opportunity to ensure that that happens.”

Many countries and non-governmental organizations have adopted the WHO’s faulty premise that vaping, and similar products like heat-not-burn technology, are just as dangerous as smoking.  As a result, many people are completely unaware that they can be used to help wean themselves off harmful combustible cigarettes.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has regulated tobacco products since 2009 under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many members of Congress are unfortunately following the WHO model rather than the U.K. model on the value of harm reduction products.  There was a short period of time when former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb seemed sincere in recognizing the benefits of electronic cigarettes.  One of his first initiatives was to delay enforcement of burdensome regulations for e-cigarettes from August 2018 to August 2022 as part of a greater plan he had announced to strike an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging development of innovative tobacco products that are less dangerous than cigarettes, help people quit smoking, and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death.  (This deadline date was later changed to May 2020 due to a July 2019 decision in a lawsuit and a further delay to September 2020 due to COVID-19.)

Tragically, in August 2019 and peaking in September, severe lung illnesses and several deaths were reported due to “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury” or EVALI.  The Trump administration moved to propose a flavor ban in e-cigarettes to halt the “recent upsurge” in youth vaping.  By November 2019, the CDC found that vitamin E found in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing e-cigarettes was the likely culprit causing the harm.  The substance, apparently used as a thickening agent in e-cigarettes, which were obtained “from informal sources like friends, family, or in-person or online dealers” was linked to most of the EVALI cases.  In other words, the vaping products that caused the harm were illicit products, not commercial vaping products.

But the FDA has not looked back or reconsidered its efforts in attacking electronic cigarettes.  There is a nationwide ban on many flavored e-cigarettes, which are contained in cartridge or pre-filled devices, and other vaping products, which have refillable cartridges, are strictly regulated by the FDA.

In fact, instead of retreating on unwise prohibitions, the agency is now considering a ban on menthol cigarettes.  CAGW is opposed to these actions and believes the adverse consequences that will likely follow have not been considered.  The proposed menthol ban must go through a notice and comment period and will likely see legal challenges.  It would take at least two years for the ban to be put in place should the agency be successful.  While health officials believe a two-year delay will be beneficial because there would be time to create smoking cessation plans, it also creates the opportunity for bad actors to create a thriving black market. 

States are regrettably following the FDA’s lead and trying to implement high taxes and / or flavor bans on all tobacco products.  New York has the highest cigarette excise tax and the highest retail tax per pack in the country at $10.45 a pack.  The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Tax Foundation issue an annual report estimating how many cigarettes are smuggled into or out of states.  They determined New York continues to suffer with the highest cigarette smuggling operation in the country and estimated that 53 percent of the market is illegal.

Massachusetts was the first state to permanently ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products.  According to a study by the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, lost excise tax income in Massachusetts from selling fewer menthol cigarettes alone amounted to $62 million in the first six months of the ban.  Instead of stopping the use of flavored tobacco products, the Massachusetts law simply changed the location of commercialization.

A study published in the June 2020 ScienceDigest, “The Impact of Comprehensive Tobacco Product Flavor Ban in San Francisco Among Young Adults,” concluded that, “comprehensive local flavor bans, by themselves, cannot sharply reduce the availability or use of flavored tobacco products among residents.  Nevertheless, local bans can still significantly reduce overall e-cigarette use and cigar smoking but may increase cigarette smoking.”  It also found that “Most users reported being able to obtain flavored tobacco products in multiple ways despite the ban.”

Much of the drive to ban flavors is to discourage youth from using e-cigarettes.  But according to a January 13, 2020 Reason Foundation study by Jacob Rich, who looked at the CDC 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the main reason any youth vaper tried using e-cigarettes was because they were curious about them.  High School and Middle School students were given a choice of selecting 12 reasons for why they tried vaping and 55.3 percent said they were curious about them and 22.3 percent did so because e-cigarettes were available in flavors.  Yet instead of focusing on stopping youth vaping, which is already illegal, federal health officials and states are going after all flavored e-cigarettes, which adults also find appealing.  The flavors help to make it easier to transition away from combustible cigarettes.
It is disturbing that the FCTC is looking to treat vaping and other tobacco harm reduction products in the same way it treats combustible tobacco products.  History shows that bans, higher taxes, and scare tactics have their limits in reducing smoking.  More importantly, there are always opportunities for people to get access to the products they want and unscrupulous players will provide them.

The largest producer of tobacco in the world is China.  According to Statista, leading tobacco producing countries worldwide in 2019 (in 1,000 metric tons) were China at 2,610 and its closest competitor was India, at 804, followed by Brazil at 770, Zimbabwe at 258, and the United States at 212.

China is already the largest producer of Fentanyl in the world.  It is shipped by plane or ship to Mexico where drug traffickers take it into the U.S. and deliver it to gangs where it is spread throughout the population.  There is no doubt that if WHO pushes to treat harm reduction products as if they are combustible tobacco, China will be happy to fill any voids.

Unfortunately, people who utilize harm reduction products cannot depend on the U.S. delegation to follow the U.K.’s lead and position on the value of these products.  Therefore, we encourage your representatives at FCTC COP9 to educate fellow delegates on your research, work, and efforts to make the U.K. smoke free by 2030.

We agree with the four recommendations being made to your colleagues in Parliament, like having the FCTC updated so that it shows the positive possibilities from tobacco harm reduction products that move smokers away from using combustible cigarettes, which causes the death of 8 million people a year from smoking related illnesses. 

CAGW agrees that the U.K. should use its research and evidence that demonstrate the value of tobacco harm reduction products and stop all efforts by the FCTC to limit adult access to these products.

We concur that sending a “balanced delegation of officials and experts” that can demonstrate and provide the evidence on the value of these products is important, especially including consumers who have used them to move away from cigarettes permanently and can speak passionately to how they helped improve their lives.  We believe cutting funds from the WHO should be strongly considered if these proposals are not accepted.  After all, the WHO certainly took notice when the U.S. pulled funding over its coronavirus response.

Lastly and most importantly, the U.K. delegation must focus on the harms of smoking, not nicotine.  Greater education of the populace is needed that it is the burning of tobacco and paper that creates and delivers the harmful chemicals to the lungs and body that leads to cancer and other serious illnesses.  Nicotine is addictive and efforts should be made to prevent youth from using products that contain it, but that comes best from close oversight by their parents and teachers.

A September 2019 Reuters’s poll, taken soon after the EVALI breakout, found that most Americans, 63 percent, believe vaping is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.  A poll taken in the U.K shows that one-third of smokers believe e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than combustible cigarettes, in spite of the evidence to the contrary.  Certainly, research must continue with harm reduction products but one thing that is certain since the release of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report in 1964 is that smoking leads to cancer and other harmful diseases.

In conclusion, CAGW supports your efforts on the value of tobacco harm reduction products and their use in moving people away from using deadly combustible cigarettes.

Sincerely,

    Tom Schatz
                 President, CCAGW

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Letter Type: 
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