By Sean Yokomizo
For Northwest Asian Weekly
On behalf of Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy, and Leadership (APPEAL), I would like to respond to the commentary, “E-cigarettes and the API Community,” authored by Reid Mukai and posted on Nov. 21, 2014.
First, I would like to make clear APPEAL’s position that e-cigarettes and other electronic devices designed to feed nicotine addiction should be regulated, just as traditional nicotine addiction devices, like tobacco cigarettes, are regulated.
Mr. Mukai opens his commentary by using data from APPEAL highlighting the disproportionate and devastating impacts of tobacco on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities. Indeed, the numbers are alarming and we appreciate Mr. Mukai’s concern for those subjected to the leading preventable cause of disease and death among AANHPIs.
Mr. Mukai goes on to discuss the role of e-cigs as a potential means of lessening the impacts of tobacco by acting as an aid to reduce or quit the use of tobacco. However, Mr. Mukai’s commentary fails to consider some key facts related to the use of e-cigs.
While e-cigs don’t give off smoke, like traditional cigarettes, it’s important to understand that the vapor produced by e-cigs still contains chemicals from the nicotine, flavoring, and other additives. Scientific research is still ongoing to try and determine the actual effects that inhaling those chemicals has on e-cig users, as well as those in close proximity to “second-hand” vapor. The fact that the contents of e-cigs are unregulated and therefore could contain an unknown “cocktail” of chemicals that differs from product to product only complicates that research.
There are also serious concerns about e-cigs acting as a “gateway” tobacco product and the targeting of children through both unregulated marketing and the use of sweet, candy-like flavorings. Studies of traditional tobacco shows that both targeted marketing and the use of menthol and other flavorings increases use among young people. It’s reasonable to assume that the same may be true with e-cigs and there is evidence to support this concern. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, between 2011 and 2013, the number of youth who’d never smoked, but used e-cigs increased 3-fold, from 79,000 to over 263,000. The “intention to smoke conventional cigarettes” was 44% among youth who had used e-cigs, compared to 22% of those who’d never used e-cigs.
One of APPEAL’s key missions is to protect the next generation from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and making the regulation of new nicotine delivery systems, like e-cigs, comparable to the regulation of traditional nicotine sources, like tobacco cigarettes, goes a long way toward creating environments in which kids are less likely to start smoking or become addicted to nicotine in any form.
Ultimately, nicotine is an additive substance that provides no benefit and is associated historically with considerable adverse impacts on health. Decades of work, millions of dollars, and literally millions of deaths have been invested in fighting the impact that tobacco and nicotine have had on AANHPI communities. We strongly oppose products that threaten to undo that investment, no matter how profitable it may be for the few in the community who sell those products, as does Mr. Mukai. (end)
Sean Yokomizo is Communications & Development Manager for APPEAL.