On June 5, 2018, San Francisco voters will decide on Proposition E, a measure that would uphold the city’s ban on retail sales of flavored tobacco products (including vaping products) enacted last year. David Sweanor, from the Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics, University of Ottawa, recently joined Chip Franklin on KGO-AM to discuss the potential consequences to public health should the measure pass. Sweanor, a global public health advocate, shares his views on why such a ban could keep people smoking by curtailing adult access to lower-risk smoke-free products.
“From a public health standpoint, it would be very nice to see [the measure] divided, to look at different products. The reality here is that what kills people is the smoke. It isn’t the nicotine, it isn’t even the tobacco, it’s the smoke. Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the FDA, has been insistent that we need to move people down what he calls the continuum of risk,” said Sweanor, noting that cigarettes are “about 100 times more hazardous than many of the available non-combustible products.”
While supporting the idea of eliminating menthol cigarettes, Sweanor says “it makes sense to have flavors in the low-risk products as a door to helping smokers leaving cigarettes” and moving to “things like vape, oral forms of tobacco like snus, moist snuff. If you decide that what you want to do is go after the entire category you’re really protecting cigarettes…this is something that closes the door. Let’s keep in mind that half a million Americans die each year from cigarettes smoking…We really do need to inform consumers that there are huge differences in risk, the way Dr. Gottlieb has been saying. If you can reduce your risk by 95% or more [by switching to smoke-free products] we should be encouraging that and not be putting up any road blocks.”
Last year, Sweanor gave a TedX Talk entitled “Dragons and Dragonslayers,” which we highly recommend.