Letter: Work remains iN snuffing out

The year 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the first surgeon general’s report on smoking and health.

A 2014 report from the surgeon general called the “Health Consequences of Smoking” points out that more than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.

Currently, about 18 percent of adult Americans smoke, that is down from 45 percent in 1965 — a major public health feat. With much to congratulate themselves on in terms of reversing the smoking trend, public health still has work to do.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has established reducing tobacco use as one of its “Winnable Battles,” priorities with large-scale health impacts, which have proven effective strategies to address them.

With that in mind, a closer look at e-cigarettes is warranted. Increasing in popularity with adults and youth and unregulated in many states, e-cigarettes are promoted as smoking cessation tools.

E-cigarettes simulate tobacco smoking by using a battery operated device to vaporize a liquid solution which may or may not contain nicotine.

Many argue that they aid in smoking cessation and reduce second hand smoke, however, there are groups, including the World Health Organization and British Medical Association, who believe there is not enough research to indicate that they are safe and effective.

This week, Stan Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco, researcher and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research, published a major review of the scientific literate on e-cigarettes in the journal of the American Heart Association, Circulation.

Here are a few key points taken from the press release submit by Dr. Glantz. (Spoiler alert — e-cigarettes might not be entirely harmless and should be regulated.)

While the data are still limited, it can be stated that:

•E-cigarette emissions “are not merely ‘harmless water vapor,’ as is frequently claimed and can be a source of indoor air pollution.”

•E-cigarettes have not been proven to help adults quit smoking.

•While e-cigarettes were originally competing with conventional cigarette companies, all the major cigarette companies are now in the e-cigarette business, and the marketing, aggressive store placement, and political and PR strategies are similar to cigarettes in the 1950s and 1960s.

Are e-cigarettes a helpful tool in the battle against tobacco use? Stan Glantz stated in his report, “We don’t know yet, but they certainly aren’t the “proven strategy” that the Surgeon General is calling for in the “winnable battle” category.”

Until proven different, we view the use of e-cigarettes as an extension of the tobacco use habit (hand-to-mouth fixation much like the use of a pacifier in toddlers) and a possible threat to the unsuspecting general public. We are currently proposing that e-cigarettes be included in all smoking bans in Seymour as a public health threat.

The Smokefree Seymour Coalition is a group of concerned citizens working to strengthen the existing smoking ordinance within the city of Seymour.

This ordinance was approved by the city council before the state of Indiana had a formal legislative piece and made Seymour unique and proactive within the cities and towns of Indiana.

The coalition would propose that Seymour again address the smoking issue by strengthening the existing ordinance by including verbiage to address the e-cigarette products; expanding the proximity of smoking from the entrance to public buildings from 8 feet to 25 feet; to address smoking in groups of 50 or more people and the inclusion of all bars and clubs in the smoking ban.

We would really like to see the city council amend the ordinance to assist in preventing unnecessary deaths due to smoking and secondhand smoke. Right now we want to encourage residents to contact their councilman and suggest that they vote “yes” when the amended ordinance is presented later this spring.

Dr. Kenneth Bobb of Seymour recently retired after 16 years as the Jackson County Health Officer. A former smoker, the 87-year-old has been involved with the Smoke Free Seymour campaign since 2005.