VT Hands Out Taxpayer Dollars So Children Can Campaign Against E-Cigarettes

Guy Bentley | Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Vermont’s Department of Health is using taxpayer dollars to fund a children’s campaign against e-cigarettes.

The Our Voices Xposed (OVX) campaign — which is led and organized by high school students but financially supported by the Department of Health (DoH) — rallied outside the Vermont State Capitol Tuesday to warn against the alleged dangers of e-cigarettes.

Students from Montpelier High School testified to legislators about e-cigarette advertising and the rising numbers of underage vapers during the rally. The Bennington Banner reports that Rep. Ruqaiyah “Kiah” Morris was even the keynote speaker at the gathering.

“Spreading the word about tobacco and the horrible consequences that come with it, is something that I love to do,” said OVX member Riley Vogel. “I’m looking forward to also meeting our members of the State House to see what they are doing about smoking and other tobacco-related issues.”

A spokesman for the DoH confirmed the anti-e-cigarette protestors received financial support from the department. While Vermont’s health department may be down on e-cigarettes, it was eager to plug nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and lozenges, which have a dubious record of helping smokers quit.

“E-cigarettes may damage lung and heart health, contain harmful toxins, and send nicotine to the brain, which can lead to the same risk for addiction as other tobacco products,” the DoH said in a press release.

President of the American Vaping Association Gregory Conley was less than impressed with the DoH’s decision to lend a hand to anti-e-cigarette activism:

It’s appalling that children are being used as political props in the Vermont Department of Health’s misguided war on vaping. Gov. Peter Shumlin has been progressive on the issue of vaping, including opposing tax hikes on vapor products. We urge him to step in and ask why an agency under his watch is funding this harmful lobbying campaign.

While it’s true there has been a surge in teens experimenting with e-cigarettes nationwide, the risk of nicotine addiction may not be as big a problem as the DoH fears. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 60 percent of 15-18-year-olds vaped just flavorings with zero nicotine — 20 percent said they used e-cigarettes containing nicotine.

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 60 percent of 15-18-year-olds vaped just flavorings with zero nicotine — 20 percent said they used e-cigarettes containing nicotine.

NIDA also confirmed a dramatic fall in smoking among 10th graders of 54.9 percent over the past five years. The overall teen smoking rate is in freefall and dropped to its lowest level in two decades in 2013 at 15.7 percent.

The exact health risks from e-cigarettes are still unknown, but it is widely acknowledged that vaping is by far and away a safer alternative to smoking. An independent study from Public Health England published last year found that e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than regular smokes.

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Guy Bentley

Research Associate, Reason Foundation

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