E-cigarettes use liquid that creates a vapor. (Photo: Lauri Rantala, MGNOnline)

With Tennessee having one of the highest adult smoking rates in the country, it is critical that our public policy on tobacco and nicotine reflect science rather than outdated claims.

The scientific evidence shows vaping is a significantly less harmful alternative to smoking and is helping smokers around the world quit for good.

Dimitris Agrafiotis is an avid vapor product advocate. (Photo: Contributed)

Vaping, on the other hand, does not involve burning and does not contain tobacco. No burning means no smoke. Because there is no smoke, vaping—or e-cigarette usage— also doesn’t produce the most lethal chemicals found in cigarette smoke like carbon monoxide or tar.

Instead, vaping heats liquid, turning it into a vapor.

This liquid often includes nicotine—which is why smokers turn to vapor products as a replacement to traditional cigarettes.

Because these products contain dramatically fewer toxicants and chemicals when compared to smoking, there is a growing understanding in the public health community that vaping is much less harmful than cigarettes. A recent study by Public Health England says vaping— or e-cigarette usage— is 95 percent less harmful than smoking.

PHE also found compelling evidence showing vaping is helping people— and quite a lot of people— quit smoking for good.

The study estimates e-cigarettes helped at least 20,000 people successfully quit smoking who would not have otherwise quit with traditional methods.

This has helped the UK achieve the second-lowest smoking rate in Europe. Smokers who used e-cigarettes and sought support from a local quit center had the greatest success.

The PHE is working to correct false narratives about vaping and get the facts straight for the public. They are convinced vaping will improve public health and save lives.

John Newton, Director for Health Improvement at PHE said, “It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”

In the U.S., however, the false narrative that vaping is as harmful as smoking continues to spread.

Currently, the Food & Drug Administration seems intent on scaring smokers as far away from vaping as possible. Indeed, even though the science points firmly in the direction of harm reduction, the FDA forbids vape shops from mentioning any benefit that smokers may receive from switching.

Remember, this is the same FDA that allows traditional cigarettes to be sold while knowing with absolute certainty how harmful they are for public health.

Through a constitutionally suspect process, the FDA has “deemed” vaping under the same regulatory purview as tobacco products, even though they contain no tobacco, do not burn or produce smoke.

After receiving considerable backlash, the agency delayed their rule until 2022. Vape shop owners are challenging the rule in court and questioning the FDA’s ability to prevent them from making truthful claims about their products.

Yet, here in Tennessee, there are calls to start imposing these same regulatory burdens and classify vapor products as tobacco products. A decision to move forward would only make it more difficult for shop owners to continue to operate in the state and hurt smokers who are trying to quit.

Our federal and state regulations should reflect the reality that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking.

We must provide smokers who want to quit with clear, transparent information based on science, not fear.

Dimitris Agrafiotis is an avid vapor product advocate and serves as Executive Director of the Tennessee Smoke-Free Association, a consumer advocacy and trade organization focused on Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) through the use of vapor products (electronic cigarettes). Find him on Twitter as @VapinGreek.

The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.