The American Lung Association recently released its State of Tobacco Control report for 2014. North Carolina hasn’t really ever received a decent grade in tobacco control from the organization. Still, that didn’t stop a local authority from blaming, among other things, the existence of electronic cigarettes for the bad grade.
David Willard, Northwest Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for the Appalachian District Health Department, blamed the smoking rate in one particular county as a leading culprit in the failing grade. Ashe county has an adult smoking rate of 24% — well above the national and state average. He went on to blame the high smoking rate in that county on the prevalence of electronic cigarettes.
According to Willard, “The real concern with these is that they come in all flavors, which appeals to youth. The electronic cigarette may also be seen as a gateway to begin smoking traditional cigarettes, since they still contain the addictive component of cigarettes (nicotine).”
The American Lung Association provides its methodology and reasoning for the scores. The big fat F’s North Carolina received were based largely on its own tobacco control efforts, not on the activities of its citizens. For instance, the state taxes cigarettes far below what most other states do (ranking 45th out of 51 for cigarette taxes). As well, government-funded quit programs and smoking regulations are lacking by comparison to other states. The grade actually doesn’t take smoking rate within each state in consideration — rather, a state’s efforts to curb smoking is all that matters.
Blaming electronic cigarettes for a high smoking rate is, for lack of a better term, silly. Even if electronic cigarettes did contribute to a rising smoking rate (and all evidence seems to indicate that the opposite is true), the rapid growth of electronic cigarettes wouldn’t have made a serious ding against North Carolina’s hefty smoking rate. If e-cigs were really to blame for smoking rates, most state would have noticed an up tick. Instead, declining smoking rates have actually begun declining more rapidly in recent years (since e-cigs entered the scene).
Not only does Willard give away that he doesn’t actually understand the scoring of the American Lung Association’s report, but he is also clearly reaching for reasons to blame external forces for his state’s pitiful grade. As is, the methodology pretty clearly explains the reasons a state would get such a poor score.