The pandemic has been good for big tobacco. Anyway.
A report showed what was obviously bad news for anyone who would like to see fewer people in our country light up. Until, two days later, we learned that maybe things weren’t so bad anymore. First, the sad news that smoking increased in 2020 for the first time in two decades. In a way, this is not at all surprising: businesses have been closed and people have been invited to take refuge in their homes.
The holidays have been put on ice. Going to the movies or a stadium or dining inside a restaurant, we were told, was too risky to consider.
The result, for some: smoke them if you have them.
It was a terrible development no matter how you look at it. Pandemic lockdowns were established in the name of public health, but one obvious negative outcome – and there have been many more – has been an increase in smoking. After 20 years of decline.
But then came the news that the pandemic-fueled smoking boom had apparently been stifled, with the most recent statistics showing once again a reduction in cigarette sales.
While there is universal agreement that reducing the number of smokers is an unalloyed good – even most smokers wish they could quit – there has also been quite a bit of confusion and not a few mixed signals about the best way to do it. Alternatives to traditional cigarettes were briefly adopted as a simple ticket. Until they weren’t.
Federal regulators would do well to first recognize that nicotine is a drug that some people find pleasurable. And then they get addicted. As such, the basic question that needs to be asked, and that needs to be answered as best as possible, is: what is the safest nicotine delivery device?
Are electronic cigarettes that heat rather than ignite tobacco better than traditional cigarettes? How about vaping? Are there any alternatives to eat?
These questions are not easy to answer. But they must be treated.
Trying to keep abreast of the latest recommendations from public health officials can be a dizzying affair. One thing is in – until it’s out again. Or is it sort of, but not really?
Except for smoking, that is.
Smoking everything is smoking too much, and the fewer people light up, the better. Period.
The Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)