My, how times change
Safe sex public service announcements are done by celebrities and condom companies even sponsor sporting events and teams. The CDC reports that studies found that harm reduction (also called "prevention") programs had significant impact on reducing sexual risk behaviors and notably, the HIV prevention programs were not shown to hasten initiation of sexual intercourse among adolescents, even when those curricula encouraged sexually active young people to use condoms.
New kid on the block
Do these points sound familiar?
- They argue that e-cigarettes shouldn't be used because they still have some risks and "safer doesn't make it safe" (see poster below.)
- They fear that promotion of a safer alternative and permitting use in public places (a huge incentive for smokers to switch) will "renormalize" smoking and set back all of their efforts promoting 100% abstinence for the past 30 years.
- They ignore that the benefits of millions of smokers quitting far outweigh the miniscule risks of bystander exposure to a little vapor in public.
- They complain that celebrity endorsements and pleasant, non-tobacco flavors (an important feature that helps smokers move away from the taste of conventional cigarettes) will entice youth use. They argue that young people will try them because they (correctly) believe them to be safer than smoking.
- They point to scientifically tiny risks compared to smoking as reason to "err on the side of caution."
When propaganda takes over science
For those of us who lived through the endless debates on changing attitudes about safe sex education and promoting condom use, we are now living in a bizzaro world that has flipped everything on it's head. The very people we thought would "get it" have become our greatest opposition.
- Low risk alternatives significantly reduce the risks of the nearly 14 million U.S. smokers who aren't part of the 70% who say they want to quit.
- Low risk alternatives significantly reduce the risks of the 42 million U.S. smokers who say they want to quit, but are still smoking because they are between quit attempts or have given up trying to quit after too many failed attempts.
- Low risk alternatives could also significantly reduce the risks of the nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. who become new, daily smokers every year - should they choose e-cigarettes before trying traditional cigarettes.
Maybe they should take the advice they gave to the religious right 30 years ago (and still even today) and stop trying to force their ideology of 100% abstinence on people and start accepting the fact that people will take risks; and it's the job of public health to reduce those risks, not to cling to an unrealistic belief that they can stop all people from