To the Editor:
In the 1978 speech in which I called smoking Public Health Enemy No. 1 and slow-motion suicide, and announced the first national antismoking program, I said research into the harmful and fatal effects of smoking would continue, including, as Amy L. Fairchild and James Colgrove quote me, “research aimed at creating a less hazardous cigarette.” But I do not support exempting e-cigarettes from restrictions applied to regular cigarettes.
I believe that smoking e-cigarettes should be banned in public places, that sales to minors should be prohibited, and that appropriate labeling and point-of-sale restrictions should be required.
The already sharp increase in teenage use of e-cigarettes, with the potential of nicotine addiction to encourage smoking tobacco-burning cigarettes, signals the danger ahead for our youth and the country’s health. Indeed, tobacco companies are reported to see the potential of e-cigarettes to make smoking once again commonplace and socially acceptable.
Subjecting e-cigarettes to restrictions similar to those on smoked cigarettes would in no way limit their use to reduce harm from tobacco-related disease — for example, to help adults like those unable to quit smoking after lung or esophageal cancer surgery.
Joseph A. Califano Jr.
The writer, secretary of health, education and welfare in the Carter administration, is the founder and chairman emeritus at CASAColumbia.