Vaping, Harm Reduction, and Addiction

Links to other subjects: Family and Addiction, Legal Problems, Oxycontin Court Case

Anyone who has ever been to a 12-step meeting might have noticed that we have a serious problem with cigarette smoking in the recovery community. The best drug and alcohol rehabs in Florida and elsewhere are basically forced to allow smoking in certain outdoor areas during treatment, however some do not, and most clinicians would like to help their patients stop smoking after the initial intervention for drug and alcohol use disorders. The negative consequences of addiction or dependency to drugs and alcohol are so immediate that we move the cigarette addiction issue to the back burner, which makes some sense. We should, however, discuss this issue, because the long-term effect of smoking cigarettes is often death, just less immediately than with Alcohol, Heroin, Fentanyl, Cocaine, and other major drugs of abuse and addiction.

Heino Stoever is a German addiction science researcher and professor who has published extensively on addiction, recovery, and harm reduction, including how those issues pertain to the current opioid and alcohol crises. It caught my attention yesterday when I saw that he tweeted about E-Cigarettes. European countries, specifically The Netherlands, are moving to ban many E-Cigarettes, which contain no tar and likely cause no cigarette related cancers. I will share the text of his message now,

“New research results from Yale: “A recent study from the @YaleSPH has suggested that banning the sale of flavoured vaping products can cause higher rates of cigarette smoking among teenagers.” #HarmReduction #ecigarettes

There are many reasons this is important. First of all, banning only flavored E-Cigs is a blatant political cash grab by tobacco companies, because research has already proven that teenagers and others are much more likely to stop smoking cigarettes if they switch to flavored E-Cigs, as many people who use cigarette and tobacco flavored E-Cigs backslide into smoking cigarettes.

We Must Discuss Harm Reduction

For more than a decade since E-Cigs and vaping products came on the market there have been some calls to ban them. Two groups engage in this. Tobacco companies engage in this because they profit much more from regular cigarettes even though it eventually kills the customer and even though many tobacco companies invested in vaping companies. Uninformed parents and others have raised alarms about vaping and E-Cigs out of concern for young people. Those people with no profit motive are the main targets for this important information. The best drug and alcohol rehabs in Florida and elsewhere support efforts to reduce harm done by drugs and alcohol even before people reach treatment. This is done through entities which include needle exchanges and facilities that test people for illnesses like HIV and Hepatitis C. We are further away, probably, from the general public understanding the importance of needle exchanges. Luckily, on the vaping issue, stores have opened around the country and people have done fairly well at finding good information on the health benefits of quitting smoking by switching to vaping. Heino Stoever’s tweet was not news to me, but it presented a great opportunity to discuss this important topic here.

The new research that was released came from the Yale School of Public Health. Here is one major quote and takeaway from their study in San Francisco’s youth population, “analyses found that San Francisco’s flavor ban was associated with more than doubled odds of recent smoking among underage high school students.” So then, after banning flavored tobacco, done at the behest of tobacco companies and legal marijuana companies (The latter group is a complicated subject for another time), twice as many kids started smoking cigarettes, which will likely kill them if they continue smoking. We know quitting is hard and made harder without non-tobacco flavored vaping products; the new research from Yale alone says that again. Heino Stoever has made multiple points about this recently, and they are both hugely important to a recovery and addiction disease field which is already much more effected by cigarette smoking and smoking related cancers. The best drug and alcohol rehabs in Florida and elsewhere, and people who work in harm reduction, cannot continue to be the only ones talking about these issues. We need more needle exchanges now, which can also connect patients with further treatment opportunities. We need more discussion about the very positive effects of quitting smoking, including those that come from using E-Cig vaping products instead of tobacco, which Yale’s study clearly states that teenagers often do.

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By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at


@HeinoStoever on Twitter

Yang Y, Lindblom EN, Salloum RG, Ward KD. “The impact of a comprehensive tobacco product flavor ban in San Francisco among young adults.” Addict Behavior Rep. 2020;11:100273.

Yale School of Public Health