The World Health Organization created “World No Tobacco Day” to raise awareness of the health risks associated with smoking and encourage government leaders and public health officials to support efforts to make it easier for smokers to quit.
You might assume that Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City who earned the nickname "America’s Nanny," would support this important public health initiative. After all, Bloomberg is known for using his powerful office not only to nudge, but to force people to adopt what he views as healthier habits.
Most infamously, he sought to establish drink size restriction on sodas as a way to cut people’s sugar consumption. He also banned the use of trans fats, mandated city restaurants post calorie information, and discouraged the use of salt (despite his own habit of salting everything from pizza to saltine crackers). It never seemed to matter to Bloomberg that stacks of scientific data show these nanny-state efforts fail to improve health outcomes, but plenty of evidence shows they hurt small businesses and annoy freedom-loving New Yorkers.
Since leaving office, the former mayor has turned his attention to getting people to quit smoking — a noble goal for sure. Yet Bloomberg is sadly continuing his practice of ignoring research on what actually helps people make healthier choices in favor of his nanny-knows-best dictates.
In the United Kingdom, doctors now routinely advise patients eager to quit smoking to try e-cigarettes, which studies have found are 95 percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes. According to a recent survey, of the 2.9 million e-cigarette users in the U.K., more than half are ex-smokers who have given up smoking tobacco in favor of vaping. This good news is likely why both Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians back the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.
But not Bloomberg. Instead, he’s discouraged smokers from trying to reduce the harm of their habit by switching their nicotine delivery system from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarette devices. Instead of recognizing this innovation as a public health win, as mayor, Bloomberg backed the banning of e-cigarettes indoors, raised taxes on vaping products, and classified e-cigarettes as tobacco products despite them not containing any tobacco.
Women are the biggest losers from Bloomberg's anti-e-cigarette propaganda. According to a recent study published in Journal of Neuroscience, women have a harder time quitting traditional cigarettes because the FDA-approved smoking cessation products currently in the marketplace (patches and gum) don’t work as well on women as they do on men.
Women tend to suffer more severe symptoms of withdrawal, and are more likely to begin smoking again when faced with stress and anxiety. Women’s menstruation cycles also interfere with efforts to quit because during this time women have more cravings than men.
Additional research shows that while women are still vulnerable to nicotine addiction, other factors contribute to why women smoke, such as enjoying the habit of smoking, the smell and taste, the hand-to-mouth contact, and the appetite-suppressing qualities of cigarettes. This makes e-cigarettes a particularly important and a more effective option for women and the availability of these products an important women’s health issue.
Bloomberg fashions himself as an enlightened feminist. If so, he should set aside his nannying and allow women the products that will help them live longer and healthier lives. E-cigarettes can do that for millions of American women.
Bloomberg should embrace the goals of World No Tobacco Day, which seeks to end the public health disaster caused by traditional cigarettes. Women need the tools to make that a reality.