The United States is a world leader in innovation. But when it comes to ensuring smokers have the maximum possible access to new devices and products that will help them quit and save their lives the U.S. is found tragically wanting.
New Zealand announced Wednesday that it will be legalizing the sale of e-cigarettes recognizing that they are dramatically less harmful than regular cigarettes and can help smokers quit.
Where e-cigarettes are already legal, the market has expanded significantly in recent years. According to a seven-country report from EY released in January, the number of regular consumers across these countries is estimated to have increased 120 percent from 2.8 million in 2013, to 6.1 million in 2016.
In the United Kingdom, the vaping revolution has been even more dramatic. The number of ex-smokers classifying themselves as vapers jumped 10 percent to 850,000 from 2015 to 2016, with 470 people a day switching to e-cigarettes in the last two years.
Not only that, but the proportion of people using both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, known as "dual users," dropped 45 percent in three years and now stands at 750,000. Britain has the highest percentage of vapers in Europe at four percent, with France ranking the next highest at 3.1 percent.
New heat-not-burn tobacco products, which are also enormously safer than combustible cigarettes, are proving enormously successful in markets where they are available.
In Japan, Philip Morris International's IQOS and British American Tobacco's "glo" have proved so popular that both companies are struggling to keep up with demand. This is good news for public health and consumer choice, with smoking rates declining and millions of people reducing their risk of an early death.
But in the U.S. the direction of travel is very different. The independent e-cigarette business faces obliteration and tobacco companies hoping to introduce newer and safer products onto the market face enormous regulatory hurdles.
The Food and Drug Administration's disastrous deeming regulations could ban 99 percent of vapor products, close thousands of businesses, and leave tens of thousands of people looking for jobs.
Rather than decry this dire state of affairs that leaves smokers with fewer options to help them quit and destroys small businesses, a vocal section of the public health community are cheering the war on vapers.
Dubious studies, unfounded claims, and moral panics surrounding youth use plague the U.S. conversation around e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction.
While public health bodies in the U.K. are recommending smokers try e-cigarettes as a quitting tool, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Surgeon General are actively contributing to the misunderstanding of the risks of e-cigarettes and other reduced risk tobacco products.
There's no reason in logic or justice for smokers who want to quit but find it the struggle of a lifetime to be left behind in the innovation age with an out of date quit-or-die message.
If we want to improve public health, create jobs, and spur innovation, public health authorities to need to stop living in the past clinging to a failed abstinence-only approach and look to the success being enjoyed beyond America's shores where innovation thrives and lives are being saved.
Guy Bentley (@gbentley1) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a consumer freedom research associate at the Reason Foundation and was previously a reporter for the Daily Caller.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.