(City Journal) — The tobacco industry faces an unprecedented threat. Since a new rival, the electronic cigarette, emerged in 2010, the smoking rate in America has plummeted, especially among young people. The e-cigarette delivers nicotine in vapor without the hundreds of toxins and dozens of carcinogens in cigarette smoke, eliminating at least 95 percent of the harm of smoking, according to England’s national health agency, which endorsed its use after extensive studies. The Royal College of Physicians, Britain’s most eminent medical authority, reached a similar conclusion and warned that it would be “unjust, irrational and immoral” for public officials to discourage smokers from switching to a safer form of nicotine.

In America, though, that’s just what they’re doing. The officials, along with the researchers they fund, have mounted a furious campaign against vaping. They claim to oppose cigarettes, which they recognize as the leading cause of preventable death, but their actions have served to encourage smokers to keep lighting up. In a bizarre historical twist, the public-health establishment is protecting the cigarette industry with the same infamous techniques that Big Tobacco formerly used. Just as tobacco apologists once argued that no conclusive scientific evidence showed that smoking was harmful, American public-health officials now insist that there’s no solid evidence that smoking is worse than vaping. No tobacco executive today would dare make such a ludicrous claim about cigarettes—he’d fear the resulting lawsuits—but government officials enjoy legal immunity that lets them engage in deadly deception, without paying the consequences.

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