Nocera and Collins

Mr. Nocera is once again extolling the virtues of e-cigs.  In “Can E-Cigarettes Save Lives?” he says of course they can. So why won’t anti-tobacco advocates get behind them?  Ms. Collins asks “What Happened to the Working Woman?”  She says for all the talk about helping the American economy, little attention is paid to the disturbing fact that women’s place in the workforce is shrinking.  Here’s Mr. Nocera:

Two weeks ago, I received an email from NJOY, a company that sells electronic cigarettes. Its purpose was to introduce the Daily, a new product that NJOY described as “a superior e-cigarette scientifically developed to deliver quick-and-strong nicotine satisfaction at levels close to an actual cigarette.”

One reason many adult smokers haven’t switched to e-cigarettes is that most e-cigarettes don’t provide the same nicotine kick as a real cigarette. With some 42 million American adults still smoking, and 480,000 of them dying each year as a result, this is tragic. Though nicotine is addictive, it is the tobacco that kills.

An e-cigarette that could truly replicate the experience of smoking would dramatically reduce — not eliminate, but reduce — the dangers of smoking. NJOY claims that the Daily comes closer to that experience than anything on the market. When I spoke to Paul Sturman, NJOY’s chief executive, he emphasized not only the nicotine aspect, but also the Daily’s “feel,” and “the intensity of the hit to the back of the throat.” Sturman added that the company’s target market is adult smokers who have tried, but rejected, e-cigarettes. He thinks it’s a huge market.

As Sturman was describing the Daily, I thought to myself, “The tobacco-control community is going to hate this thing.” Most anti-tobacco advocates view replicating the feel and satisfaction of a cigarette as an effort to “renormalize smoking.” And though some believe that smokers should be encouraged to move to e-cigarettes, most refuse even to acknowledge the health benefits of “vaping” over smoking.

Indeed, thanks to this vociferous opposition, an increasing number of Americans view vaping as no safer than smoking, which is absurd. And e-cigarette manufacturers like NJOY can’t set them straight: The law giving the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco products, which passed in 2009, prohibits e-cigarette companies from making reduced-harm claims unless they jump through some near-impossible hoops. Thus, NJOY has no way to convey to adult smokers the critical message that e-cigarettes could save their lives.

The undisputed leader of the tobacco-control community is Matt Myers, who helped found and is the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Unlike many of his anti-tobacco peers, Myers is on the record as saying that if “responsibly marketed and properly regulated, e-cigarettes could benefit the public health.” But, like many others, he also fears that e-cigarettes may hook a new generation of children on nicotine, and could lead them to start smoking. And in truth, those fears get far more prominence in the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ various statements about e-cigarettes than its cautious support for them under the right circumstances.

One thing that particularly bothers Myers about e-cigarette companies is their advertising, which he believes employs the same tactics Big Tobacco once used to hook youths on cigarettes. But when I noted that NJOY can’t market the Daily as a reduced-risk product, thanks to the 2009 law — and thus had to find less straightforward ways to induce smokers to try the product — Myers told me that I should blame the F.D.A., which, six years in, has yet to impose a single regulation on e-cigarettes. “I think the F.D.A. deserves to be pilloried,” he said.

He may be right about that. On the other hand, it’s hardly news that government agencies take forever to get things done — and meanwhile, nearly half a million smokers continue to die each year. It seems to me that if the tobacco-control community wants to start saving lives by employing the reduced-harm strategy that e-cigarettes offer, it needs to forget about the F.D.A. and take matters into its own hands.

That means engaging with companies like NJOY that profess to be trying to do the right thing. Instead of demonizing them, the tobacco control community needs to find common ground, and come up with a set of standards — for marketing, manufacturing, and keeping e-cigarettes away from kids — that both sides can agree to. If such a deal were put in place, perhaps with state attorneys general to oversee it, anti-tobacco advocates could talk about the reduced harm potential of e-cigarettes with a clear conscience, without the involvement of the federal government. They then could describe the benefits of e-cigarettes for smokers that the companies themselves can’t.

It’s happened before. Two decades ago, seeing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to impose real restrictions on Big Tobacco, Myers engaged in negotiations that included the states’ attorneys general — and Steve Parrish, then a Philip Morris executive. It was an act of tremendous courage — Myers was pilloried when his involvement was revealed — but without his willingness to look the enemy straight in the eye, Big Tobacco would never have been brought to heel.

I believe the time has come for Myers to screw up his courage again. It could be the beginning of the end for one of the greatest scourges on earth.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Japan now has a higher proportion of working women than we do. I’m trying to get my head around this fact.

“Everyone else is continuing to rise and we’ve declined, and now we’re basically tied with Japan. And Japan’s on the upswing and we’re still going down,” said Jason Furman, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. He was pointing to a chart that shows women in the labor force in 24 countries. These are the usual suspects when we’re comparing ourselves to other societies — Australia, Belgium, Canada, etc.

“When it came to women in the workplace, the United States used to be seventh. “And now we’re 20th,” said Furman in a phone interview. You’ll be happy to know that while Ireland also seems to be closing in on us, it’ll be a hell of a long time before we fall below Turkey.

Stick with me for a minute on this. We spend half of our national debate time talking about how economically fragile Americans feel. Why do you think that is? Well, there’s the whopping disproportion of national wealth flowing into the pockets of the already-wealthy. And the plummeting power of labor unions.

But women falling out of the work force is also a huge deal. It reduces family standards of living and puts a crimp in the economy.

And why do you think this is happening? One of the reasons is clearly, positively, absolutely the cost of child care.

It’s incredible that we’ve built a society that relies on women in the labor force yet makes no discernible effort to deal with this problem. The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, recently divided the country into 618 “family budget areas” and determined that in more than 500 of them, the cost of child care for a family with a 4-year-old and an 8-year old would exceed housing costs. Also, if you’re a working single mother with those same two children in, say, Buffalo, child care probably eats up a third of your income.

And infant care is impossible. In most states infant care is more expensive than college tuition.

We generally — and rightly — talk about early childhood education as something that’s critical because it increases kids’ chances of success in school. But as Carmel Martin of the Center for American Progress points out, “there’s also evidence of a positive effect on the economy over all.”

I am going to take a huge leap of faith and say that Japan is not trying to bring its mothers into the work force because of its historic commitment to feminism. (Last year, when a member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly made a speech calling for more services for women, she was taunted with cries of “Get married!” and “Can’t you even bear a child?”)

But the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is convinced that encouraging working women will stimulate the economy. Now Japan, where 64 percent of working-age women are employed, compared to 63 percent in the United States, is in the process of creating 400,000 new prekindergarten spaces.

We will now stop for a moment and recall that in 1971, Congress passed a bipartisan bill that would have made quality preschool education available to every family in the United States that wanted it, with tuition based on the family’s ability to pay. Also after-school programs for older children. Forty-four years ago! Richard Nixon vetoed it, muttering something about “communal approaches to child rearing.”

There’s also paid family leave. Japan guarantees that mothers get 58 weeks of maternity leave, about half of it paid. In this week’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders said he was embarrassed that the United States was the only “country on earth” that did not guarantee workers paid maternity leave. This was inaccurate, since Sanders completely overlooked the situation in Papua New Guinea.

Our current government policy requires that employers give new mothers 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This was based on a bill passed early in the Clinton administration. I remember well the combination of joy (parental leave!) and despair (three months with no pay?).

During the debate Hillary Clinton laced into Carly Fiorina’s argument that government shouldn’t “dictate to the private sector” about family leave. “They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it,” Clinton said. It was really one of her better moments.

You may be stunned to hear that while the Republicans talk endlessly about ginning up the American economy, the idea of helping working mothers stay in the labor force does not come up all that often. Although Ben Carson has described preschool as “indoctrination.”

From Richard Nixon to Ben Carson, and wow, nothing’s changed.

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