The New York Times published an editorial titled “Big Tobacco Attacks Sensible F.D.A. Vaping Rules.”
Two points for debate surface immediately.
First is the question of just how sensible those rules really are. Second is the insinuation that tobacco companies should play no role in developing nicotine products that are far less hazardous than cigarettes.
By conflating products with their makers, the editorialists miss a crucial point about public health: that smokers are best served when safer alternatives to cigarettes are developed and available without needless delay.
What’s important is that appealing quality products exist, not who makes them.
Confusion over that key principle may have set the stage for the myriad assumptions, aspersions, and half-truths contained in the editorial.
Here is a point-by-point review.
Editorial: “As smokers turned to electronic cigarettes to reduce the health risks of smoking, big tobacco companies started buying e-cigarette makers and producing and selling their own.” (Point #1)
“Now those companies are lobbying Congress to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating electronic cigarettes and cigars, as it does conventional cigarettes.” (Point #2)
“If the [tobacco companies] succeed, they will be able to sell and market addictive nicotine products to young people with few restrictions.” (Point #3)
Response to #1: Yes, tobacco companies are in the harm reduction business: they want to sell vaping devices and other reduced risk products that allow smokers to consume nicotine more safely. Why is this bad? Altria, Reynolds, and Philip Morris International (PMI) have product lines that are intended to appeal to smokers who want to quit conventional combustible cigarettes.
Safer products can only be a win for public health.
E-cigarettes don’t combust tobacco and thus they do not release tar, carbon monoxide, and scores of other cancer-causing toxins. According to the Royal College of Physicians, they are 95 percent less risky than cigarettes.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive substance that poses negligible health risks to otherwise healthy people. Even smokers with asthma or hypertension who have switched completely or partly to vaping products enjoy improved lung function and blood pressure. (The effects, if any, on long-term inhalation of propylene glycol and glycerin, components of e-liquid, remain to be seen and must be studied post-market.)
More good news. The CDC just reported that e-cigarettes are the most popular device used for smoking cessation (35.3%), more popular than both nicotine gum and patch combined (25.4%).
Response to #2: Makers of vaping products are not avoiding regulation. They want it. They need it. What they want is sensible regulation and this is where the F.D.A. fails. The “deeming regulations” impose massive regulatory burdens.