Possible FDA Ban on E-Cigarettes is Wrong Move

Possible FDA Ban on E-Cigarettes is Wrong Move

August 03, 2009
Originally published in Opposing Views

The FDA is now moving towards banning a smoking alternative that could save many lives. Every year, millions of smokers like my wife try and fail to quit, because they are nicotine addicts. Many later die of smoking-related illnesses, which are caused by the smoke, not the nicotine. The obvious solution is to give smokers access to less hazardous products that provide the nicotine they crave without the deadly smoke, like chewing tobacco, or, better yet, electronic cigarettes or snus. (Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, deliver nicotine in a vapor instead of much more harmful tobacco smoke).

The FDA is now moving towards banning e-cigarettes, reports syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum. Cigarettes, which contain lots of toxins and cancer-causing agents, aren’t banned, but the FDA wants to ban e-cigarettes, which contain infinitely-smaller amounts of carcinogens, complaining that e-cigarettes contain “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed” (emphasis added).”

As public-health expert, and tobacco-industry critic, Michael Siegel notes, this is terrible reasoning by the FDA, since all tobacco replacement products now on the market contain small but “detectable” amounts of known carcinogens. The FDA used to be more reluctant to block smoking alternatives that have small or imaginary risks, but that seems to be changing over the last year.

A bill supported by the nation’s largest cigarette maker that was signed into law earlier this year by Obama will keep producers of smokeless tobacco from truthfully telling smokers about the fact that smoking is more dangerous to their health than smokeless tobacco. That will harm public health, as advocates like Bill Godshall of Smoke Free Pennsylvania have noted.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) wants to ban E-cigarettes even if the FDA does not. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, is appalled: “This is about as idiotic and irrational an approach as I have ever seen in my 22 years in tobacco control and public health,” he wrote on his blog. “A public policy maker who touts himself as being a champion of the public’s health [is] demanding that we ban what is clearly a much safer cigarette than those on the market, but that we allow, protect, approve, and institutionalize the really toxic ones.”

This isn’t the only thing bad happening on the public-health front. The opportunity for meaningful health-care reform is being squandered.

One of Obama’s own advisers says the Obama Administration’s health-care plan will harm people with insurance while raising their taxes. CNN says Obamacare will take away 5 freedoms. It will also destroy many affordable health-care plans while breaking Obama’s campaign promises.

The health-care “reform” bills backed by the Administration perversely exempt illegal aliens from the health-insurance taxes and obligations imposed on citizens, effectively giving them preferential treatment. The bills’ drafters do not deny that they would exempt illegal aliens from such taxes and obligations. However, they do claim that illegal aliens also would also not be eligible for the bills’ “public option” health-coverage plan. That reassurance is illusory, since the bills’ drafters blocked the only effective means of verifying whether beneficiaries are in fact illegal aliens. Even the liberal Houston Chronicle has noted the “lack of a mechanism for verifying” eligibility by illegal aliens.

While America’s health-care system is very expensive, it is much better at treating and detecting several common forms of cancer than many European health-care systems. The Administration’s health-care proposals put these successes in jeopardy, yet they would increase health-care costs even further, while failing to provide health-care coverage as cheap or as universal as in Europe.