American Enterprise Institute Warns that FDA Regulation for Ecigs Could Backfire
This week, the FDA submitted their final deeming regulations for e-cigarettes to the White House Office of Management and Budget. If the OMB signs off on the regulatory proposal, the final step would be the publish the regulations in “The Federal Register”. The regulations would go into effect 30 days after publication. As regulations loom, researchers are starting to worry that the FDA’s attempt to keep Americans safe could actually backfire and put the public at greater risk.
According to the American Enterprise Institute, tobacco use is now at the lowest that we’ve seen since the 1940s. Many smokers have managed to kick the tobacco habit by using electronic cigarettes, a tobacco-free alternative that provides nicotine without all of the carcinogens that make old-fashioned smoking so deadly. So far, the research we have on how ecigs impact health is limited, but there has been no evidence to show that the risk of vaping is anywhere close to the risk associated with tobacco use.
Now that ecigs are helping many people find freedom from tobacco addiction, the FDA is stepping in with regulations and it could lead to some major problems. They justify the push for regulations by pointing to recent calls to poison control where people have accidentally had inappropriate exposure to the nicotine liquids used by vapers. Alex Brill, a research fellow from the American Enterprise Institute specializes in health care policy and he believes the FDA’s well-intentioned efforts could actually put public health at an increased risk.
“The FDA, in its pursuit of protecting people from accidental exposure to nicotine, risks discouraging smokers from switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes,” Brill said. “Hampering the cessation or reduction of smoking has far more serious public health consequences than the few thousand reported exposures to liquid nicotine.”
Brill pointed out that when a smoker switches from cigarettes to tobacco-free ecigs, they will reduce their risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, lung, and bladder cancer by 50 percent within five to 10 years. In addition, ecigarettes eliminate second-hand smoke, which has been linked to heart disease, cancer, and strokes.
Ecigs are also safer on a practical level because they do not require the smoker to use a lighter or match. They are battery operated and significantly reduce the risk of fires. According to the US Fire Administration, each year there are 7,600 residential fires linked to smoking. In a side-by-side comparison, cigarettes cause far more house fires than ecig liquid causes poison control calls.
Brill said he fears that the FDA’s attempt to protect the public is only going to cause a surge in smoking. “Without question, an appropriate function of the FDA is to ensure the safety of the products it regulates, and there is a role for the FDA in ensuring that consumers are properly warned of the risks posed by various products,” he said. “No manufactured ingestible product is riskless, and liquid nicotine is no exception. Customers should be properly informed about these risks and, as with many products we keep in our homes, should be careful about how e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine are used and stored. But excessive warnings about risks associated with liquid nicotine may have the unintended consequence of discouraging smokers from switching from deadly tobacco products to safer e-cigarettes.”
So far, the FDA has been pretty aggressive in their approach to regulating ecigarettes, but it’s important to balance warnings about ecigs with additional information about how they compare to tobacco products. If the only focus of regulations is to paint ecigarettes in a negative light, it could backfire and cause more harm in the long run by causing some American smokers to return to tobacco use.
Are you concerned that the FDA’s ecig regulations could cause some people to start smoking again?