E.U. Decides Not to Interfere With E-Cigarette Sales; Will the FDA Follow Suit?

Yesterday the European Parliament rejected proposed regulations that would have treated electronic cigarettes like pharmaceuticals, sparing manufacturers what The New York Times calls "an onerous and potentially costly certification process." The E.U. will instead establish a minimum purchase age of 18, along with "tight restrictions on advertising and sponsorship" similar to those for conventional cigarettes. "This is a fantastic result for public health and the millions of smokers around Europe who are switching to e-cigarettes," said Charles Hamshaw-Thomas, corporate affairs director for E-Lites, the leading British e-cigarette brand. "Common sense has prevailed."

Whether it will in the United States remains to be seen. The Food and Drug Administration initially tried to ban e-cigarettes as unapproved pharmaceutical products, an effort that was blocked by the courts. More than two years ago, the agency said it would instead regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. It is still working on those rules, with a self-imposed deadline set for the end of this month.

Last month 40 state attorneys general wrote the FDA a letter urging it to ban most forms of advertising for e-cigarettes, claiming such messages glamorize smoking and appeal to minors. As evidence that e-cigarette manufacturers are trying to lure children into lifelong nicotine habits, the letter noted that e-cigarette cartridges come in "fruit and candy flavors" and that two companies use "cartoon monkeys" in their ads. By the same logic, Ensure and fiberglass insulation are aimed at children. The attorneys general also noted with alarm survey data indicating that "e-cigarette use among students doubled in the last year."

As Michael Siegel has pointed out, that increase involves any use in the last month, which may reflect no more than experimentation. Furthermore, nine out of 10 teenagers who reported past-month vaping were smokers, meaning a trend decried as a public health disaster in the making may actually portend successful harm reduction. It is outrageous to suggest censoring truthful, potentially life-saving information about e-cigarettes aimed at adult smokers based on such a flimsy save-the-children rationale.

Such restrictions are unlikely to survive constitutional review in any case. The Supreme Court has overturned less extensive restrictions on outdoor tobacco ads that were likewise defended as a child-protection measure. The cigarette advertising regulations imposed by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which the attorneys general want the FDA to impose on e-cigarettes as well, have been rejected on First Amendment grounds by a federal appeals court. It is hard to see how they could be deemed appropriate for products that are far less hazardous.

Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, concedes "e-cigarettes have potentially positive value" but warns that "we've already seen that, if left to their own, e-cigarette manufacturers will reach out to our children, do everything to maximize sales, including re-glamorizing smoking, and that’s where we are today." Since there is no evidence that teenagers are being lured into smoking by e-cigarettes, this talk of "re-glamorizing smoking" is merely an attempt to put a scientific veneer on activists' instinctive revulsion at anything that looks like smoking, even when that resemblance may be the key to its succcess in reducing tobacco-related disease.

Another anti-smoking activist, Stanton Glantz, urges a "deliberate" regulatory approach, by which he seems to mean that the FDA should ban first and ask questions later. "We can't allow e-cigarettes to establish themselves the way cigarettes have," he tells the Times, "and then, five years from now when we've answered all the open scientific questions, we have to try to stuff the genie back in the bottle."

Glantz's idea of caution, not surprsingly, errs on the side of government control, ignoring the health costs of impeding access to, or information about, e-cigarettes for smokers who could dramatically reduce their chances of disease by switching. We know enough about the differences between these products to say that e-cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco and do not generate combustion products, are much less dangerous than standard cigarettes. Standing in the way of smokers who might want to make the switch, even if the obstruction lasts only "five years," therefore makes no sense in terms of consumer protection or "public health." Furthermore, I doubt that that the "open scientific questions" (such as the long-term effects of inhaling propylene glycol vapor) will be resolved to Glantz's satisfaction as soon as he suggests. If five years of epidemiological data did not reveal any serious cause for concern, would Glantz be happy, or would he then ask for 10 or 20? Meanwhile, current smokers facing well-established health risks would pay the cost of Glantz's deliberation.

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  • sarcasmic||

    I think I still have a stack of Camel Cash somewhere.

  • Paul.||

    There's something inelegant about e-cigarettes.

  • Almanian!||

    Pretty much everything.

    This from an ex-smoker. My Marlboro Reds were elegant AND delicious. Unfortunately for them, I grew tired of coughing them up every morning.

    I think the e-cigs are a great alt for people who benefit from them (or just wanna smoke 'em - cause America).

  • carol||

    I love my E-cig. I'm not allowed to smoke at work, even on my breaks, and if it weren't for my E-cig I would be a miserable bitch by the end of the day. Even more than usual. The smoke shop I go to has hundreds of flavors, not including the specialty blends. Fun place.

  • ||

    I generally only smoke in the evening after some drinks and some weed, and my vaper just didn't do it for me. I want the full experience.

    It's not really a problem, as I usually only have about 3-4 smokes a day anyway. But the vaper was just not cutting it for me.

  • carol||

    Get a higher concentration of nicotine and an adjustable E-cig. I originally had a plain jane E-cig and it wasn't cutting it but the upgrade made all the difference.

  • Paul.||

    Turbo e-cigs... does it have little flames or lightning bolts on the sides?

  • carol||

    Naw, mine is a girly but tastefully understated lavender with matching tank. Elegant but capable.

  • waffles||

    I bought a vaporizer to use at work. I can't stand smelling like stale cigarettes now that I'm back in an office environment. Still 8-10 hours without nicotine will give me some dizzying withdrawal symptoms. I know I should quit nicotine altogether but this is a great intermediary step to keep me from biting my coworkers heads off.

  • Almanian!||

    Ima bet your co-workers appreciate it, too (whether they know it or not!).

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    The FDA will impose more regulatory burdens on European food and drug trade with the U.S.

  • Hyperion||

    OT, but, feel the pain folks, there's going to be a lot more where that came from if we keep electing big government statists.

    Just wait until Obamas new money printing czar prints us into hyperinflation. It's going to be like Christmas all year long!

    Everyone loves them some Obamacare

  • Paul.||

    College Grad Says Obamacare ‘Has Raped My Future’ In Viral Letter

    Like, rape-rape?

  • Hyperion||

    Her problem is if she thinks complaining to the person who intentionally created this mess is going to help fix it.

    She wants the situation fixed, she'd better become a libertarian, try talking to other young people, and vote for libertarian leaning candidates. Anything else is a waste of time.

  • Almanian!||

    Well, I just found out rates for my insurance [magnificent, provided by my fortune 50 employer] are going up over 50% eff Jan 1, 2014.

    Happy!

  • Hyperion||

    Happening to everyone, bro. Mine already went up about 25 percent in 2013 and will go up again next year by about half that much. The deductibles also got bigger.

    The statists are going to fuck up health care in the US, the same way they fuck up every single thing that they touch. There is no other possible outcome.

    But the girl in that article is right about one thing, younger people in the working class are going to get hit the hardest. And if she thinks it's bad for her, what about those who have to pay these high premiums and are young and healthy, and don't even want insurance? They will likely never see a benefit from it, like they won't see SS or medicare that they paid into, because it will have long been looted into oblivion by the criminal gang in DC.

  • Paul.||

    what about those who have to pay these high premiums and are young and healthy, and don't even want insurance? They will likely never see a benefit from it,

    To the left, this is an openly stated feature.

    The young and healthy will subsidize the poor and infirm.

  • Hyperion||

    Yes, that's their plan for 'their' young and healthy biological resources. And a lot of that youth voted for the cool and dreamy one. Now they get to find out what's in it. Time for them to get some lubricant and bend over.

  • Hyperion||

    And isn't it sort of funny how they were not paying attention to the debate, at all, and instead running around gleefully proclaiming 'free healthcare, free healthcare, who wouldn't want it!?'

  • KDN||

    "Each according to his ability," etc. But don't worry, they're totally different from those bad Marxists that actually got to run places last century.

  • INFORG||

    100% increase for me. Between that, the tax changes, and other increases in life insurance, my take home even with small raises over the past few years is back to about 2010 levels.

  • Loki||

    You actually got raises the past few years? Lucky bastard, I'm making ~23% less pre-tax than I was in 2010.

  • Loki||

    Oh, and my insurance is going up ~50% this year as well. Thanks Captain Zero!

  • Paul.||

    You forgot to subtract inflation.

  • Randy Marsh||

    Im so glad these people who I will never meet are making decisions about my health, I'm too stupid to make decisions about what I consume by myself.

  • SOS||

    Brilliant article! Every word is worth the read, & every thought worth considering. Cheers!

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