Last week Oregon Attorney General John Kroger bragged about successfully pressuring two travel store chains, Pilot Travel Centers and Travel Centers of America, to stop selling electronic cigarettes at their locations in the state. Action on Smoking and Health wants every attorney general to follow suit. "Until the FDA acts," says ASH Executive Director John Banzhaf, "it is appropriate for attorneys general to act to protect their health of their citizens." Under the Oregon agreements, the companies promise not to sell e-cigarettes, battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine vapor without combustion products, unless the products are approved by the FDA or "a court rules the FDA does not have the authority to regulate electronic cigarettes." In the latter case, "electronic cigarettes may not be sold in Oregon unless there is competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the product's safety claims." Deputy Attorney General Mary Williams explains the rationale for pulling e-cigarettes from stores: "When products threaten the health and safety of Oregonians, we will take action."
As Michael Siegel notes on his tobacco policy blog, however, Kroger's action does nothing about conventional cigarettes, products that "threaten the health and safety of Oregonians" much more than their smokeless competitors do. Tobacco cigarettes, after all, are now approved by the FDA, so they must be OK. It's a bit odd for an attorney general who claims to care about consumers' health (not to mention an anti-smoking group that is usually perceived as, you know, anti-smoking) to promote cigarette consumption by impeding access to an alternative that is far less hazardous. Like the FDA's threats to ban e-cigarettes, such policies reveal that "public health" often means pharmacological puritanism and regulation for its own sake, as opposed to health promotion.
More on e-cigarettes here.