Public Health

The FDA Is Not Sure Whether Smoking Is Worse Than Not Smoking

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Referring to smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes, FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey tells a St. Louis paper, "We don't know if this is any better for them." If the FDA really doesn't know whether inhaling water vapor containing nicotine is less dangerous than inhaling smoke containing myriad toxins and carcinogens, it cannot be trusted to make scientific judgments about the safety of anything it regulates. But since the FDA has approved various nicotine replacement products (including inhalers!) as safe and effective smoking cessation aids, we have to assume/hope DeLancey is lying, just as FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle presumably was lying when she told NPR "some people may mistakenly perceive [e-cigarettes] to be safer alternatives to conventional tobacco use," thereby asserting that they are not, in fact, safer, even though they do not contain tobacco and do not generate combustion products.

These lies are of a piece with the tendency of anti-smoking activists and public health officials to obscure or deny the differences in risk between tobacco products. To judge from their comments, someone who enjoys an occasional cigar or uses snus might as well smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. And now they are suggesting that e-cigarettes, which are not even tobacco products but superficially resemble them, might be just as hazardous as conventional cigarettes. The peristent refusal to admit that differences in risk matter, or that they even exist, does not make sense even from a paternalistic "public health" perspective, which would suggest it's a good thing for people to use snus or e-cigarettes instead of smoking, since the substitution reduces total morbidity and mortality. This black-and-white attitude seems to be driven by a combination of pharmacological puritanism and bureaucratic stubborness that does not bode well for the FDA's ability to rationally regulate tobacco products.

More on e-cigarettes here.

[via The Rest of the Story]

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80 responses to “The FDA Is Not Sure Whether Smoking Is Worse Than Not Smoking

  1. Don’t you get it, Jacob. They’re call electronic cigarettes! They look like cigarettes! They are used just like cigarettes!

    Any science and research based organization would have to conclude that they affect health exactly the same as cigarettes do.

    1. Same thing with electric cars!

  2. What a weird obsession Sullum has with smoking/non-smoking. He must have been abused as a child by a non-smoker.
    I suppose if he applied his aversion to black and white attitudes to his right-wing market fundamentalism, he’d lose his job and his health insurance.

    1. Edward, kill yourself.

    2. What Xeones said.

      1. Edward, may you strangle on threaded comments.

        1. I thought this comment from Morris was spoofing liberals. Now I’m confused whether it’s trolling, or an actual liberal prohibitionist nanny who actually believes that ‘tarded statement.

  3. “…now they are suggesting that e-cigarettes, which are not even tobacco products but superficially resemble them, might be just as hazardous as conventional cigarettes.”

    You forgot to mention candy cigarettes, Jacob. Safe? Maybe.
    But what about The Children??

    1. It’s too soon to say whether candy cigarettes are any less dangerous than “real” cigarettes.

      1. Meanwhile we must, for the sake of Our Nation’s Families?, err on the Side of Caution??.

        1. Rots your teeth. See, theyre not “just as dangerous” as tobacco, theyre actually as dangerous as METH.

          SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!

  4. Morris=Lefiti?

  5. Naga Sadow=total fucking? moron

    1. Edward, kill yourself.

    2. What Xeones said.

      1. Edward, may you strangle on threaded comments.

        1. OK, I’m coming around to the idea of threaded comments if they’ll be put to good use like this.

          1. C’mon guys, only a few more posts to make it fit around a human neck.

            /doin my part

  6. And if Morris had the same aversion to blatant lying as Jacob Sullum did, he might understand the libertarian point of view.

  7. The person with the weird obsession isn’t Sullum.

  8. Morris, mocking poor Jacob Sullum and his “obsession” with the truth and ridiculous “concern” with not having millions of smokers die earlier because they could have switched to something safer but their government lied to them. Whatever, Morris.

    1. I laughed out loud for that one. Sullum and his “obsession” with the truth…that’s rich.

      1. Morris=Neu Mejican?
        Nah,Morris is less rambling and obtuse.

  9. Morris,

    Do your really have nothing better to do with your time then troll libertarian websites? What a sad life you must have.

  10. They don’t really want people to quit smoking. That would cut into their income. After they come up with some bull shit reason to heavily tax e-cigs, they will suddenly find some research that shows how they’re not harmful at all, and even help you live longer.

  11. FDA lying? More like covering their asses. Too bad they didn’t try to cover their asses before approving Vioxx or Seldane.

  12. Well, to be honest, we don’t actually know if breathing filtered, purified air is any better for them. I mean, where are the controlled, double-blind, peer reviewed studies? And without doing those studies, how can anyone say they they really know?

  13. I read this someplace:

    Statism is not a philosophy rooted in discovery of pragmatic solutions to social problems. At the root of this kind of legislation is the belief in Society (ie the state apparatus) as a source of moral authority. The state needs to express its moral disapproval of vice and wickedness. Legislation as an expression of that disapproval is a moral and just end in and of itself, regardless of any practical impact it may or may not have.

    Passing such laws is a symbolic act. Government must ‘send a message’ to the flock. If it doesnt legislate (uselessly or not) it forsakes its moral authority.

    And there you go.

    reply to this

  14. Don’t you get it? They’re cigarettes. Putting an e in front of them doesn’t change that fact. It’s all about semantics, people! Real facts are for racists.

  15. If it looks like a machinegun… I’m just saying.

  16. Real facts are for racists.

    The rest of the engineering department will be shocked when I let them know that.

    Of course, they won’t care much, but they’ll still be shocked.

  17. Yo, fuck the FDA. (and threaded comments)

  18. “Do your really have nothing better to do with your time then troll libertarian websites? What a sad life you must have.”–Cabeza de Vaca

    Wait a minute, trolling libertarian websites is evidence of a sad life, while contributing to the echo chamber with banal tidbits from the catechism is evidence of a happy life? So that’s what ignorance is bliss means. What an apt name you’ve chosen, Cabeza de Vaca.

  19. contributing to the echo chamber with banal tidbits from the catechism

    Y’know, that’s such a nice turn of phrase I may have to steal that one.

    1. Sounds like a possible title for a song by the Flaming Lips.

  20. Morris,

    My question is, are you willing to make a substantive argument? In other words, do you anything of substance to counter Sullum’s argument?

  21. Morris…what’s with the name Morris? Of all to choose from, like Staff Sgt. Max Fightmaster and Killdroid Buttsex.

    “No. You didn’t have great sex with Sheldon. It’s the name. You can’t moan that name. ‘Sheeeeldon….oh Sheldon!’ It doesn’t work.”

    Oh…morris…MOOOOORRISSS! I love it when you froth….

    1. Phillip Morris?

      1. Damn you and your logic!

  22. Uh, Epi, putting “e-” or “cyber” in front of anything automatically makes it more tech-y and therefore dangerous. I give you: e-vites, cyber-bullying, e-cards, cyber-sex, and, finally, e-helmets.

    “This here is the E-Helmet, and it will change the way you think and live, forever.”

  23. Seward,

    I guess the answer is no. I just can’t take this libertarian nonsense seriously. Making fun of it once in a while is like taking a cigarette break, but no nearly as damaging to my health.

  24. Morris,

    I am curious. What is exactly libertarian about anything that Sullum wrote?

    Or quote him:

    The peristent refusal to admit that differences in risk matter, or that they even exist, does not make sense even from a paternalistic “public health” perspective, which would suggest it’s a good thing for people to use snus or e-cigarettes instead of smoking, since the substitution reduces total morbidity and mortality.

    Until you can refute that claim then all you are being is an asshole.

  25. I don’t think any double blind studies have been done to test the safety and effectiveness of these products. The real danger is that even thought they may be safer, they allow the smoker to continue their nicotine addiction. Abstinance from tobacco is preferable. Also, kids may try the e-cigarette get addicted to nicotine then switch to real cigarettes. We need to take that into consideration as well. Also, probably death from cigarettes will send a message to kids not to smoke, and may save more lives, especially since most people to die from cigarettes are older and not useful anymore to society.

    1. The real danger is that even thought they may be safer, they allow the smoker to continue their nicotine addiction.

      Uhmm….how is that the “Real” danger, or a danger at all?

      Is nicotine inherently harmful?

      Also, probably death from cigarettes will send a message to kids not to smoke, and may save more lives, especially since most people to die from cigarettes are older and not useful anymore to society.

      OK this post had to be sarcastic. No one could really be that stupid.

      1. Did you just ask if nicotine is inherently harmful?

        http://www.inchem.org/document…..rtTitle:7. TOXICOLOGY

        1. It is physically impossible to remotely approach toxic levels of nicotine through smoking alone. E-cigarettes contain either: a comparable level of nicotine as a real cigarette, less nicotine than a cigarette, or no nicotine at all. So, nicotine’s toxicity in extremely high concentrations is irrelevant with respect to e-cigarettes. Nicotine is also believed to be non-carcinogenic.

          It is absolutely ridiculous to assert that the harm of:

          Nicotine + tons of carcinogenic chemicals = Nicotine

  26. Edward, kill yourself. I mean it, you piece of shit.

    1. What Xeomes said.

  27. Until you can refute that claim then all you are being is an asshole.

    Too wordy.

  28. The real danger is that even thought they may be safer, they allow the smoker to continue their nicotine addiction. Abstinance from tobacco is preferable.

    Umm, if they switch to e-cigs, they are abstaining from tobacco. Nicotine != tobacco. And if they want to be addicted to nicotine, so what? What does that matter to anybody else?

  29. I think smoking of any kind should be banned.

    http://next-world-war.blogspot.com

  30. Nothing at all libertarian about opposing all state attempts to regulate behavior, is there, Seward? What do you think libetarianism is, moron? Why did God make… oops, wrong catechism.

    1. Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh!

  31. Fucking wingnut fundmentilist retards. Keep worhshiping at the alter of the market, fools.

    I can’t take it anymore. This is my last post.

    1. Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh!

  32. Government bad! Private enterprise good!

    1. Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh!

    2. I thought your 3:56 post was your last. Why do you lie?

      1. Imitation is the sincerest form of flatery.

        1. Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh!

        2. Stop spooffing me, idot.

      2. I thought your 3:56 post was your last. Why do you lie? <?I>

        Maybe he’s a government spokesman.

  33. I cry myself to sleep every night (and often shit myself)

  34. Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh!

  35. The real reason FDA approves pharmaceutical nicotine substitutes, but not e-cigs is because J & J / Pfizer have paid the huge FDA “fees”. E-cig makers have not.

    http://cleanairquality.blogspo…..upset.html

  36. Maybe she’s talking about the long term, permanent use of electronic cigarettes.

    The nicotine drugs are approved for use in weaning yourself off cigarettes, with the goal of complete cessation.

    In other words, short term use of e-cigs is safer than long term smoking.

    So, it’s not a lie for them to say they don’t know if long term use of e-cigs is any safer than long term use of cigs.

    1. It’s common knowledge that not inhaling smoke is safer than inhaling smoke.

      She’s either lying or really incompetent in assessing risk. Her statement doesn’t pass the laugh test

      1. Is that known? While the risk from the smoke has been removed, have other risks been introduced? Is that known?

  37. Perhaps we need e-joints, e-bongs, and e-sneak-a-tokes.

    Maybe an e-13-year old model, and 1/2 an e-Quaalude for some e-anal.

  38. Virulent non-smoking activists hate the behavior of smoking. They have a good excuse for their crusade in the health concerns of smoking.

    Other alt-tobacco ingestion methods are marketed as smoking cessation aids and the like, which conforms with what the crusaders want, i.e. no more nicotine consumption. They also are made by big companies with big lobbies (and the health insurance angle can’t be missed either). So they get the green light.

    E-cigarettes are what anti-nicotiners have bad dreams about: They take the bad health away, leaving what the crusaders really hate…nicotine-as-pleasure, intact. They can’t admit it, but that’s what it is.

    Global warmers are the same way. If you came up with a fusion-powered engine that uses water for fuel and has loads of power…for your H2 1-ton, they would be more pissed than pleased I imagine.

  39. Water vapor? Are you sure? Because I know my e-cigs pretty well these days (510 Mega batteries and ECOpure fluid), and as far as I know all the nicotine fluids are based on propylene glycol, glycerin, or a couple of other fairly similar chemicals. As far as I’m aware, these vaporize when exposed to heat, they do not decompose into water vapor. Now I’m not too concerned about inhaling propylene glycol vapor, or glycerin vapor – but it’s not water vapor, and I don’t think we can be CERTAIN that it’s vastly safer than smoking. It’s probably safer, but not necessarily so.

    Another issue to be aware of with e-smoking is that most of the fluid is manufactured by small Chinese companies that may or may not have the best quality control, the best chemistry, or our best interests at heart. With this I’m rather less confident. It’s probably safe but I’m not counting on it. There’s too much gunk and ugliness from the usual Chinese fluids in my atomizers to be sanguine.

  40. E-cigarettes are what anti-nicotiners have bad dreams about: They take the bad health away, leaving what the crusaders really hate…nicotine-as-pleasure, intact. They can’t admit it, but that’s what it is.

    Whaddya mean “can’t admit it”? I’ve been calling smoke breaks nicotine fixes for over 30 years. Patches and guim don’t rush it into tour sytem like inhaling does. It’s a drug kick and all honest smokers know it.

  41. the usual Chinese fluids

    THERE’S something to dream about.

    It’s a drug kick and all honest smokers know it.

    Hence, “pleasure”. Yet many (most?) lefties are A-OK with pot and indifferent or at least non-bitchy about blow and other “hard” stuff. So it stands to reason that it’s the IMAGE of the smoker that disturbs their sleep so.

    1. Maybe that’s because it reminds them of the Establishment of the 1940s & 1950s, when tobacco smoking was the most widespread. Or because cigarets are made by big, legal businesses. Or because tobacco represents America and/or Negro slavery. Or because nicotine goes well with work — but then, so does cocaine. Actually they seem to have turned negative over cocaine too, because it goes with work & big money, representing the 1980s, Wall St., etc.

  42. E cigarettes do not produce “water vapor.” The liquid has propylene glycol as its main ingredient. I think that they are undoubtedly more safe but I do want to see some studies done on the long term health effects of smoking these chemicals.

  43. As a hard-core smoker who is trying everything that I can to quit, lemme tell ya that in “one” day of smoking e-cigarettes and not smoking regular cigarettes, I feel 100% better than I’ve felt in years and I actually slept last night. Take it from me that there is absolutely “no comparison” between the e-cig and the real thing. In my case, I believe that this is a bridge between the real thing and quitting forever as it also involves psychological issues too, not only the nicotine itself. I personally feel that the FDA is making a big mistake and will end up causing a lot of deaths that maybe they could have saved. I also don’t understand why all of these other “safer” cessation products are allowed, such as Nicotine gum (heartburn and ulcers anyone); and Chantrix, which its “safety warnings” state, “some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions while using CHANTIX to help them quit smoking”—nice…and this an FDA approved drug…

  44. I have just switched to e-cigarettes and I totally love them. I have not smoked a regular cigarette for 5 days now! That being said, I ASSUME that inhaling vapor is much less harmful than inhaling 4000 chemicals. However, the big unknown is this: What if there is a single carcinogenic chemical found in e-cigs that has enough concentration to cause cancer in lets say 5 years if used continuously. Cigarettes lets say cause cancer after 20 years. I guess it can be argued that regular cigarettes are safer, because although they contain 43 know carcinogens, the amount is so minute that it would take 20 years to cause cancer. I don’t know. Just a thought. Anyways, I DO love this e-cig!

    1. E-Cigarettes have been around for much longer than 5 years. This is something that would be known by now–that is, if they caused cancer in a short amount of time.

  45. I, as an avid and studied user of e-cigarettes, believe that the only major negative side effect of converting from the use of regular cigarettes to vaporizers would be the decline of the tobacco industry as we know it and the diminishing of the tax dollars our government generates from it. So, in turn, the FDA will be stubborn about it instead of acting as a fair and impartial judge over human health matters.

  46. Is it just me, or is vaping a much richer experience than smoking? It gives off more vapor than a real cig would give off smoke, and the aroma is much stronger.
    Also, vaping is cheaper than smoking.

    These two combined I think is a killer combo and it’s only a matter of time before ecigs become mainstream.

    There’s health benefits too, but people don’t really care about that.

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