This week 11 Democratic members of Congress released a report that accuses e-cigarette companies of "market[ing] their products to youth." In my latest Forbes column, I argue that the regulatory response recommended by the report will endanger adults by discouraging smokers from switching to a less hazardous alternative. Here is how the column starts:
Last year I gave our oldest daughter an electronic cigarette kit for her 20th birthday. At that point Francine, who started smoking at 17, was going through two or three packs of Camels a day—which was pretty impressive, especially since she was not allowed to smoke inside the house. Today Francine has cut her cigarette habit down to zero. Instead she gets her nicotine from a refillable device that delivers the drug in a propylene glycol vapor, avoiding the tobacco combustion products that had threatened to degrade her health and shorten her life. Her favorite flavor: berry menthol.
I thought of Francine while reading "Gateway to Addiction," a new report that claims e-cigarette companies "market their products to youth" by offering flavors "that could appeal to children and teens." The report, prepared by the offices of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and 10 other Democratic legislators, also takes a dim view of e-cigarette advertising that might be seen by minors. Intent on portraying e-cigarettes as a menace to the youth of America, the report gives short shrift to the lifesaving potential of a product that mimics smoking without burning anything.