Why Not Let E-Cigarette Companies Tell the Truth?

The problem is too much FDA regulation, not too little.



New York Times columnist Joe Nocera once again calls attention to the lifesaving potential of electronic cigarettes and bemoans resistance to this form of harm reduction by the anti-smoking movement. Describing a new e-cigarette model from NJOY that is designed to more closely simulate smoking by delivering more nicotine and a stronger "hit to the back of the throat," Nocera writes:

As [NJOY CEO Paul] Sturman was describing the Daily, I thought to myself, "The tobacco-control community is going to hate this thing." Most anti-tobacco advocates view replicating the feel and satisfaction of a cigarette as an effort to "renormalize smoking." And though some believe that smokers should be encouraged to move to e-cigarettes, most refuse even to acknowledge the health benefits of "vaping" over smoking.

Nocera talks to Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who has expressed a willingness to consider the possible public health benefits of vaping but also worries that teenagers who otherwise never would have tried tobacco will get hooked on e-cigarettes and then move on to the real thing (even though there is virtually no evidence that is actually happening). Myers finds the marketing tactics of e-cigarette companies distasteful because they remind him of the approach taken by tobacco companies, implying that vaping will make you cool and sexy. Nocera points out that e-cigarette companies are legally barred from making more substantive claims—for example, noting the clear safety advantages of a product that does not contain tobacco and does not burn anything. Myers responds by criticizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for being slow to regulate e-cigarettes. "I think the FDA deserves to be pilloried," he says.

I agree, although for exactly the opposite reason. It is the threat of FDA sanctions that stops e-cigarette companies from promoting their products based on their main advantage: They are indisputably far less hazardous than conventional cigarettes. According to the FDA, e-cigarettes are tobacco products (even though they contain no tobacco), and any e-cigarette sold based on its health advantages would qualify as a "modified risk tobacco product" under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the 2009 law that gave the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco. That designation requires the manufacturer to "jump through some near-impossible hoops," as Nocera puts it, if it wants the FDA's permission to sell the product. The problem, in other words, is too much regulation, not too little.

Nocera's solution—a collaboration between anti-smoking activists like Myers and e-cigarette companies, "perhaps with state attorneys general to oversee it"—seems highly implausible to me. I say that not just because of the tobacco control movement's irrational animosity toward e-cigarettes (which Nocera is commendably trying to overcome) but because the accomplishment that Nocera cites as reason to hope Myers would lead such a project is passage of the Tobacco Control Act, the very statute that put the FDA in a position to suppress truthful information about e-cigarettes to begin with. Nocera hopes that anti-smoking activists, once they see the light, will tell the truth about e-cigarettes that the companies selling these products are forbidden to tell. While I'd be happy to see such a conversion, I think e-cigarette companies should also be allowed to tell the truth. In fact, I think the First Amendment requires it. 

[via Michael Siegel]

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  1. After watching vaping Rachel McAdams in True Detective, I find myself of two minds on the subject. Do we really want our children orally fixated and possibly starring in a subpar second season of a once great anthology series?

    1. Do we really want children to look like nerdy assholes in public rather than cool bad boy types?

      1. Or bounty hunters from the future?

        (Bonus: i’m pretty sure this is actually a picture of Epi.)

    2. The character went back to smoking after another one gave her crap about how lame vaping looks.

      1. Keep in mind that the show is an advertisement of RJ Reynolds or whoever owns Santa Fe Natural Tobacco now.

  2. Why Not Let E-Cigarette Companies Tell the Truth?

    Because they are greedy, profit-seeking capitalists who will lie and poison their customers if it makes them a buck. Duh.

    1. They can tell the truth, just not in places where the information would be useful. *AHEM jury nullification*.

    2. I’ve noticed something interesting. Half the anti-smoking PSAs on TV these days basically have the message “smoking is bad, because big tobacco makes a ton of money”. Nothing about health, just that trying to look cool lines the pockets of people we disapprove of.

      So are they anti-smoking, or anti-corporation PSAs?

  3. E-cigarettes are not tobacco. That really should be the end of it.

    1. They make me feel like tobacco cigarettes make me feel. Case: reopened.

    2. E-cigarettes are not tobacco.

      Perhaps not. But they’re a public health problem, like guns and swimming pools.


  4. Myers finds the marketing tactics of e-cigarette companies distasteful because they remind him of the approach taken by tobacco companies, implying that vaping will make you cool and sexy.

    TL, DR, but is it because he thinks vape is dangerous or because making $ is bad?

  5. Myers finds the marketing tactics of e-cigarette companies distasteful because they remind him of the approach taken by tobacco companies, implying that vaping will make you cool and sexy

    like Joe Camel.

    1. It looked like a penis, and what’s more appealing than a penis?

      1. Camel cigarettes did the same with Joe Camel by making him look like a penis. I can’t even go near a cigarette now without thinking of a penis. And vice versa.

  6. The obvious solution to this purely branding problem is to change the name from e-cigs to iCigs. Apple fanbois ASSEMBLE!

  7. I have the vapors. *puffs on banana taffy flavored ejuice outta my veritas rda and ipv d2 combo (geek-gasm accomplished)
    Oh yeah, and I’m over 2 years without a cigarette. Fuck you regulators, vaping has saved my life.

    1. p.s. vertical clapton build single coil with a resistance of .49 ohms. *ahhhhhhhhh geekiness overload

      1. 40 watts…

        1. Look buddy, all we got is what you see on the shelves

  8. closely simulate smoking by delivering more nicotine and a stronger “hit to the back of the throat,” Nocera writes:

    that’s the one thing I didn’t like about vaping, it didn’t have that “hit to the back of the throat” that I got with ciggies. /not that I smoke anymore

    1. Need sub-ohm (resistance below 1.0 ohm) to get a throat hit.

      *puffs a mix of apple and tutti fruity from a 0.5 ohm at 3W*

      1. 3 watts?

        1. Volts. My bad.

          1. ah so sarcasmic-san.

            1. I screwed up. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!?!?

              1. Everything…that is my expectation. Make it so.

          2. I stay in the 4.2 volt range. I like a warm, dense vape.

            1. I’m getting over a cold. Dense vape gives me a coughing fit.

        2. Low voltage.

          I’m not entirely sure what the benefot of the sub-ohm thing is. I guess maybe high current makes it hotter faster.

          1. When I used the 1.8 ohm range coils, it was like sucking through a pin hole to get a mild vapor. With the sub-ohm coils you can get clouds of dense vapor with free airflow. The trade off is that it eats up the juice, so you need a bigger battery.

            1. With the sub-ohm coils you can get clouds of dense vapor with free airflow.

              Enough to fill a small car?

              I was behind someone the other day at a light, and when they exhaled, the entire car filled with vapor (smoke?). I wondered what they were smoking that would fill a car like that.

              1. I’ve had to put down the window because the cloud of vapor obscured my vision. And if you were behind someone who was doing that with weed, you would have smelled it.

                1. I wondered if that was it.

                  And if you were behind someone who was doing that with weed, you would have smelled it.

                  Strong wind from the wrong direction. I can normally smell either cigarettes or weed when I am behind someone and the wind is right.

                  1. You wouldn’t smell the vapor unless you were in the same car, and even then it would be faint and quickly dissipate.

  9. Can they at least talk about the benefits of vaping in not stinking up your apartment and your clothes?

    1. Can they at least talk about the benefits of vaping in not stinking up your apartment and your clothes?

      This, much nicer standing next to a vaper rather than a smoker.

      1. It makes nicotine addicts more difficult to identify and shun! That’s terrible!

  10. Still the best, most succinct argument put up by the smoking statists:


    “From a distance, I would argue you can’t tell the difference. So how can you go to this one person and say ‘oh, that’s tobacco, you’re out of here’ and ‘oh wait, that’s not, that’s an e-cigarette so you can stay?'” she asked. “Once you start picking and choosing what’s allowed, that’s a slippery slope you go down.”

    Yes, you can’t just start allowing people to do shit.

    1. Having driven through Duluth in my VW Bug with a dodgy clutch, I can see why they are so afraid of slippery slope arguments.

    2. Once again, the lack of self-awareness is truly stunning.

    3. OK, prohibit white cylinders on e-cigs. Now they’ll be distinct from real cigs. Next objection.

  11. Commisar Emanual has spoken:


  12. No. Anti-tobacco sentiment has turned into a purely moral crusade more concerned about the feelings of bystanders than the health of someone who uses nicotine.

    1. Yeah, it’s about punishing smokers because they are bad. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be bans on using e-cigs indoors and there would be places to smoke in airports. The airport thing really gets me. Even in fucking Spain you can’t smoke at the airport now. You’d think they would want to avoid doing more things to make the airport a stressful and unpleasant experience.

      1. It’s natural to want to discriminate against those you view to be inferior. But you’ve got to find a politically correct group to punish. Smokers are one such group.

      2. Did they really take out those little glass rooms in Spain airports where you could chain smoke until your flight time? Damn, I was just there a year ago and there was one in each arm of the airport.

        1. I couldn’t find any in MAD. They did still have them in Germany when I was there earlier this year.

  13. This is really all about taxes. If people turn to ecigs for their nicotine fix the sales of tobacco products will drop and it’s hard to convince the public that relatively safe products should be heavily taxed.

    This way, the FDA has it covered. If you don’t stop tobacco, fuck you-pay me. If you do manage using ecigs-fuck you pay me. It’s a win-win.

    1. This is exactly it. I love that I can keep my totally awesome nicotine addiction and stop funding the totally corrupt resolution of the tobacco company lawsuits at the same time. Plus I am a geek, so futzing around with all the voltage, resistance, and power options is fun.

  14. If sucking on this robot dick gets me high and keeps me from dying of lung cancer and getting emphysema then I’m going to keep sucking on this robot dick. Suck it, suck it long and hard you nannies.

  15. One of the things people fail to recognize when trying to understand why there is such resistance to E-cigs is that a HUGE amount of the money backing up every avenue of attack against them isn’t coming from Big Tobacco, or even the States who stand to lose out on all that tobacco tax money.

    The biggest loser of all to E-cigs are all the (mostly failed) tobacco-cessation products – both prescription and over-the-counter – that are bringing in BILLIONS to Big Pharma. Products like Chantrix, Wellbutrin, Nicorette are worth a fortune … and E-cigs absolutely slay them in the “break the addiction to tobacco” department. Big Pharma is pouring millions into all the orgs and politicians who are trying to get rid of E-cigs – typical corporate greed AND if someone wants to accuse ANYONE of corporate greed – the best target here is BIG PHARMA.

    BTW – I don’t smoke or use E-cigs … my only skin in the game is having a lot of friends and family benefitting from E-cigs helping them to quite smoking (or dipping).

  16. This is a particularly outrageous case of the best (quitting) being the meatheaded enemy of the good (vaping).

  17. “I am, indeed, against all proselyters, whether they be on my side or on some other side. . . . Their lofty pretensions are all tosh. The thing they yearn for is the satisfaction of making someone unhappy: that yearning is almost as universal among them as thirst is in dry Congressmen.”
    ?H.L. Mencken

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