The longstanding and ongoing crusade the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been waging against e-cigarettes is a classic case of failure to see the forest through the trees.
The purpose of e-cigarettes, the practice more commonly referred to as vaping, is to get people off of traditional cigarettes that cause lung damage and addiction. For some, if vaping is banned, they will go back to traditional smoking which will defeat the whole reason that vaping was created – to help get people off of harmful smoking.
Years ago, the FDA became gravely concerned about the supposed epidemic of youth e-cigarette use and vaping. It is obvious that vaping is not good for the health of children, yet the pre-text of using kids to ban vaping and e-cigarettes ignores the central theme of why they were created in the first place.
That’s the group of Americans for whom vaping is indeed a very good thing: those who smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes and are trying to quit. While it’s a safe bet that nobody openly smokes at the FDA campus in Silver Spring, Maryland, 28.3 million Americans elsewhere do and likely a good percentage of FDA employees who sneak a smoke every once in a while. Some 480,000 people die here each year from smoking-related illnesses.
In other words, the use of kids to ban vaping will lead to even more death and illness from smoking related problems. Many smokers are desperate to quit. E-cigarettes can provide the substitute for lighting up they need while nicotine vaping is far less dangerous to their health.
Tobacco smoke contains some 7,000 chemicals, about two orders of magnitude more than the number in e-cigarette aerosols. Among toxins contained in both, old-school smoke generally has much higher concentrations.
For those who make a switch to e-cigarettes, studies show that lung and vascular function generally improves, and switchers go on to report fewer respiratory symptoms. A UK study conducted since 2014 found e-cigarettes to be 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.
Nevertheless, the FDA continues to push a prejudicial and outdated narrative focused solely on the danger of vaping’s potentially addictive attraction for kids.
But despite the FDA histrionics, teen vaping has dropped so low that it matches the same rate in 2014, before Juul’s arrival on the market. What’s more, this represents a decline of more than 50% from the 2019 peak.
Unfortunately, however, e-cigarettes are stuck in a regulatory quagmire at the FDA. As of June this year, the agency has authorized only 23 tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes — while denying, in the agency’s own boastful words, “marketing applications for millions of products” with any flavor other than tobacco.
The agency maintains that only tobacco-flavored products can provide an off-ramp for smokers, and that therefore allowing flavored vapes would be adverse to public health, especially by hooking kids. Yet cutting-edge studies demonstrate conclusively that vaping helps lifelong smokers quit. Flavored vapes would be an attractive alternative for many. But the FDA simply doesn’t care because it is on a kid crusade.
Public health would be better served if the FDA sticks to the science and its mission. Too many lives are at stake for the mission creep to continue.