FDA Friday: July 18

Welcome to another edition of FDA Friday, our weekly blog post examining current news relating to the FDA’s proposal to enact a de facto ban on electronic cigarettes.

This week, there’s a whole lot of exciting news, the first of which being CASAA’s next step in their action plan to prevent the FDA’s proposal from coming through. This step in the plan does not require direct action yet, but instead it is a call to prepare for some action that is coming soon. CASAA wants all vapers to provide the FDA with information about their relationship between vapign and smoking, their impressions about what the post-ban vaping economy might look like, and their impressions about the relationship between the appeal of vaping and flavored e-liquids. The point of preparing now is that all of these submissions come in at the same time, so please follow the instructions carefully and encourage your vaping friends to do likewise.

Two weeks ago, Carl Philips, in his delightfully honest blog, predicted what a post-FDA black market vaping economy might look like, what dangers it might pose to users, and what effects it would have on public health and tobacco harm reduction.

However, recent developments on the big tobacco side of things look like things might actually shape up in vapers’ favor. The first is that Reynolds American has agreed to buy Lorillard for $25 Billion. Lorillard, makers of the Blu brand of electronic cigarettes, was purchased partially so that Reynolds could take advantage of its e-cig market share and replace Blu e-cigs (which account for nearly half of all electronic cigarette sales) with their own product, Vuse. According to tobacco industry commentator Michael Siegel, this merger demonstrates that the FDA’s putative concern for youth smoking is merely a diversion from its true concern, which in this case appears to be to protect the market share of companies who sell traditional cigarettes.

One surprising bit of news this week is that the Mansour Group invested $60 million into Electronic Cigarettes International. The Wall Street Journal reports that Mohamed Mansour is “convinced that electronic cigarettes will be a very significant business.”  This news should not be a surprise to anybody: even the Knox County Sheriff’s department has recently expressed interest in selling electronic cigarettes.

Here’s a good question: how much of your e-cig experience depends on the flavors you vape with? According to a user survey at E-Cigarette-Forum, apparently quite a lot! It totally makes sense if you think about it. E-cigarette users who have quit using analog cigarettes have largely been able to do so by changing the taste associated with their nicotine habits. Jacob Sullum at Forbes has reported on this survey in light of Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s recent assertion that an “adult” would want to smoke only tobacco flavored tobacco. Sullum rightly notes that people like Rockefeller who assert, based only on hypothetical scenarios, that the existence of electronic cigarettes will cause children to smoke analog cigarettes, rely on unsubstantiated, idiosyncratic, and fabricated “data” to back up their claims. Since the FDA’s current move towards banning e-cigs and flavors is based on similarly spurious evidence, one is left to question why such statements are allowed to go unchallenged.

Some tobacco critics, like the University of Ottawa’s Dave Sweanor, continue to advocate (click on the red link that says “Full-Text PDF”) against restricting vaping because of the many benefits it offers to public health. Advocates like Sweanor who publish in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, ought to be taken more seriously than ideologues like Rockefeller. Go read this piece. It’s really great.

As we can see from this week’s news, electronic cigarettes are becoming an increasingly important and increasingly valuable alternative to analog tobacco. Between the Lorillard merger and the Mansour group’s investment, it is clear that the smart money lies with taking advantage of the high potential for growth in the vaping market.

However, for some reason, many critics oppose measures in favor of vaping, and seem to prefer that users return to using dangerous, addictive, and expensive cigarettes instead. It is obvious that such critics do not care at all about the impact of vaping on public health, but it is still puzzling why any politician would support measures that literally give their constituents cancer. This myopia with respect to risk management is very dangerous, both for its obvious reasons and because it can lead to some very pernicious decision-making, such as the Pennsylvania legislature’s puzzling decision to fund education by taxing cigarettes (Siegel offers some insightful commentary here).

When it comes right down to it, those who help manage democratic societies ought not to invest themselves in poisoning the people they are elected to represent.

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