The FDA wasn’t wrong to regulate e-cigarettes. It was wrong to effectively ban, by its own estimate, up to 98.5% of the e-cigarettes on the market today.
E-cigarettes, Public Health England says, are about 95% less harmful than smoking, are not a gateway to smoking, and could help smokers quit.Now, the FDA wants to put an end to this less harmful alternative to smoking.
It’s very simple: Cigarette smokers who switch to e-cigarettes dramatically reduce their risk, as the Royal College of Physicians put it in a landmark report last month, by using “nicotine without smoke.”
E-cigarette shouldn’t be sold to minors, and government should restrict advertising so they aren’t marketed to kids. But the FDA’s drastic overstep today will require e-cigarettes not already on the market by February 2007 to undergo a costly and onerous Premarket Tobacco Application process that holds e-cigarettes to a standard nearly impossible to prove, and one that well-established actual cigarettes don’t have to face.
In 2007, e-cigarettes were in their infancy and the first generation iPhone was introduced. Imagine being told that all new smartphones had to be just like the first generation iPhone or makers would have to jump through regulatory hoops not applied to competing products. Now imagine your life depended on it. You can understand why so many former smokers from across the political spectrum are dead set against this rule. They just want to keep their vapes so they can reduce their risk.
If the FDA can’t differentiate between responsible regulation and an effective ban, let me help: Reasonable rules institute vapor battery standards, marketing restrictions and a ban on sales to minors.
These are requirements in a bipartisan bill that would stop the FDA from subjecting e-cigarettes on the market to perhaps unprovable standards that would put small and innovative competitors to Big Tobacco out of business. Congress can undo some of FDA’s damage by including this provision in the final spending bill.
Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, which receives 1.4% of its support from the tobacco and e-cigarette industry.