FDA Snuffs Out Safer Smoking Alternative

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Millions of Americans choose to continue smoking despite known health risks. Presumably, the value they get from smoking is (rightly or wrongly) worth the risk to them. But for a short time, it appeared that smokers had a healthy third alternative: electronic cigarettes.

The electronic cigarette is a relatively new innovation that works by allowing smokers to inhale vaporized nicotine instead of burning smoke. The effect and experience is very similar to smoking, but without the ill effects of the carcinogens and tar associated with traditional cigarettes. This is an incredible invention. Suddenly, cigarette breaks may no longer need to be a source of guilt. Instead, smoking becomes equivalent to coffee—just another reasonably safe way to get a little extra enjoyment and relaxation out of life.

Extensive studies of this technology are lacking, but preliminary research suggests that e-cigarettes are incomparably healthier than traditional cigarettes. Scientists have long known that it is the burning of tar and other carcinogens that is the basic cancer-causing mechanism of cigarettes, and this mechanism simply does not exist in electronic cigarettes.

The FDA, however, does not give a damn. Citing concerns that the electronic cigarette “might introduce nonusers to nicotine,” the agency has recently launched a campaign against the product, interfering actively with its importation and sale. Today, much of the property of electronic cigarette manufacturers is sitting locked up in some government warehouse instead of being delivered to its rightful owners.

Rather than leaving it up to individual Americans—smokers, scientists, doctors—to judge the value of electronic cigarettes, the FDA has chosen to deny smokers the opportunity to pursue this alternative.

Where does the government acquire the moral authority to do this? Such an authority does not exist in the founding documents of this country. It certainly did not exist in the spirit of freedom that animated the revolutionaries of 1776, and led to the creation of the freest and most prosperous nation on the globe.

The authority of the FDA is not a moral authority at all. It is the authority of the gun. It is by muscle and not by right that the FDA is forcing those who sell these products, and those who choose to buy them, to forgo the opportunity to pursue their happiness in the way they judge best.

When the statistics of smoking-related illnesses and deaths are published later this year, pause and wonder for a moment how many of them would not have occurred if the FDA had only left Americans free to make their own choices, instead of dictating which products they could and could not purchase. And pause and wonder about the innovation-stifling effects the FDA’s campaign will have on the nascent electronic cigarette industry. If even one American dies who otherwise would have lived, and it will likely be many more than that, the guilt of the government will be beyond repair.

Posted by on May 20, 2009. Filed under Government & Law, Science & Technology, Spring 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
  • Daniel J Casper

    This is ironic as I have recently ordered a large quantity of e-cigarettes from a vendor and already have deals to sell them to several businesses and individuals. I have been using one for the past month and have not only noticed a change for the better in my health (I am a regular smoker), but I also have found it satisfies my cravings for cigarettes.

    It’s even more ironic when you consider the fact that if an individual used force to prevent medicine from reaching a dying man, he’d be guilty of murder. How is the crime, and the consequence, any different when performed by a government? It’s not; the only difference is that when a government does it, a group of people are responsible for that man’s death instead of just one.

    I can only hope these actions from the FDA will lead people to realize the point of this article: granting the government the power to regulate medicine and drugs prevents good products from reaching consumers, thus hindering their life.

  • Andy

    Would be interesting to find out if the tobacco companies (in their J.Taggart and O.Boyle clothing) used the FDA to fight electronic cigarettes.

  • RK

    I’ve disagreed intellectually with the FDA for a long time, but at 25 I’ve never had a serious illness, and so have never really had the chance to take personal notice of its effect on my life.

    This particular outrage is personal. My fiance, who started smoking as a young teenager and has been trying without success to quit for several years now, quit and never looked back the moment he tried e-cigarettes. He says that he now enjoys e-cigarettes *more* than regular cigarettes, in large part because he doesn’t experience them as unhealthy.

    It was such a tremendous relief that he had finally quit. Lung cancer is a terrible disease. I’m not interested in being a widow at 60, or in watching my husband go through that kind of ordeal.

    The FDA will now make his struggle to quit doubly difficult, because he now knows that there exists an alternative that allows him to enjoy smoking without hurting his health.

    What must people feel when they are not just threatened with the possibility of a life-threatening illness, but are actually faced with it in the present, and have only a few years to live? What must they feel when they find out about a promising new drug, and are more than willing to take the risk of trying it in return for the possibility that they can keep on living — but are told by their government that they are not allowed to take that risk? I can’t even imagine the helpless frustration of such a situation.

    I agree with Daniel Casper — it’s murder.

  • Shane

    I just recently started smoking BluCigs (http://www.blucigs.com/index.php?ref=141) and I think they are great. I feel so much better now smoking these. I don’t have my morning cough anymore and I feel like I can breath so much better now. I think I’m gonna switch over to smoking only these. Time to start airing out the house from the ciggy smell!

  • CM

    I personally think its a conflict of interest for any body of government, that collects money/taxes off the sale of a harmful product, to have any say in the least on what is good or not good for an adult. The same could be said for medical treatments that are used widely by the rest of the world, that we have no hope of using in any time frame that it might actually save our life, because of the strict standards that require testing for X number of years before it can be approved. When did we become children again that we aren’t allowed to make up our own minds on what goes into our own bodies. After 30 yrs of smoking, and one week of vaping, I finally feel I have a chance at quitting, haven’t had a cigarette in 3 days now. You know they don’t call them coffin nails for nothing..FDA needs to back down.

  • Eric

    Finally an informed, rational journalist’s critique of these wonderful devices.

    I, myself, am a supplier of electronic cigarettes, so banning these would not only put my health at risk, but put me out of work as well.

    Eric from Vapor Station
    (http://www.vaporstation.com)

  • Grant

    Just an echo of all that has been written here. Where does this kind of interference with our innate right to free choice end? Why call yourself an American when the very thing that sets us apart in the world is being eroded surely and steadily.

  • J D

    I am fed up with the “big corrupt” corporations telling us the e-cig is bad for us. What do they think tobacco is….healthy? I have compiled many agencies contact info for us to voice our outrage. Please visit my blog (http://www.esmokersunite.wordpress.com)and tell “the big dogs” we are fed up. We have rights, at least for now, even though they are dwindling away from us day by day.

  • Wally

    Thank you for this sensible, thoughtful piece. The e-cigarette is a *huge* boon for smokers and it would be a shame if FDA actions made it unavailable–in fact, criminal, by any ordinary standards. I hope we find a way to keep them available.

  • pbw

    Over the past 3 months I have been using an e-cig and I can definitely speak from experience..in my opinion I HAVE quit smoking after 28 years of addiction to cigarettes and I feel far healthier now..in fact the many benefits where nearly immediate, no craving, no smell, no dirty ashtrays, no lighters or matches, no fire hazards, no “heavy” feeling in my chest, no cough, no tooth staining, no second-hand smoke, no “running out of cigs” in the middle of the night, senses of taste and smell are no longer inhibited, no residue on walls, windows and clothing, etc..I have yet to discover a “down-side” other than govt intervention in our supplies…yes I am an American, natural-born citizen of voting age(43 atm) and a strong believer in the U.S.Constitution, I would probably be considered a Libertarian even though I am NOT a supporter of Ron Paul..lol..I am outraged at the recent destruction of Liberty and Lawful process occurring in America..we have lost the premise of “innocent until proven guilty” in favor of “sieze until proven safe”..we seem to have lost “free trade” in favor of “tax and controll”..when the dominant party in OUR govt will sign laws without even reading them, spending trillions of OUR dollars, to promote their own power at our expense..the FDA wants to go after Cheerios next?..lol..an e-cig ban is just one of the symptoms of a massive assault on the American people and their rights, being defended with rhetoric and greed instead of facts and logic..elections have consequences and we are starting to see the effects of our last one..we need to vote some of these “policy makers” out and make them our employees again instead of “nannys” and “big brothers”..I recommend anyone who has any will left, make noise in any way you can in the right places, to fight the trend towards socialism, remind our poloticians than it is OUR votes that allow them to serve US at OUR discretion,and “we the people”will only vote for who WE belive is acting in OUR best interest.. before our states become any more like soviets….
    kk..end of rant..as you can no doubt tell im kinda frustrated by this..

  • Lisa

    If my mother can, after 55 years of smoking, pick up an electronic cigarette and feel like it is satisfying, I don’t see why any other smoker can’t do the same thing. The reason the FDA is trying to exert their influence is because they are being paid to. If it weren’t for the drug companies, and big tobacco, the FDA wouldn’t say a peep. It is because many people have stopped “smoking,” that the pharmaceutical companies and big tobacco are all up in arms. Have any of these people who are trying to ban e-cigs, ever picked up the “nicotrol inhaler? How bad was the rash they got from Nicoderm? Did they have problems with their hearts feeling like it was going to explode out of their chests from the nicotine entering their blood stream through their skin? Did they get sores in their mouth from nicorette? How many of the FDA returds ever quit “cold turkey?”

    I don’t know how our current president is doing in his quest to kick the nicotine habit, but I think all the major e-cig manufacturers should send him a few good ones just to give him an actual shot at being “smoke free.”

    My 70 year old mother finally stopped choking all night. I have stopped smelling like an ash tray and I am sure my child and pets are feeling the benefits as well.
    The E-Cig won’t tempt a person to start smoking if they don’t already for the sheer fact that you can order nicotine free cartridges and e-liquid. These devices were not meant for children, and like anything that is dangerous to children, should be kept where children cannot get their hands on them.

    The bottom line is that E-cigarettes and the liquid in them truly help us conquer the need for tobacco. This is the scariest thing for Phillip Morris isn’t it? Maybe Phillip Morris should open up a manufacturing plant to produce E-cigs!!

    Thank you for writing this commentary and thank you for the opportunity to speak my mind. I hope everyone who vapes to contact their local senator or representative and make sure they understand why we want to live a healthier life and let us decide how to do it.

  • Daniel J Casper

    The enemy here is not the tobacco companies, but a public which has accepted unjust government rulership over men. This issue is just one consequence.

    Don’t waste your time cursing the cigarette companies – argue to stop the government from banning it. That is the only solution to this issue, and it rests on the principle needed to fix many other problems.

    That principle is: a man must be free to act on his own judgment – whether in buying an e-cig or taking an experimental drug. Fight for that right; it is a a goal well worth the effort.

  • karen fletcher

    Of course big tobacco and the drug companies have the FDA in their pocket. Personal vaporizors have absolutely nothing in them that are a danger to young people (unless they swallow them). The fluid for them may be hazardous to young people’s health, and needs to be sold with a child proof cap. Just like all the other pills or liquid medicine, including tylenol and cough syrup, and some vitamins.

    The FDA only wants the items available that don’t work. This keeps big tobacco and pharmacutical manufacturers happy and rich, which keeps the FDA happy and rich.

    Cigarette smokers have for a long time been treated like second class citizens, being herded along by those who don’t smoke, and not worthy of having an opinion . And to my non-surprise, the government does not want to throw us a helping hand. In fact they are making it look like they are “protecting” us from something unhealthy. Yea, right.

  • Stubby

    First, for decades tobacco companies lied about the dangers of cigarettes. As a result millions of people died prematurely. Now the government, with the full support of anti-nicotine fanatics and misguided health advocates are lying to the public about reduced harm nicotine products. Products that could greatly improve the lives of over 45 million citizens. As a result millions of people will die prematurely.

    What we need is the truth. There are nicotine products out there that are orders of magnitude safer then smoking tobacco. The banning and suppression of these products is a great disservice to the people of this country. . The ignorance and corruption surrounding this issue is a crime against humanity.

  • Crisco

    Government is corrupt, they hide facts by using propaganda. They justify their motives by “saving the children”. How about saving the millions of tobacco users and reducing the 400,000 smoking deaths per year?
    Oh yea, smokers have a “right” to use ineffective FDA approved devices that are have a 95% failure rate! Bottom line, it’s all about the money, smokers are seen as a monetary value $$. We support the Government, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma.

  • not needed

    Not to mention all the new laws about where you can and cannot smoke. Is that not government driven?

    They are saying, “here smoke this that is bad for you, but do it only where we say”.

    They should be saying, “here have this safe alternative so we can take a few laws off the books by allowing it to be done anywhere”.

  • UnderCurrent

    In 30 years of smoking, I tried several stop-smoking therapies. Some were worse than others (Chantix) but all others only worked only as long as I was actively using them. e-Cigs are something that I’ve switched to instead of smoking. It wasn’t even difficult, which surprised me greatly.

    I don’t think protecting the kids is a good reason. For one thing, e-Cigs are expensive! For another, a prospective smoker trying an e-Cig wouldn’t get those other additives that Big Tobacco puts in to make their products instantly addictive. I think most non-smokers would think the first puff of an e-Cig is pretty lackluster. “Smoking” an appliance isn’t all that glamorous, anyway.

    I don’t have a problem with the FDA wanting documentation and compliance.

    I just hope they give the manufacturers a time period, say a year or so, in which all products must be approved and in compliance.

    If they did that, they would be working for the good of smokers as well as for the common health.

    If they just yank the plug after thousands of smokers have found a workable, safer alternative, then they have not only failed in the personal health mission, but also have somewhat condoned and approved of cigarette smoking – since that’s what banning e-Cigs will do.

  • karen fletcher

    After 35 years of smoking, and the recent price increase of cigarettes, I decided to try personal vaporizers to cut down on the expense of smoking. I was pleasantly surprised. I did cut down to 10 cigarettes a day without even trying. After 2 weeks I ran out of cigarettes and never replaced them. I never meant to give up smoking cigarettes, but I did. Fifty days now, and I can’t believe the benefits. Isn’t that what the doctors, tobacco companies, government, and society wants? Funny way of showing it. And after all of the above dictating how this should be done, I am an adult, and a US citizen and I should have the right to choose how to quit smoking, and the above mentioned should be supporting me instead of making things impossible for me to do the right thing for me, my family, friends, and society as a whole.

  • Kathleen Fischer

    After 44 years of smoking, and years of feeling ill from it, I received my e-cig in the mail at 3PM of March 9. About 10PM, I smoked my LAST cigarette, and have been smoke free now for 78 days and 13 hours! My cough went away almost immediately, and now feel vital, energetic, and really ALIVE for the first time in years. NO ONE is going to take this from me, nor should ANYONE even think about denying ANYONE over 18 yrs of age from using it, it would be CRIMINAL! Testing? Fine, do that. Confiscation? Don’t even think about it.
    This is my body, my choice, and I am not contaminating a single soul. Patches made me itch and broke my budget. Gum tasted awful, was not effective at all. Also expensive. Cold turkey? I suffer from ADD, panic attacks, and subsequent depression. NOT for me. I can do e-cigs for the rest of my life, or not, my choice should not be relevant to anyone but me.

  • James Haley

    DOCTOR’S APPROVAL – I just had a checkup after using e-cigs for the past six months – My blood pressure is down to 118 over 66 (unheard of for me) – My blood oxogen absorbtion is up three point to 97% – The tobacco/taxing authorities took FULL advantage of my inability to get off TOBACCO cigs – Because I now VAPE rather than smoke, I can breath again – laugh without hacking up a lung – go to sleep without hacking for 20 minutes – get up in the morning without hacking for an hour or so – OF COURSE THE GOV/TOBACCO/TAXING AUTHORITIES ARE GOING TO TAKE IT AWAY!!! I’M NOT AT ALL SURPRISED!!! YOU GET ME HOPELESSLY HOOKED 35 YEARS AGO AND NOW BEGRUDGE ME GOOD HEALTH – SHAME!!!!!

  • PB
  • Mike Goodridge

    After 20 years of smoking I have finally quit. Why? Guess! My partner and I have been using our personal vaporizors for over 2 months now and have not touched a conventional cigarette “analog”. We both feel fantastic, we’re working out again and can breath well enough to do all those activities we stopped due to smoking. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air, I can smell and taste again as well. I have turned all of our friends onto PV’s and now none of them smoke, we all vape. This includes several parents who have smoked for 30-40 years as well as a die hard 3 pack a day smoker who quit as soon as they started using these products.

    If the FDA was willing to sit by and watch all of us kill ourselves with traditional, big money tobacco they should be able to sit back and let us make our own decision about PV’s. Maybe if the industy gave them a little CHING CHING on the side they’d leave it alone? Seems to be the only way they work.

  • Jason

    I’m not sure if this has been said or not. But, a few have hinted on it. The FDA is only concerned about keeping they’re pockets full from the tax dollars generated by the sale of normal cigarettes. Thats the bottom line. So, why promote an alternative that would depleat they’re tax dollars? Thats no good. Tobbacco growers I would think don’t have a problem with this as you still need to grow tobbacco to attain nicotine? I’m not sure but why cut your profits from tax dollars for an alternative? not to mention all the health care costs involved with cancer patients and preventative care…all those doctors would lose all that big insurance money taking care of all those sickly patients! Can’t have that! This is why there is so much resistance to the e-cig. I say citizens stand up for themselves and write your congressmen and reps and get the FDA off its high horse. If you remain silent then nothing will change and the FDA will get exactly what it wants. If enough people speak out for an alternative then they have no choice but to listen…remember we pay these people with our tax money and we elect who and who isnt in congress.

  • smokelesscigarettes

    This post is really informative. If you can’t leave your smoking habit immediately you can switch to the smokeless electronic cigarette or e-cigs with which you can really save yourself and your surroundings from the risks that are associated with smoking any traditional cigarette.

  • John Barrett

    According to the FDA, they “contain carcinogens such as diethylene glycol — used in antifreeze — and nitrosamines.”

    To his credit, internist Matthew Mintz has been sounding the alarm for awhile. Not only does he point out they are largely unregulated, there are real questions as to whether they help with smoking cessation at all. He writes that, “e-cigarettes were designed to be tobacco cigarette replacement products, not smoking cessation aides. It is also possible that smokers will use e-cigarettes in place of SOME of their tobacco cigarettes. Although this does decrease exposure to known dangerous products, e-cigarettes might therefore actually prolong tobacco cigarette smoking.”

  • Boogerd

    the government doesn’t want you to quit because that means less tax dollars for them to spend

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