FDA Changing Stance?

For too long now, the stance of the FDA and public health groups has largely been negative towards electronic cigarettes.  Anyone who has spent a minimum of time looking into ecigs has found the same old flawed 2009 study regurgitated over and over again.  Some recent statements by Mitch Zeller, the head of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products seem to indicated that the agency is reconsidering it’s bias toward pharmaceutical smoking cessation methods.

“Changes in the marketplace have forced the public health community to wrestle with the idea that some tobacco products may pose less of a health risk than others.”   This according to a recent article in the Washington Post.  It looks like a tacit admission that commercial pressure is a primary consideration in the FDA’s decisions.  Could it be that the FDA and public health officials are finally considering the idea that reducing smoking related deaths may be a good idea even if pharmaceuticals aren’t involved?

The article goes on to mention electronic cigarettes specifically and  the fact that in the first quarter of 2013, ecigs have resulted in cigarette volume reductions of “about 600 million cigarettes, or about 1 percent,” according to tobacco industry executives.  That works out to about 333,000 pack-a-day smokers.  The tobacco industry was never that worried about the patch or Chantix, were they?

Electronic cigarette users have long ago accepted the idea that the technology represents a safer alternative to tobacco smoking.  Could the FDA finally be accepting the idea?  According to Zeller, the head of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, public health agencies have been left with “no choice but to grapple with the issues and the questions of harm reduction.”  I’m glad to hear they’re reconsidering their stance, but it is still aggravating to know that it takes this much market pressure to force what should be a simple, logical discussion.

The closing line of the article is also irritating in what it indicates about public health policy.  “Public health officials say the safety of e-cigarettes and their effectiveness in helping people quit regular smokes haven’t been fully studied.”  So, for 4 years we have been hearing negative “facts” about electronic cigarettes from the anti-smoking crusaders, yet now they admit that they should be studied?  What exactly were the previous conclusions based on?  One is nearly forced to assume that pharmaceutical industry contributions were a large influence.

It’s way too early for optimism, but this is certainly better than hearing another rehash of that 2009 study.

1 comment

  1. Ed says:

    I agree. While this is not yet the time for great optimism, we can take some hope. But in the end, the battle to keep our right to vape continues. It may be some time before we can finally enjoy ourselves in peace.