Friday, June 12, 2009

The Ultimate Insanity: Health Groups Want to Remove Some Toxins from Cigarettes, But Want to Ban Product Which Already Removed Virtually All of Them

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association have supported the legislation, about to be enacted, which asks the FDA to make cigarettes safer by removing certain of the more than 4,000 known constituents in the tobacco smoke.

At the same time, these groups have asked the FDA to ban a product (electronic cigarettes) which has already been developed and which already has eliminated all of the 4,000 known constituents in tobacco smoke, other than the nicotine.

I can't help it, but this is the ultimate in insanity.

Why would you put your heart and soul into a a piece of legislation that, at very best, will allow the FDA to remove a few of the constituents from cigarette smoke but at the same time, demand that a product which has succeeded in removing all (but nicotine) of these constituents be immediately taken off the market?

This makes absolutely no sense.

It exposes the unfortunate fact that for these particular health groups, it just isn't about the actual health of the public any more. It seems to me that these groups are more interested in achieving political victories which they might use to charge up their constituents and solicit more donations than in actually supporting policies that will make substantive contributions to the public's health.

There is no way that the FDA, even after many years of research and deliberation, will be able to come up with regulations that produce a product that is anywhere near as safe as the electronic cigarette. The FDA can ponder all it wants about which few constituents it makes sense to remove from cigarettes, but the electronic cigarette has removed all of them, other than the nicotine. So if we already have a product that has achieved far more than the FDA ever will in terms of the search for a safer cigarette, then why on earth would these "health" groups want to ban such a product?

This is, frankly, the most absurd situation I have ever observed in my public health career.

Rather than risk the slight possibility that perhaps the propylene glycol exposure from e-cigarettes has some unknown, long-term health effects, the health groups would rather that smokers continue to smoke the highly toxic alternatives (a.k.a., conventional cigarettes) and that the much safer electronic cigarette option be taken away from them.

Contrary to what the public health groups have claimed, the FDA legislation is not going to save millions of lives. Instead, these hypocritical and misguided actions by the health groups are going to cost countless lives, as electronic cigarette smokers are essentially forced to go back to smoking the much more hazardous conventional counterparts.

And meanwhile, the FDA can begin pouring countless resources into its ill-fated effort to produce a safer cigarette by removing a few of the more than 4,000 known constituents.

All for a small political victory for these health groups.

It's a travesty that the actual protection of the health of the public is no longer the paramount concern of these groups.

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