Thursday, October 01, 2009

FDA Quoted as Stating that It's Not Sure Cigarette Smoking is Any More Dangerous than the Use of Electronic Cigarettes

According to an article by Jim Merkel of the newspaper St. Louis Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is quoted as stating it is unsure whether cigarette smoking is any worse than the use of electronic cigarettes.

Since hundreds of thousands of people are using electronic cigarettes - which contain no tobacco and deliver nicotine without the more than 10,000 other chemicals that are present in cigarettes - and many of them have been told by their doctors that their health has greatly improved since quitting smoking and switching to vaping, the FDA's statement is likely to be interpreted as meaning that cigarette smoking isn't all that bad, comparable perhaps to the use of nicotine replacement products, which are also relatively "clean" sources of nicotine.

According to the article, an FDA spokesperson was quoted as stating: "We don't know if this [electronic cigarette use] is any better for them [than smoking]."

Here is the full context of the discussion and quote:

"Julie Woessner puffs on an electronic cigarette and feels a vapor full of nicotine wafting deep into her lungs. Woessner and thousands around the country are passionate in their belief that the battery-powered sticks that deliver nicotine without burning have been lifesavers. "If I hadn't have had it, I'd still be smoking,' said Woessner, 46, a homemaker living in Wildwood. People like Woessner call themselves "vapers" because they "vape" or inhale vapor that includes nicotine from e-cigarettes. They worry the government may try to take away something they see as a lifesaver. "If that happens, I will be smoking again, and that makes me sick," said Woessner. She first used the device in January and immediately stopped smoking."

"FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey contends her agency wants to regulate electronic cigarette so it can be sure that the people who use them are getting a reliable dose of nicotine, and that there are no far-reaching health effects from long-term use. "There are no long-term studies on the health effects of just nicotine, minus the tobacco component. We know what smoking tobacco does to the body over the long term," DeLancey said. "What we want to see are well-designed clinical studies. Personal reports are not enough," DeLancy said. The FDA maintains e-cigarettes contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals like diethylene glycol, an ingredient in industrial antifreeze."

"But backers of e-cigarettes contend what is produced is much safer than cigarettes. ... Woessner expects to vape for years to come, but at a level with very little nicotine. "This is something the government should be pushing for, a clean way of allowing people to smoke," Woessner said. Delancey disagreed. "I feel their pain," she said. "We don't know if this is any better for them."

The Rest of the Story

If it is true that the FDA doesn't know if electronic cigarettes are any better (i.e., safer) than tobacco cigarette smoking, then it follows that the FDA also doesn't know if tobacco cigarette smoking is any more dangerous than using these personal vaporizers.

Since there are no known health threats that have been identified with the use of electronic cigarettes made by companies that use pharmaceutical grade propylene glycol (other than long-term effects of nicotine, which are of course also present with cigarettes), the FDA seems to be stating that there is at least a chance that cigarette smoking might not actually be as harmful as we think.

This scientific folly highlights the absurdity of having the FDA now approving cigarettes, but threatening to take the electronic ones - which contain no tobacco - off the market.

Since the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control passed, the FDA has done nothing little to warn the public about the risks of cigarette smoking, but as we see today, through its actions and statements on electronic cigarettes, is actually undermining the public's appreciation of the severe health hazards associated with conventional cigarette smoking.

This is, I'm sure, just what Philip Morris dreamed about when it concocted the idea of trying to seduce the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids into supporting very limited FDA regulation of cigarettes. It has created a situation where by statute, the FDA must approve deadly cigarettes for sale and consumption in the United States, but where the very same FDA is threatening to remove from the market a device which is actually helping perhaps hundreds of thousands of people to keep off of cigarettes.

When the FDA tells the public that cigarette smoking may be no more hazardous than the use of a device that essentially delivers just nicotine and propylene glycol, you know we have serious problems with tobacco control in this country.

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