Tuesday, August 02, 2016

FDA Tobacco Center Director to Ex-Smoking Vapers: You Don't Exist

According to an article in yesterday's Winston-Salem Journal, the head of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) told the hundreds of thousands of ex-smokers in the U.S. who successfully quit smoking by switching to vaping that: "there is no definitive support of e-cigs playing a cessation role."

In other words, Mr. Zeller--the CTP director--is telling vapers that they don't exist, that their experiences never happened.

This will come as news to the hundreds of thousands of vapers in the U.S. who did successfully quit smoking by switching to vaping. Survey data suggest that the actual number of ex-smokers who quit smoking by using e-cigarettes may be greater than a million, but even with the most conservative assumptions, no fewer than hundreds of thousands of ex-smokers quit thanks to vaping. But to the FDA, these people apparently do not exist. 

The Rest of the Story

I have already explained why the abundant "anecdotal" evidence that e-cigarettes have helped hundreds of thousands of smokers to quit does constitute definitive support of e-cigarettes playing a cessation role. To ignore this evidence is to ignore the experiences of vapers throughout the United States and to deny their existence.

What an insult! It's like slapping these ex-smokers in the face and telling them that they don't count. Imagine if you told your doctor that you took up swimming and as a result you lost 15 pounds, and then your doctor responded, not by congratulating you, but by telling you there is no definitive evidence that swimming can help people lose weight. But you are that evidence.

It would have been one thing if the FDA had stated that there is not sufficient evidence to quantify the proportion of smokers who successfully quit using e-cigarettes or that we don't yet have enough clinical trial information to definitively compare the efficacy of e-cigarettes with that of nicotine replacement therapy or other smoking cessation drugs. But that's not what the FDA said. They said that there's no evidence that e-cigarettes play a role in smoking cessation.

That is quite obviously wrong. We know that e-cigarettes can and do play a role in smoking cessation. The question now is how big of a role? We have some idea of the number of smokers who quit by using e-cigarettes. What we don't know is how many smokers tried to quit using these products. Therefore, we can't quantify the proportion of quit attempts with e-cigarettes that were successful.

Unlike the FDA, I congratulate and applaud the vapers throughout the country who have been able to quit smoking using these products, as well as the vapers who have been able to reduce their cigarette consumption through dual use of e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes. Dual use, for many, is a pathway to complete smoking cessation and it has health benefits in terms of reducing the risk of cancer and lung disease as well as in lowering the level of nicotine addiction and making it easier to subsequently get off tobacco cigarettes altogether. Also unlike the FDA, I do not deny your existence or your experience. Instead, I value it because it lights a path forward for literally millions of smokers who have been unsuccessful in quitting using "FDA-approved" cessation methods.

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