A number of national voluntary health groups (ACS, AHA, and ALA) and others concerned about smoke-free air, primarily ANR (Americans for Nonsmokers Rights) and ASH (Action of Smoking or Health) have come out against what are called electronic or e-cigarettes, which at present are not subject to federal regulation.
Those promoting them claim they provide nicotine to the user via a delivery device that simulates smoking, but without emitting any of the harmful byproducts of conventional tobacco-based cigarettes, and therefore can be used even where conventional tobacco products are not allowed. ANR and ASH are crying foul and want them federally tested to see if they meet promoters’ claims. There is also concern that these devices circumvent or undermine smoke-free air laws, some of which have been hard-won, and could lead to public confusion.
This last point is what concerns me most: the confusion that could well ensue in enforcing smoke-free air laws if a look-alike product deemed a safe alternative is allowed.
You’ll find more information on-line, e.g. this August 3, 2009 article “Possible FDA Ban on E-Cigarettes is Wrong Move” by Hans Bader, Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Bill Godshall, Executive Director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, a grass-roots smoke-free air advocate like myself whom I’ve known and respected for many years, vigorously disagrees with these efforts to outlaw e-cigarettes. He argues that e-cigarettes really are much safer than regular cigarettes and offer a way for smokers to quit, while also not polluting the air the rest of us breathe. Bill wrote me that he had submitted several pages of public comment to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), including lots of scientific evidence, and urges anyone interested to actually read this document:
There is less than one week remaining to submit public comments to the U.S. FDA and this does appear to be an important public health issue about which we should be informed. Below is a summary of Bill’s arguments submitted to the FDA and following that comments he sent me in two recent e-mails. (Note: NRT = Nicotine Replacement Therapy).
Bill Godshall’s e-mail dated December 21, 2009 to his anonymous list:
There is just one week remaining (Monday, December 28, is the deadline) to submit public comments to the US FDA on tobacco regulations at http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#submitComment?R=0900006480a34db4
For more information about FDA tobacco regulations, go to http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/default.htm
In public comments submitted on September 28 (attached), Smokefree Pennsylvania urged the FDA to:
– truthfully inform smokers and the public that smokefree tobacco/nicotine products are far less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes, and that millions of smokers have already reduced their health risks by switching to smokefree tobacco/nicotine products,
– eliminate the misleading “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes” warning on smokeless products,
– eliminate the unsubstantiated “This product may cause mouth cancer” warning from snus and other low nitrosamine smokeless products,
– require a warning on all cigarette packs stating “Smokefree tobacco and nicotine products are less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes”,
– evaluate and publish the relative and comparable health risks of different tobacco/nicotine products,
– establish stricter standers for “modified risk” and “reduced exposure” claims for cigarettes than for smokefree tobacco products,
– oppose cigarette emission standards, as they would perpetuate the safer cigarette fraud because humans smoke differently than machines,
– require a warning on all cigarette packs stating “There is no such thing as a safer cigarette, as all cigarettes are similarly hazardous”,
– approve NY State Health Commissioner Daines’ petition to make NRT more accessible and affordable to smokers, and to change NRT pack warnings to provide comparable health benefit and risk information about NRT use versus continued cigarette use,
– approve temporary and long term usage of NRT products for smokers and other tobacco users,
– inform smokers and the public that most exsmokers have quit cold turkey (not by using NRT or Rx products),
– redefine electronic cigarettes as a new category of tobacco products, and propose reasonable and responsible e-cigarette regulations,
– acknowledge huge declines in youth tobacco usage during past decade, and FDA’s statutory and constitutional limitations to further reduce youth tobacco usage,
– oppose banning menthol cigarettes, as doing so would create a huge black market, and
– oppose bannning flavorings/additives in cigars or smokefree tobacco products.
Bill Godshall also wrote me directly:
“Regarding e-cigarettes, since they don’t emit any smoke, CO or other hazardous gases, there is no rationale reason for banning their usage in workplaces (especially in the privacy one’s office or work station). E-cigarettes are nearly identical to FDA approved nicotine inhalers (as smoking cessation aids), and aren’t at all like Premier and Eclipse, which emitted large amounts of CO.
The real reasons why ASH, ANR, [New Jersey] GASP and others have advocated banning e-cigarettes in all workplaces is because Banzhaf, Frick, Blumenfeld and others don’t want to be reminded of cigarettes, don’t give a damn about the health of e-cigarette users (all of whom recently quit smoking) or about the health of millions of other smokers who can quit by switching to e-cigarettes. E-cigarette users and smokers who are trying to quit need help, encouragement and support by public health advocates, not discrimination, harassment and ostracism.”
“What happened was (as I delineated in my comments to FDA) that several FDA officials grossly misrepresented the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes (after I and others sent them lots of scientific evidence about e-cigarettes). Then, some less than ethical anti-tobacco activists decided that it was OK for them to also misrepresent the scientific evidence about e-cigarettes.
When tens of thousands of exsmokers publicly state that they quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes, it is unethical for anyone to claim that “there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation aids”. But that’s precisely what happened.
And after a half dozen laboratory studies/reports (including one conducted by the FDA) found that at least 99% of e-cigarette emissions are tiny amounts of just two chemicals (i.e. propylene glycol and nicotine) that aren’t hazardous to users or other people (compared to 10,000 chemicals and lots of air particulates in cigarette smoke), it is unethical for anyone to claim that e-cigarettes pose health risks to users and nonusers. But that’s what happened.
And when there is no evidence that any youth or nonsmoker has ever gotten addicted to an e-cigarette, it is unethical for anyone to claim that e-cigarettes are being target marketed to youth to get them addicted. But that’s what happened.
Bronson Frick (ANR) acknowledged to me (on a phone call the day after ANR redefined “smoking” as including e-cigarette usage in its model smokefree ordinance) that he hadn’t actually read any of the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes (that I had repeatedly sent him during the past year) and that he hadn’t communicated with any e-cigarette company or user before he/ANR decided to change its policy and begin advocating to ban e-cigarette usage in all worklplaces.
And when I asked John Banzhaf (head of ASH) why he was misrepresenting the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes, he said he wasn’t a scientist and that he was simply repeating what some FDA officials said.
And when I asked Karen Blumenfeld (Executive Director, New Jersey GASP) why she was grossly misrepresenting the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes (by telling elected officials in NJ that e-cigarettes emitted tobacco smoke just like real cigarettes, and caused health problems to nonusers), she got defensive, refused to answer any of my questions, and instead asked that I show respect for her and GASP.”