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FDA Finally Admits Using Electronic Cigarettes Is Safer Than Smoking


It may sound like another sensationalist headline, but this one is one hundred percent true. Yesterday, during a hearing that might help determine the fate of electronic cigarettes in America, Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA¡¯s Center for Tobacco Products told Congress that using e-cigarettes is safer than smoking.

vaping-e-cigs¡°If we could get all of those people [who smoke] to completely switch all of their cigarettes to noncombustible cigarettes, it would be good for public health,¡± Mitch Zeller said, yesterday. ¡°Let¡¯s not lose our focus on what the primary cause is for those 480,000 avoidable deaths each year¡ªit¡¯s primarily burning, combusting cigarettes.¡± Furthermore, the agency also proposed extending the mandatory 75-day commenting period past July, to allow other voices to be heard on the subject of e-cigarette regulations and to study the products further. The FDA had finally released proposed regulations for electronic cigarettes at the end of April, after years of delays.

However, this positive statement was shadowed by the agency¡¯s confessed decision to base its regulatory decisions on a ¡°guilty until proven innocent¡± mindset until science can finally answer all the questions regarding the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes on human health. Still, the FDA¡¯s stance on e-cigarettes, during yesterday¡¯s hearing, was pretty lax compared to that of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and several attending Senators.

The CDC¡¯s Tim McAffee went as far as to say the potential benefits of electronic cigarettes on the health of adult smokers aren¡¯t worth the risk of kids getting addicted to e-cigarettes. ¡°We don¡¯t think there¡¯s any necessity to spend 5-10 years waiting to see if a 13-year old progresses from e-cigarettes to regular ones ¡­ it¡¯s not something we need to or should fool around with,¡± McAfee said. ¡°This is a huge experiment, and it¡¯s not fair to ask kids to be the test subjects for some hypothetical benefit to adult smokers.¡± The way he puts it, you would think there is already solid proof that minors are becoming addicted to nicotine by way of electronic cigarettes, while the health benefits associated with them are just hypothetical, when, in fact, recent studies show it¡¯s the other way around. But, I for one have gotten used to this kind of tactics from anti-smoking/vaping groups.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a well-known opponent of electronic cigarettes, tried to convince his colleagues of the danger they pose, but only managed to prove he known next-to-nothing about e-cigarettes or how they work. At one point, he picked up an e-cig mod (with its plug attached) and said: ¡°They¡¯re buying these fancy things here. Look, it goes in the wall¡ªit looks like a computer plug. I don¡¯t know what that costs, but these are all geared toward young people.¡± Yeah, thanks for the lesson, Senator¡­

Luckily, there was someone present in the room who didn¡¯t promote stringent regulations on e-cigarettes, or their outright ban. That someone was Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) who argued the importance of technological innovation in an industry that has the potential to save millions of lives, and reminded organizations like the FDA and CDC just how much their priorities have changed of late. ¡°If we kill technology and innovation, which is, in essence, what some are attempting to do at the beginning, it¡¯s not going to play a role in reducing the amount of Americans who smoke,¡± Burr said. ¡°I can remember when opportunities for harm reduction were the goal, but the technology wasn¡¯t there ¡­ well now, the technology is there, and how quickly we¡¯ve moved to the point where harm reduction is no longer a goal.¡±

Despite the FDA¡¯s intention to regulate e-cigarettes in a manner that will most likely put small companies out of business and pave the way for Big Tobacco to waltz in and take over the entire market, the simple admission that electronic cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking is definitely a step in the right direction. It¡¯s a bit of a shocking paradox,though, since, according to its proposed regulations, companies are still prohibited from making any kind of health claims¡­

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