To her credit, CNN’s Erin McPike mostly avoids the standard “something must be done” tone characteristic of this type of report and just explains the facts. Basically, the anti-smoking brigades are annoyed that TV ads for e-cigarettes aren’t banned like ads for regular cigarettes. Why aren’t they banned? Because e-cigarettes aren’t made of, you know, tobacco— the substance that was the basis for banning tobacco product TV ads. The usual suspects claim e-cigarette commercials are intentionally glamorizing cigarette smoking to lure children, or something. It’s unclear to me how hiring a pitchman no one under 25 remembers because “S.F.W.” and “Blade” were before their time is a pander to kids, but details.
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E-cigarettes are demonstrably and obviously safer than traditional cigarettes— they work without the ignition of paper and the transfer of many of the chemicals and tars that make cigarette smoking harmful—and I have more than one friend who’s been able to quit a serious smoking habit thanks to these satisfying substitutes. That would seem to be something we wouldn’t want to discourage, but anti-smoking absolutists and the FDA long to regulate and ban tobacco-less vapor just like they do everything else. Oh, how the FDA loves to go after stuff that might be harmful but probably not.
What could be wrong with that? Well, the FDA says e-cigarettes contain trace chemicals that “may” be “toxic.”
But most everything “may” be toxic. New York Times science columnist John Tierney writes: “The agency has never presented evidence that the trace amounts actually cause any harm, and it has neglected to mention that similar traces of these chemicals have been found in other FDA-approved products, including nicotine patches and gum. The agency’s methodology and warnings have been lambasted in scientific journals.”
Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, concluded in the Harm Reduction Journal that the FDA results “are highly unlikely to have any possible significance to users” because it detected chemicals at “about 1 million times lower concentrations than are conceivably related to human health.”
Moreover, Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told Tierney: “It boggles my mind why there is a bias against e-cigarettes among antismoking groups” such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
It boggles my mind, too, because as Tierney points out, e-cigarettes not only pose merely a hypothetical risk compared to real “cigarettes containing thousands of chemicals, including dozens of carcinogens and hundreds of toxins,” e-cigarettes also have been shown to be unusually successful in helping smokers quit. A new study from Italy found that after 24 weeks, half of all smokers using the e-cigarettes reduced their consumption of the real McCoy by 50 percent. A quarter gave up smoking altogether.
Jacob Sullum has been following the various banning and regulation attempts targeting this successful smoking cessation device. My favorite is the WHO declaring that e-cigs should be banned because they look like regular cigarettes.
Jacob Grier explains in this Cato video how the FDA’s rulemaking process actually creates a perverse incentive to keep healthier products for current tobacco users off the market based on fears that healthier products might counteract all the stigmatizing we’ve done of smoking over the years. Sorry, smokers! First, socially stigmatized and then nanny-stated out of products that could help you escape your social stigma!