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Bipartisan Effort to Save E-Cigarettes in Congress

A Republican and a Democrat in Congress have joined together to try to help e-cigarette sellers and users who could be harmed by the Food and Drug Administration’s deeming rules. Republican Tom Cole from Oklahoma and Democrat Sanford Bishop from Georgia want clarification of the grandfather rule that sets 2007 as the year that marks the difference between vaping products that are exempt and those that have to follow the new rules.

The rules require that all vaping products produced since 2007 carry warning labels and list ingredients on packaging. But the most dramatic effect the rules will have on manufacturers, retailers and the buying public comes from the requirement that vaping liquid produced since 2007 must be proven to be safe by FDA standards. In order for that to happen, manufacturers will have to foot the bill for testing and submit the results to the FDA. The cost of this could put many e-liquid manufacturers out of business, and the grandfather rule does little to help since nearly everything currently on the market was manufactured after 2007.

Some opponents to the grandfather rule would like to see the date changed to 2016, though many in the vaping industry have stated that they have no problem with the warning label and ingredients-listing requirements; in fact, many manufacturers and retailers have voluntarily done these things for years.

A news report from PBS on the effort to change the FDA rules fails to mention the cost of testing and the detrimental effect it will have on small vaping business owners, and it claims that the tobacco industry is behind the entire effort to change the FDA rules on e-cigarettes. The article quotes Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, as saying, “You can put any gloss on it you want, this is the tobacco industry’s effort to continue to market flavored tobacco products to hook another generation of kids.”

Apparently Mr. Myers is not aware that in the United States there is currently only one e-cigarette on the market that was manufactured by a tobacco company. That would be the RJ Reynolds Vuse, which is a late-comer in the e-cigarette game, having been put on the U.S. market only a few years ago. There are a few other tobacco company-manufactured e-cigarette products being tested in other countries. But by and large, the e-cigarette industry is not in any way a part of the tobacco industry; in fact, the two are in direct competition.

Mr. Myers is not the first person to publicly make the blatantly false statement that e-cigarettes are a product of the tobacco industry. Many opponents of vaping either have a disturbing lack of knowledge on the subject they hold such a strong opinion on, or they are actually lying. But some lawmakers like Cole and Bishop have obviously done their homework and understand the problems with the FDA treatment of vaping products and how the deeming rules could wind up hurting small businesses and adults who are trying to quit smoking, and how they could even help tobacco companies. RJ Reynolds, for example, could likely afford the testing requirements and get their e-cigarette approved by the FDA, while countless e-cigarettes manufactured by small companies will end up being wiped off the market; not because they aren’t as safe, but because the manufacturers can’t afford the cost of FDA approval.

Meanwhile, Philip Morris is preparing to bring a product similar to an e-cigarette to the U.S., and would likely be able to afford the FDA approval as well. But this product is not even an e-cigarette but a tobacco heating device that could actually be more harmful than a traditional vaping device that uses liquid. But if the company can afford the testing, it could get an “FDA approved” label too.

The FDA deeming rules are not helping anyone who actually wants safer alternatives to smoking to be available to adults. As for younger people, there is no evidence that children or teens are drawn to the flavors of e-cigarettes, or to e-cigarettes at all unless those youngsters are also drawn to cigarettes or already smoking. There is also a volume of evidence that shows that e-cigarettes are almost 100% safer than smoking, and that they do help smokers quit.

Changing the 2007 date to make more recent products exempt from testing would help to keep smaller vaping businesses afloat, but the expensive testing process should not be necessary to begin with. Many opponents of it have pointed out that there are countless products on the American market that were never required to undergo rigorous testing or be deemed absolutely safe beyond doubt before they were allowed to be sold. The fact is that e-cigarettes are being treated as a special case by certain groups who find them to be a threat to their pocketbooks, while pretending that they are a threat to the public health.

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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