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Health Policy Researcher Predicts FDA Regulation for Ecigs Could Do More Harm Than Good

The FDA is moving forward with plans to regulate electronic cigarettes and this week, they submitted the finalized copy of the deeming regulations to the White House Office of Management and Budget for approval. Once approved, the regulations will be published in “The Federal Register” and will go into effect 30 days later. We’re getting close to the long awaited regulations and some are worried that the FDA is about to do major damage to public health.

Alex Brill, a research fellow from the American Enterprise Institute specializes in health policy and he said that ecigs are clearly a safer alternative to tobacco products. As Americans have started to switch from tobacco to ecigs, the smoking rate is now the lowest it’s been since the 1940s. Ecigarettes offer a tobacco-free option for smokers who cannot otherwise seem to quit.

Brill recently expressed his concern that the FDA’s regulations while well intentioned could potentially do more harm than good. The FDA claims that regulations are needed to reduce the number of calls to poison control for e-liquid exposure. But Brill believes the regulations could cause a greater risk for smokers who will just return to tobacco use.

“The FDA, in its pursuit of protecting people from accidental exposure to nicotine, risks discouraging smokers from switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes,” he said. “Hampering the cessation or reduction of smoking has far more serious public health consequences than the few thousand reported exposures to liquid nicotine.”

Furthermore, the fire risk associated with smoking is much more dangerous than the risk of eliquid poisoning. The US Fire Administration reports an estimated 7,600 residential fires are caused by cigarettes each year and many end in fatalities. Ecigarettes eliminate this risk because they don’t require any flame. The devices are powered by batteries instead.

Brill believes the FDA needs to think carefully about how it approaches regulations for vaping. “Without question, an appropriate function of the FDA is to ensure the safety of the products it regulates, and there is a role for the FDA in ensuring that consumers are properly warned of the risks posed by various products,” he said.

“No manufactured ingestible product is riskless, and liquid nicotine is no exception. Customers should be properly informed about these risks and, as with many products we keep in our homes, should be careful about how e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine are used and stored. But excessive warnings about risks associated with liquid nicotine may have the unintended consequence of discouraging smokers from switching from deadly tobacco products to safer e-cigarettes.”

If the past is any indication, the FDA will be aggressive in their approach to ecig regulations causing many small ecig companies to fold and potentially driving many former smokers to quit using ecigs and turn back to tobacco products. Do you think the FDA regulations will backfire? Should they reconsider their approach to regulating ecigarettes as tobacco products?

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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