The Time to Regulate E-Cigarettes Is Now
Few people celebrate an increase in government regulation. However, when it comes to a product growing in popularity that has never been tested for safety in a meaningful way, it is time to slow things down in the name of public health.
E-cigs are much less pernicious than a tobacco cigarette and may even have a public health benefit if they can help smokers quit. But because of the regulatory vacuum, the public doesn’t know, exactly, what’s in e-cigs, neither do we know much about how people use them.
If e-cigarettes can be cessation devices, as many hope, then they should be regulated like the patch or nicotine gum. But other data raise the possibility that in fact, e-cigs could be “activation devices,” particularly for young people; or equally problematic, that they actually weaken smokers’ ability and resolve to quit smoking. If that’s the case, there should be common-sense restrictions on flavor additives or advertising.
Such regulations have obvious benefits: They would help consumers make more informed choices, reduce youth consumption, and help preserve the public’s antismoking victory.
Here is the good news: e-cigs are almost certainly less dangerous than real cigarettes…because hardly anything is MORE dangerous than real cigarettes. The bad news is that the three largest tobacco companies are now involved in the business. Considering their shameful history of suppressing the lethal health risks associated with smoking, the FDA needs to step in sooner rather than later.