E-Cigarette Regulations Threaten Public Health

August 15, 2014

Electronic cigarettes use batteries to heat nicotine. The devices emit water vapor, and the "smoker" does not inhale carcinogenic tar, making e-cigarettes much safer than the traditional tobacco cigarette, explain Sally Satel and Alan Viard, resident scholars at the American Enterprise Institute.

The authors write that the safety of e-cigarettes is not entirely clear, as the devices are relatively new and there is concern that some e-cigarettes contain trace amounts of carcinogens (though at levels 500 to 1,400 times less than traditional cigarettes). But nicotine, while addictive, is safe. Doctors are even encouraging patients who smoke and are finding it difficult to quit to transition to e-cigarettes.

Even so, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to regulate e-cigarettes:

  • The FDA would regulate the devices under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
  • The agency would require producers of new e-cigarette products to file applications with the FDA before they put them on the market, and any products created since February 2007 are considered new.
  • To prepare that application, the FDA estimates that it would take more than 5,000 hours of preparation, at a cost of $300,000. Likely, only large manufacturers like existing tobacco companies would be able to shoulder these costs.
  • With fewer producers in the market, fewer smokers would be likely to transition to e-cigarettes.

Satel and Viard write that states can develop their own laws to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but the FDA's proposed rule would create too much of a burden on businesses and could ultimately threaten public health.

Source: Sally Satel and Alan D. Viard, "A Flawed E-Cigarette Regulation," The American, August 13, 2014.

 

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