Regulating E-Cigarettes Creates the Wrong Incentives

by Richard Rush on July 29, 2013 · 3 comments

in Features, Health and Illness, Personal Liberty, Regulation

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is gearing up to regulate electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) by early October. These regulations, rather than protecting the public health, will unintentionally push people towards using more dangerous tobacco alternatives.

Smokers all over the world have transitioned to e-cigarettes because they believe them to be a safer and more convenient alternative to tobacco. Users inhale a vapor that contains a mix of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavoring ingredients—and no tobacco.

To date, users have been able to enjoy these products without the inconvenience of having to go to designated smoking areas and inhaling the harmful tar from actual smokers’ cigarettes. A recent study conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA) concluded that “although it cannot be said that currently marketed e-cigarettes are safe, e-cigarette vapor is likely to be much less toxic than cigarette smoke.”

However, that doesn’t seem to be good enough for some public health advocacy groups. The American Lung Association , the American Cancer Society, and others have expressed concerned that people are unaware that e-cigarettes contain a potentially dangerous mix of chemicals. The FDA’s tobacco czar has compared the current state of the e-cigarette industry to a “wild west” situation in dire need of regulation.

The proposed regulations will likely have severe ununitended consequences by decreasing the incentives to stay away from more dangerous tobacco alternatives. These regulations will raise the price of e-cigarettes, decrease innovation in the market, and force users to consume them outside around smokers, thereby exposing them to secondhand smoke and the temptation to turn back to traditional tobacco products.

Regulators’ main concern seems to be that e-cigarettes will encourage more people to start using nicotine (and eventually tobacco products) and prevent current smokers from quitting. With a flavored product that doesn’t require users to go outside, has lower health risks, and is less expensive, nicotine use loses many of the costs associated with smoking. Therefore, people will have less incentive to quit or stay away from nicotine products to begin with.

All medical professionals will readily agree that regularly inhaling anything other than the mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide around you is detrimental to your health. Of course, it would be better from a health perspective if people didn’t use nicotine at all. However, as an alternative to smoking, e-cigarettes could save millions of lives.

More troubling is the fact that the FDA has announced plans to regulate the e-cigarette market without conducting any substantial research. And while secondhand vapor may seem like a legitimate concern, the majority of studies conducted show that this is not the case.

Unless new evidence shows that e-cigarettes are comparable to tobacco products in their effects on public health, regulators should be careful of unintentionally pushing users away from a safer mode of nicotine consumption.

David Holmes July 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm

I’m not so sure health is really the concern here. Obviously there’s money in tobacco, tobacco taxes, cancer, cancer treatments, pharmacy nicotine treatment (that’s expensive and doesn’t work). Trust me, I know they don’t work, after 40+ years of smoking I tried to quit for a year using those methods, patches, gum, pills. I’ve been smoke free for 3 years with the e-cigarette, and over regulating it in my mind is mass murder for profit. there’s no nice way to say it. My elderly mother has COPD and asthma and can’t be around a smoker even outside at a distance, yet I can use my ecig with her in an enclosed car and it doesn’t bother her. I know kids don’t want e-cigs, they want the real cigs, to them e-cigs are for people wanting to quit smoking, which they are because they work, so why don’t they leave us alone? It’s about MONEY! Not health!

Charlie July 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm

May it please God common sense wins.

Disproportionate regulation is a disaster waiting to happen for users of electronic cigarettes.

Only multinational pharmaceutical companies benefit from government regulation. Users of eCigs lose, so too the small innovative companies that made these devices so effective at killing tobacco use.

Safer product (electronic cigarettes) more heavily regulated than traditional tobacco? Millions of lives at stake. This madness has to stop.

Dominic August 2, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Wow, big surprise. Big tobacco companies are losing money so they’re right up in Washington lobbying the FDA and others I’m sure to regulate a life saving new product because they’re losing millions of dollars. Typical. And what’s more typical is these organizations going along with it instead of telling them to go kick rocks like they should be doing.

Maybe some of us got sick of the looming death over our heads smoking nasty, disgusting cigarettes and decided to live instead. Maybe we FINALLY found a way to get off your cancer sticks and move into a far healthier lifestyle. NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING has been found to be dangerous from vaping. NOTHING. Yet the media wants to attempt to inform those who aren’t familiar with any of it that they’re inhaling second hand carcinogens like they would cigarettes. Well, you’re not. It’s water vapor with nicotine in it. And you know what, it smells good too. I vape watermelon most of the time and non-smokers come up to me all the time and tell me how good the vapor smells in the air, and it’s really faint to begin with.

We have the most irresponsible media in this country. All it does is create stupidity in people who are too lazy to research actual facts on any given issue and gives them an easy way out to like or not like something. When you’re not informed of actual facts but have a media that does half-assed research to broadcast fear daily (because fear sells) you have an ignorant populace, and that’s EXACTLY what they want.

Well, you’re not fooling me, and you’re not fooling people who vape and know the truth already.

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