Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is threatening "unprecedented" action against America's most popular tool to quit smoking, the vape.
As many anti-vaping groups and similar organization herald these threats by the FDA many are trying to understand why they’d cripple the e-cigarette industry that has been the only thing to challenge traditional cigarettes for nearly 100 years.
This fear has spread like wildfire within the last couple of weeks with the release of the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey that showed a surge in teen vaping. However, is this surge just showing the “fad” of teens trying things their parents discourage them to do because it’s “cool?” The percentage of high school students who have vaped at least once in the past 30 days has increased 11.7% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2018. The greatest fear by the FDA is that these teens will become addicted to nicotine that’ll alter their growth and develop into more dangerous addictions like smoking traditional cigarettes.
However, from our own experiences with adult customers we have found that over 80% of our customers were past smokers and have used vaping to quit smoking. Something very different from what the FDA assumes will happen with today’s teens. Although we do NOT support teen vaping and ensure our products are never sold to teens it’s a bit outlandish to assume these teens are going to switch to smoking traditional cigarettes when the majority of the market has done quite the opposite.
Although Gottlieb, the commissions of the FDA is focused heavily on reducing teen vaping it goes without much credible evidence that vaping develops additions to alcohol or other drugs. Furthermore, in a recent study on the gateway effect cited by Gottlieb it suggests kids who vape are more likely to progress to smoking than kids who don't vape with one important caveat; "We cannot establish causal relations or rule out the possibility of residual confounding by underlying risk-taking propensities." Simply put, like most studies conducted on this topic, the authors cannot establish a causal pathway from vaping to smoking. Claims of a gateway from vaping to smoking are about as convincing as they were for marijuana being a precursor to heroin.
The FDA is planning a massive regulatory lock out for an industry and products without significant evidence to disprove that vaping could be a potentially better harm reduction product to traditional cigarettes.
While we cannot and will not deny that the epidemic and volume of teens vaping is alarming we do not believe that justifies the millions of adults who have used vaping to end horrible addictions to traditional cigarettes. Furthermore, we should also be focused on the dramatic decrease of teens who smoke that has dropped from 15.8% to 8.1% since 2011. And the current rates of high school smokers is at record lows of less than 2%. The story of teen smoking in recent years is not one of failure, but of tremendous success.
No one wants to see kids using e-cigarettes (even vaping insides and companies), just like they don't want kids to be using alcohol or marijuana. But unlike alcohol or marijuana, e-cigarettes offer a life-saving alternative to the nearly thirty-four million adults who still smoke.
In January of this year the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that e-cigarettes are almost two times more effective at helping smokers quit than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. So would it behove the regulations to target how we decrease nicotine contained in products like Juul or others that continue high levels of nicotine? Could this be a solution that would appease both sides of the argument?
According to researchers at Georgetown University, up to 6.6 million lives could be saved if vaping replaces smoking in the next decade. Gottlieb himself has said that if every smoker in America switched to e-cigarettes, it would be a significant win for public health. So why the threats to end an industry with potential life saving capabilities?
Almost half a million Americans die from smoking every year, nearly seven times the number who died from opioid overdoses in 2017. But to this day there is no information on FDA's website making clear the benefits of switching from smoking to vaping. Instead of encouraging adult smokers to vape, Gottlieb is proposing to limit adults' access to these products based on one year's worth of data.
FDA has a long and inglorious history of excessive regulation costing lives. The destruction of the vaping industry via regulatory barriers, flavor bans, and censorship about their benefits would make the errors of the past pale in comparison; the tragedy is that the people who will be most affected won't be around to complain about it, and those who introduce it won't be in office to be held accountable.