Tobacco Control Experts Defend Vaping

    Renowned academics urge the FDA to tread lightly

    Georgetown University, Washington DC, United States

    A group of respected tobacco control experts has a message for the FDA: don’t kill the vapor business. Their paper, in the journal Addiction, calls for light regulation and taxation, and warns that treating vapor products like combustible cigarettes will damage public health.

    The paper’s lead author, David T. Levy, of Georgetown University, was quoted in a press release. “We’re concerned the FDA, which has asserted its right to regulate e-cigarettes, will focus solely on the possibility that e-cigarettes and other vapor nicotine products might act as gateway to cigarette use.”

    “We believe that the discussion to date has been slanted against e-cigarettes, which is unfortunate,” said Levy, “because the big picture tells us that these products appear to be used mostly by people who already are or who are likely to become cigarette smokers.”

    The authors make up a virtual who’s who of international tobacco control. In addition to Levy, they include K. Michael Cummings of the Medical University of South Carolina; Andrea C. Villanti, Ray Niaura and David B. Abrams from Truth Initiative; Geoffrey T. Fong of the University of Waterloo, Ontario; and Ron Borland of Cancer Control Victoria, Australia.

    Discouraging vapor = encouraging smoking


    There is some doubt whether the paper can still have an effect on the FDA’s deeming regulations, which could be released any day. But the paper adds weight to the position of vaping advocates, suggesting that restricting vapor products will discourage smokers from quitting and lead to more youth adoption of traditional combustible cigarettes.

    “We don’t want to encourage e-cigarette use by youth and young adults who would not have otherwise smoked,” the authors say in the paper. “However, the primary aim of tobacco control policy should be to discourage cigarette use while providing the means for smokers to more easily quit smoking, even if that means switching for some time to e-cigarettes rather than quitting all nicotine use.”

    Dr. Michael Siegel, a public health professor at Boston University, and longtime e-cig proponent, agreed with the authors’ conclusion. He also told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “This is a concept that is misunderstood by most of the major anti-tobacco organizations and health agencies, including the FDA and the CDC.”

    “While we would ideally like smokers to quit using nicotine completely, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of smokers are not able to this. In lieu of complete nicotine cessation,” Siegel added, “it is far better for smokers to switch to vaping products than to continue smoking.”

    “Hopefully, this article will help encourage anti-tobacco groups and health agencies to change their irrational position on vaping products.”

    Vapers would like nothing more. The question is whether the growing positivity toward vapor products among tobacco experts will translate to policy by the FDA that will allow vaping to survive.

    Jim McDonald
    Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy