Senator Jeff Lautenberg sent this letter to the FDA on March 23, 2009 asking them to ban the sales of e cigarettes. Although I am a little unclear as to what the senator is trying to accomplish with this ban, I am positive that it would be a terrible move by the FDA. The reason I am sure it would be a terrible move is that the hundreds of thousands of people already using e cigarettes would be driven back to burning tobacco, and we all know the results of prolonged use of tobacco. I believe that the senator is concerned with suppliers who are claiming that e cigarettes are completely safe, healthy, and a quit smoking device. Unfortunately I have seen all of those claims being made also.
The good news about e smoking is that there are other senators like Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) who are using electronic cigarettes and are very clear about their benefits. Senator Stearns has even gone so far as to send kits to President Obama and to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). When you go that far it is pretty clear how you feel about something and Senator Stearns could be a great ally if this issue turns into a fight.
The FDA has clear jurisdiction over any drug that claims to be a smoking cessation drug as they should. It is flat out wrong to make claims that cannot be substantiated through studies. 80% of the people who use the patch to quit smoking are back to smoking in less than a year, probably not because there is anything wrong with the patch, but because the psychological draw of nicotine is very hard to overcome. Electronic cigarettes can’t help you quit anymore than any device or drug that claims to do so. What they can do is mimic the act of smoking without smoke. The primary function of an e cigarette is to vaporize liquid that feels and tastes like smoke to the user. They are available without any nicotine at all. They are not a drug delivery device. They are a vaporizer of liquid, nothing more.
The truth is that while I feel it is safer for me, and even though there have been some studies done, I can’t tell you that it is any better for you than regular cigarettes. I can tell you for sure that cigarettes do have chemicals and agents in them that are proven to cause cancer, emphysema, and a host of other health related issues. Ultimately I believe that the choice should be left to individuals and not to the FDA. Soon the only choice we may have is e cigarettes without nicotine, or tobacco. I still choose my e cigarette.