December 17, 2018

FDA attempt to curb e-cigarette use won’t work

After a month in which mass shootings have once again crept up and revealed our glaring firearm problem, California remains on fire, and Saudi journalist Jamal Khagoshi’s murder will most likely go unpunished, our government has responded diligently — by banning e-cigarettes.

On Nov. 14, the FDA announced a plan designed to curtail e-cigarette use — specifically the flavored (non menthol) kinds— from public retail. They will now only be available where cigarettes can be sold, rather than out in the open. This comes out of the outcry based around the percentage of minors, below the age of 18 (the legal age to consume tobacco), who use them.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that nearly ten percent of all eighth graders in the country use e-cigs, a rate steadily increasing each year. This is now dwarfed by regular cigarette usage in that same group — a market that for decades ran the nicotine market — now only a pitiful three percent of eighth graders use them.

Should this be viewed more as the beginning of the end for cigarettes, or the dawn of a new, more dangerous era? It was only a few years ago that electronic cigarettes were a fringe item — only seen at Mod Sun concerts or outside the doors of a dingy nightclub— but now their ubiquity is alarming. They are poised to overtake cigarettes within the next few decades.

E-cigarettes were initially marketed as an edgy yet healthier alternative to cigarettes. One of their first ads featured actor Stephen Dorff as a sauve casanova — you can’t hassle him, you can’t tame him, you can’t ask him politely to take his e-cig to the other room. He is cool.

Such is the power of advertising. In reality, Stephen Dorff isn’t very cool, he ruined the movie Blade. And e-cigs aren’t much of an alternative to cigarettes in the realm of health. In a 70,000 person study done by UC San Francisco, the data showed that there really isn’t much difference in the lungs of an e-cigarette smoker than that of a cigarette smoker — but the risk of heart attack is much greater for an e-cigarette smoker.

Should that make this device harder to get? We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and in many parts of the country it is easier to buy a gun than it is to vote. I don’t think e-cigarettes should be the target of the manufactured outrage industry. A few years ago when New York City introduced the “Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule”, it was denounced across the political spectrum. Leading the charge were the Libertarians, who as per tradition, emerge from their cave every few months once marginal rights infringements finally target them.

This initiative was done out of altruistic motives — to curb excessive sugar intake — from a populace that is increasingly demonstrating that they cannot. If this was the response a very light restriction garnered, one could only imagine what we could  expect from a full on ban, one that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb promised if youth abuse of e-cigs doesn’t tone down.

“We’re all adults here, it’s time to take our freedom back,” says Dorff in ad from earlier. If it’s freedom Dorff wants, he may have to switch back to menthols.

 

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