The Food and Drug Administration has joined with Big Tobacco to crush the small businesses that make up most of the e-cigarette industry. In the process, bureaucrats are endangering millions of lives.
Obviously, that doesn’t make much sense. But neither does this story’s beginning. In May, the FDA announced it would regulate e-cigarettes—which don’t contain tobacco—as tobacco products. That’s no small change: It means, the FDA estimates, that e-cigarette products now face costs of approval from $265,000 to $2.6 million, taking 1,713 hours per application. And those estimates aren’t per e-cigarette firm; they’re per item.
For the fledgling e-cig industry—largely small manufacturers and shops—these hurdles might as well be orders to shut down. For Big Tobacco, it’s a clever strategy: Call for costly regulation, weather the storm, watch your competition sink, and emerge as the new provider of your original product’s greatest rival.
Big Tobacco’s pivot to the electronic market is powered by the realization that they’re losing ground on two fronts: (1) Long-time smokers are using e-cigs to help them quit, and (2) young people are using e-cigs instead of starting to smoke.
E-cigarettes deliver nicotine, but none of the nearly 7,000 chemicals associated with real cigarettes, including 60 carcinogens. This, among other observations, led Public Health England, a government agency in the United Kingdom, to conclude that e-cigs are 95 percent safer than cigarettes.
American bureaucrats believe otherwise. The Centers for Disease Control argue that e-cigarettes will cause people to start smoking instead of stop, citing two studies as support. The problem is neither study lines up with the CDC stance on e-cigs. In fact, one explicitly states: “We cannot conclude that e-cigarette use directly leads to smoking.” (Read the in-depth analysis here.)
It’s also worth noting two large facts that the CDC leaves out. In 2015, teen smoking in America dropped to single digits for the first time ever, while smoking rates increased in states that banned e-cigarettes. Between FDA regulations and CDC cheerleading, bureaucrats are obstructing proven harm-reduction strategies and handing a jumbo check to Big Tobacco.
For more, you can read the September edition of “Green Watch” here. This blog post was adapted from Part I of the September edition of Capital Research Center’s “Green Watch,” by Steven J. Allen.