Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kudos to the FDA: E-Cigarettes Are Tobacco Products

On April 25, the FDA abandoned its claim that e-cigarettes are drug delivery devices. In an open letter published on the agency’s website (here), Tobacco Center Director Lawrence Deyton and Drug Center Director Janet Woodcock acknowledged that e-cigarettes are tobacco products and would be subject to regulations under the 2009 Tobacco Act. This is consistent with the January 2010 decision by federal judge Richard Leon (discussed here).

This is a victory on several counts for smokers and for our nation’s public health. First, the FDA decision guarantees that e-cigarettes, which have helped many smokers quit, will remain on the market.

Second, as the Deyton-Woodcock letter indicates, FDA regulation of e-cigarettes will subject them “to general controls, such as registration, product listing, ingredient listing, good manufacturing practice requirements, user fees for certain products, and the adulteration and misbranding provisions, as well as to the premarket review requirements for ‘new tobacco products’ and ‘modified risk tobacco products.’” These requirements will promote the marketing of safe and quality-controlled products.

Finally, this decision could allow pharmaceutical companies to reposition nicotine medicines as recreational alternatives to cigarettes. Today, these products are sold with a therapeutic claim for smoking cessation, but they are expensive, unsatisfying and FDA-approved only for temporary use (10-12 weeks). That accounts for their dismal success rate of only seven percent among smokers (evidence here). I believe pharmaceutical companies should enter the recreational nicotine market with products that satisfy smokers indefinitely and are cheap enough to compete directly with cigarettes. Clearly, the tobacco industry is poised to compete in this new market -- Reynolds American owns Niconovum (here) and British American Tobacco recently formed Nicoventures (here).

In my 1995 book “For Smokers Only” (description here), I shared my perspective on recreational nicotine smokers:

“Smokers derive a lot of pleasure from smoking tobacco. You may be reading this book because you or your loved one actually enjoys lighting up a cigarette and taking several deep puffs. A smoke may be especially welcome when you are in a stressful situation or when you need to relax. Or you may enjoy smoking when you need to concentrate on a difficult problem at work or at home. Cigarette smoking can activate that mental pressure-relief valve, which is followed by the feeling that the problem can be solved, the crisis will pass. These feelings are real, and not just a figment of your imagination.

“Many tobacco opponents claim that these sensations are not truly pleasurable, but are merely the satisfying of induced cravings and avoidance of withdrawal symptoms. One of the big advantages of the smokeless tobacco solution is that it addresses either view of smoking equally well. That is, it doesn't matter if you are a smoker who is unwilling to quit because you enjoy tobacco, or if you are unable to quit because of nicotine craving and withdrawal. Because in either case you recognize the potential life-shortening effects of this nicotine delivery system. In either case the smokeless tobacco solution can work for you.”

Smoking has been the problem; smoke-free tobacco and nicotine can be the solution. In making the right call on e-cigarettes, the FDA has facilitated that solution.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Alas, FDA has fallen into the trap that all smokers are evil, and the products they use are the devil himself. As you put it, "...the movement has morphed into an anti-tobacco crusade intent on demonizing both tobacco users and the industry supplying them."

If smoking were an issue of race, or a handicap, or sexual preference, the campaign against smokers themselves would be recognized for what it has become: bigotry, acceptable in the eyes of society as "They're just smokers, who cares about them, after all."

As a user of electronic cigarettes, I encounter this often, from the exaggerated hand waving before the nose because someone noticed my exhale in another direction, to the outright hostility from one woman claiming she smelled "smoke" yet the smoke sensitive woman sitting next to me (and closer) smelled nothing, nor did my wife, who is asthmatic in the extreme.

Your blog is a great resource to debunk the misinformation being spread by the many organizations that are collectively too lazy to verify the lies they spread, or are invested in perpetuating them.

I thank you for taking the time to provide this information.