Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Real Costs of the FDA Fiscal Year 2022 Tobacco Activity Report


President Biden, in March 2022, signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), which has important ramifications for Tobacco World. It requires, among other things, “yearly reporting by FDA on specific information and data related to tobacco regulation activities.”  The Fiscal Year 2022 report from the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) (here) contains some fascinating information.

The first line of the report, “Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States,” is patently FALSE, as the FDA acknowledges in the next two sentences, where it admits that “an estimated 480,000 Americans die prematurely from smoking, or from exposure to second-hand smoke.” 

The FDA’s use of “tobacco” instead of “smoking” is intentional; the federal government has been doing that for a long time (example here), and it supports the FDA’s stated objectives:

“Reducing initiation of tobacco product use;

“Decreasing the harms of tobacco products; and

“Encouraging cessation among tobacco product users.”

The federal government tolerates no tobacco initiation; wants to “decrease harms” even if harms aren’t demonstrated by unbiased research; and aims to impose its prohibitionist will on everyone. 

The CAA requires the FDA to report on user fees, which have been collected from makers of cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, and roll-your-own tobacco since the onset of tobacco regulation.  Congress capped FY 2022 user fee collections at $712 million, but the agency wants an additional $100 million because it complains that its e-cigarette regulating activities are draining it dry.

How does the FDA spend these funds?  The biggest chunk ($299 million) goes to scientific research and infrastructure.  A lot of this money is transferred to the National Institutes of Health, which showers cash on hundreds of organizations and universities nationwide to find tobacco products’ “harms”.  Those recipients are happy to oblige.

The second biggest budget item ($171 million) is “public education campaigns,” which, according to the report, “work in concert with its regulatory actions to reduce tobacco use and improve public health” (emphasis added).  There it is again: all tobacco use – not just smoking – must be reduced prohibited. 

The FDA ignores the fact that its prohibitive policies contradict public health principles.  The report links to the Public Health Education Campaigns website, which points to the 2014 “The Real Cost” anti-smoking campaign, and the 2016 “Real Cost Smokeless Tobacco” campaign. These were phased out in 2020, so the agency could “focus on youth e-cigarette prevention.” 

The Real Cost e-cigarette campaign is about “educating youth about the negative health effects and risks of vaping.”  Let’s dive into the website to “document” the negative health effects and risks. 

One flyer, “Health Impacts of E-Cigarettes, says that “vaping exposes you to very real —and very scary — health risks.  These include exposure to dangerous chemicals, as well as the drug nicotine, which can harm your brain and cause addiction.”  The flyer mentions trace contaminants that may be present, and warns that nicotine is addictive and “can cause problems with attention, learning, and memory.”  (It is widely known that nicotine is addictive, but some kids turn to nicotine because they already have problems with attention, learning, and memory.)  Finally, it claims that vapers are more likely to start smoking.  If that were the case, the explosion in teen vaping would be reflected in a massive increase in teen smoking.  The exact opposite has happened (here and here); smoking has almost disappeared among teens and young adults.    

Another flyer, “Vaping Harms Your Health, contains similar claims, as does the agency’s “Risks of Vaping Magazine,” which exposes “The Scary Truth” about nicotine addiction.

Finally, the FDA campaign promotes two Halloween-ready videos.  In “The Facts About Vapes Are Scary Enough, the announcer points to an attack by large metal daggers in a parking garage with a prehistoric monster.  The second video stars Amanda, claiming that vaping affected her singing.

This is how your tax dollars and user fees are put to work, against your health.