29/03/09 How the Call on E-cig Ban Highlights Anti-Smoking Agenda

Senator Frank Lautenberg has called for the FDA to remove e-cigarettes from the market until they are proven safe [1]. At the same time, however, he is supporting legislation that will, if passed, provide special protection to ‘real’ cigarettes and their manufacturers.  The legislation in question is cigarettes being regulated by the FDA, meaning that nothing will change to the ingredients list but Big Tobacco will be protected against lawsuits.

For anyone unfamiliar with Lautenberg, allow me to briefly fill you in. He wrote the law banning smoking on airplanes, as well as a law banning smoking in buildings housing federally-funded facilities that serve children. He also tried to prohibit the tobacco industry from using a FTC cigarette testing method to market cigarettes as “light”.

His letter to the FDA began thusly:

I am writing to request that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) take immediate enforcement action against manufacturers of “electronic cigarettes” and take these products off the market until they are proven safe.  In numerous media reports, the FDA has indicated that these products are considered drug-device combinations under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and therefore require prior approval by the FDA before being sold in the United States.  However, e-cigarettes are currently being sold in mall kiosks across the country and on the Internet.”

Allow me to state right off the bat that I am by no means against testing these products. Nor am I necessarily against the products being temporarily withheld from the market until such testing is complete (although one wonders why these tests were not carried out prior to the products release).  I am not even against Lautenberg trying to ban the e-cigarettes but not the real things – after all, if he does indeed believe both are harmful, it makes little sense for him to want both on the market, provided, of course, the health of the public is at the forefront of his mind.

My gripe comes from this simple fact: the e-cigarettes have not been shown as harmful. Sure, they have not been shown to be safe, but this is not to say they have been shown to be harmful. No, the tests just have not been carried out. All they contain is nicotine, as do various other products like Nicorette. Funnily enough, though, some people have allergic reactions to nicotine patches, which means they have been somewhat shown to be harmful – yet they continue to be not only sold but promoted. Not to mention the embarassing little fact that only 15% of NRT users find success with the product. Furthermore, even if the e-cigarettes are not 100% safe, there must be the common sense argument, if we believe all the spiel about tobacco smoke, that they are safer than real cigarettes, if not to smokers then non-smokers as they produce no second-hand smoke. In that sense, it makes no sense to ban them.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Assocation, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are all in agreement with Lautenberg, which comes as no surprise because they are all earning a great income being ardently anti-smoking. They issued a press-release stating:

“The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applaud Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey’s call for the Food and Drug Administration to exert its authority and immediately remove e-cigarettes from the market.” [2]

What all these people seem to conveniently forget is that the e-cigarette is smokeless, produces no carcinogens and is just mere nicotine and water vapour. So, in order for this product to be banned, a thorough argument needs to be put forward for how they can be harmful and a threat to health. Mere foot-stamping that they must be outlawed is not a valid measure of protecting the publics health.

By now, most of us are aware of the role of the pharmaceutical industry in pulling the strings of the anti-smoking movement. I have also shown in a previous article [3] that Big Pharma spends more money lobbying Congress than any other business or industry – by a huge margin.  Let us not forget that the e-cigs are not manufactured by Big Pharma, so no revenue from its sales goes to the industry or any anti-smoking outfit – unlike the sales of Nicorette and other NRT products. The bigger picture is emerging that the temper tantrums aimed at the e-cigs are born out of greed – that old cliche again. It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that Lautenberg is on the Big Pharma payroll, earning over $128,000 from them in 2008 alone [4].

The aforementioned ‘health groups’ (ACS, ALA etc) are also guilty of greed – they receive millions of dollars from a Big Pharma-funded foundation.

Right now, the industry is probably wishing that it had thought up the idea of the electronic cigarette. Like many others, I am well aware that smokers do not smoke for the nicotine, but for a myriad of reasons: some the taste, some feeling the smoke, some having something in their mouth or hand. The e-cig delivers on all of these areas, allowing smokers to enjoy their vice on airplanes, in cinemas and shops, and to cut down or quit if they want. NRT, on the other hand, just hounds smokers into believing they are junkies, while firmly missing the point.

It will not surprise me in the least if electronic cigarettes are banned. But if they are, then be certain it is one step closer to the death of the Tobacco Control Movement, because with every new stupid move they make, more members of the public are waking up to their hypocrisy and lies.

[1] http://lautenberg.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=310318&
[2] http://news.prnewswire.com/DisplayReleaseContent.aspx?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/03-24-2009/0004993931&EDATE=
[3] http://www.smokescreens.org/lobbying.htm
[4] http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00000659

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