Sunday, January 23, 2011

New York at it again - your state could be next!

The New York State Assembly Health Committee is meeting this coming Tuesday to discuss Bill AO1468.

This bill would not only ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, but proposes to ban sales of any products which contain nicotine that are "not defined by law as a tobacco product or approved by the United States food and drug administration for sale as a tobacco use cessation or harm reduction product." This of course has the intended effect of banning e-cigarettes, because although the U.S. Appellate Court has supported Federal Judge Richard Leon's opinion that e-cigarettes should be regulated by the FDA as a tobacco product, the  FDA still refuses to do so. Because consumers are replacing tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes and feel that they have "quit smoking," the FDA's stance is that makes them a drug delivery device, even though the majority users have not quit nicotine at all - just smoking. Last I knew, nicotine addiction was considered the disease, not how you got your nicotine. Quitting smoking and quitting nicotine are two very different issues.

The justification for this proposed change in the New York law is
Recent advertisements have touted "e-cigarettes" as a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco consumption and as a tobacco cessation product. These electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that vaporize cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals that the user inhales. Advertisements for these products omit any mention of FDA testing that found users inhale carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient found in antifreeze.

Given the unregulated nature of this product, there is no way of knowing the amount of nicotine in each cigarette, the amount that is delivered with each inhalation, or the contents of the vapor created in the process. "E-cigarettes" are often marketed and sold to young people and are readily available online and in shopping malls. They are produced in different flavors, such as chocolate and mint, in order to increase their appeal to all segments of the population. These products also lack any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes. These devices are often made overseas in countries with less stringent standards for product quality than exist in the United States.

First, let's look at the claim that e-cigarette companies fail to advertise the FDA testing. The FDA tested just two brands of electronic cigarettes. Why would other companies have to claim that the FDA testing had any relevance to their product, as their product wasn't tested by the FDA? The diethylene glycol was found in just one of the 18 tested cartridges and has not been found in any other independent tests of ANY e-cigarette brands. Additionally, neither the FDA nor any other lab has found toxic levels of ANY chemical in e-cigarettes. Expecting companies to tell consumers that there are "toxic chemicals" and "diethylene glycol" in their products is like expecting the makers of Skippy peanut butter to tell consumers there is salmonella in their product because another brand of peanut butter was once contaminated with salmonella.

Claiming that users inhale carcinogens is nothing but hypocritical spin. Are pharmaceutical companies required to warn nicotine patch users that they are "absorbing carcinogens?" The FDA tests showed that the extremely low level of carcinogens (tobacco-specific nitrosamines) found in their e-cigarette samples were nearly identical to the levels found in the FDA-approved nicotine patch. So, if those extremely low levels are of concern in e-cigarettes, they should also be of concern for nicotine patch users. In reality, if e-cigarette companies were actually allowed to report what the FDA really found, rather than the spin the FDA presented to the public, they would be able to show that the FDA tests actually showed e-cigarettes to be non-toxic and no more carcinogenic than the nicotine patch. Somehow, I don't think that's what those proposing this bull - er - bill have in mind.

This bill also pulls out the tried-and-true "save the children" tactics. These are completely unsubstantiated claims that these products appeal to and are targeted at youth. They completely ignore surveys of thousands of e-cigarette users which show the average user to be closer to 40 than 14 and offer absolutely no examples of actual sales to minors. The claim that chocolate and mint flavors are intended to "appeal to all segments of the population" (read "kids") is really saying nothing. What product doesn't try to appeal to as many consumers as possible? Additionally, nicotine gums and lozenges come in Cherry, Cappuccino, Fresh Mint, Fruit Chill and Cinnamon Surge. The Nicorette site says their products have "been developed with palatable flavors" and "sweetened with sorbitol," (another trusted product.) One can only surmise this is to make their products more appealing to all segments of the population, as well, yet no one accuses Glaxo SmithKline of marketing to youth.

The bill sponsors want e-cigarettes to come with warnings, but as of yet, there have been no serious adverse effects reported linked to e-cigarette use. The irony being, of course, that tobacco cigarettes do come with warnings and have been linked to serious health risks, yet remain perfectly legal. If New York legislators get their way they will have successfully banned a low-carcinogen, non-toxic product - one which also has been reported by thousands of users to have provided improved health benefits - and protected the market share of tobacco cigarettes.

Finally, if the FDA would have given up this quixotic charge to classify e-cigarettes as a drug delivery device (rather than an alternative tobacco product) months ago, they could already have e-cigarettes subject to the same regulations as other tobacco products - complete with warning labels and banning sales to minors. It's the FDA's own obsessive behavior, unable to move on even after losing on appeal, which has kept e-cigarettes completely unregulated!

Your tax dollars in action.

NOTE: The Health Committee meets this Tuesday. If you would like to express your feelings of opposition to the New York Assembly Members, whether you are a New York resident or not, the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association has a Call To Action page here:

Don't let this ridiculous law pass - your state could be next!

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