Vaping Versus More Jobs for the Bureaucrats and their Buddies

Vaping Versus More Jobs for the Bureaucrats and their Buddies. By John Tierney.

The Food and Drug Administration has once again exposed a deadly menace to Americans’ health: the FDA itself. The rate of smoking has plummeted among Americans in the past decade, but now the agency’s empire-building bureaucrats are doing their best to reverse that trend.

The FDA has ordered Juul to stop selling its electronic cigarette (popularly known as the Juul), the most effective technology ever devised for inducing smokers to quit. The agency is also proposing to limit the amount of nicotine in traditional cigarettes, an approach that has failed in the past to wean smokers off their habit — and would perversely induce them to get their nicotine in more dangerous ways, either by smoking more cigarettes or by buying full-strength ones on the black market. …

The FDA conceded that it could point to no “immediate hazard” to the public from the Juul. It claimed that the company didn’t provide enough information on the Juul’s safety, but that claim is dubious — Juul spent more than $100 million on its application to the FDA.

In any case, it’s silly to quibble about minor unknown risks in electronic cigarettes, which the U.K.’s public-health agency estimated to be 95 percent safer than tobacco cigarettes.

The ban makes sense only as a sop to the bureaucrats and special interests threatened by e-cigarettes, which provide the many benefits of nicotine — weight control, improved concentration and cognitive performance, reduced anxiety and better mood — without the thousands of toxins in tobacco smoke. Like caffeine, nicotine creates dependence and causes slight temporary rises in blood pressure, but both are “fairly harmless,” as the British Royal Society for Public Health concluded.

Anti-vaping activists and their allies at the FDA have claimed that e-cigarettes serve as a “gateway” to smoking for teenagers, but the rate of teenage smoking has fallen much faster during the vaping era than in previous years. When e-cigarettes were introduced a decade ago, 13 percent of high school students smoked; today the figure is less than 2 percent. …

Other studies have shown that e-cigarettes help smokers quit and are far more effective than other nicotine-replacement therapies (like nicotine patches or gum).

One study found that 50 percent of smokers who bought Juuls went on to quit smoking within a year. Another showed that smokers are more likely to quit if they use a full-strength Juul rather than one with less nicotine.

This is all wonderful news for public health, but bad news for companies that market less effective smoking-cessation products, as well as for the activists, academics, and bureaucrats who have built careers fighting cigarettes. …

Follow the money:

A lot of money is at stake: more than $800 million a year that the FDA collects from tobacco user fees, which are supposed to be dedicated to improving health by reducing the harm from tobacco products.

To keep the money flowing, bureaucrats misleadingly defined the e-cigarette as a “tobacco product” and set a new goal of eliminating the regular use of nicotine. Since beginning its campaign against e-cigarettes, the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products has more than doubled the size of its staff, to over 1,100 people, and it has been dispensing hundreds of millions of dollars annually in outside grants, much of it to nonprofits spreading anti-vaping messages and to researchers who advocate for nicotine prohibition.

Nicotine prohibition is a pointless and unrealistic goal. Alcohol abuse is a much bigger problem than smoking among teenagers, but we’ve learned that banning alcohol sales to adults would create far more problems than it would solve. The same is true for e-cigarettes. If the FDA succeeds in banning Juul and similar products, Americans will simply revert to tobacco cigarettes or turn to modern bootleggers for less safe vaping devices.

Yet another corrupt group working against the public interest.