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FDA Unsure Whether Smoking is Worse Than Not Smoking

Referring to smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes, FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey tells a St. Louis paper, "We don't know if this is any better for them." If the FDA really doesn't know whether inhaling water vapor containing nicotine is less dangerous than inhaling smoke containing myriad toxins and carcinogens, it cannot be trusted to make scientific judgments about the safety of anything it regulates. But since the FDA has approved various nicotine replacement products (including inhalers!) as safe and effective smoking cessation aids, we have to assume/hope DeLancey is lying, just as FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle presumably was lying when she told NPR "some people may mistakenly perceive [e-cigarettes] to be safer alternatives to conventional tobacco use," thereby asserting that they are not, in fact, safer, even though they do not contain tobacco and do not generate combustion products.

These lies are of a piece with the tendency of anti-smoking activists and public health officials to obscure or deny the differences in risk between tobacco products. To judge from their comments, someone who enjoys an occasional cigar or uses snus might as well smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. And now they are suggesting that e-cigarettes, which are not even tobacco products but superficially resemble them, might be just as hazardous as conventional cigarettes. The peristent refusal to admit that differences in risk matter, or that they even exist, does not make sense even from a paternalistic "public health" perspective, which would suggest it's a good thing for people to use snus or e-cigarettes instead of smoking, since the substitution reduces total morbidity and mortality. This black-and-white attitude seems to be driven by a combination of pharmacological puritanism and bureaucratic stubborness that does not bode well for the FDA's ability to rationally regulate tobacco products.

More on e-cigarettes here.


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