Saturday, May 3, 2014

FDA regulation can benefit electronic cigarette growth

Hard as it is to imagine or say, it’s possible that federal government regulation could actually be a good thing for electronic cigarettes.

Let me try to explain this before e-cig supporters and other libertarians fly off the handle. Hyper-regulation at all levels of government, especially federal, should make e-cig supporters suspicious of all too common government overreaction. However, if electronic cigarettes are as beneficial as many believe, then they should tolerate and work with most of the recently proposed Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and oversight.

More specifically, reporting of electronic cigarette ingredients and other proposed reviews should help to clarify to the public many of the misconceptions due to the misinformation out there. As e-cig supporters like myself have maintained for years, the ingredients in e-cigs are pretty well known and documented. These include varying degrees of nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, polyethylene glycol 400 and flavorings.  

If and when the FDA can show any major health issues or real harm from those ingredients, then e-cigs can be reasonably regulated.

The possible negative repercussions are significant if e-cig regulation goes overboard, which is always a possibility with big government. For example, the regulation of e-cigs should be considered differently than traditional cigarettes when it comes to their impact in public places like bars and restaurants. With electronic cigarettes’ big advantage of avoiding second-hand smoke and odor, it’s been my experience that most people don’t mind their use in public places.  

An example of federal regulators going overboard were recent inflammatory comments by CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, who told the Los Angeles Times that e-cigs are a tobacco product and that he basically hates them. At least, the paper promptly corrected him noting that e-cigs don’t burn tobacco. Most of his opposition to e-cigs is based on fear-mongering and insinuations rather than facts.   

We need to closely differentiate key facts and use discretion with electronic cigarette regulation when comparing them to traditional cigarette public use. Until it’s proven that there is negative health impact, electronic cigarettes should be permitted in public places if the property owner or business approves. Some of the biggest concerns with traditional cigarettes in public are smoke and odor, which are not really present with electronic cigarette vapor. 

From a marketing standpoint, most e-cig manufactures and marketers are already complying with the FDA recommendations as they aren’t really marketing to kids under age 21, avoid making health benefit claims and complimentary giveaways in public are pretty minimal. 

Electroniccigarette opponents use false fears hyping future and potential problems rather than citing proven facts or the many success stories of those who have used e-cigs to quit or cut down on tobacco. It seems that the worst thing regulators can say about e-cigs is that they might attract youth or possibly harm them. Yet, many of the same regulators are letting products like high caffeine energy drinks, soda, coffee and other products flagrantly market to young people. 

It’s possible that any level of regulation could harm smaller brands or manufacturers, but that becomes part of the process of allowing more consumers to benefit from electronic cigarettes. 

Some will likely argue that FDA regulations benefit the big tobacco companies with more money and resources who are now more aggressively getting into the e-cig market. Hopefully, they have learned lessons from past tobacco advertising mistakes and can more positively self-regulate electronic cigarette marketing in the future. 

The electronic cigarette industry needs to try its best to embrace the body of the proposed FDA regulations, but also aggressively fight overzealous and emotional oversight from big government and big health care. 

While it sure seems like an unlikely long shot, there is a chance that the benefits of e-cigs helping consumers avoid tobacco can outweigh the scare tactics when it comes to federal and other government regulation. 

We can hope for the best, can’t we?

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