The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) is urging President Barack Obama to advise the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take the time needed to develop science-based regulations that will serve the interests of public health. CASAA is concerned that last week several organizations wrote to the president asking him to order the FDA promptly to assert authority over all tobacco products not currently under its jurisdiction.
CASAA is a nonprofit organization that works to ensure the availability of low-risk alternatives to smoking and to provide smokers and nonsmokers alike with truthful information about such alternatives.
“In 2009, four of the organizations that signed last week’s letter—the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the American Heart Association—jointly pressured the FDA to remove electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) from the market,” CASAA said in a press note. “The FDA tried to do so until a federal court judge ruled that e-cigarettes cannot be regulated (and thus banned) as a drug unless therapeutic claims are made.”
“Had these organizations succeeded in their efforts to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes in the U.S.,” said CASAA President Elaine Keller, “hundreds of thousands of former smokers would still be lighting up. Almost all e-cigarette consumers are former smokers who tried to quit by using some or all of the products and methods these organizations tout and kept relapsing. The option to switch to a low-risk product that is a satisfying substitute for smoking has made a smoke-free life possible for those who had almost given up all hope of ever being able to quit smoking.”
In their letter to the president last week, the organizations cited the recent report on youth use of e-cigarettes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as proof that students in grades six through 12 were taking up use of e-cigarettes at an alarming rate. But CASAA said this misrepresented the findings.
“Only 2.1 percent of the youth had taken so much as one puff from an e-cigarette recently,” said the CASAA note. “As far as we know from that survey, none of them are using e-cigarettes daily, in contrast with the millions of youth who are known to smoke. The CDC did not report the daily use statistics for e-cigarettes, or even whether the e-cigarettes being tried contain nicotine.
“How do these statistics compare to recent smoking of conventional cigarettes? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has published Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Finding. According to the SAMHSA report, past month cigarette use among youths aged 12 to 17 fell from 9.1 percent in 2009 to 6.8 percent by 2012 for males and from 9.3 percent to 6.3 percent for females. Furthermore, the rate of initiation of smoking among youths in the same age group fell from 6.3 percent to 4.7 percent for males and from 6.2 percent to 4.8 percent for females.
“Those who want to ban e-cigarettes make up any claim they can think of, regardless of whether there is evidence to support it,” said CASAA’s scientific director, Dr. Carl V. Phillips. “If e-cigarette use really caused kids to start smoking and there really was an alarming use of e-cigarettes by youth, we would see an increase in kids smoking, the opposite of the actual trend.
“Someone who would try an e-cigarette but would avoid smoking presumably is motivated by avoiding the risk of smoking. The only reason I can see for someone to make the unfortunate transition from e-cigarette use to smoking would be if e-cigarettes were to become less accessible or deliberately made less attractive, which, ironically, could be the result if the type of excessive regulations urged by these organizations is enacted.”