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Vapers Say FDA Is ‘Appeasing Democrats,’ Risks Encouraging Smoking

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Vaping advocates are wary over efforts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning e-cigarettes that critics say employ “the language of tobacco-control groups.”

The FDA, under the leadership of Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, announced July 28 that it is reforming its view on vaping products, acknowledging the device’s use in helping smokers quit. Vaping groups and business owners cheered the initial shift, however advocates now fear the FDA could unintentionally discourage smokers from switching to the devices.

The FDA announced plans Aug. 8 to launch a campaign aimed at educating America’s youth on the alleged “dangers” of e-cigarettes. Public health experts argue this will discourage young Americans, even if they are already smoking, from using e-cigarettes, and spread misconceptions about the devices.

“The effort that will almost certainly result in higher teen and possibly adult use of tobacco products,” Michelle Minton, a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said Saturday in an editorial for The Hill. “Worst of all, it appears to be aimed at appeasing Democrats in Congress who have been fighting an ongoing, unscientific battle against vaping.”

Despite softening its stance towards innovative technologies to reduce the smoking rate, the FDA made it clear in its July announcement that it still planned to greatly scrutinize the industry. One possible target is flavors, which anti-vaping activists have long claimed entice youth to use the devices.

Former smokers note that flavored vaping products are key to quitting, because they help the user disassociate from the taste of tobacco.

“At nearly every opportunity to speak about vapor and other non-combustible nicotine products, Gottlieb uses the language of tobacco-control groups in gratuitously suggesting (without any scientific basis) that flavors appeal to youth and should be regulated (or banned),” Brian Fojtik, a senior fellow at the Reason Foundation, said in a Monday editorial for National Review. “To his credit, Gottlieb acknowledges that nicotine and flavors may play an important role in transitioning adults away from smoking.”

Proponents of vaping are still pleased with the new tone coming out of the FDA on e-cigarettes, but warn against policies that may discourage smokers from giving the devices a try.

Millions of Americans now rely on a vape product, with many using the device to quit smoking or reduce their daily intake of combustible cigarettes. A study from the University of California released July 26 showed that a record number of Americans are ditching cigarettes with the aid of vaping devices.

Researchers found that the rate of Americans quitting smoking jumped from 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2011 to 5.6 percent between 2014 and 2015. That means roughly 350,000 smokers gave up the habit between 2014 and 2015.

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