In a recent press release, the FDA threatened to reign in the teenage vaping “epidemic”
Globally smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease. For decades now, there have been countless campaigns all over the world aimed at stopping cigarette usage. These efforts have been especially interested in preventing teens and adolescents from picking up the habit, stopping lifelong smoking before it begins. Vaping, a tool explicitly designed to help smokers end their reliance on tobacco, has been falsely linked with tobacco in the public’s mind through misinformation written by lobbyists and spread by media outlets.
Many of these new sources focus on the idea that acceptance of vaping will lead to teens picking up the habit. Things have gotten so bad a study conducted by Action on Smoking and Health found that only 13% of adults understand that vaping is substantially safer than smoking. Making matters worse, the same study found 26% think vaping is just as, if not more dangerous than tobacco. It’s no wonder then why hysteria around the idea of teen vaping arose so quickly. This hysteria has culminated with a press release from the FDA today that goes as far as to threaten to shut down the entire vaping industry to “save” the children.
The FDA’s Crackdown
Just earlier today the FDA issued a press release which laid out how they plan to address the “epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.” The FDA press release outlined “the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA’s history,” which includes over 1,300 warning letters issued along with fines to retailers who sold e-cigarettes to minors during stings conducted this past summer. The agency is mostly focused on the manufacturers Juul, Blu, MarkTen XL, Vuse, and Logic, who have the lion’s share of e-cigarette sales in the US coming in at around 97%. These are the companies that are most likely to have their products end up in the hands of a minor, but primarily because of just how many more there are around.
The FDA says they will continue a “sustained campaign to monitor, penalize and prevent e-cigarette sales in convenience stores and other retail sites.” Likely the most significant impact of this particular update from the FDA is their requirement that the five listed brands submit within 60 days a report detailing what they plan on doing to improve their youth prevention efforts. Juul Labs will likely have the most relaxed time justifying their efforts, having taken it upon themselves to make several changes toward re-focusing on adult smoking cessation help.
What The Data Says
While legislators and parents are busy overreacting to anecdotal evidence, there are many researchers hard at work uncovering the true nature of vaping. While this research is far from complete, given how new vaping is, what we have so far seems to discredit the narrative the FDA is trying to sell. Another large-scale study conducted by Action on Smoking and Health asked over 60,000 students about their personal relationship with vaping and smoking. While there were several interesting findings, likely the most telling was that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens will ever pick up vaping regularly. That means even fewer will ever transition from vaping into a life of smoking, so ultimately how many non-smoking teens are ending up smokers due to vaping?
We also have plenty of evidence indicating the extreme harm reduction value of vaping over smoking. For instance, we’ve known since at least 2015 thanks to research by Public Health England that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. But did you know that just last fall a study published in the Journal of Aerosol Science concluded that the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is around 57,000 times lower than a similar smoker. If that wasn’t enough reason to give vaping a shot, we also have research that indicates vaping may be the single most effective smoking cessation tool we currently have, even beating out prescription drugs.
Nobody in the vaping community is advocating the sale of these products to minors. What is worrisome, however, is the FDA’s blatant disregard of adult vapers and how their restrictions and actions will impact them. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was even quoted in the press release as saying “In enabling a path for e-cigarettes to offer a potentially lower risk alternative for adult smokers, we won’t allow the current trends in youth access and use to continue, even if it means putting limits in place that reduce adult uptake of these products.”
So the FDA is doubling down on a proven misguided problem while acknowledging how the move will negatively affect the comparatively massive number of adult vapers. The sad end result of this logic is that many many more vapers will end up back on cigarettes than teens are prevented from starting. This hyperbolic language and treatment of vaping are doing more harm than anything else. All Scott Gottlieb and the FDA have done in this circumstance is create more bias against vaping. That is why it’s become so incredibly important that we continue to educate the public with the truth. That is the best shot we have to finally end the smoking epidemic once and for all, not reigning in the best tool we currently have available.
Are you surprised at how far the FDA seems willing to go? What do you think would be the best way to handle the situation? How can we best spread the real evidence on vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.