This “roadmap” begins to explain the agencies updated stances on many topics, including vaping and smoking
The FDA has always been very skeptical when it comes to vaping technology, but under their new commissioner, they’ve started coming around to the science that says e-cigarettes offer significant benefits. When Dr. Scott Gottlieb took over as the head of the FDA last May, one of the first big decisions he made was to delay the controversial deeming rules until 2022. This move was met with massive praise from the vaping community, who had been staring down the barrel of much higher prices.
In their recently released 2018 policy “roadmap,” the FDA noted four primary areas of focus concerning American health, especially regarding addiction. The parts concerning tobacco control contain some overall positives for the vaping community. While some vapers are taking this updated policy as a win, others are concerned how the FDA is posturing itself. Critics claim they’re doing little more than making it easier to limit vaping rights down the road. Looking deeper into the release, it becomes clear that both arguments have some substantial evidence and it could go either way.
FDA’s 2018 Strategic Policy Roadmap
In the portion about tobacco control, called A Comprehensive Approach to Reducing the Death and Disease Cause by Smoking Tobacco, the FDA listed four goals. These were reducing the overall number of tobacco-related deaths, putting a more significant focus on nicotine in policy making, support alternatives for adult smokers looking to quit, and protect children from tobacco products. To reach these goals, they identified eight key actions that need to take place. The FDA appears to be begrudgingly accepting that vaping is safer than smoking, as all eight actions have direct ties to vaping and none of them actually seek to limit vaping itself, except for with children.
That being said, several of them could signal a move toward restricting e-liquid flavors on the basis of marketing products children would go after. But overall the listed actions are reasonable, mostly asking for things that vapers agree with, such as increased awareness of “less harmful alternatives,” and establishing what does and does not constitute marketing e-liquid flavors toward children. After all, these policy updates do fall directly in line with what Dr. Gottlieb said last year about the continuum of risk. He made the same case many vapers have made for years, that while not being 100% harmless, alternatives that significantly reduce risk should be preferred and supported to help more people off of the more dangerous option.
Part of the FDA’s release echoes this sentiment exactly, “With appropriate product regulation, new technology, and product innovation – including new medicinal nicotine products and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) – could present an opportunity for more smokers to quit combustible tobacco and stay quit. Our plan takes new steps to foster innovation in nicotine delivery, where such innovation could truly make a positive public health impact.” But still, there’s a strong consensus who believes this is all talk and they are making a solid case.
The Real Motivations?
Critics are concerned that these bullet points simply indicate another step toward the ultimate end of banning all e-liquid flavors except tobacco and menthol. In a formal letter to the FDA, Attorney General for Iowa, Tom Miller blasted any potential flavor bans implemented by the FDA as detrimental to public health. Others have pointed to the wording of proposed actions as betraying the true intentions of the FDA. Many of the eight proposed actions involve talking to the public about the dangers of nicotine, especially the youth. In fact, two of their actions are entirely about protecting kids from nicotine and vaping.
This sounds mostly harmless in theory, but some vapers are concerned given how often the main argument made against vaping and its growing acceptance is the effect on teens. It’s plausible that this is exactly how the FDA plans to sell their potential ban. Supporting this stance is the fact that the FDA has made it very difficult for vaporizers to pass a Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA), required to sell any new products legally. It’s not even unprecedented for them to tell a manufacturer they’re no longer allowed to produce any new flavors at all. Given the evidence and the FDA’s history regarding vaping, it seems entirely possible that this whole updated policy spells bad news for vaping.
At this point in time, it’s unclear what’s going to happen. It seems just as likely that the FDA will continue to grow more accepting of vaping as a legitimate smoking cessation tool than it is they will eventually reveal their true colors to be anti-vaping once again. So the only thing we can really do is wait and see. Whatever ends up happening, it’ll surely be a significant moment for vaping as an industry. Either e-cigarettes will finally be allowed to flourish into the valuable harm reduction tools that they can be, or they’ll continue to be regarded as merely an alternative form of nicotine consumption. The only thing we can do in the meantime is continue spreading the good word about vaping and how it helped change your life. If we as a society truly value getting rid of cigarettes, it should be a no-brainer to support e-cigarettes as a safer option.
What do you think the FDA is planning? If you think they’re up to their anti-vaping ways, how can we prove it before it’s too late? If you think they’re genuinely moving toward a more accepting stance on vaping, how do we prove it to the skeptics? Let us know in the comments.