by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Will the government hamstring what is potentially the most important public health innovation of the 21st century?
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced “historic action” against e-cigarette manufacturers for what it sees as an “epidemic” of vaping among teenagers. E-cigarette makers have 60 days to come up with plans to mitigate teenage use of their products or face civil or criminal prosecution as well as new regulations such as sales bans on some of their products.
Such a move could reverse recent stop-smoking achievements. While smoking rates have been declining steadily over the last half century, the pace has dramatically picked up in recent years as e-cigarettes have gained popularity.
If regulators don’t get in the way, e-cigarettes can continue to chip away at the one-in-six Americans who still smoke. This would be a major victory for public health. Smoking is still responsible for one in every five deaths. That is nearly three times more than the combined number of suicide, overdose, and alcohol-related deaths, whose rise has been attributed to the decline in U.S. life expectancy. …
… Public Health England has concluded that “vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking.” The Royal College of Physicians finds that “large-scale substitution of e-cigarettes … has the potential to prevent almost all the harm from smoking in society.” Last month, a comprehensive U.K. Parliament report concluded that e-cigarettes can significantly accelerate the decline of smoking rates and called on policymakers to lessen regulatory and tax burdens holding back their use.