Big Tobacco Attacks Sensible F.D.A. Rules on Vaping.

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As smokers turned to electronic cigarettes to reduce the health risks of smoking, big tobacco companies started buying e-cigarette makers and producing and selling their own. Now those companies are lobbying Congress to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating electronic cigarettes and cigars, as it does conventional cigarettes. If they succeed, they will be able to sell and market addictive nicotine products to young people with few restrictions.

While promoters of e-cigarettes and e-cigars, which provide nicotine in vapor form, say they can help people quit conventional tobacco products containing harmful tar, there is not a lot of evidence for that claim. In addition, the devices are dangerous to young people because the nicotine they provide “can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain,” according to a 2016 report by the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy. Health experts also say that the vapor those devices produce can contain carcinogens and metal particles.

Another government report found that 16 percent of high-school students said they had used e-cigarettes in 2015, up from just 1.5 percent in 2011. The industry sells these products in a broad array of flavors, like gummy bear and cotton candy, designed to appeal to young people when they are more susceptible to becoming dependent or addicted to nicotine.

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After years of deliberation, the F.D.A. said last May that it would begin regulating the manufacturing, sale, packaging and advertising of e-cigarettes, and all tobacco products, under a 2009 federal law that authorized it to do so. Specifically, the agency said it would begin reviewing the health risks of e-cigarettes introduced since early 2007, and potentially ban specific flavors and products that it deemed harmful. The tobacco lobby wants Republicans to amend a vital appropriations bill to exempt products that were introduced before May 2016 from F.D.A. review.

The push to undermine the F.D.A.’s authority began even before the agency had finished its rule. One Republican lawmaker, Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, introduced a bill in 2015 that was identical to a draft circulated by the Altria Group, the country’s biggest tobacco company and a marketer of vaping products. In addition to its legislative effort, the industry has also filed several lawsuits in federal courts challenging the rule.

Tobacco companies complain that the F.D.A.’s rule amounts to “retroactive” regulation because many of the e-cigarettes and e-cigars it will regulate have been on the market for years. But the industry has known for years that government officials were developing this rule. Large bipartisan majorities in Congress voted in 2009 to hand the agency the authority to evaluate and approve new tobacco products introduced on or after Feb. 15, 2007. The F.D.A. is simply doing its job by protecting public health.

Source – The New York Times

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