And they wonder why so many people believe government is the enemy

by Carl V Phillips

Those of us who wrote to the New York state congress to urge them not to go forward with their proposal to ban e-cigarettes all received the following form letter in reply:

Thank you very much for writing to let me know of your opposition to Assembly bill A. 1468, which would prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes that are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA has found that electronic cigarettes contain several cancer-causing ingredients, and are not necessarily a safe smoking-cessation product.

To the extent they are intended to be a smoking cessation device, they should be legal for adults, and would be under the bill, if and when the manufacturers seek and obtain FDA approval, as with other medical products.

I appreciate your consideration in writing to me.

Very truly yours,
Richard N. Gottfried
Assembly Committee on Health

Several other commentators have already dissected this, with one of the most telling comments coming from Ralph Woodin who wrote:

…it does cause me some concern to know that someone in your position, with your power and your responsibilities for the health of literally millions of people in New York, can provide such an overly simplistic, incomplete and factually inaccurate explanation. I’m just a private citizen who finally quit 37 years of smoking entirely by switching to electronic cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco and  decided to do some research of the facts behind electronic cigarettes. You on the other hand are a well compensated, elected official that have been placed in a position of trust by the voters of the State of New York. Don’t you think those citizens deserve a little better than a standard FDA scripted explanation of why you want to ban e-cigarettes in New York?

You would, indeed, think that the chair of the health committee might understand that:  The “contain several cancer-causing ingredients” standard would result in the ban of everything from mother’s milk to furniture (assuming we stick with his misuse of the word “ingredients”, something else you might hope a health committee guy would understand).  The “safe smoking-cessation product” standard would ban all smoking cessation products.

You might also assume that someone informed him that the “FDA approval as a medical product” standard will never be met, since the courts have decided that FDA cannot regulate e-cigarettes as medical devices.  Even someone like him who believes that the U.S. government always makes the right decisions about controversial products must realize that if FDA is forbidden from doing something then it is disingenuous (to put it charitably) to claim to be waiting for that to happen.

Oh, but wait.  It seems that Gottfried may not have such naivety across the board.  He is, after all, openly in favor of medical marijuana, something that the U.S. government has never decriminalized and officially says does not benefit health.  Noticing also the Jerry Garcia style beard he is sporting in that picture, I find myself detecting a whiff of that most hypocritical illiberalism, “my vice (or choice of heterodox health intervention) is perfectly reasonable, but yours should be criminalized”.

Since anyone who has been educated about e-cigarettes for ten minutes would be aware of the many errors in that form letter (though perhaps impressed that so many could be fit into so few words), it is impossible to interpret this as honest misunderstanding about either science or law.  The marijuana advocacy makes it clear that this is not honestly arrived-at (albeit still disturbing and despicable) temperance-league attitude.  So, is he in the pocket of Big Anti-Tobacco, or is he just worried about the tax loss that would occur if fewer cigarettes were sold?

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  • Mark Marshall  On March 25, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Yep – I got one of ’em. Here’s what I wrote back:

    Mr. Gottfried-

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write back. I really do appreciate it.

    As an e-cigarette user, I can tell you that I do not use the device as a smoking cessation device. I use it as an alternative to smoking – I didn’t take it up in order to stop smoking, nor is my intent to stop using it after a period of time. I can also tell you that the manufacturers and sellers I purchase from don’t sell these as smoking cessation devices – and the folks I know who use them don’t do so in order to stop smoking – they use them because they like them. As do I. In a recent online poll, nearly 70% of respondents stated that they used e-cigarettes to “continue to have a smoking-like experience but with reduced health risks.”

    I would like to take a moment and provide you with additional information you might not have been presented with.

    Firstly, the findings from the FDA actually found only trace levels of carcinogens, comparable to those found in nicotine patches and nicotine gum, and orders of magnitude below the levels of these same carcinogens in regular cigarettes.

    Further, in January of this year, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the full court will not review a three-judge panel’s decision, issued in early December. That panel’s decision was that electronic cigarettes cannot be regulated by the FDA as a drug or medical device, but can be regulated as a tobacco product by the FDA–provided the manufacturer refrains from marketing the product as having therapeutic purposes.

    The lawsuit issue considered last year by the three-judge panel was whether the FDA could regulate electronic cigarettes under the drug and device provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Comestic Act (FDCA) or as tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) passed in 2009.

    In this litigation, the FDA had argued that electronic cigarettes are drug or medical devices under the FDCA, which require approval from the agency–similar to approvals given to nicotine gum and nicotine patch products. However, the three judge panel determined that electronic-cigarette manufacturers had not made therapeutic claims and, for that reason, the products could not be regulated under the drug and device provisions of the FDCA.

    I’ve attached several documents that you might find informative on the subject, and would welcome the opportunity to actually speak with you on the subject.

  • Ben Palmer  On March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    As Carl rightly writes, these people are supposedly elected and payed to take decisions on behalf of the citizens that elected them. So we expect them to do their job correctly, as much as possible based on hard facts and evidence rather than on political or personal preferences.
    Yet they fail ….

  • Lisa Bell  On March 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

    As Carl and Ben have stated. I am also disheartened over the lack of concern that is apparent in regards to harm reduction and tobacco addiction. Thank you to both of you.

  • metzjeff  On May 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I smoked Cigarettes starting in 1966.I knew they were bad from day one but, I did not care.I have been afflicted with COPD also now. I worked in a building full of black mold and I am sure smoking was not the only cause of my condition. The point is I gave up ever being able to stop. I flat could not make it through a day without breaking down and having a cigarette. One day I was walking through a Mall and passed a Kiosk that had electronic cigarettes. The thought just flicked into my mind, this is what you need. I bought a started kit. That was Nov5,2011. I have not smoked a tobacco cigatette since that day.Electronic cigarettes made quiting tobacco easy. I am having fun with the different kinds of flavors and models you can choose from not to mention a community nationwide that is growing and overtaking the Tobacco Indusrty. Thanks to these I can say I am going to see the death of R.J. Reynolds and the rest of them. I hope they die a slow agonizing death.So many have died like that because of them.They could have made these thirty years ago.! Greedy bastards..DIE!

  • Drawer22  On June 2, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Humph! More government interference in my life is what I DON’T need. Having switched from cigarettes – which were actively promoted by my government & GIVEN to me by the carton in Supplementary Packs while in the millitary! – to electronic cigarettes, my my health has improved, to include my ability to breathe much better. With regard to criminalizing what is better for me and wanting to take my choice of from me, using e-cigs, I stand with King Leonidas: Come and take them!

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