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?