A state and federal campaign against e-cigarettes threatens to restrict and ban them, though they’re a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes.
In California on Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed “a package of bills” that increase the legal smoking age to 21 while adding restrictions, regulations, and prohibitions for e-cigarettes and tobacco products, according to The Mercury News.
Not to be outdone, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced a new rule where it “would have to approve all tobacco products not currently regulated that hit stores after February 2007,” according to USA Today.
Though e-cigarettes were never “unregulated” as some critics of the industry suggested, the rules will heavily impact e-cigarettes, as well as hand-rolled cigars and pipe tobacco.
“As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, and especially e-cigarettes has taken a drastic leap,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of health and human services, said.
Anyone under the age of 26 will need to show an ID to purchase those tobacco products.
The new restrictions, however, ignore the “harm-reducing potential of e-cigarettes,” as Jacob Sullum writes for Reason.
“Large-scale substitution of e-cigarettes, or other non-tobacco nicotine products, for tobacco smoking has the potential to prevent almost all the harm from smoking in society,” a report from the Royal College of Physicians in U.K. declared.
Health experts in the United States fear e-cigarettes are a stepping stone to conventional cigarettes, as the nicotine in them can lead to addiction, though evidence for that is lacking. The push stems from a paternalistic desire to eradicate smoking, regardless of real-world effects.
The FDA has focused on “the ‘risk of addiction,’ as opposed to the risk of smoking-related disease,” Sullum wrote. While that’s arguably a wise approach for minors, limiting the choices of millions of Americans seems an overstep of the federal government in the health decisions of citizens.
For each e-cigarette product to gain federal approval, an application can can $1 million. A less-lethal alternative to traditional cigarettes could disappear from the market.