Last month, Food and Drug Association Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced that the agency was adopting a new approach to regulating e-cigarettes in the United States. The commissioner deserves much praise for his willingness to address this controversial topic, because his approach will ensure that individuals who use nicotine products will have access to forms of the drug that are significantly less toxic to the body.
In his plan, Dr. Gottlieb acknowledged the toxic effects that smoking tobacco cigarettes has on the body, but rightfully noted that most individuals who smoke tobacco do so because of the effects of nicotine on the body.
“I know all too well that it’s cigarettes that are the primary cause of tobacco-related disease and death,” said Gottlieb. “What’s now clear is that FDA is at a unique moment in history, with profound new tools to address this devastating impact.”
E-cigarettes are a new form of smoking technology that enable users to inhale vaporized nicotine from an electronic cigarette, providing the benefits of nicotine without the toxic properties of tobacco cigarettes. While the long-term effects of nicotine usage can vary, most experts agree that the products drastically reduce the toxic effects obtained from smoking tobacco on a regular basis.
Unfortunately for Americans, President Obama’s FDA had different plans for the e-cigarette technology. In 2009, Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA complete control over regulation of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. Despite the fact that e-cigarettes were not mentioned in the bill because they were a relatively new technology, the FDA asserted control over the industry in late 2016 and immediately began issuing red tape.
Under Obama’s FDA, the process of getting an electronic tobacco product approved became so tedious that even the FDA’s own experts predicted that 99 percent of electronic nicotine products would become illegal in the United States by 2018. Additionally, the administration also implemented a time limit for companies to submit new products for approval, which completely stifled innovation in the electronic nicotine industry.
Last month, Gottlieb began reversing these regulations by extending the submission deadline for new electronic tobacco products by four years. Additionally, Gottlieb broke with previous FDA Commissioners by indicating that nicotine would be a priority in finding less-unhealthy alternatives for smokers who rely on the drug.
“Nicotine lives at the core of both the problem and, ultimately, the solution to the question of addiction, and the harm caused by combustible forms of tobacco,” explained Gottlieb.
While there is still much work to be done in the area of finding less-toxic alternatives for the current 40 million Americans who smoke tobacco and contribute to rising health-care costs, Commissioner Gottlieb’s willingness to address these problems without demonizing less-unhealthy forms of nicotine usage will greatly improve the health and lives of the millions of Americans who are trying to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.