On Monday, the New York Times ran an interesting op-ed about electronic cigarettes. The article was written from a public health perspective. Amy Fairchild and James Colgrove, both professors at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia collaborated on the article and offered a sound argument for the support and reasonable regulation of e-cigarettes. The overall conclusion of the article was that forcing e-cigs into obscurity would be counterproductive, but as a society, we need to embrace them with careful consideration.
Fairchild and Calgrove obviously put a great deal of consideration into forming an opinion on e-cigarettes. Before they published an Op-Ed on the topic, they did a great deal of research and weighed both sides of the controversial argument on electronic cigarettes. In the end, they decided that e-cigs were a positive addition to society, saying, “No one believes nicotine addiction is a good thing, and our qualified support for e-cigarettes is not one we reach lightly.”
In the piece, Fairchild and Colgrove give a detailed explanation on why regulators have struggled with how to handle e-cigarettes. It’s not just about e-cigs looking like cigarettes. Instead, the stigma dates back to the 1980’s when everyone realized that tobacco companies had been misleading the public for years, painting cigarettes as fashionable and fun rather than deadly and dangerous. Because of this breach of public trust, the writers concluded that big tobacco companies could not be trusted to release a reduced risk option, even if that is an electronic cigarette.
Ultimately, the tobacco industry has left such a poor impression on regulators that they aren’t even willing to consider e-cigs as a good alternative to cigarettes. The very fact that big tobacco is embracing e-cigs is acting as a strike against them, in the eyes of regulators. Groups like the American Heart Association maintain the belief that “there is no such thing as a safer cigarette” and refuse to reconsider.
The op-ed sums up the situation perfectly by saying, “The historical mistake was not the pursuit of a safer cigarette, but championing that cause with dishonest partners.” While e-cigarettes could potentially overcome many problems that our society experiences with dangerous tobacco exposure, many still fear that e-cigs are too similar to tobacco cigarettes and could pose a gateway to public smoking.
Fairchild and Colgrove insist that there will be a price to pay for our rigid stance against e-cigarettes. “Emotion should not rule out harm reduction, even if eradication of smoking is the ultimate goal. Banning vaping in public won’t help. Instead, e-cigarettes should be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as products sold or distributed for use to reduce harm or the risk of tobacco-related disease.”
We are so excited that the New York Times chose to publish this balanced view of electronic cigarettes. In a world where e-cigs are often painted in such a negative light, it’s nice to see that balanced with a positive spin on vaping. If you have not read the op-ed piece, you can find it here.
Do you agree with the op-ed conclusion? Should e-cigarettes be subject to reasonable regulations from the FDA?