Published November 16, 2011
“The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health.”
That’s what the Food and Drug Administration tells us on its website.
My intuition makes me grateful that the FDA is there to protect me -- to make sure that every drug is proven both safe and effective -- but “protection” kills people.
Last week, I discussed how the FDA kills by keeping useful medical devices off the market. Now, we learn the FDA threatens the health of cigarette smokers who want to quit.
How can I say that? Hasn’t the FDA proposed that new warnings and gruesome pictures be placed on cigarette packages because the old scares apparently weren’t working? As Reuters reminds us:
“The Food and Drug Administration in June released nine new warnings. ... Warnings must cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20 percent of printed advertisements, and must contain color graphics depicting the health consequences of smoking, including diseased lungs, dead bodies and rotting teeth.”
So the FDA certainly seems to be trying to save smokers’ lives. How can I say the FDA threatens smokers?
What other conclusion can we draw when we consider that the FDA now talks about banning electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. It sent threatening letters to manufacturers of the product.
E-cigarettes look like cigarettes, but instead of burning tobacco, they vaporize liquid nicotine when users puff on, or “vape,” them. The resulting aerosol mist satisfies “smokers” without their inhaling tars and the most dangerous of tobacco’s chemicals into their lungs.
What could be wrong with that? Well, the FDA says e-cigarettes contain trace chemicals that “may” be “toxic.”
But most everything “may” be toxic. New York Times science columnist John Tierney writes: “The agency has never presented evidence that the trace amounts actually cause any harm, and it has neglected to mention that similar traces of these chemicals have been found in other FDA-approved products, including nicotine patches and gum. The agency’s methodology and warnings have been lambasted in scientific journals."
Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, concluded in the Harm Reduction Journal that the FDA results “are highly unlikely to have any possible significance to users” because it detected chemicals at “about 1 million times lower concentrations than are conceivably related to human health.”
Moreover, Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told Tierney: “It boggles my mind why there is a bias against e-cigarettes among antismoking groups” such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
It boggles my mind, too, because, as Tierney points out, e-cigarettes not only pose merely a hypothetical risk compared to real “cigarettes containing thousands of chemicals, including dozens of carcinogens and hundreds of toxins,” e-cigarettes also have been shown to be unusually successful in helping smokers quit. A new study from Italy found that after 24 weeks, half of all smokers using the e-cigarettes reduced their consumption of the real McCoy by 50 percent. A quarter gave up smoking altogether.
True, the cigarette substitutes are basically nicotine-delivery devices. But so what? Britain’s Royal College of Physicians found that “if nicotine could be provided in a form that is acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved.”
The American Association of Public Health Physicians wrote that e-cigarettes might “save the lives of 4 million of the 8 million current adult American smokers.”
Four million lives!
The FDA seems to believe that it can create a risk-free environment here on earth. But that is pure balderdash. Life is always a choice between greater and lesser risks -- zero risk is not an option. Striving to abolish risk kills people.
“It’s time to be honest with the 50 million Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, who use tobacco,” Rodu writes. “It’s time to abandon the myth that tobacco is devoid of benefits and to focus on how we can help smokers continue to derive those benefits with a safer delivery system.”
The FDA claims that all its regulations save lives. But its e-cigarette policy would kill smokers.