I’ve been caught up watching President Obama the past few days from the 2010 State of the Union through his public meetings with the Republican leadership in Washington the past few days. One of his common themes was his efforts at reducing the impact that lobbyists have on our government, laws, and the American Way of Life. Over the past 30-40 years, normal Americans who do not make 7 or more digits in income, have had a large number of social-economic decisions made for us by those who are not truly connected to the middle or lower class any longer and seem to be driven by the bottom-line. I normally do not make an effort to speak out, but got pulled into one of the many issues that are influenced by lobbyist money in Washington, D.C. – electronic cigarettes.

What Is an Electronic Cigarette?

Electronic cigarettes are battery powered devices that vaporize nicotine in liquid form along with flavoring, propylene glycol (for the vapor effect), and flavoring, to provide an inhaled dose of nicotine to the smoker in an action referred to as “vaping.” The electronic cigarette contains an atomizer which heats the e liquid in order to produce the vapor when the smoker inhales on the e-cig. Most major brands such as Green Smoke, will light up at the end of the e-cig in order to better mimic the look and feel of a real tobacco cigarette for the smoker. When you smoke an e-cig, there is no second hand smoke produced, the more than 4,000 toxins and 60 carcinogens produced by traditional tobacco are eliminated, and there is no heat element on the device so there is no threat of accidental fire similar to real cigarettes. E-cigs are produced in a variety of nicotine strengths and flavors dependent on what the consumer’s desires are for taste, strength, and overall experience with the vapor smokes. They can only be purchased by legal adults over the age of 18, primarily through on-line purchases, but are expanding every day into retail outlets.

Why is Big Tobacco Threatened By Electronic Cigarettes?

Well, lets see, it took more than 4 decades since the surgeon general first declared smoking a health hazard, before we had a senate bill passed to put Big Tobacco under the authority of the FDA to regulate cigarettes within the next year. The Tobacco lobby spent more then $300 million USD to combat this legislation to finally lose in the summer of 2009. Now, throw in the electronic cigarette industry which is not taxed, cheaper, and allegedly (we’re not allowed to say that private tests show e-cigs are healthier…) safer, and you start to understand the threat. Should Big Tobacco have been more focused on acquisition of e-cig companies over the past few years, rather than smokeless tobacco companies? Other alleged impacts of Big Tobacco include lobbying to have PayPal, Amazon, and eBay consider electronic cigarettes tobacco products and make use of their services against the terms of service for purchasing e-cigs or receiving payments as an affiliate seller of their products.

Why Are Specified States Threatened By E-Cigs?

Its not just Big Tobacco that doesn’t like electronic cigarettes, the nicotine replacement therapy industry is not a big fan of the product. Although sufficient lobbying was conducted to not permit e-cig companies to promote their products as smoking cessation devices, the NRT industry has still seen a hit in overall sales due to the number of smokers who have turned to e-cigs instead of the various NRT products on the market (think patch, lozenge, gum). Just recently, the state of New Jersey voted to apply the same restrictions on e-cigs that are placed on traditional tobacco cigarettes, despite the evidence in place to prove that the devices are not harmful. Its probably just a coincidence that many of the popular nicotine replacement therapies produced in the United States that have lost market share to e-cigs are made in the “Garden State.”

Where Does the FDA Play Into the Legality of Electronic Cigarettes

On July 23rd, 2009, the FDA released their initial round of testing on e-cigs that was conducted on May 4th, 2009. Their initial testing stated that e-cigs were linked to cancer and the products were as dangerous as traditional tobacco cigarettes. Since then, the FDA’s findings have been debunked through comprehensive testing conducted in the United States and U.K. Using internationally approved standards recognized by more than 59 developed countries. The Federal Court has also ruled that the FDA does not have authority over electronic cigarettes.

So, stepping back a bit, what did the FDA really do in the spring and summer of 2009?

  • The FDA tested 18 cartridges from two FOREIGN e-cig companies. One cartridge had trace amounts of diethylene glycol (DEG) in the cartridge. Also, the Tobacco specifice nitrosamines (TSNA) were found in low levels in both companies products (much lower than traditional tobacco cigarettes), but that makes sense since some foreign companies get their nicotine from live tobacco (don’t forget that the NRT’s have much higher rates of these chemicals in them).
  • The companies tested were Smoking Everywhere and 4 total cartridges from Njoy.
  • We don’t know why the FDA waited almost three months to release their report nor why they chose to not test a U.S. Based e-cig company.
  • We do know, that all U.S. E-cig companies release their ingredients and testing results through internationally approved organizations on their websites while we still don’t really know what is in a traditional tobacco cigarette.
  • We have not seen reports of illnesses or death from e-cigs…how many millions is it for tobacco now?

So, the big question, is why is the FDA apparently trying to skew our opinion over a product that could have a true impact on the number of smokers both in the U.S. As well as the rest of the world? Well, enter the fact that the FDA receives a large amount of its money from the pharmaceutical companies and the unknown lobbying being conducted by Big Tobacco, and we just don’t know what we don’t know. The longer the organization remains silent, will only serve to make us think that we are having lobbyists for a known killer, tobacco, tread on our rights as consumers to make informed decisions on what products were are going to be able to choose and use. I for one was shocked when the Federal Court ruled against the FDA’s authority over e-cigs in early January 2010.

What is the Way Forward?

The way forward for smokers and non-smokers alike, is to continue to educate ourselves about the issues and how lobbyists can impact our lives and rights. If you are involved in a debate on the accepted use of electronic cigarettes in your area, make the facts be discussed and reviewed, before rushing to an un-informed decision similar to the state of New Jersey. You can read more about e-cig issues and products at the Electronic Cigarette Sale website.