As noted in a previous about how the new tobacco legislation effects the electronic cigarette, we noted that in order for a product to be a drug it must be “intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals”. And in order to be a new drug….it must be a drug.

So I contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and asked if smoking was considered a disease. At first they just sent me all the statistics about how many people smoking kills. Then they got mad I kept asking. Then I eventually received this response:

“When reviewing responses related to tobacco use that were provided by CDC-INFO, we noticed your question asking if smoking is considered a disease. As noted by CDC-INFO, smoking is a primary risk factor for many diseases. Addiction to drugs, is viewed as a brain disease by the
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). For information about nicotine addiction, please visit NIDA’s Web site at
http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Nicotine/Nicotine.html and
http://www.drugabuse.gov/Infofacts/understand.html

So, according to the CDC, smoking is not a disease, but rather it may put the user at risk of getting an actual disease. Apparently they believe that NIDA is correct and being addicted to nicotine is a disease. Thus, the electronic cigarette [e-liquid] as a new drug is one that is intended to diagnosis, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent the addiction to nicotine. Curing nicotine addiction would involve not using nicotine anymore.

UPDATE: I recently found where Norman Edelman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association stated, “Smoking is widely recognized as a disease of nicotine addiction,”

This is why Snus or dissolvables are not Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products. They are not marketed as a way to quit smoking (quit using nicotine). They are marketed to be used indefinitely, i.e. to continue using nicotine.

The nicotine patch or gum is meant to ween the user off of nicotine until they no longer use it….thus curing them. There IS a stop usage date on NRT products.

Selling a consumer an electronic cigarette as a quit smoking device would mean it necessary to instruct the consumer to eventually move to zero nicotine e-liquid and/or to ultimately quit vaping altogether.

For those who think that the mere fact that there is a zero nicotine e-liquid available means it treats nicotine addiction; please note that there is zero nicotine Snus and even a zero nicotine patch that is apparently not an NRT, but yet does claim to help users quit smoking (quit using nicotine). Of course no drug, means no “new drug”, which means it isn’t a NRT.

If there is no stop usage date, then how can an electronic cigarette cure nicotine addiction? And how can continuing the action that got the user addicted to nicotine in the first place help cure their addiction? If smoking / vaping / using an electronic cigarette with zero nicotine is the cure, then so is smoking a zero nicotine tobacco cigarette. Oddly enough, these nicotine free cigarettes do claim to help the user quit smoking, but still they are not an NRT.

So we have products that contain nicotine, have no stop usage date, and make no quit smoking claims that are not NRTs (dissolvables, Snus)
We have products that contain no nicotine or any drugs, that do make quit smoking claims and they are not NRTs (zero nicotine patch, nicotine free cigarettes)
We have products that contain nicotine (or other drugs), have a stop usage date, and claim to help users quit smoking. These are NRTs (gum, patch, pills)

Which of these is most suitable for the electronic cigarette? To be classified as a new drug under the classification of a NRT, the product must 1) contain a drug and 2) have a stop using nicotine date or imply one with the claim of quitting smoking. Also, the American Lung Association states, “To be most effective, nicotine replacement products should be used in conjunction with a behavior change program.” (Update: we now link to the Archive.org page of the American Lung Association as it appears they recently took down this page) It is pretty obvious that electronic smoking is a continuation of the action of smoking, thus making it a rather ineffective NRT at best.

Most reputable e-cigarette suppliers don’t claim it helps anyone quit smoking and there is no proof that it does. I have yet to see any manufacturer or supplier recommending a stop usage date. It can come with nicotine or not.

So an e-cigarette that contains no nicotine (or any other drug) and makes no quit smoking claims should be labeled (and regulated) as an NRT? If so it would be the only product of it’s kind.

And with nicotine e-liquid and no stop usage date, we have a product that perpetuates nicotine addiction, not cures it. The upside? Nicotine alone kills very, very, very few people (if any) but inhaling burning tobacco kills hundreds of thousands.

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One Response to The Legal Argument About Why The Electronic Cigarette Is Not An NRT

  1. […] disease, although the act of smoking is not a disease, it is an action (as mentioned in our post The Legal Argument About Why The Electronic Cigarette Is Not An NRT). So although the semantics dictate that only the term “quit using nicotine” should be […]

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