It seems likely that the FDA will eventually be the regulators of the electronic cigarette industry. Currently they are fighting to re-classify the e-cigarette as a new drug and drug delivery device, but when that doesn’t work they will likely switch gears and regulate it as a tobacco product, based on the recently passed Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. So what can we expect from FDA regulation of e-cigarettes as a tobacco product? Well I decided to do a little investigating and started with a product I use (along with my electronic cigarette of course), Snus. Snus is basically like chewing tobacco that is contained in a small “tea bag”. You place it under your lip, but unlike chew, you don’t need to spit. The most obvious FDA impact on Snus is the warning as shown here:
WARNING: This Product can cause mouth cancer. This seemed reasonable to me as I have always been told that tobacco causes cancer…period. But I decide to do a little digging to find out how it compares with tobacco cigarettes. What I found was a lot of opinion and one major study conducted on Snus users. The study showed a slight increase in the user’s chance of getting pancreatic cancer, but NO increase in mouth cancer rates for Snus users. Lung cancer rates among Snus users was also the same as the non-tobacco users group. I was unable to find one study or even one confirmed case of Snus giving anyone mouth cancer.
My question is, where did this label requirement come from? Was it just made up? Well…yes, but it was made up by politicians, or at least they were the ones who backed it. The inaccurate label requirements are part of the The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that gives the FDA control over tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco products. The Act requires those selling any smokeless tobacco to rotate warnings on their packages. The warnings include:
- WARNING: This product can cause mouth cancer.
- WARNING: This product can cause gum disease and tooth loss.
- WARNING: This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.
- WARNING: Smokeless tobacco is addictive.
While all these statements may be true for some smokeless tobacco products, I can’t find any evidence that Snus causes mouth cancer, gun disease, tooth loss, or that it’s even close to being as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes.
This does not give me high hopes that electronic cigarettes would be regulated fairly with scientific backing. I believe that regulation is needed, but not at the cost of the truth. So can we trust the FDA to fairly regulate e-cigarettes? I hope so for the sake of smokers who want/need more options.