Senators Al Franken, D-Minn., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other Democrats are demanding that new FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb crack down on e-cigarettes without delay. Across the aisle, Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is urging Gottlieb to examine the compelling evidence that vaping saves lives by helping smokers quit the deadly habit.
Some 480,000 people in our country die each year from smoking. But quitting is hard. E-cigarettes are far more effective than any patch, coach or gum at weaning addicts off their cancer sticks. And they're diverting teens from even starting smoking.
But facts be damned. Senate Democrats are politicizing the issue, claiming that "special interests" lie behind the FDA's decision to delay pending regulations drafted by the Obama administration.
The new regulations, originally scheduled to go into effect already, would compel all e-cigarette devices and flavors to be pre-approved by the FDA before being sold. The cost of pre-approval would crush all but the biggest producers. The Trump administration wisely put these rules on hold to look at the facts. Johnson says the FDA should junk the regulations altogether.
The FDA should be facilitating, not impeding, the use of e-cigarettes. New research from the U.K. shows over half of e-cigarette users in that country have quit smoking entirely. England's most prestigious medical group, the Royal College of Physicians, endorses "large-scale substitution of e-cigarettes" for smoking. The country's National Health Service urges patients who smoke to switch to vaping.
According to EU data, 6 million ex-smokers in Europe report that e-cigarettes helped them quit, yielding impressive improvements in health. Smokers with hypertension who switch to vaping show significant decreases in systolic blood pressure after 12 months -- better results than with medications. Asthmatics who switch from smoking to vaping gain better lung function and relief from coughing, reports Riccardo Polosa, Director of the Institute for Internal Medicine and Clinical Immunology of the University of Catania in Italy.
What about teens? Vaping is not a gateway to smoking in adults or teens, contrary to what the Democratic Senators claim.
But they prefer fearmongering to facts, accusing manufacturers of predatory marketing and luring adolescents with candy-like flavors.
In fact, vaping appears to be responsible for the dramatic drop in teen smoking since 2010, down more than 50 percent. Teens are vaping instead of smoking.
Would it be better if they did neither? Yes, but human beings have been sticking things in their mouth since the beginning of time. Vaping is harm reduction.
That's not the same as harmless. There may be traces of toxins, metals and carcinogens in vapor. But vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking cigarettes, researchers conclude.
The more smokers switch to vaping, the more lives will be saved.
As for secondhand smoke, it contains 60 carcinogens and is far more dangerous than the low levels of toxins in secondhand vapor.
New scientific evidence drawn from four countries -- the U.S., Canada, Australia and England -- shows the more restrictive a country's vaping regulations, the less likely smokers are to put out their cigarettes and take up vaping.
The FDA should heed this life-or-death information. Millions of lives are at stake in how the U.S. regulates e-cigarettes. Sadly, the left is making it tougher for smokers and teens prone to smoking to choose this less harmful alternative.
Both the European Union and the U.K. have set quality and safety standards for e-cigarettes without imposing a costly pre-approval regimen. The U.S. should do the same.