The real effect of deeming: more youth vaping
Michael Siegel of Boston University's School of Public Health recommends that everyone should read Michael Marlow's analysis of the real impact the FDA's proposed deeming regulations would be likely to have. Marlow is Professor Economics at the California State Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo, and holds the position of Senior Scholar at the Mercator Center of George Mason University. The effects Marlow, like Siegel, foresees would include a gargantuan bureaucracy, an end to innovation and product variety, and an increase in vaping among teenagers.
True to his mission as an economist, Marlow focuses first on the impact on the economy, as well as public health: “The FDA . . . does not adequately assess costs that appear likely from its suppression of the e-cigarette market. . . . The proposed rule endangers public health by pushing e-cigarette manufacturers to focus efforts toward developing attributes unrelated to improved public health, thereby promoting combustible tobacco use and reducing the number of smokers who would use e-cigarettes to quit or reduce cigarette consumption.”
“There are costs and benefits to improving public health,” Marlow continues, “and 'perfection'—the elimination of all risks—is not an optimal public health strategy in a world with scarce resources.
Siegel proposes, as an alternative to forcing every company to submit a new, separate application for every vaping product, that the FDA simply publish and enforce a set of product standards. This would allow innovation to continue, it would permit choices to remain available and keep on expanding, and it would initiate no expansion of the FDA bureaucracy.
Siegel recommends an explicit statement that vaping is not as dangerous as smoking, and that it is used by many people, successfully, for smoking cessation. The requirement that e-cig companies dishonestly conceal these truths forces the companies to base advertising pitches on coolness, sexiness, and permission to vape where you can't smoke, an pitch that appeals to youngsters. Honest advertising about the real benefits, health benefits, of e-cigs would have little appeal to young people. What kid wants to be healthy? – kids want to be cool. So the net impact would be advertising that would raise the level of youth e-cig use.
“By disallowing companies from truthfully informing their customers that these products are safer than tobacco cigarettes and may be helpful in smoking cessation,” says Siegel, “the result will be that companies have no option other than marketing these products as having benefits unrelated to health, such as looking cool and sexy and allowing smokers to inhale nicotine in places where smoking is not allowed. The net effect of this suppression of the truth will be an increase in youth e-cigarette use, as honest marketing of e-cigarettes based on their health benefits would have far less appeal to youth.”
Siegel's list of product standards includes child-proof packaging, standardization of nicotine concentrations, recharger safety, temperature control devices to eliminate the presence of carbonyls, manufacturing standards, a ban on certain flavorings, and soldering restrictions to eliminate metals.
“The last thing we need is the creation of a monstrous bureaucracy in which the FDA will have to review literally thousands of new product applications, including hundreds of applications - in some cases - from a single company.”