“You don’t save lives by reducing the number of cigarettes people smoke, but by reducing the number of people who smoke.” ~Gregg Haifley, Director of Relations American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
At the end of March, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg stepped down from her post, just months before the agency was expected to issue new electronic cigarette regulations. The regulation of the smoking alternative was one of the most prominent issues of her six year tenure. Public health groups and advocates, who believe Ms. Hamburg’s legacy is still being shaped, hope her resignation won’t affect the outcome of the forthcoming rules.
“She has been a great champion in the fight against tobacco,” said Gregg Haifley. “But fighting against e-cigarettes is the legacy she will leave behind,” countered Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association.
Unfortunately, finding an acceptable middle ground on the regulations is proving difficult for the FDA. According to Julie Woessner, President of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, the new proposed rules could eliminate the e-cigarette industry completely.
If passed, the deeming rule will give the FDA the authority to regulate modern-day smoking devices, like e-cigarettes, which are currently out of the agency’s control. However this would only be the first step in regulation. In the following years, a number of issues will have to be addressed such as legal age for consumption, online purchase availability, and marketing restrictions. Age is difficult to verify over the Internet plus there is a concern that e-cigarettes marketed with candy and/or fruit flavors would subtly target a younger audience.
According to Gregory Conley, electronic smokes do more good than bad for public health. “When people look back in 100 years, they’re going to see e-cigarettes helped thousands of people quit smoking.”
The regulations, which were formally proposed last year but first suggested back in 2011, have received much criticism from both public health and industry groups. While health groups are disappointed that the e-cigarette regulations aren’t stronger, industry groups are claiming they’ve been unfairly targeted by the FDA under Hamburg. As such, they hope her successor will be more lenient in the upcoming regulations. The current acting commissioner is Dr. Stephen Ostroff, M.D.
The final rule is expected in June.
*Dr. Hamburg’s resignation letter to colleagues can be read HERE.