Dispatch: WSJ finally lights up e-cigarette issue

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While electronic cigarettes are nothing new to Dispatch readers, they just today made the front page of The Wall Street Journal. The paper reports that e-cigarette companies argue they cannot afford the clinical trials the FDA wants to require for approval and warn that they will be forced to go out of business if the FDA gets its way. Meanwhile, mainstream anti-smoking advocates, such as the American Legacy Foundation, told The Wall Street Journal that they worry that e-cigarettes could attract non-smokers, especially youth, and encourage them to smoke traditional cigarettes.

ACSH staffers are surprised that the article’s slideshow featured an e-cigarette that looks nothing like a traditional cigarette. “An important element of e-cigarettes is that they mimic the cigarette experience,” ACSH's Jeff Stier points out.”

Stier also takes issue with the WSJ’s statement that “some scientists say e-cigarettes are probably [emphasis added] less harmful than cigarettes because they don't involve the burning of tobacco, which produces most of the toxins that cause cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.”

“Probably? We are happy to see a front page article in The Wall Street Journal on this, but by saying e-cigarettes are only ‘probably’ less harmful than cigarettes, they are giving a free ride to cigarettes. They want to see data that demonstrates safety, fair enough, but you can compare the ingredients in e-cigarettes to cigarettes — that’s a good start in terms of data,” Stier says.

ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan understands that the FDA wants safety and efficacy data on e-cigarettes comparable to the data they have on nicotine patches and gum, but urges the agency to use a little common sense. “With cigarette-related deaths topping all other preventable deaths, and knowing that it is the products of combustion that cause disease, it seems reasonable to accept that non-combusting e-cigarettes are much less harmful than regular cigarettes. So why not do the safety and efficacy tests — but leave e-cigarettes on the market while those studies are done.”

ACSH Director of Publications Derek Rose continues to interview vapers and invites them to contact him via Skype at derek7272 or via email at rosed@acsh.org to share their e-cigarette experiences.