NYTimes superficial piece on e-cigarettes lacks helpful perspective

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A long article in Saturday s New York Times covered a lot of ground in the complex discussion ongoing about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, or e-cigs), but did not shed much light on the issue which is already subject to too much heated distraction.

The piece, cleverly (not) called The E-Cigarette Industry, Waiting to Exhale, gave a brief but satisfactory history of the device regarding attempted regulatory oversight by our federal drug agency, the FDA. Their approach morphed from laissez faire before the enactment of the law conferring tobacco oversight upon them in mid-2009, to actively attempting to rid our country of e-cigs via bans and seizures of imports. However, rulings by two Federal courts in 2010 declared the products to be tobacco-related (rather than drugs or medicinals) and therefore immune from FDA interference unless their marketers made health claims which are barred by that same FDA-tobacco law.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross had this to say: The problem with the Times piece is that the reporter, who failed to go to any lengths to seek outside the usual suspects commentary, stuck with the tried-and-true, predictable sources. Cited experts included the industry (e-cigs type) NJOY execs; The Industry (Big Tobacco type) Lorillard s CEO Kessler; and the zealot anti-e-cig camp exemplified by the CDC s Tim McAfee and Tom Frieden, and UCSF s Stan Glantz. Those of us deeply involved in the issue of harm reduction through clean nicotine delivery methods (e.g., e-cigs) could have written all of their insights before, or without, reading the article. It s too bad the writer didn t seek out opinions from objective scientists and policy experts not affiliated with the interests he chose.

On a related note, spokespersons with knowledge of the workings of NYC s government have confirmed that, contrary to reports dating back to May, there are no plans in the works to ban or restrict e-cigarette sales in retail outlets in the new tobacco regulation proposals to soon come before the City Council. Representatives of ACSH met with aides to the Council in August to relate our science-based viewpoints on the subject, and we felt at the time that our efforts were appreciated and understood by the five City folks we conferenced with. Hopefully we had some impact on this sensible decision.