Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Judge thwarts FDA's attempt to block electronic cigarettes

Now that we have a new administration, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finally getting serious about protecting the public health. Most recently, the agency has tried to block electronic cigarettes coming from China. The jury is still out on their safety.

Unfortunately, a judge has disrupted the FDA’s efforts. Last week, as reported in The New York Times and other media, a federal judge said the agency can’t stop the e-cigarettes from coming in, and that they should be regulated as tobacco products instead of drugs or medical devices.

Matt Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids made some good points in the story, saying that the judge ignored a common-sense distinction the FDA makes between tobacco products and non-tobacco products that have nicotine in them, like lollipops and water. Unfortunately, he also said that e-cigarettes provide an alternative to smoking in smokefree places.

Whoa. Hold on there. We don’t accept that. It’s still unclear whether the chemicals in the vapor emitted from electronic cigarettes is harmful. Plus, there is the confusion factor – a smoker with a real cigarette may see the smoker with the e-cigarette across the restaurant or bar and figure it’s okay to light up. That would burden employees at bars and restaurants with unnecessary enforcement responsibilities.

It’s not at all clear that these things can be used in smokefree spaces. Hopefully our friends at TFK will back off that notion.

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