This week the House of Representatives is likely to decide on a potentially controversial bill that would see the removal of the e cigarette being included in the Obama administration’s Deeming Rule.
Under the rule the sale of e cigarettes are viewed as no different to any other tobacco product and therefore are subject to the same conditions and restrictions of sale. In a move that would that would see removal of these restrictions over vapeing devices, the Hunter bill could serve to hand the tobacco industry a potentially huge future profit windfall through their ability to bring these products to market much more quickly and on a much wider scale.
It seems the classification of the e cigarette as tobacco products isn’t simple, with opinion on if they qualify being hotly debated. At first glance it seems simple, they don’t contain tobacco and so logically they shouldn’t be deemed to be a tobacco product. They do however contain nicotine, they are designed to be smoked and most agree that measures should be in place to stop children from being able to use them. The fact that they are an imitation cigarette, that their long term health implications are still unknown and that they are primarily used to help smokers reduce their use of conventional cigarettes leads many to hotly contest that they are indeed a tobacco product.
The Hunter bill, along with the separate yet similar Cole-Bishop bill which aims to circumvent FDA requirements seems to be a collaborative attempt to allow those with an interest in the sale of e-cigarettes to see their use de-regulated and mass marketed.
Supporters of the legislation, namely the tobacco industry along with those individuals with financial interests in the companies that produce them e cigarettes, have a different argument. Their stance is that vapeing devices should not be deemed tobacco products, that they facilitate cigarette users safely reducing their addiction and that any concerns of children getting addicted to vaping are overstated.
There is however a deeper issue than the obvious one of if e cigarette production should or should not be categorised under the Deeming rule, namely the lingering worry that the proposed bill is an example of President Trump’s aspiration to widespread deregulation. There are concerns that if these devices are allowed to go unfiltered or checked into the market place simply for the reason of increased profitability of the tobacco industry, that it could signal worse things to come.
FDA requirements and approvals exist for the protection of the consumer and the progress made in the tobacco industry has been hard won over many years. Most will no doubt conclude that whilst e-cigarettes pose a much less imposing and less harmful alternative to smoking regular tobacco products, it doesn’t mean we should remove all the safeguards for the production and sale of these alternatives.
As these devices have been around for a relatively short period of time there is simply not enough scientific evidence to quantitatively state their use does not carry any long term effects, whilst the chances of any negative impact of using them may well be very low, it can be argued that every measure to reduce the risk should be taken, namely subjecting them to the same FDA requirements as any other tobacco product.
The proposed bill is surely to be one that will raise concerns and endure heated debate. What will be decided? Will it be deregulation and an opportunity for the tobacco industry or will it be the more cautious, status quo of the Deeming Rule? Either way, the House will decide.