Should FDA Try to Move Smokers to E-cigarettes and Other Less-Harmful Tobacco Products and, If So, How?
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WASHINGTON May 31, 2018 — A comprehensive new strategy for moving smokers to e-cigarettes offers the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) numerous options for sharply reducing health harms and deaths from smoking that should be endorsed by public health e-cigarette harm-reduction “skeptics” and “enthusiasts,” alike, as well as by the tobacco industry, says its author, a former health official from FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
In the article, “Should FDA Try to Move Smokers to E-cigarettes and Other Less-Harmful Tobacco Products and, If So, How?” published in the next issue (2) of the Food and Drug Law Journal, Eric N. Lindblom, JD, director for tobacco control and food and drug law at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law, steers away from resolving ongoing factual disputes about e-cigarettes and their current impacts and focuses on presenting a new consensus way forward for FDA based only on what is already known.
“This article offers recommendations for specific FDA actions that would produce large public health gains by shifting smokers to using less harmful e-cigarettes without creating any significant risk of delaying total cessation, increasing youth initiation, or prompting any other health-harming e-cigarette use,” writes Lindblom, former director of the Office of Policy at FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
More than 400,000 people die prematurely each year from smoking in the U.S., with many millions more suffering from smoking-caused disability, disease, and other harms–creating enormous costs and other burdens for our economy; our federal, state, and local governments; and our society.
“More aggressive and effective action by FDA to reduce those harms and costs is long overdue,” writes Lindblom.
In his article, Lindblom describes readily available FDA actions that would secure new tobacco control progress “most powerfully and effectively, with as little risk of any collateral damage as possible,” while also highlighting those options that might be more attractive to some because they minimize interference with adult consumer choice.
“Any ethical or thoughtful members of the tobacco-nicotine industry (or the medical nicotine industry) should support (or at least not oppose) the recommendations outlined in this article,” writes Lindblom, because they would “more quickly create a tobacco industry and tobacco products marketplace that would no longer be responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people in the United States every year and would create a much more sustainable and defensible long-term future for the industry and its products.”
Lindblom notes, “this article offers recommendations designed to make sense not just for the public health but for FDA, the industry, and the White House—regardless of who is right or wrong in the ongoing debates about e-cigarette harmfulness and current impacts.”
Lindblom reports no financial conflicts. No external funding was used to support this work.
The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.