I sense that few if any readers of this blog are interested in the Food and Drug Administration's decision to seize control of the regulation of e-cigarettes in the United States.
I don't blame you. According to Carl Phillips however it's "the most chatter-inducing event in the history of THR".
Carl, a US-based expert on tobacco harm reduction, has chosen not to add to the hullabaloo. "Been there, wrote that," he says, adding:
Anyone who is shocked by what was released last week was not paying attention. I have seen literally nothing in the deluge of writings since the regulation was released that I and CASAA (and others, of course) did not already point out.
Carl's post (Ecig deeming regulation - nothing new to see here) reminded me of something I wrote in January 2015, a few months after attending the Global Tobacco Network Forum (GTNF) in West Virginia.
The biggest coup was to get Mitch Zeller, director of the US Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). Reduced harm products presented the CTP with a challenge, he said. They may be less of a risk to the user but their availability might prevent consumers from choosing the healthiest option, complete cessation [my emphasis].
And that, in a nutshell, is what we're up against. Even the more liberal and open-minded public health officials view complete cessation as the long-term goal. Zeller didn't say it but "No safe level of nicotine" is sure to be the mantra for many years to come. Good news for the likes of ASH but bad news for the rest of us (including the taxpayer).
I suspect this explains why so many "pro-vaping" public health groups have kept silent on the FDA's deeming regulation.
The truth, as everyone but the most myopic advocates of THR must surely now acknowledge, is that the goal of 'public health' is not smoking cessation, it's nicotine cessation.
The moving target will always be the "healthiest option" so it doesn't matter if e-cigarettes are 95 per cent less harmful than combustibles, the "healthiest option" will always be "complete cessation".
Vapers seem to hope that if they ally themselves with "pro-vaping" public health campaigners e-cigarettes will be excluded from the worst regulatory excesses. Good luck with that.
The problem is, as soon as you accept punitive regulations for one consumer product you are conceding that, in the name of health, similar regulation is acceptable for other products.
The argument that regulations should reflect relative risk is good in theory but it doesn't apply here because the most powerful 'public health' bodies only see two categories - risk and no risk.
It doesn't matter that e-cigarettes are 'safer' than combustible tobacco. They are not the "healthiest option" and must be regulated accordingly.
One or two governments (including the UK) may prefer light touch regulation on THR products but ultimately they are powerless against the might of unelected 'public health' officials in Brussels (EC), Washington (FDA) and Geneva (WHO).
Btw, the response to the announcement of the FDA deeming regulation also reminded me of the response to MPs voting in favour of a comprehensive smoking ban.
Forest had been campaigning against a public smoking ban for three years. The day after the vote we were overwhelmed with calls and emails from smokers complaining bitterly about the legislation. Nothing like that had happened before.
To paraphrase Carl Phillips, it was the most chatter-inducing event in the history of smokers' rights (in the UK at least), beaten only by a similar outpouring of noise on July 1, 2007, when the legislation was formally introduced.
What we are seeing now is history repeating itself. Vapers are up in arms but why has the FDA announcement come as a surprise? As Carl Phillips says, he and others have been writing about this for years.
Meanwhile the idea that 'public health' is anything other than an enemy of choice and personal freedom is a joke yet some THR advocates cling to the hope that some form of alliance is the best way forward.
If the FDA announcement hasn't put that thought to bed I don't know what will.
PS. A lot of FDA chatter has focused on the impact the deeming regulation will have on the tobacco companies. A good example is this article in the Washington Post, Why the FDA's new e-cigarette regulations are a gift to Big Tobacco.
Returning to that January 2015 post, I also noted that another speaker at GTNF 2014 was Susan Cameron, CEO of Reynolds American, the second largest tobacco company in the United States:
Some vapers should look away now because in her speech Cameron called for the strict regulation of open-system vapour products. In her view, they present a "unique risk" because they are "open to tampering".
It's comments like these that have upset a lot of vapers. Personally I'm against strict regulation but credit to her for going public with her position in such a no-nonsense fashion and not hiding behind Chatham House rules.
Indeed. You may not like it but no-one can say Cameron wasn't being entirely open and honest about her company's position.
How the pro-vaping chatterati failed to notice all this is a bit of a mystery. It's been staring them in the face for years.