Published on April 24th, 2017 | by Jimmy Hafrey
The New York Times Editorial Board has some explaining to do.
Forbes reported earlier this week that the news giant published an editorial, which you can read here, entitled “Big Tobacco Attacks Sensible FDA Vaping Rules.” It is meant to be an attack on Big Tobacco by having the editorial board support the overreach by the Food and Drug Administration that is poised to wipe out the vaping industry by 2018.
The exception to the above comment, of course, is the fact that the industry wouldn’t fully disappear: Big Tobacco would step into the space formerly occupied by small businesses and deliver a new version of vape products.
So how does the New York Times get from attacking Big Tobacco to attacking the vape industry? One might think that an editorial board would do enough research to render a better opinion better than the one they slapped together, but it seems that it was an unfeasible task. At the very least, it was a task that the editorial board did not feel needed a more thorough investigation than they provided.
Instead, the editorial board came up with a few points that they feel supports their argument that Big Tobacco is attacking the FDA regulations. This article will go through them quickly so that readers can understand the other side of the argument that the New York Times did not, apparently, take into consideration.
The editorial claims that: “As smokers turned to electronic cigarettes to reduce the health risks of smoking, big tobacco companies started buying e-cigarette makers and producing and selling their own.”
This is fact. This publication has reported before that traditional tobacco companies such as Altria and Philip Morris International are both developing vape lines and buying vape companies in order to increase their non-existent market share in the industry. In fact, Big Tobacco is even funding research into vaping now, although independent scientists and researchers aren’t taking the science at face value due to bias.
But the larger problem is this: the FDA has a deeming rule that says that all vape products on the market past the predicate date of February 15, 2007, must go through a Pre-Market Tobacco Application. These applications are thought to cost between $100,000 to $300,000 per product per nicotine level, which is estimated to cost vape companies millions of dollars in legal and application fees alone.
That means that tobacco companies, which have millions of dollars set up and ready for the PMTAs, will be the companies left standing once the 2018 deadline comes.
The editorial board goes on to say that: “Now those companies are lobbying Congress to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating electronic cigarettes and cigars, as it does conventional cigarettes.”
This is factually wrong. The vape industry has supported the idea of regulations since the market materialized in the country. What the industry is against is overregulation, which happened when the FDA decided to regulate vape products along with conventional tobacco products.
This is a problem because vape products are not the same as tobacco: vaping is done through a heating element, not combustion; vape liquids can include nicotine, although many do not; and even nicotine, which is naturally derived from tobacco, is being replaced in vape products by synthetic nicotine, which is not derived from the plant.
Another point the editorial makes is that: “If the [tobacco companies] succeed, they will be able to sell and market addictive products to young people with few restrictions.”
It can be surmised by the tone of the editorial that the information for the above point was made available by the 2016 report by Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General. It is also incorrect and vastly overstates the power of vaping and underestimates the power that young adults have to make their own choices.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s report has been widely criticized by the science and medical communities, especially the assertion that nicotine “can harm the developing adolescent brain,” as reported by the Washington Examiner. This is because there is zero evidence anywhere that nicotine is harmful to adolescent brains.
More to the point, the report is incomplete and therefore useless as a piece of supporting evidence. While the report showed that 16 percent of high school-aged students had tried vaping in 2015, which was up from 1.5 percent from the previous year, the report does not measure how many of those students were regular vapers or even the number of students who went from vaping to smoking in the same year. It also neglected to inform most of the public, which received the information via major news outlets, that most students surveyed only tried vaping once, and many did not even use vape liquid that contained nicotine.
That’s because of the 687 pieces of vaping research that were systematically reviewed, none showed that high school students and young adults were susceptible to vaping. In fact, the majority of studies showed that vaping could be a deterrent from smoking, that vaping could curb the use of cigarettes in high school students, and that it is 95 percent safer than smoking.
The New York Times also fails to mention a few other things, most notably that just two percent of youths vape on a regular basis. It also does not touch on the fact that the CDC is reporting that vaping is the most popular cessation method at 33.5 percent, which is more than the combined total of nicotine patches and gum.
And most importantly, the editorial board seemed to forget that in the United Kingdom, the number of vapers who now consider themselves to be ex-smokers rose 10 percent in just over a year; over 8.1 million people in Europe alone have reported using vaping as a smoking cessation method.
The editorial, therefore, is confused, both about how Big Tobacco is making its entrance into the vape industry and who they are hurting with the editorial.
Because the vape industry is currently populated by small businesses, the New York Times editorial is hurting them the most. By insinuating that the vape market is a frontier where no regulations existed prior to the FDA, the editorial board is demonizing an entire economic demographic that is bringing small jobs and a life-saving smoking cessation method to the forefront.
And in a country where the number of people who are quitting smoking increases every year, an ill-advised attack against the industry, regardless of who the editorial board was aiming that attack at, is something that the New York Times should be held accountable for by vapers.