FDA kills smokers

by John Stossel

“The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health.”

That’s what the Food and Drug Administration website says.

My intuition makes me grateful that the FDA is there to protect me — to make sure that every drug is proven both safe and effective — but “protection” kills people.

But now the FDA threatens the health of cigarette smokers who want to quit.

But hasn’t the FDA proposed that new warnings and gruesome pictures be placed on cigarette packages because the old scares apparently weren’t working? As Reuters reminds us: “The Food and Drug Administration in June released nine new warnings…. Warnings must cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20 percent of printed advertisements, and must contain color graphics depicting the health consequences of smoking, including diseased lungs, dead bodies and rotting teeth.” So the FDA certainly seems to be trying to save smokers’ lives. How can I say the FDA threatens smokers?

What other conclusion can we draw when the FDA now talks about banning electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. It sent threatening letters to manufacturers of the product.

E-cigarettes look like cigarettes, but instead of burning tobacco, they vaporize liquid nicotine. The resulting mist satisfies without tars and the most dangerous of tobacco’s chemicals.

What could be wrong with that? Well, the FDA says e-cigarettes contain trace chemicals that “may” be “toxic.”

But anything “may” be toxic. New York Times columnist John Tierney writes: “The agency has never presented evidence that trace amounts actually cause any harm, and it has neglected to mention that similar traces of these chemicals have been found in other FDAapproved products, including nicotine patches and gum.”

Brad Rodu, professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, concluded in Harm Reduction Journal that the FDA results “are highly unlikely to have any possible significance to users” because it detected chemicals at “about 1 million times lower concentrations than are conceivably related to human health.”

Michael Siegel, professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told Tierney:

“It boggles my mind why there is a bias against e-cigarettes among antismoking groups.”

It boggles my mind, too, because as Tierney points out, e-cigarettes not only pose merely a hypothetical risk compared to real “cigarettes containing thousands of chemicals, including dozens of carcinogens and hundreds of toxins,” e-cigarettes also have been shown to be suc cessful

in helping smokers quit. A study from Italy found that after 24 weeks, half of smokers using e-cigarettes reduced consumption by 50 percent. A quarter gave up smoking altogether.

True, cigarette substitutes are basically nicotine-delivery devices. But so what? Britain’s Royal College of Physicians found that “if nicotine could be provided in a form that is acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved.”

The American Association of Public Health Physicians wrote that e-cigarettes might “save the lives of 4 million of the 8 million current adult American smokers.” Four million lives!

Life is always a choice between greater and lesser risks — zero risk is not an option. Striving to abolish risk kills people.

“It’s time to be honest with the 50 million Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, who use tobacco,” Rodu writes. “It’s time to abandon the myth that tobacco is devoid of benefits and to focus on how we can help smokers continue to derive those benefits with a safer delivery system.”

John Stossel is host of “Stossel” on the Fox Business Network. He’s the author of Give Me a Break and of Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity. © 2011