(UR) Washington, D.C. — Last week, the FDA announced new regulations that give the agency authority over all tobacco products. The rules, purported to “improve public health and protect future generations,” effectively crush the vapor product industry — and are a huge win for both Big Tobacco and Big Pharma.
The new regulations give long-awaited teeth to the Tobacco Control Act, passed back in 2009. The teeth, in this case, come in the form of the Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) process.
Previously, the FDA had no authority to regulate vaping liquids — which contain nicotine but not tobacco — because they came to market after the arbitrary date of February 15, 2007, and were therefore considered “new” products. The latest rules put an end to that restriction.
Now, all vapor and e-cigarette products will be retroactively subjected to the PMTA — which, according to the EPA’s own assessment, can cost millions per product and take over 1,500 hours to complete.
“The agency’s economic analysis of the rule predicts that the cost of such approvals will be so high that approximately 99 percent of products on the market will not even be put through the application process,” said the American Vaping Association in an April press release.
This is because the vast majority of vapor product retailers are small businesses who can’t bear such an enormous regulatory burden. Big Tobacco companies like Marlboro and Camel, however — who’ve thus far failed to capture the lion’s share of the e-cigarette market on their own — can absorb the fees and red tape just fine.
“As a reminder, regulation of the e-cig/vapor industry is broadly positive for big tobacco manufacturers since it will increase the barriers to entry and likely entrench them even further,” said Wells Fargo stock analyst Bonnie Herzog in a note written to investors.
Naturally — given that the new FDA “deeming” regulations will effectively kill the vaping industry — Herzog went on to encourage investors to buy stocks in tobacco companies.
But Big Tobacco isn’t the only group benefiting from the FDA’s move.
For years now, e-cigarettes have been a go-to aid for those looking to quit smoking. With those products missing from the shelf, would-be former smokers will either have to quit cold turkey or go with the only remaining option — the nicotine patch and gum products produced by Big Pharma.
“Vapor devices compete with products marketed by pharmaceutical companies to help people quit smoking, like Nicorette gum and the nicotine patch,” writes Gregory Conley of The Hill. “These nicotine replacement products have taken a hit in recent years as many consumers have turned to vapor products after pharmaceutical options have failed them.”
This is even more frustrating given the fact that one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world, the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Physicians, recently published a report supporting e-cigarettes as both a safe and effective method of quitting smoking.
In addition to finding that e-cigs are 95 percent safer than regular cigarettes, the report states that “Among smokers, e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened, and in a proportion of these to successful cessation. In this way, e-cigarettes can act as a gateway from smoking.”
Odd, then, that a government agency claiming to “help protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco” would effectively ban tobacco-free products proven to help people quit smoking.
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