Many headlines have disclosed the FDA’s vulnerability to corporate and political pressures regarding approval of drugs and devices. The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health with a budget of $3.2 billion. However, it is no longer a true proponent of consumer safety, but more of a proponent of big business and political effort.
The FDA regulates tobacco and allows the big tobacco firms to sit on the scientific advisory panel of the FDA. That same committee considers what should or should not be in cigarettes and whether new products can be sold as being less risky. “How can anyone defend having convicted racketeers involved in the public-health policymaking process,” said Stanton A. Glantz
, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco medical school. In fact, most analysts and experts say that this arrangement will only benefit the tobacco industry.
A spokesman for Phillip Morris, William R. Phelps, said the following:
Innovation in developing reduced-risk tobacco products is going to be the key test. With clear guidelines and a clear oversight, there should be an opportunity for increased competition as new companies and existing ones work to develop products that could possibly reduce the harm from tobacco.
However, it was also stated that, “if the law is implemented the way we expect, its main impact will be to boost profitability by reducing competition.” These are two very contradictory statements that confirm that big tobacco is out for themselves and their profits only.
Electronic cigarette manufacturers are trying to present the FDA with innovation, health, and a harm-reduction alternative to tobacco, but so far it is falling on deaf ears. “Of course the FDA wants you to keep smoking. Look at who the major advisors are: big tobacco and big pharmaceutical companies,” states Gina King of E-CigaretteDirect.com
. “If smokers quit smoking, the profits for these big companies would plummet. Americans would be healthier, but health doesn’t seem to be the major concern for the FDA. Do you think that the new ‘advisory panel’ of big tobacco is going to approve a device that results in loss of profits for them?”
The electronic cigarette industry is in its infancy. Electronic cigarettes were introduced to the United States in 2007 as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. They produce no second-hand smoke, allowing e-cigarette smokers to ‘smoke’ inside establishments that normally ban tobacco cigarettes. The electronic cigarette contains only 20 ingredients, as opposed to tobacco cigarettes that contain over 4,000 chemicals, including hundreds of known toxins and carcinogens.
Electronic cigarettes are touted by some to help them quit smoking, even though retailers and manufacturers are not allowed to market them as a quit-smoking device. “We offer electronic cigarettes as a smoking alternative for the committed smoker. It is up to the user to determine if the electronic cigarette will help them quit. We are not allowed to say that, even though most of our customers have used them to quit cigarettes,” stated King. Many e-cigarette
smokers claim they feel better and breathe easier using electronic cigarettes versus traditional tobacco cigarettes. Distributors of electronic cigarettes say that their products have helped many people kick the habit.
The FDA’s new strategic plan
released in 2007 includes a statement by Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D, Commissioner of Food and Drugs:
Strengthening the FDA, improving the safety of patients and consumers, increasing access to new medical and food products, and improving the safety and quality of manufactured products and the supply chain. Each of these goals represents a fundamental public health task that is crucial to fulfilling our mission. If we can accomplish what we propose – and I have no doubt that we can and will – then we will strengthen the trust of the public that we serve.
However, that trust has already been broken. What is allegedly a move to regulate the control of tobacco seems to be, in fact, a legal way of allowing big corporate interests to dictate public policy. The ideal situation would be to have a government firm that is impartial to corporate and political interests. Unfortunately, it appears that the corporate government system wants to keep you smoking “their” product.