Grassroots Change
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FDA joins battle over e-cigs

April 29, 2014

As we recently reported, grassroots advocates have quickly and effectively taken on the tobacco industry’s booming market in electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigs.”  From Los Angeles to Philadelphia, cities are passing local ordinances that regulate e-cigs like cigarettes or cigars under their current smokefree laws. This is a smart move, especially until we know a lot more about the risks of so-called “vaping” to users, nonsmokers, and children.

But now that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed e-cig regulations, is grassroots action still needed?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” As one local health official put it: “There is still a need for local communities to take action to protect youth from these unregulated products and to try and prevent the next generation from developing nicotine addiction.”

“Shame on the FDA.”

Those aren’t the words of the tobacco industry, according to an article in the LA Times, but of Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), one of the most effective advocates for smokefree policies in Congress. Durbin led the successful fight for smokefree airline flights in the late 1980s, which resulted in the passage of the only federal tobacco control legislation that was neither supported by, nor negotiated with, the tobacco industry.

The industry’s favorite tactic to stop progress is preemption. The Florida legislature is already considering legislation to preempt local e-cig ordinances, and we can expect Congress and other states to follow suit.

Not only can we not wait for the FDA to solve the problem, we must diligently protect the authority of local communities to address threats to public health, including e-cigarettes.