Dr. Michael Siegel on FDA Regulations for E-CigsAmidst continual pressure by the FDA to regulate electronic cigarettes, industry continues to thrive and move forward under the guidance of several intelligent, level-headed minds. Among the most tempered and admired voices in the field is Boston University School of Public Health’s Dr. Michael Siegel.

Serving the public health field since his days at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Siegel is a staunch proponent of e cigarettes, frequently publishing thoughts and examination at his Tobacco Analysis blog. He worries that most of his colleagues in public health have left smokers in the dust. Citing them as significant technological advancements, Siegel appreciates e cigs, and recognizes their importance with regards to the way they change a smoker’s behavior.

“It’s the first innovation in decades, perhaps in my lifetime, that I think really has the potential to offer a substantially improved smoking cessation strategy,” said Dr. Michael Siegel.

How e cigarettes address the problems associated with smoking, and their effect on mannerisms related to smoking is what most endears Siegel.

“It’s the really the first approach that treats smoking as an oral behavior, and not just as an addiction to nicotine,” said Siegel.

Bans and legislation won’t stop e cigs

Conceived in the ’60s and globalized earlier this century, electronic cigarettes keep rolling forward. Bans, regardless of their outcome, have seemingly come and gone, and e cigs still stand. Siegel doesn’t see the European Union’s latest e cig verdict as a burden to regulatory decisions in the US, noting that previous battles in court between e cigarette manufacturers and lawmakers actually prohibit the FDA from deeming e cigs as medicine.

“We’re very fortunate to have this decision in court that prohibits the FDA from regulating e cigs as a drug.”

Siegel hopes that current New York City threats by Mayor Michael Bloomberg won’t affect other cities.

“Even though it’s one city, it could spread,” said Siegel.

The threat of regulation has loomed over the industry for years. In March, Mitch Zeller took over the reins at the Center for Tobacco Control. Pundits and proponents alike waited with baited breath to hear his much anticipated April ruling, only to have the date come and go without a word. Now the industry waits until October when some standards could come to light.

“From what I’ve seen of Mitch Zeller, I think he takes a very science based, practical approach,” said Siegel. “He’s actually spoken about the consumer risk of different products, and the need to have different regulations for different levels of risk.

It’s because of these statements that Siegel sees Zeller as a possible plus in the regulation equation.

“I’m hopeful that, based on his statements, he’ll have an enlightened view,” said Siegel.

No Industry Without Diversity

There are two schools of thought in vaping: cigarette look-a-likes, and their slightly different cousins, commonly referred to as tanks, mods or personal vaporizers. The second group is more versatile simply because of their adaptability. Essentially more control over the variables. It is this very fact that Siegel views as a plus for commerce.

“I think that one of the beauties of the whole industry, making it so successful, is that there is a wide variety of choices out there,” said Siegel. “I think that what smokers like is that there are different types. It’s like a hobby. You can collect different types.”

Another area that concerns regulators is the different types of e-liquid, some bearing the names and tastes of popular candy. Dr. Siegel is all for it, encouraged by the views of some of the people he’s come in contact with.

“The vapers that I’ve talked to really like the idea that you can choose your liquid,” said Siegel. “I think it’s an advantage that there are different choices to be made, different types of products, different flavorings.”

Positives of Regulation

Even though regulation would mean some change, Dr. Siegel maintains that some regulation would benefit the industry as a whole. While some rules would be game changers, lighter restrictions, like those mainly intended to keep manufacturing in check would benefit the greater good.

“I hope that the FDA does set up some sort of regulation that focus on a uniform set of quality control procedures,” said Siegel. “I think that consumers need to know that no matter what brand they’re buying, if it says zero nicotine, that there really isn’t any nicotine. If it says 16 milligrams, it’s really 16 mg.”

Follow Dr. Michael Siegel on Twitter: @mbsiegel and visit his website: The Rest of the Story: Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary

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