This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In a perfect world, people who are dealing with addiction and substance abuse would be able to beat their addictions cold turkey. But talk to anyone who has ever tried to quit something, and you'll learn quickly that the desire to stop is just the first step in the often long road to recovery.
Physicians all across the country understand deeply how this issue affects those trying to wean themselves off tobacco products and how important tools like e-vapor products can be to them. Unfortunately, some policymakers today want to regulate these products too broadly and in effect, take them off the shelves and out of reach to many consumers until the products make it through a protracted government review. While regulating e-vapor products is an important step to take, elements in the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new rules on e-vapor products, specifically the rules' predicate date, could have serious unintended consequences if not amended.
As a physician who deals mainly with addiction medicine, I see firsthand the difficultly that many patients across Utah in substance abuse treatment institutions undergo in their treatment. People with drug or alcohol dependency have a higher rate of dependency on cigarettes and because most treatment facilities don't allow for smoking, e-vapor products are often a useful and safer method for them to lessen this dependence. My professional experience is that e-vapor products are potentially an effective tool in reducing smoking and could be a less harmful alternative at that. Given the choice between cigarettes and e-vapor products, the choice is very clear e-vapor products are a worthwhile alternative.
The best step that our leaders in Congress can take to help amend the FDA's rules is to support the Cole-Bishop bill in Congress that would modernize the predicate date with a more reasonable timeframe for e-vapor product makers to work with so consumer choices for e-vapor products are not unnecessarily interrupted. This legislation can be implemented as a standalone measure or included in spending bills Congress is working on.
It's no doubt the FDA's job is to regulate these products and to make sure they're safe, but the FDA shouldn't be stifling something that could be a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products. Not to mention, this bill has bipartisan support and enshrines important regulations on e-vapor products including protections limiting advertising to children. It's not often these days that we can find things for leaders on both sides of the aisle to come together on supporting more commonsense regulation of e-vapor products is one issue they can.
A failure to update this predicate date could impact consumers by drastically limiting the number of e-vapor products that could be sold on the market as e-vapor product makers have to navigate the FDA's lengthy review process.
Vapor products are a useful diversion and harm reduction tool, and the federal government shouldn't be making these products harder to access for those who need them most. As a physician who cares deeply about this issue and the health and wellbeing of my patients, I wholeheartedly support the Cole-Bishop bill in Congress and I urge our leaders to do the same.
Dr. Terry L. Sellers is a board certified physician in the practice of addiction medicine. He lives in Orem.