Smoking reduction has been one of the major public health victories in the U.S. Looking at a graph, there is a steady decline in smoking from 44% of adults in 1965 to 15% today.
However, the view from 10,000 feet blurs the details of the very real life-or-death struggles between “tobacco” and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For about the past 40 years, the tobacco industry had the money, talent and expertise to outmaneuver the FDA.
One of the more epic struggles was the introduction of filters on cigarettes. This was a great common sense solution and a marketing home run for the cigarette industry. Unfortunately, the filters were ingeniously designed to not filter out nicotine, something that took a few years to figure out.
“Light cigarettes” also had their day in the sun. Millions bought them thinking it was a safer cigarette (picture Marilyn Monroe by the pool smoking). Of course, everyone unconsciously inhaled more deeply, nullifying the supposed benefit from smoking light cigarettes.
You probably remember that Joe Camel, who was created to sell cigarettes, was indeed the embodiment of cool. It was no accident that the group most interested in cool was our teenagers and young adults. I bet you can still mentally picture that crazy camel. Joe Camel was banished to our memories, where he is still trying to make smoking appear cool.
The latest smoking-related craze is hookah pens/e-cigarettes. Smoking has definitely infiltrated the digital age. A battery-powered ultrasonic vaporizer turns nicotine solution into mist for your inhalation pleasure.
My teenage daughter alerted me to the presence of hookah pens three years ago. So here we are again with efforts to make young customers lifetime tobacco users. I did a little investigation and found that nicotine was still nicotine!
Much to my surprise, I received many irate calls, threats and even calls to my employer demanding they fire me. Now that’s quite a lobbing effort. This all blew by quickly and a couple of e-cigarette stores even opened near my U.S. HealthWorks medical center (you can’t make this stuff up).
Back at 10,000 feet, the FDA has recently spoken. They are no longer concerned about the smoke vs. mist angle and have taken a strong stand, regulating all products containing nicotine, which will be treated essentially like cigarettes. The FDA won’t allow these products to be sold to anyone under the age of 18, both in person and online.
The hope here is that e-cigarettes will go the way of Joe Camel. Consenting adults can make up their mind, but hookah pens / e-cigarettes should not be available to impressionable young people.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
Photos courtesy of Vaping360 and Boby via @Flickr