The FDA’s Light Hammer Comes Down

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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27 Responses

  1. North says:

    Reading this I’m gettin the impression that it’s relatively good news all things considered. Certainly could be much much worse so that’s pretty encouraging.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to North says:

      @north This is about right. Even Reason found little reason to complain. I’d been getting really worried in the last week or two. So far, so good. Not perfect, of course, but pretty good. The only lingering issue is what the FDA pre-approval is going to look like in practice. I’m hearing some mixed things.Report

  2. Zane says:

    Will, could you explain what you mean by “Bottling Requirements”? I get the sense that this means the cartridges with nicotine and flavoring etc that are put into(?) the ecigarette, but I really don’t know much about the mechanics of ecigarettes. I do know that nicotine is a fairly powerful poison, so that’s why I’m guessing as I am.Report

    • Zane in reply to Zane says:

      (I think you had an earlier piece discussing this topic as well. If so, it’d be great to have a link!)Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Zane says:

      There are two ways to get ejuice. The first is in a cartridge. You put the cartridge on the battery and you’re good to go and you throw it out when you’re done. In a cartridge, there is little chance of leakage or exposure. These tend to be expensive because they’re not refillable.

      The second kind is the refillable tank. When you use a refillable tank, you order vials of ejuice and fill up the tank yourself. The problem is that the vial that comes in could be opened and drunk, if you were so inclined.

      An important thing to remember is that nicotine=!ejuice. The average ejuice contains between 0-3% nicotine, though anything above 1.75% is very atypical. Maximum strength from my supplier is 1.6%. I’m sure some out there sell higher doses, though I’ve never seen it. I point this out because some news outlets often conflate nicotine and ejuice, or mistake the mcg/ml rating as a percentage (so that 24mcg/ml is said to be 24% nicotine).

      I think that ejuice should come in childproof containers or at least have better standards. The ones I have are not very secure. Some are better than others. The coverage of poisoning incidents only came to light recently, so I would expect the FDA to act on this sooner rather than later.

      So far, no one has died from it to my knowledge. I’m not sure how much you would have to drink to die. The good news is that (and the press has misunderstood this) it does not taste good*. Even fruity flavors do not taste good. It’s not the sort of thing that someone is going to drink.

      I’m not sure how much it would take to kill somebody, but any which way there is an apparent hazard that can relatively inexpensively be remedied. One of the types of bottles I have is just a bottle with a syringe, where you could theoretically drink it and get a lot into your system before you realize how terrible it is. Most you have to actively squirt, though. But even for those, I would like the cap to be childproof.

      * – I know this due to periodic device malfunctions. Nothing dangerous to me. It’s taste is… sharp enough that I immediately investigate what the problem is.Report

  3. Dan Miller says:

    Re: adults liking flavor as well, you could also cite the popularity of hookah.Report

    • Zane in reply to Dan Miller says:

      I know nothing about this (and what I’m about to say will probably cement that opinion for everyone), but as a non-smoker and non-marijuana user, I just always assumed people used hookahs for… non-legal smokable substances.Report

      • Mo in reply to Zane says:

        This is likely my Middle Eastern descent speaking, but I know a bunch of people that don’t smoke but partake in periodic hookah.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Zane says:

        There are hookah lounges back home. It was the camel’s nose that eventually allowed for smoking lounges within city limits. They allowed hookah lounges and prohibited smoking in them. Someone pointed out the incongruity and they started allowing smoking, too.

        This is in contrast to NYC which has hookah lounges but cigarette smoking and vaping are not allowed there.

        Washington state, meanwhile (or maybe it’s just Seattle, I’d have to go check) has cigar lounges, where cigarette smoking is prohibited. Not sure about vaping.Report

  4. Alan Scott says:

    I’d have liked to see the health warnings be a little bit stronger.
    The public tends to see the dangers of tobacco smoking as being all about cancers, but cigarettes also give people heart attacks, and it’s the nicotine that causes that.Report

  5. Jim Heffman says:

    It must be such a wonderful thing for the FDA, that nicotine is associated with smoking. That lets them just tar, as it were, nicotine with the same brush they use for smoking; who’s going to advocate for relaxation of standards on nicotine consumption? Nicotine is in cigarettes and therefore IT’S BAD EVIL CANCER JUJU.

    I’m pretty sure they’ve been wracking their brains trying to figure out a way to ban caffiene.Report

  6. DavidTC says:

    I’ve been watching people talk about regulating ecigarettes with complete amazement. It’s just astonishing the amount of nonsense showing up.

    For example, why on *earth* would random people who didn’t smoke be tempted into vaping, and, if they didn’t already smoke, *why would they use nicotine*? What sort of crazy person would do that? Why do we care about this stupid hypothetical?

    And we have a rather large public-health reason to reduce the amount of smoking…but do we actually have any public health reason to reduce the amount of *nicotine* use? Yes, it’s not great for you, and highly addictive, but is it worse than, for a random example, caffeine?

    Considering the complete stupidity of people about this, I suggest that the industry made a mistake when it called them ‘ecigarettes’. They should have invented some new name, and talked about the flavors and stuff, and only incidentally mentioned ‘BTW, if you’re addicted to cigarettes, you can get special juices with nicotine in them, which act like nicotine gum.’

    No, that wouldn’t have really worked, but 90% of the people on the ‘regulate ecigarettes’ side are so astonishingly stupid that I suspect if they were called ‘portable vaporizer’ or something, it wouldn’t even trigger in their head.

    Of course, these are the same people that don’t allow smokers to stand near buildings or anything, because they might pass within ten feet of someone smoking and instantly get secondhand smoke cancer. When in actuality, if you’re outside, you’re pretty much not getting any appreciably amount of secondhand smoke, especially for the three seconds it takes to walk past someone. (No, smelling it does not mean you are inhaling smoke.) But heaven forbid we have any sort of sanity in that policy.

    Note I’m saying this as someone who thinks cigarettes should actually *be slowly banned*, as in, we should slowly raise the smoking age. Someone who is ten years old right now should *never* be able to smoke legally. Because I believe in actual medical evidence…smoking is horrifically bad for you. And I also believe the actual scientific evidence that secondhand smoke is almost as harmful for people to spend hours in smoke a day in an enclosed space…but outside? For a split second? Uh, no. You inhaled more toxic chemicals sitting at that red light behind another car.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC says:

      Well, I’m glad to know that the regulators are just as stupid as the consumers.

      “E-cigarettes! WE NEED RULES AND REGULATIONS!!!!”

      Otherwise, I might have to rethink libertarianism.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:


        The regulators were not stupid. The regulators ignored the stupid people and made reasonable rules.

        In fact, they didn’t go far enough. They really should be requiring some sort of childproofing or *something* on the bottles. Perhaps some sort of mechanism where the way to refill a cartridge is to lock it in place and tilt the bottle, and that’s the only way the liquid normally leaves the bottle…it never actually pours through open air.

        I mean, unlike normal childproofing, we don’t have to make it easy enough for adults to get into it. No one needs to ‘get into’ it…they just need to refill one specific thing with it. So make it where it only pours when that one things is attached. (This is assuming a standardization of cartridge sizes that I am sure does not exist at the moment, so this obviously would have to be phased in.)Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        I agree with you about the child-proof containers, but your other ideas are more complicated than they might initially appear. Different devices work different ways and the market is still sorting out which way is superior. Maybe if I could see what you were talking about, I could figure out how it could get into cartomizers and clearomizers (it would almost certainly require the banning of pure atomizers) and whether the topping off becomes a problem.

        It’s not quite as simple as letting it run empty or near empty and then refilling it. My device is theoretically supposed to be refilled when it’s less than a quarter empty. That’s overboard, but most of what I read says not to let it get more than 2/3 empty.

        The other thing to keep in mind is that there may be more to the size differentials than manufacturer whims or slight customer preferences. A lot of people – like myself – get started on the ones that look and feel like regular cigarettes. This necessitates smaller cartridges. However, once you ‘graduate’ from those devices, the 1ml (typically) limitation becomes a real annoyance. My device’s 2.5ml tank is adequate, but wouldn’t fit on anything meant to look and feel like a cigarette.

        You could possibly get around this by mandating a 2ml tank or something and saying that 1ml tanks must be sealed cartridges. Which is what my Blus were, though not all of them are. It’s one of the differences between storefront items and more specialty devices. But it would be possible.

        I would probably advise going with standardized packaging of the liquids short of what you describe. Requiring child-proofing and then even if they get in there they have to squirt it. (One of my types of bottles, once you get the lid off, a child can try to drink it and get a lot in he before she realizes how disgusting it is.

        Take care of those two things and I think you have taken cae of the vast majority of the problem. Incidents would be far less common and particulaly hazardous incidents extremely rare. The biggest theat then would be homebrewing.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

        Maybe if I could see what you were talking about, I could figure out how it could get into cartomizers and clearomizers (it would almost certainly require the banning of pure atomizers) and whether the topping off becomes a problem.

        I basically was suggesting something that worked rather like a key and a lock. You attach the cartridge to the bottle, twist it or whatever, and that opens a port between it and the inside.

        But that was just a hypothetical idea. I didn’t mean for the FDA to figure out any particular method of childproofing. I was assuming they’re just say something like ‘The industry must childproof things.’ and leave it to them. Like childproof pill bottles…I’m pretty sure it didn’t mandate how childproof caps on pills worked, just that they had to have them.

        I do like the point about squirt bottles, though. As you pointed out, the stuff doesn’t actually taste very good, so if all that can be consumed is one squirt, no little kid is going to drink it past that one. So that in itself might be all the childproofing it needs, or that plus a standard ‘depress and rotate’ childproofing.

        And that also would help fix another problem…people *spilling* the liquid on themselves. As is rather obvious from nicotine gum, you can take it in through the skin.

        Take care of those two things and I think you have taken cae of the vast majority of the problem. Incidents would be far less common and particulaly hazardous incidents extremely rare.

        Oh, let’s be honest here. If we’re talking about kids that poison themselves, this is *already* way way down the list. Yes, cases are ‘skyrocketing’…because it’s brand new and there were no cases four years ago.

        60,000 children each year are rushed to the hospital because they stupidly do something that will poison them. My own brother had to have his stomach pumped when he was a kid because he ate an entire bottle of chewable vitamins…because of the iron. Iron toxicity is, in fact, the leading cause of poisoning death of children under 6.

        And yet you can still buy iron supplements in non-childproof containers.

        This is just an issue because people *want* there to be some issue about this. ‘Kid smoke, so kids obviously will try to drink ecigarette juice!’. It’s inventing an issue just so there is an issue.

        That said, there’s no reason not to make it smaller, especially as there’s already an uphill battle because people are idiots.

        The biggest theat then would be homebrewing.

        Expect another issue the first time someone figures out you can put THC in there.Report