While I can appreciate the need for more standard electronic-cigarette regulations, it's unfortunate that the conclusions thus far have been based on conjecture as opposed to fact. The major disconnect is that electronic-cigarette users are being unfairly saddled with the same social stigma associated with traditional cigarette smoking. And what many politicians fail to see is that e-cig bans and restrictions may actually lock adult smokers into tobacco use.
Legislators are public figures and should do what's in the best interest of the people; they should encourage practical alternatives to smoking tobacco. Instead, they back products that support the best interest of outside parties - and by this I certainly do not mean the adult smoker or consumer groups, but industries like the pharmaceutical industry, which would rather create barriers to new products with cessation potential. It's unfortunate that these politicians have been misguided through the fear of normalizing smoking, and persuaded by a complete lack of understanding of electronic cigarettes or consideration of actual research performed on these products.
Why would a smoker switch to an e-cigarette if he or she must go outside to vape with cigarette smokers? Why would they switch if electronic cigarettes are being treated the same as combustible cigarettes?
Our elected officials must come to understand the distinct differences between electronic cigarettes and traditional cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are not combustible cigarettes and have more differences than they do commonalities - specifically having no tobacco smoke, ash or smell - as well as the option of non-nicotine varieties. And while most consumers and manufacturers expect some form of regulation, it doesn't make sense to regulate the products in the same manner. We support further research, and we believe research offers the best end result for this industry. Proposals that equate e-cigarettes with combustible cigarettes only serve to discourage a viable smoking alternative with significant harm-reduction potential.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its intention to develop regulations for electronic cigarettes in 2014, and we stand ready to work with the agency and its experts to define sensible regulations that distinguish e-cigarettes from combustible cigarettes without stifling what may be one of the most promising tobacco-harm-reduction products ever.
In the meantime, public officials should be held accountable for making misleading statements that bear no proof to support them, just as we are subject to before we make claims as an e-cig manufacturer. The truth: E-cigarettes are more analogous to an exit strategy than they are to a gateway to smoking tobacco. Blatantly calling them a gateway is like saying the iPod is a gateway to the 8-track. We wouldn't expect to see a forward-looking product leading consumers backward, so why handicap what could be one of the greatest tobacco-harm-reduction products we have ever seen?
All in all, our industry remains a product category worthy of further exploration rather than categorical condemnation, which only requires objectivity and a bit of investigation - something we should expect from our elected representatives.
Until this happens, we urge adult consumers to educate themselves and be their own best advocates, and can only hope and encourage our public officials to take the time to seek similar education to become more accountable for the millions of Americans they represent.
Jason Heal is president of electronic-cigarette manufacturer blu eCigs.