Reshaping American tobacco policy: eight proposals for the Trump administration

Many variations, all much safer than cigarettes – but what does FDA/CDC do about that?

Welcome to a new report written by me, Clive Bates, with David Sweanor of Ottawa University, and Eli Lehrer, President of the R Street Institute. The fully designed report is available at R Street with press notice.

Reshaping American Tobacco Policy

Eight federal strategies to fight smoking and ignite a public health revolution

[PDF – 23 pages]

The report is an unforgiving and but fair critique of the United States’ federal approach to tobacco policy, which we think is an unmitigated regulatory disaster.  Whatever the stated intent, the effect is to protect the cigarette trade from competition, damage pro-health American businesses, mislead and harm consumers and add unnecessarily to healthcare costs.  Federal agencies are preoccupied with negligible or imaginary risks at the expense of great opportunities to address the health risks to America’s 38 million smokers. Around nine million vapers are already taking action to protect their health, the federal bureaucracy is set to block their efforts.

So far smart, self-interested consumers, innovative producers and disruptive technologies have interacted in a lightly regulated free market to begin to tackle the huge burden of disease arising from smoking. That is about to change: the dominant reaction of the federal government is to choke these highly positive developments with huge regulatory burdens, opaque authorization procedures, impossible evidential tests and misinformation about risks.

American federal tobacco policy couldn’t be much worse, but it could be a lot better. The fundamental change required is to embrace and maximise the huge opportunity of vapor and other low-risk nicotine products, while keeping a sense of proportion about minor risks.

The eight proposals to reshape policy are listed below. The report provides a context, summarises the proposals and provides two pages on each. Continue reading “Reshaping American tobacco policy: eight proposals for the Trump administration”

Bad science, poor insights and likely to do harm – rapid reaction to the Surgeon General’s terrible e-cigarette report

Warning: The Surgeon General has crossed the boundary between science and propaganda

The Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarettes is out. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. It is truly terrible – a heady mix of emotive propaganda and a completely warped and one-sided account of the science built on a lack of insight into youth behaviors and no knowledge of the tobacco and nicotine market or its consumers.

Previous posts: see Five questions for the Surgeon General about e-cigarette science and The critic’s guide to bad vaping science (both 7 Dec 2016)

I’ve extracted the overall conclusions and main chapter conclusions from the report and provided a rapid reaction to each of these.

Continue reading “Bad science, poor insights and likely to do harm – rapid reaction to the Surgeon General’s terrible e-cigarette report”

Bad science, accountability and courage – speech by AG Tom Miller

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller
Tom Miller: “public policy through facts and science rather than ideology”

On 17 November 2016, the Iowa Attorney General, Tom Miller, gave a speech at the E-cigarette Summit 2016 (with biography) on e-cigarettes examining the claims of anti-vaping activists, and their scientific, ethical and legal basis. The full text of the speech is here: America Needs England (PDF). I reported an earlier speech here.

The speech should be widely read, especially in the United States. To facilitate an informed reading, I have reproduced the speech here, with some thematic subheadings, source links and illustrations [these are my additions].

Continue reading “Bad science, accountability and courage – speech by AG Tom Miller”

Smoking and vaping in Britain? Show me the data!

E-cigarettes versus cigarettes – show me the data

The UK official statistics bureau, the Office of National Statistics, has published new official smoking and vaping stats for 2014, with the bonus of an e-cigarette survey for 2015. The geographical base is Great Britain (GB) – the difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom is Northern Ireland. The age range is ≥16. Pretty good news… Continue reading “Smoking and vaping in Britain? Show me the data!”

Internet searches reflect vaping’s surge – and money was paid to discover this?

Vapers aren’t doing as they’re told – apparently

Good grief. Researchers at the San Diego State University and the University of North Carolina have been studying internet searches on vaping. I would actually find this interesting if they had attempted to learn something from the trends and find new insights, but they have just fabricated a cheap and deeply unconvincing scare, and that is based on a wholesale misunderstanding of the subject of their study.

Here is the press notice in italics annotated with my comments in dark blue. Continue reading “Internet searches reflect vaping’s surge – and money was paid to discover this?”

More on New England Journal of Medicine fake formaldehyde scandal


On 20 October, I received an enigmatic reply (above) from the Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. This was to my letter from April complaining about the publication of a flawed study on e-cigarettes and formaldehyde in the NEJM. His note didn’t say much, but it was copied to around 40 others, so I thought I ought to reply. It is an opportunity to write explaining some of the fallout.

You can refresh your memory of this sorry episode here and here.

Here is my response…  Continue reading “More on New England Journal of Medicine fake formaldehyde scandal”

Regulating disruptive technologies – three papers

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 16.40.17

In 2013, Goldman Sachs declared e-cigarettes to be a disruptive technology: the search for creative destruction

Eight Disruptive Themes

(1) E-cigarettes: The potential to transform the tobacco industry. Imagine a product that is possibly >99% less harmful than cigarettes, delivers a similar use experience and offers a better economic bargain— this is the proposition of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs). We believe e-cigs have the potential to alter the status quo of the US tobacco market and accelerate the volume decline of traditional cigarettes.

But what does the academic literature tell us about regulating disruptive new technologies like e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products or novel nicotine products?  If you want to get beyond zealous proposals for outright bans, crude restrictions and gratuitous burdens you will need to bypass the health journals and consult scholarship in academic law journals.  Here are three paper that offer useful insights – none deal explicitly with tobacco or nicotine. Sadly, there is little sign that these insights have been grasped by FDA, the European Union or WHO.  Continue reading “Regulating disruptive technologies – three papers”

Lipstick on a pig: response to consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive


I responded to the Department of Health consultation on implementing the EU Tobacco Products Directive [documents / consultation]. The on-line survey system accessible from the consultation page is by far the easiest way to respond. Closes 3rd September 2015.

To be candid, I find this consultation quite patronising. In the manner of putting lipstick on a pig, they are not consulting on the Directive itself – that is irrevocably fixed (albeit subject to legal action that could strike it down), but on implementation detail.

The part of the directive itself that deals with e-cigarettes (Article 20) was never subject to consultation.

Unsurprisingly it amounts to little more than pointless bureaucratic harassment – see why here.  So this consultation deals only with options allowed within the fixed terms directive. I was thinking of not responding, but figured any opportunity to discourage the creation of an even bigger mess should be taken.  The big mistakes were made in October 2013 – this consultation is a consequence.

My response below – questions not answered are greyed out. PS. if you respond, please give your own thoughts, in your own words, politely and constructively.

What I really think is at at Q.24 and 25.

Responses to questions start here:

Continue reading “Lipstick on a pig: response to consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive”

Wales vaping ban: silver lining may be larger than cloud

A war on vaping is a war on the poor

There’s an interesting development in the UK today: the Welsh Government has announced that it will ban vaping in public places and work places where smoking is banned (for reference population of Wales is 3m, UK is 64m).  But that’s not the interesting development. Continue reading “Wales vaping ban: silver lining may be larger than cloud”

What is wrong with the Tobacco Products Directive for vapour products?

Provisions for vapour products were designed in a political process in haste, in secret, without consultation, with no impact assessment and in the face of opposing scientific advice – and it shows

The European Union directive governing e-cigarette regulation is a catalogue of poorly designed, disproportionate and discriminatory measures that will achieve nothing useful but do a great deal of harm. Let’s review the main issues: Continue reading “What is wrong with the Tobacco Products Directive for vapour products?”