The Village of Hartland, Wisconsin is asking the tough questions these days when it comes to vapor products, vapor laws, and the FDA. As Hartland’s Public Hearing Board met last week to discuss matters of public health and regulation, e-cigarettes were perhaps the hottest topic of discussion.

Much like everyone else who’s been following the issue of the FDA and vapor products, Heartland’s board wanted to know: Why is the FDA not using common sense to regulate these products? In fact, Village Board member Ann Wallshlager asked exactly that.

Tobacco vs Nicotine

From the start of the discussion, members of the board wanted to understand what made e-cigarettes different from other tobacco products. The conversation clarified that the most harmful element in traditional tobacco products is not the nicotine, but rather the harmful byproducts created by combustion of the tobacco plant. Since vaporizers don't cause combustion, those harmful carcinogens and tar are not present.

At one point, the case was made that potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes all produce nicotine, but nicotine derived from those sources would not be subject to the current Tobacco code. Neither would synthetic nicotine, which is produced without any tobacco at all.

Common Sense Regulations

A concern within the vapor industry is the inability to state that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. In order to make this claim, e-cigarette manufacturers would need to file a separate application with the FDA that includes stringent rules for whether or not a product can be advertised as a "safer" alternative.

Such qualifying statements are a secondary hurdle on top of the new deeming rules that threaten to wipe out a large subset of the vapor industry as it exists today. In addition, the FDA has not approved a single product since those rules have been introduced. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, the FDA seems to be assuming vapor products harbor the exact same risks as traditional cigarettes.

Members of the Village Board were keen to point out this concerning assumption, and asked why the FDA has been so slow to recognize the differences between smoking and vaping. Wallschlager also asked if the FDA's refusal to consider e-cigarettes as its own product was actually facilitating the promotion of traditional smoking.

She is not the first to ask this question, as many vapor advocates believe legislation that bans or prohibits the sale of vapor products serves to limit their adoption and use. A recent study published in the Oxford Academic Journal supports this idea. Now that municipalities are starting to look more closely at the industry as a whole, the FDA has even more cause to do the same.