Count us fans of the Food and Drug Administration’s historic push to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes, which, in concert with a proposed ban on menthol-flavored cancer sticks, promises to liberate millions of Americans from deadly addiction. Cigarette smoking is responsible for nearly a half-million deaths in America per year, a fact easily forgotten amid understandable attention to COVID-19’s carnage and the opioid epidemic. It’s the tar and carbon monoxide and other chemicals in burning tobacco that kill, but it’s the nicotine that keeps smokers smoking.
A parallel FDA crackdown on some vaping products — most recently manifest in its demand that Juul products be removed from the U.S. market — rests on far shakier ground.
Vaping is not good for human health; no teenager should get hooked on any addictive substance if the government can help it. But federal regulators live in a world of alternatives, not absolutes, and by every measurable indicator, vaping remains much healthier than lighting up a burning cigarette and drawing in the smoke, and can help people quit.