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EDITORIAL: Stifling a public-health victory

At times, politics can lead to seemingly unholy alliances. Put politics and business together, though, and you can have Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker playing for the same team. That’s the case with the latest effort to crush the e-cigarette industry.

Monica Showalter of the American Media Institute reports that Democratic lawmakers and health advocates have joined with drug companies and tobacco companies in the fight against vaping. Ms. Showalter noted that the coalition of strange bedfellows was behind the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement last month that e-cigarettes will be regulated as rigorously as tobacco beginning in August.

So how did that convergence come about? Follow the bouncing ball.

First, Democrats are against unregulated vaping devices (to be honest, the Democrats are against unregulated anything). Then, Ms. Showalter notes, drug companies “have huge sums invested in prescription smoking-cessation drugs, covered in many cases under the Democrat-passed Affordable Care Act, which they helped shape,” so they want government protectionism for their products. Meanwhile, tobacco companies, caught off guard by vaping’s tremendous growth, want the heavy hand of government — via the FDA — to help them “shore up market positions in both tobacco and e-cigarettes.”

Finally, health-care advocates, the last leg of the alliance, claim that e-cigarettes are “an enticement to children.”

But it must be noted that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco, nor its harmful carcinogens. So the FDA is now regulating as a tobacco product something that doesn’t have tobacco!

Which speaks to the bigger point here: this alliance’s utter failure to recognize the undeniable health benefits gained when millions of Americans — 9 million and growing — choose to vape rather than light up cigarettes.

This spring, Britain’s Royal College of Physicians — the equivalent of our Office of the Surgeon General — released a study showing e-cigarettes were 95 percent less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Further, just last month, The Associated Press reported that America’s adult smoking rate fell to 15 percent last year, down from 17 percent in 2014, the biggest one-year decline in more than 20 years.

There are plenty of anti-tobacco crusaders who recognize the positive health benefits of vaping. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month, Michael B. Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health who has long advocated for anti-smoking policies, lambasted the FDA over the issue. The agency, he wrote, “seems bent on blocking what might have been one of the most substantial public-health victories of our lifetimes.”

Blogger Ace of Spades — who kicked cigarettes thanks to vaping — summed it up: “I guess the U.S. government, which for years has given people diabetes and obesity with completely wrong dietary advice, is now determined to murder them with cancer and heart disease as well.”

Apparently so. Ms. Showalter noted that vaping advocates say the cost of FDA approvals will wipe out an industry that’s improving public health.

The FDA needs to rethink these ludicrous regulations. Or better yet, snuff them out altogether.

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