Jul. 2 2002
Washington, DC — Today's decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop the sale of "nicotine water" recognizes that nicotine is a dangerous and powerfully addictive drug that should be regulated to protect consumers. That should be the case whether the nicotine is in water or in tobacco. The same rationale should lead the FDA to immediately assert jurisdiction over other nicotine-containing products that, like nicotine water, it can regulate under existing law, either because they are not conventional tobacco products or because of the health claims being made about them. The FDA's reasoning also underscores the urgent need for Congress to pass legislation granting the FDA authority over the most dangerous nicotine-containing products – cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
It is especially significant that the FDA's decision recognized nicotine addiction as a disease and found that nicotine water is an unapproved drug under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because it is intended to treat or mitigate nicotine addiction. These same reasons should lead the FDA to act now to regulate other new nicotine-containing products that are being marketed as alternatives to traditional cigarettes. These products include Star Scientific's Ariva, a candy-like, mint-flavored tobacco lozenge, and new cigarette or cigarette-like products that are being marketed with claims that they reduce health risks for smokers, including R.J. Reynolds' Eclipse, Brown & Williamson's Advance and Vector's Omni. The same public health groups that petitioned the FDA to take action on nicotine water have petitioned for action on these other products as well. In fact, it is even more urgent that the FDA act to regulate these other products because, unlike nicotine water, they are already on the market and being used by consumers.
Today's decision also points out the absurdity of current law that allows the FDA to regulate some nicotine-containing products while exempting cigarettes and other traditional tobacco products that kill more than 400,000 Americans every year. Strong bipartisan bills to grant the FDA authority over all tobacco products have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, including H.R. 1097 introduced by Reps. Ganske (R-IA), Dingell (D-MI) and Waxman (D-CA), and S. 2626 introduced by Sens. Kennedy (D-MA) and DeWine (R-OH). It is time for Congress to pass these bills and end special protection for the tobacco industry.