Even though I agree with the University of Hawaii Cancer Center’s Dr. Thomas Wills that there is no such thing as a safe cigarette; and I agree with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that we need to do more to combat the rise in underage smoking, if I had to choose a hill to die on, it would be the one defending the insightful opinion of Dr. William Haning, Wills’ esteemed colleague and an expert in the treatment of addiction.

Haning recently expressed it on PBS Hawaii Insights: “the original gateway drug is testosterone … and that it’s not coincidental at somewhere around 13, 14 or 15 comes the inclination to start using nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol all at once.”

Human nature being what it is, ideology, it would appear, is hardly a match for sensory experience.

Chair Richard Creagan Conference committee hearing on pesticide being rescheduled for tomorow down to the wire.

Rep. Richard Creagan at a hearing last year. His House Bill 1509 on tobacco prohibitions, which exempts e-cigs, has been held in committee.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

At best, electronic smoking devices are meant to be a step in the right direction, not a cure-all, for the 1.1 billion adult smokers in this world who are currently addicted to combustible tobacco and are powerless to quit. The hope is that adult smokers with the aid of ESDs can eventually wean themselves off of smoking entirely. At the very least, ESDs are no more lethal than a burning cigarette, and potentially a lot better for smokers and those around them.

To someone who made his living working on smoke-filled airplanes for 40 years, that much is obvious. Short of one blowing up in your face like an exploding cigar and nicking an artery, the evidence to date suggests that you’ll live a lot longer getting your nicotine from an ESD than a burning cigarette.

Which is why Big Island representative Dr. Richard Creagan’s ambitious call for an effective ban on marketing cigarettes in our state by 2024 (House Bill 1509) exempts ESDs from his bill. Vaping is also fast becoming the method of choice for users of recreational marijuana, the legalization of which Creagan favors. With one foot in the present and one in the future, Creagan has a vision for a smoke-free Hawaii that deserves serious consideration.

Creagan is not the only one eager to see smoking disappear. Whether he knows it or not, he shares common cause with mainstream tobacco’s Philip Morris International, which has invested billions into the research and development of a portfolio of safer alternative tobacco products with the science to back them. Available in 40 countries, all that awaits their introduction into the U.S. market is the Food and Drug Administration’s approval, long in coming for reasons best known only to Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

Today’s ESDs face an uncertain future. Excessive and onerous regulation slated for 2022 threatens the smaller manufacturers of these products unless Congress acts to exempt ESDs already on the market before 2016 from the FDA’s lengthy and protracted Premarket Tobacco Application process.

If nothing is done to relax the FDA’s ruling, most manufacturers will be forced to close their doors, putting thousands out of work, tragically denying potentially life-saving products to millions of smokers, and ultimately putting the FDA in the awkward position of stifling the very innovation Commissioner Gottlieb is calling for.

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