Over the Hill

The FDA should protect us from tobacco. So why delay a review of e-cigarettes?


Nicotine is an addictive poison many people get hooked on. Our government should protect us from poisonous nicotine products. Instead, it’s doing the exact opposite.

As reported in last week's Tribune, several anti-smoking groups are suing the Food and Drug Administration for delaying the review of e-cigarettes. The FDA is helping the makers of electronic cigarettes and cigars by giving them three-year and four-year extensions for submitting product review applications.

I’ve been lucky. I was able to quit smoking when I was 32, but my late wife, Mamie, couldn’t shake her nicotine addiction for decades, although she tried many times. She did eventually quit, but by then she had developed breathing problems. She had to use nebulizers two or three times a day until she died.

Phil Dirkx Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The story of tobacco is long and confusing. My encyclopedia says the Mayan people of Central America inhaled tobacco smoke more than 2,000 years ago. Later, tribes in North America started smoking it, too. And In 1492 Columbus found tribes on Caribbean islands were smoking loosely rolled cigars.

After 1492, the ships of several European explorers appeared along the American coasts. But the explorers believed they’d reached Asia. They wanted some of India’s fabled riches. They didn’t know they’d really only reached the coast of North and South America.

They called the native people they met “Indians.” That incorrect name has stuck through the years and now is generally understood and accepted. For example, in Washington, D.C., there is the National Museum of the American Indian.

And to complicate the name question even further, the word “America” is neither Asian nor American Indian. It is Italian. It was derived from the name of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. He was the first person to point out that expedition leaders were really exploring an unknown continental body and not a part of Asia.

If Vespucci were alive today he would no doubt clearly see the Food and Drug Administration is protecting the electronic cigarette companies and not the public’s health. He would publicly point that out.

Unfortunately, new ways of smoking or otherwise consuming nicotine seem glamorous to some people. Tobacco advertisers prey on those feelings to tempt people to try the latest fashionable nicotine death traps. Many people get hooked. We must convince the FDA to do its job and protect the people.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every other week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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