What actually is the FDA’s HPHC list? As many of us cigar smokers know, there are many folks in our Congress and government agencies that would like to see a complete ban on all smoking. The SCHIP Tax did not stop us, so the non-smoking politicians have enlisted the help of the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA generated a list that was published in the Federal Register during August 2011, called the Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents in tobacco products and tobacco smoke. This list of nearly 100 items contains organic chemicals, bacterial toxins, inorganic elements and even radio-isotopes. It looks more like a list of materials to build weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that the stuff to make cigars. Not even one of the constituents on the list has a number next to it identifying exactly how much of the material is actually found in tobacco or tobacco smoke.
I have heard cigar smokers talk about the FDA list as a “throw-the-mud-against-the-wall list” or that the list is “subject to refinement”. Supposedly the FDA is charged with producing a final list, with values and by brand. I can think of a lot better use of our tax dollars. I have heard others in the cigar industry say that the House Resolution HR1631 and Senate Bill S1439 proposed by Sen. Nelson (D FL) and Sen. Rubio (R FL), to protect premium cigars now has 45 co-sponsors, as of this writing. Well, we as consumers and cigar smokers cannot just sit back and wait for these legislative actions to unfold. We have to act now. The FDA has given us until 11 October 2011, to respond in writing to them with our comments. I don’t mean comments like, “this is unfair” or “your list is hogwash”. There are plenty of scientists out there smoking cigars like myself, and I am going to use my knowledge to comment with scientific evidence that shows that the HPHC list is not valid and should not be considered in establishing future laws to regulate cigars.
I looked over the list and picked a constituent at random to research, arsenic. Well, not completely at random. Why arsenic? Most people that are not scientists have heard of arsenic and know that it is considered a poison, toxin, harmful, hazardous and any other term you can think of that carries the same or similar meaning. So, how much arsenic is in tobacco, or more specifically cigars. I found a study done by the Department of Pathology, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, England on the amount of arsenic found in tobacco. They did multiple testing on all types of tobacco products such as cigarettes, pipe tobacco and cigars. Earlier studies showed as much as 100 ppb (parts per billion) of arsenic in cigarettes. What about cigars? Their study showed 0.2 to 0.4 ppb of arsenic in cigars and cigar smoke. Okay, so what does that number mean? Yes, it means that arsenic in cigars is much lower than that in cigarettes but it is still there. Should the FDA regulate it?
Now lets look at EPA and OSHA regulations. EPA regulates our drinking water and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulates our exposure to contaminants in the air we breathe during a normal 8-hour workday. What do the current regulations say? The EPA Drinking Water Standard for arsenic is 10 ppb. The OSHA TLV (threshold limit value – an amount we should not cumulatively exceed in an 8 hour work day) is 300 ppb.
Let us compare some other facts that will make this clearer. In Albuquerque, New Mexico the naturally occurring arsenic level in the drinking water has been measured as high as 100 ppb. That is 10 times higher than the EPA standard and 250 times higher than the highest level found in cigar tobacco. Furthermore, the highest amount of arsenic found in cigars and cigar smoke was 750 times lower than the OSHA TLV.
What is the conclusion? The result of my small research efforts showed that the amount of arsenic found in cigars is not at all in the range of what might be considered “harmful or potentially harmful” to quote the FDA. Arsenic should be removed from their list. How many other “HPHC” materials on the list will show similar results? It looks to me like the FDA just looked up every “HPHC” that they could find and put it on the list to scare the general public and our potentially uniformed legislators to support the future regulation of the tobacco industry, future regulations that could have a negative impact on the industry to eventually shut it down.
I would like to appeal to other cigar scientists to do some research as I did and send your written comments to the FDA to show them that we will not sit by idly and watch the government take away our cigars.
As indicated in the Federal Register, please submit your comments about Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0271 to either:
1). Electronic submission: www.regulations.gov
2). Submit written comments to:
Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852
Identify the Docket No. in your comments: FDA-2011-N-0271
For more information, you can also write directly to:
Center for Tobacco Products
Food and Drug Administration
9200 Corporate Blvd.
Rockville, MD 20850