Dems say people lose little pleasure when they quit smoking

Congressional Democrats say people don't enjoy cigarettes quite as much as the Food and Drug Administration thinks they do.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg meant to influence the agency's consideration of rules for electronic cigarettes, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and dozens of other lawmakers accuse the agency of drastically underestimating the benefits of its tobacco regulations.

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The lawmakers point to a study from economists that argues the agency is undervaluing the positive impact the rules would have on public health by 70 percent.

In making regulations on tobacco, the FDA accounts for the "lost pleasure" of people who quit smoking in making its decisions.

The lawmakers are basically arguing that the FDA puts too much stock in that calculation.

"The FDA's calculations assume that individuals who stop using these tobacco products lose so much enjoyment that they, in effect, experience only three years of benefit for every 10 years of life gained," the lawmakers write.

They said the notion of "lost pleasure" is a myth because most people who smoke actually want to quit but can't beat the addiction. 

By the FDA's line of reasoning, the lawmakers argue, "a morbidly obese child who reduces his intake of fatty foods and thus adds 10 years to his life expectancy should be seen as effectively gaining only an additional three years of benefit."

The letter comes as the FDA is looking to regulate electronic cigarettes.

The comment period for the FDA's e-cigarettes regulation closes Friday with more than 75,000 comments. Opponents of the rule argue that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes and could be used to help people "kick the habit."

"The FDA's proposed regulation would decimate the small businesses that make up America's independent e-cigarette industry and remove a powerful tool smokers are using to kick the habit," said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association.