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Two Major Cancer Groups Call for Research and Regulation of E-cigarettes

Jan 19, 2015

Two of the nation's largest cancer research and treatment groups are calling on the government to regulate "electronic nicotine delivery systems" and step up research on their health effects.

The members of American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research, in a joint statement, endorsed the urgent need for new research into the health effects of e-cigarettes, the journal Science reports. "While e-cigarettes may reduce smoking rates and attendant adverse health risks, we will not know for sure until these products are researched and regulated," said Peter Paul Yu, president of the 35,000-member oncology society. "We are concerned that e-cigarettes may encourage nonsmokers, particularly children, to start smoking and develop nicotine addiction."

The statement contains recommendations to state and federal agencies, including requiring makers of e-cigarettes to register their products with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to identify the chemicals and levels of nicotine in various brands, and to agree to help stop teenagers from vaping, according to Science.

In April 2014, the FDA issued a proposal to start regulating e-cigarettes. Under this proposal, e-cigarette makers would not be able to claim health benefits for their products until the science backs the claims. The rule would also ban the distribution of free samples of e-cigarettes and vending machine sales. There would be mandatory health warnings. The FDA has not finalized the rules. The researchers and health professionals hope their statement will highlight the need to move quickly, according to Science.

Michael Wood of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University, who runs a treatment program for tobacco, said he cannot endorse the use of e-cigarettes because "we don't know the risks involved, nor can we be sure that moving to e-cigarettes really helps people stop smoking." It may turn out, Steinberg says, that "smokers who start vaping tend to end up using both e-cigarettes and flammable ones or that the nicotine produced by e-cigarettes is unexpectedly toxic."

Antismoking activists argue that vaping could become a "gateway habit" that could draw nonsmokers toward cigarette use. Some researchers worry about the use of fruit and candy flavorings in e-liquids. Minty and fruit flavors were banned from traditional cigarettes after they were linked to elevated smoking rates among teenagers, Science reports. In December, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that 17 percent of high school seniors said they had vaped at least once a month, compared with 14 percent who admitted to smoking. Vaping among 10 graders, at 16 percent, was more than twice the rate of smoking.

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