The American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research are calling on the government to regulate “electronic nicotine delivery systems” – e-cigarettes – and step up research on their health effects.
In a joint statement, the organizations expressed the urgent need for new research into the health effects of e-cigarettes, the journal Science reports. Peter Paul Yu, president of the 35,000-member oncology society, said, “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.” Yu said the researchers and health professionals are “concerned that e-cigarettes may encourage nonsmokers, particularly children, to start smoking and develop nicotine addiction.”
In April 2014, the FDA issued a proposal for the regulation of e-cigarettes. Among provisions in the proposal, e-cigarette makers would not be able to claim health benefits for their products until research backed the claims. The rule would also ban the distribution of free samples of e-cigarettes, and vending machine sales, and would require mandatory health warnings. The researchers and health professionals hope their statement will highlight the need for the FDA to move quickly to finalize the rules, according to Science.
The joint statement recommends that state and federal agencies, require e-cigarette makers to register their products with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to identify the chemicals and levels of nicotine in various brands, and to help stop teenagers vaping, according to Science. Antismoking activists argue that vaping could become a “gateway habit,” drawing nonsmokers toward cigarette use. 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, according to Science. Vaping is at 16 percent among 10 graders, more than twice the rate of smoking.
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.”