electronic cigarette
August 26, 2014

Heart Association Calls For E-Cigarettes To Be Regulated As Tobacco Products

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While the data suggests that the e-cigarettes appear to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes and could in some cases help people kick the habit, the American Heart Association said on Sunday that since the products contain nicotine, they should be classified as tobacco products and subject to all applicable laws.

The policy statement, which has been published in the organization’s journal Circulation, explained that there has been little research into whether or not the electronic devices work as smoking cessation aids, with just two randomized controlled trials, one large cross-sectional study, and some anecdotal reports and online surveys analyzing the issue.

“The overall health effects of e-cigarettes should be considered both in the context of the intrinsic toxicity of e-cigarettes and with regard to their relative toxicity compared with the well-known injurious effects of smoking conventional cigarettes,” the panel of authors, who completed the work on the group’s Advocacy Coordinating Committee, Council on Care and Outcomes Research, wrote in their report.

“Even if there are some intrinsic adverse health effects of e-cigarettes, there would be a public health benefit if e-cigarettes proved to be much less hazardous than combustible cigarettes and if smokers could switch entirely from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes,” they added. “However, in general, the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been well studied, and the potential harm incurred by long-term use of these devices remains completely unknown.”

According to AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione, the American Heart Association’s policy statement takes a similar stance as that unofficially assumed by the American Cancer Society back in May. Both groups are concerned about the products and in favor of additional regulation, especially when it comes to younger smokers, and both encourage smokers to try proven traditional cessation methods first.

However, if those established techniques fail, Heart Association president Dr. Elliott Antman said that it would be “reasonable to have a conversation” about e-cigarettes, which are battery-powered devices that vaporize nicotine, Marchione said. Similarly, the Cancer Society had previously said that e-cigarettes “may be a reasonable option” for those who had already unsuccessfully tried to quit using methods like nicotine patches, she added.

However, in a statement, Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown emphasized the group’s concerns over the use of the devices by adolescents and teenagers. In fact, the organization said that a recent survey of 6th through 12th grade students found that 1.78 million high school and middle school students in the US had tried e-cigarettes as of 2012, and that 76.3 percent of e-cigarette users said they also smoked conventional cigarettes.

“Over the last 50 years, 20 million Americans died because of tobacco. We are fiercely committed to preventing the tobacco industry from addicting another generation of smokers,” she said. “Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation’s youth, and could renormalize smoking in our society.”

“Nicotine is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical no matter what form it takes – conventional cigarettes or some other tobacco product,” added Dr. Antman. “Every life that has been lost to tobacco addiction could have been prevented. We must protect future generations from any potential smokescreens in the tobacco product landscape that will cause us to lose precious ground in the fight to make our nation 100 percent tobacco-free.”

E-cigarettes, which were created in China and first sold in 2003, are available in over 7,000 different flavors, including many that are attractive to youngsters (such as bubble gum, caramel, chocolate, fruit and mint) the Heart Association said. In April, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules banning the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18 and subjecting industry to federal regulation for the first time.

However, the organization said that the proposal “fell short” of what they had been hoping for. The Heart Association said that e-cigarettes “should be regulated under the same laws as other tobacco products and prohibited from being marketed or sold to young people,” and that the FDA’s proposal “did not go far enough in limiting online sales, advertising and flavored products, all tactics used to make e-cigarettes appealing to young people.”