E-cigarettes are the hot tobacco control topic in 2014 and articles about them can be found every day in health news columns. Experts debate the potential dangers and benefits of e-cigarettes, and the differing viewpoints are sometimes heated (though not combustible). Some say e-cigarettes are much less harmful than traditional cigarettes and smokers should be encouraged to switch, or even dual use, if that helps them cut back. The New York Times reported this week that a new study in England found that smokers trying to quit were substantially more likely to succeed if they used electronic cigarettes than over-the-counter therapies such as nicotine patches or gum. Last week, however, a different study was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation that indicated e-cigarette use is associated with significantly lower odds of quitting smoking. All agree that much more research is needed.
Overall, the complaints about and precautions against e-cigarettes from public health and advocacy organizations far outweigh their support. And for good reason. E-cigarettes could serve as a gateway drug for youth, re-normalize cigarette smoking in public perception, and discourage or delay tobacco cessation. Click HERE for Partnership for Prevention’s new position statement on e-cigarettes which outlines other reasons for concern.
With e-cigarette experimentation and regular use skyrocketing among youth, Big Tobacco’s billion dollar marketing machine is reaping success. Teens see the products advertised on TV and social media and then can purchase them easily online. All of this leads to a simple conclusion – the Food and Drug Administration must move swiftly to regulate e-cigarettes, finalizing the rule it proposed in April of this year. Only this action will ensure the needed health warnings, age restrictions for sales, and truth in advertising on a national scale.