It’s been almost a year now since the FDA first issued a proposal to begin the process of regulation for the e-cigarette industry and many believe that more than enough time has gone by without regulation in place. Two such groups are the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research. The two combined organizations have nearly 70,000 members and they believe that it is time the United States’ Government stepped up to researching and regulation “electronic nicotine delivery systems.”
“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 American Society of Clinical Oncology, said in a recent statement from the organization.
The statement from the two agencies is primarily just encouraging the urgent need to conduct new research in the fast-growing electronic cigarette marketplace. The agencies also listed their recommendations for actions and measures that can be taken by state and federal government. The list included such items as requiring manufacturers to register their products with the FDA and identifying chemicals and levels of nicotine in their products on the packaging. They also suggest that e-cigarette manufacturers are required to take measures to discourage and prevent youth and adolescent use of their vaping products.
Some critics are worried that the FDA regulations, when enacted, will not be enough and not come soon enough either. Neither the FDA’s initial proposal nor the joint statement from the cancer research organizations suggest a ban on television or print advertising by e-cigarette makers. E-cigarettes also, unlike their combustible counterparts, are also still allowed in movies and in other product placement advertising opportunities. There’s also no mention of regulating e-cigarette “flavorings,” such as mint or fruity flavors, which many believe should be banned just as they were with traditional cigarettes after some studies found they were linked to elevated smoking rates among teenagers. The truth is, even when regulation is enacted, it could take years before things are truly operating as the FDA intends.
The actual FDA proposal, published in April 2014, requires a number of actions from current e-cigarette manufacturers in order to stay in compliance with the organization. The proposal would require the FDA to review all e-cigarette products. The rule would ban the distribution of free samples of e-cigarettes and sales in any sort of vending machines. Health warnings on the label would, of course, be mandatory. In addition, manufacturers would be unable to tout the health benefits of their devices, unless the FDA deemed the science behind those claims to be true.
Many are still waiting for the FDA’s endorsements, despite the numerous studies that are beginning to crop up in support of the health benefits of e-cigarettes. Michael Steinberg of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University is still waiting on the FDA, “As someone who runs a treatment program for tobacco addicts, I would love to be able to endorse the use of e-cigarettes as an alternative but I cannot do that because we don’t know the risks involved, nor can we be sure that moving to e-cigarettes really helps people stop smoking.”
The truth is there have been many studies, and while more studies are always welcome, and necessary, there really is plenty of proof that e-cigarettes are not only less dangerous than their smoke and tar laden counterparts, but there is also extensive evidence that they are an effective device to help people quit smoking.
According to a recent editorial in the British Journal of Medical Practice, many believe that e-cigarettes may hold the key to saving thousands of lives by helping people kick their smoking habit. The editorial reviewed recent studies at the University College of London that concluded that “The vapor contains nothing like the concentrations of carcinogens and toxins as cigarette smoke. In fact, toxin concentrations are almost all well below 1/20th that of cigarette smoke.” And this is only one of the studies that support how much healthier e-cigarettes can be.
Even the American Heart Association understands the benefit of e-cigarettes and is behind the use of e-cigarettes as a cessation device. The AHA released a policy statement in August 2014 that cites a study published by the Society for the Study of Addiction in which, “A large cross-sectional study showed that smokers who wanted to quit without professional help were significantly more likely to report abstinence using e-cigarettes than with traditional cessation aids or going ‘cold turkey.’”
We can but hope that the FDA acknowledges these studies as they get closer to enacting their regulation standards though it does seem strange when you think about the future of regulation. The statement from the two cancer research organizations brings light to the interesting fact that with regulation will come new tax revenues that would be available to fund more studies. This seems slightly askew, sort of putting the cart before the horse. Doesn’t the FDA need to review their research, before enacting the heavy regulation that is inevitable?
While the FDA allowed for researchers, policy groups and other organizations and individuals involved in the e-cigarette industry to submit their reports and suggestions to them up until August 2014, the question still beckons what will the FDA actually be considering when they finally do enact regulation?
Regulation stands to be a logistical nightmare, especially for the smaller e-cigarette manufacturers, but in the end more research is exactly what is needed to solve the e-cigarette debate once and for all. If regulation truly will lead to the funding of quality and unbiased research it is only a matter of time before the FDA sanctioned researchers come up with the same conclusion that all the independent researchers have reached. E-Cigarettes are healthier. They are better for you than regular cigarettes and they can help you kick the habit. A few more studies proving that fact, certainly can’t be a horrible thing and may be the only way to silence the critics once and for all.