E-Cigarettes Under Review by the FDA

Electronic Cigarettes (E-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that turn liquid nicotine into a vapor that you inhale; many of these look like real cigarettes. For some smokers, electronic cigarettes may satisfy nicotine cravings. They can be used in nonsmoking areas and they may have less of the harmful chemicals that are in cigarette smoke. But they do contain small amounts of harmful chemicals.

There was a study published by British researchers indicated that the use of e-cigarettes could assist in smoking cessation. For those wishing to quit the harmful habit this was brilliant news. The study found that those who wanted to quit smoking were 60% more likely to succeed if they used an e-cigarette as opposed to the patch or gum. But is this traditional cigarette alternative actually being well received in the community? Is it actually lowering the number of people who smoke traditional cigarettes?

Research indicates that while this was thought to be a way to reduce smoking, it has had no significant effect on decreasing smoking rates. Additionally there are growing concerns on the safety of e-cigarettes as well as the possibility that the e-cigarette is actually a gateway to introduce nonsmokers to smoking.

For these reasons the organizations and groups such as American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research have called on the federal government to move quickly to regulate e-cigarettes and increase research on their health effects.

In April 2014, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) proposed a “deeming rule”, which was basically a blueprint for a regulatory framework for e-cigarettes. This proposal includes provisions such as a ban on sale to minors and a requirement to disclose ingredients.

The FDA said it expects to publish a final rule in June 2015. The FDA said in a statement it needed “ample time to fully review and analyze these issues.” It said the subject involved “complicated rulemaking.” Meanwhile, U.S. e-cigarette sales topped $2.5 billion at retail last year and are expected to surpass $3.5 billion this year.

States have begun to propose regulations regarding e-cigarettes. Over 60 bills designed to rein in the “vape” industry are being considered in 21 state legislatures from Oregon to Virginia. Wednesday, January 28, 2015, California declared e-cigarettes a health threat and issued a 21-page report warning young people could become nicotine addicts if lawmakers don’t step in to regulate the fast-growing industry soon.

Ultimately, we must wait until June to see what the FDA decides but it is clear that while there are benefits to the use of e-cigarettes to assist in smoking cessation, there are growing concerns on whether the benefits outweigh the known and unknown risks of its use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year, reported that more than 250,000 youths who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013. This number reflects a three-fold increase, from about 79,000 in 2011, to more than 263,000 in 2013.

Alexandra Bhatti, student intern Jacoby & Meyers.