Health Groups Blast E-Cigarettes, Seek Ban

Virtually all leading health organizations have blasted e-cigarettes [electronic cigarettes], warning the public about the potential serious health risks and lack of proof that they help smokers quit, and many have sought bans on their sale or use.
May 22, 2012 - PRLog -- Now several additional organizations have joined in the chorus, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who helped get the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] to assert jurisdiction over the product, and was the catalyst behind several successful law-related actions aimed at it.

The most recent organization to call for a ban on ecigs is the The Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence (ATTUD), a premier professional organization of tobacco treatment specialists, and a non-profit organization of providers dedicated to the promotion of and increased access to evidence-based treatment for the tobacco user. It just told the FDA in a strong letter that:

* ATTUD:  "These products should be removed from the market until and unless they are proven safe and effective."  "Simply stated, there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that these products do what these manufacturers and distributors claim nor is there evidence published in peer reviewed scientific journals that these products are safe. . . . The efficacy of these 'electronic cigarettes' (if any) is unknown. Consequently, many smokers attempting to reduce or eliminate their cigarette consumption with 'electronic cigarettes' may become frustrated and give up their cessation attempts. . . .  A number of smokers will die in the interval between an unsuccessful attempt and a future attempt. . . .  Finally, there is reason to fear that naive children can be exposed to these products which could serve as a gateway tobacco product.

* MAYO CLINIC:  The prestigious Mayo Clinic warns patients and visitors to its web site that "when the FDA analyzed samples of two popular brands, they found variable amounts of nicotine and traces of toxic chemicals, including known cancer-causing substances (carcinogens). This prompted the FDA to issue a warning about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes. Until more is known about the potential risks, the safe play is to say no to electronic cigarettes. If you're looking for help to stop smoking, there are many FDA-approved medications that have been shown to be safe and effective for this purpose."

JOHNS HOPKINS: The well-known Johns Hopkins medical organization has warned that "some manufacturers and retailers of e-cigarettes claim these products are healthier than normal cigarettes and can help you quit smoking. But in the absence of scientific evidence to support those contentions, it's best to avoid e-cigarettes until more research has been done. For now, if you're trying to quit smoking, stick with proven, FDA-approved stop-smoking strategies."

CONSUMER REPORTS: The respected and impartial consumer magazine "cautions that they [ecigs] have not been approved by the FDA, so safety is a major concern. E-cigarettes vary widely, and it's unclear exactly which chemicals, other than nicotine, are in the devices. Nicotine itself is extremely addictive and can cause harm, too.  Consumer Reports says more in-depth health studies need to be done, and federal oversight of e-cigarettes is necessary, and there's another concern that's been raised about e-cigarettes - that they could actually lead to smoking the real thing. That's because the devices are easily available online to minors, and they come in enticing flavors such as vanilla and piña colada. -

FDA: The Food and Drug Administration has reported that ecigs pose “acute health risks” which “cannot seriously be questioned” because they contain “toxic chemicals,” and the devices also “present a serious risk of addicting new users, including children.”  The regulatory organization also reported that:
* e-cigarette users suffer from a wide variety of potentially serious symptoms "including racing pulse, dizziness, slurred speech, mouth ulcers, heartburn, coughing, diarrhea, and sore throat"
* "nicotine [one of the two major chemicals used in the product] in high doses can be dangerous and even fatal"
* the toxic chemical diethylene glycol was found in the e-cigarettes which were tested
* various mutagenic, carcinogenic, and genotoxic chemicals were also present in the products
* the cartridges containing the nicotine and other toxic chemicals, many of which come from China, are subject to "none of the manufacturing controls required for FDA-approved nicotine-delivery products" [like nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, sprays, etc.].

ACS, ALA, AHA, ALF:  The American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association in the past were very critical of this new product, and asked that it be regulated if not banned.  The American Legacy Foundation has urged in a policy statement that "The FDA Should Take Electronic Cigarettes Off The Market Until It Is Satisfied That They Are Safe and Effective."

Recently, an ecig blew up in a Florida man's face, leaving him in a hospital with severe burns, missing his front teeth and a chunk of his tongue.

Additional concerns which have been raised by antismoking organizations include:

1. Smokers who otherwise would be able to give up all nicotine use - with sufficient assistance and/or because of higher taxes on conventional tobacco products - may instead switch to ecigs which, while they may (or may not) have a lower cancer risk, may present an equal or even higher risk of fatal heart attacks (the major cause of death from smoking) because of their nicotine content.

2. Many other smokers who otherwise might have been able to quit smoking will be able to continue smoking by using ecig in their workplaces and in other situations where the smoking of conventional tobacco products is prohibited - thus adding the health risks of using ecigs to the clearly established dangers of smoking.

3. There may be a potential risk from users repeatedly inhaling, over a considerable period of time, large amounts of propylene glycol  - a respiratory irritant used in antifreeze and known to cause respiratory tract infections - in additional to the well known cardiovascular risks of inhaling nicotine, both of which are inhaled when using ecigs.

4. Just as generations of younger children were led to become smokers by pretending to puff on candy cigarettes, today’s teenagers may likewise find e-cigarettes - with their many kid-friendly flavors, nicotine kick, and strong resemblance to actual smoking - training wheels for becoming smokers.

5. There may be a serious risk to those around e-cigarette users (especially including young children, the elderly, and those with allergies) from being forced to inhale large amounts of nicotine (a highly addictive and deadly drug which can trigger fatal heart attacks), and propylene glycol (a respiratory irritant used in antifreeze and known to cause respiratory tract infections).

Prof. Banzhaf, the lawyer who banned cigarette commercials and started the modern nonsmokers' rights movement, has long insisted the ecigs must be regulated to protect both smokers and nonsmokers, and that their sale to children should be prohibited.

"There is no justification for companies to be able to foist into the public marketplace - and to use citizens as guinea pigs to evaluate - an untested product which emits toxic and dangerous gasses without any testing or other controls to protect the public health," he argues.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW, Suite S402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418!/profbanzhaf
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