NAAG wants the FDA to regulate electronic cigarettes

fda-ecigsThe world in general and the internet in particular is abuzz with chatter about electronic cigarettes this week after the American National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) called on the US Food and Drink Association (FDA) to impose tighter restrictions on the devices. Commonly known as “e cigarettes”, electronic smoking devices have exploded in popularity in recent years, earning them both acclaim and condemnation. Initially marketed as a tool to aid smokers cut down or quit, e cigarettes may or may not contain a concentrated nicotine solution, to cure smokers’ urge in a similar way to nicotine gum or patches. Made to look like a real cigarette, with an end that lights up and real “smoke” (actually a liquid vapour), they may also help stave off cigarette cravings by mimicking the process of smoking a real cigarette. Crucially, e cigarettes do not contain tobacco, the most harmful element in real cigarettes, which has led to their marketing as a stop smoking aid, or healthy alternative to cigarettes. Because they do not give off toxic fumes, e cigarettes may also be used indoors, fuelling their popularity as a way of getting around the ban on smoking indoors in public spaces in the UK, some states of the US and other countries.

Controversy

However, it hasn’t all been rosy for the e cigarette industry of late, as this most recent move by the the NAAG shows. Some surveys have suggested a small percentage of cigarette users were non smokers before starting on electronic cigarettes, but again, the data is limited – the technology is too new for there to be any reliable data on their long term affects on health etc. This is the crux of the matter for the NAAG – they want assurances that e cigarettes are not harmful to health in the way that traditional tobacco products are. Dozens of studies have proven that the chemicals in e cigarettes are far less harmful than those in traditional cigarettes, but the technology is too new for everyone to be convinced there will be no long term repercussions, such Stanton Glantz, the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, who has spoken out in favour of e cigarettes in that they have less harmful toxins than regular cigarettes, but has expressed unease at our current lack of knowledge on the long term health impacts.

What now?

The NAAG wants to see e cigarettes regulated in the same way that ordinary tobacco products are, with regular testing and oversight of the industry. Crucially, in the letter they wrote to the FDA, the NAAG lay out a desire to impose huge curbs on the advertising of e cigarettes, bringing them in line with the restrictions on advertising traditional tobacco containing cigarettes. They say this is motivated by fear that the products are being marketed to children and would see e cigarettes no longer allowed to advertise on prime time television, and adverts have to adhere to strict standards ensuring e cigarettes are not shown as glamorous or life improving. A large part of the success of the e cigarettes industry so far has laid in unfettered advertising, with huge budgets spent on glossy ads in magazines and on TV, during such widely-watched events as the US Superbowl series. Sudden restrictions on advertising could see the thus-far healthy profits of e cigarette makers go into free fall. Much like the NAAG’s concerns about potential health impacts of e cigarettes, it is just too early to tell.

We believe that e cigs should be regulated to some degree (quality control etc.), but the latest studies should be taken into account as well.

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Consumer Reports

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