Federal Regulation On E-Cigs Could Save Thousands of Lives, Expert Claims

By Victoria Kim 10/22/14

Despite being a multi-billion dollar business, electronic cigarettes have managed to avoid federal oversight.

cigarette and e-cig.jpg
Not much difference? Shutterstock

Electronic cigarettes have enormous potential in the nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) market, according to one expert, who said the devices could be a life saver.

The one major hindrance that is preventing the devices from wider use is that they are not regulated, Dr. Nathan Cobb, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care at Georgetown University School of Medicine, told LiveScience.

Cobb said e-cigarettes have the potential to bring about the demise of traditional smoking and save thousands of lives, but while there is virtually no federal oversight of the business, the so-called “black-market nicotine therapy” will remain an outlier among conventional NRTs such as nicotine gum and the patch.

Fortunately for people who agree with Cobb, the Food and Drug Administration is in the process of establishing a set of federal regulations on electronic cigarettes. In April, the agency proposed a new set of rules that would require e-cigarette producers to register with the FDA and disclose their products’ ingredients, manufacturing processes, and scientific data.

Under the proposed rules, companies that wish to advertise that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes must provide the FDA with scientific evidence supporting their claim.  The minimum age to purchase the devices would be 18, which is a rule already enforced in more than half of states.

The FDA is in the process of making final changes to the rules after a 75-day public comment period. The rules mark the first time the agency would extend its regulatory authority to e-cigarettes. In the absence of federal regulations, many states have passed their own laws banning the devices from public places, regulating their sale, and taxing them.

Though the long-term effects of inhaling nicotine vapor are unclear, and some devices that are subjected to high temperatures produce a handful of carcinogens found in cigarettes, many researchers agree that e-cigarettes will turn out to be much safer than conventional cigarettes.

However, Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, maintains that e-cigarettes are not as effective in smoking cessation as they have been marketed to be.

“This commentary assumes that e-cigarettes, as currently in the marketplace, will help people quit smoking and ignores the consistent evidence from population-based studies that smokers who use e-cigarettes are about one-third less likely to quit smoking,” said Glantz.

Still, the device’s popularity is undeniable, as it has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. “If all other methods have failed for an individual, it’s a disservice not to offer this other alternative,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, regarding whether state quitting programs should offer e-cigarettes to smokers who want to quit.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr