Don't exempt e-cigarette products from FDA or tobacco standards
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The e-cigarette industry claims vaping is a better alternative to regular cigarettes because electronic cigarettes contain smaller doses of toxins

As a physician, I can assure you that inhaling chemicals is hazardous to your health regardless of whether they’re in fumes, flames, vapor or smoke. Despite industry efforts to distinguish vaping from smoking, nicotine is still a drug and carcinogens are still toxic.

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Federal legislation recently introduced by Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) proposes to eliminate oversight of e-cigarettes by exempting them from tobacco regulations and not requiring FDA approval for the e-cigarette liquid or the vaporizer device. 

 

Instead, the industry would establish its own manufacturing standards. I disagree with this and strongly oppose all attempts to exempt e-cigarette products from FDA standards or tobacco regulations.

E-cigarettes have only been in the United States since 2006 and remained unchecked until May 2016 when the FDA was deemed to have authority to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. The industry opposes this and claims e-cigarettes are a “tobacco harm reduction” tool.

However, these products deliver some of the same cancer-causing toxins as cigarettes. Heating and vaporizing those chemicals affect their chemical composition and toxicity in ways that are still undiscovered. Without standards on the e-liquids or vaporizers, there is no transparency on the amount of nicotine and other chemicals present and their health hazards.

The short-term and long-term consequences of e-cigarette use are still unknown but preliminary studies agree on the need for further research. A four-year University of Southern California (USC) study of 500 students found that e-cigarette users were two-times more likely to have had chronic bronchitis than peers who had never used an e-cigarette. These teenagers are unaware of whether they are causing permanent damage to their bodies. Countries around the world have banned e-cigarettes because of their concerns.

Yet despite these early warning signs, e-cigarette use continues to skyrocket in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General reports that today more high school students are using e-cigarettes than adults.

What’s worse is teenagers who have never tried cigarettes are vaping. Evidence further suggests that e-cigarettes are a gateway to later cigarette use in teens. This is not harm reduction. It is an emerging public health epidemic.

In my medical career, I have seen countless patients suffering from lung cancer and secondary health conditions from smoking. Many of my older patients remember when the dangers of smoking had not been published and tobacco products were not regulated.

They say time and again, “I wish I had known.” I encourage parents, health professionals, and the public to urge your legislators to continue FDA regulation of e-cigarettes as tobacco products. We need to protect the wellbeing of our children and patients before we find ourselves in another preventable public health crisis saying, “we wish we had known.”

Marc Boom, M.D., is President and CEO of Houston Methodist, an academic medical hospital system based in Houston, Texas.


 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.