Lung Societies Want Restrictions or Ban on e-Cigarettes

Megan Brooks

July 10, 2014

Electronic cigarettes are potentially harmful to human health, and governments should ban or restrict their use until their health effects are better known, advise experts from leading international lung organizations in a position statement.

The position statement, from the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), is being presented July 9 at a meeting in New York City hosted by FIRS and the Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) Alliance called "Shared Drivers, Shared Solutions: NCDs, Lung Health and Sustainable Development."

The meeting coincides with the United Nations High-Level Review on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases being held July 10 and 11, which will include, for the first time, chronic respiratory illness including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is the third-leading cause of death worldwide, according to a FIRS news release.

"The gravity of tobacco use on global health and the historical behavior of the tobacco industry that has included deceit about the health effects of tobacco, intentional marketing to children, and manipulating nicotine levels in cigarettes to maintain addiction should prompt us to proceed cautiously," Dean Schraufnagel, MD, lead author of the statement and past president of the American Thoracic Society, said in the release.

"Nicotine is central to lifelong addiction, and these are nicotine delivery devices," he added.

The FIRS position statement on electronic nicotine delivery devices states the following:

  • the safety of electronic cigarettes has not been adequately demonstrated;

  • the addictive power of nicotine and its untoward effects should not be underestimated;

  • the potential benefits of electronic nicotine delivery devices, including harm reduction and as an aid to smoking cessation, have not been well studied;

  • potential benefits to an individual smoker should be weighed against harm to the population of increased social acceptability of smoking and use of nicotine;

  • health and safety claims regarding electronic nicotine delivery devices should be subject to evidentiary review;

  • adverse health effects for third parties exposed to the emissions of electronic cigarettes cannot be excluded;

  • electronic nicotine delivery devices should be restricted or banned, at least until more information about their safety is available;

  • if electronic nicotine delivery devices are permitted, they should be regulated as medicines and subject to the same evidentiary review of other medicines;

  • if electronic nicotine delivery devices are not regulated as medicines, they should be regulated as tobacco products;

  • research supported by sources other than the tobacco or electronic cigarette industry should be carried out to determine the effect of electronic nicotine delivery devices on health in a wide variety of settings;

  • the use and population effects of electronic nicotine delivery devices should be monitored; and

  • all information derived from this research should be conveyed to the public in a clear manner.

Established in 2001, FIRS is an organization made up of the world's leading respiratory societies, including the American Thoracic Society, the Asociación Latinoamericana del Thorax, the American College of Chest Physicians, the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology, the European Respiratory Society, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and the Pan African Thoracic Society.

The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally, the release explains.

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