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AHA: E-cigarettes threaten to addict next generation of smokers

Tuesday August 26, 2014
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E-cigarettes pose a danger because they target young people, can keep people hooked on nicotine and threaten to re-normalize tobacco use, according to an Aug. 25 American Heart Association article and the association’s first policy statement on these products. The AHA released its position and recommendations based on an analysis of the limited scientific research available on e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are tobacco products and should be subject to all laws that apply to these products, according to recommendations in the policy statement. The association also calls for strong new regulations to prevent access, sales and marketing of e-cigarettes to youth, and for more research into the product’s health impact.

“Over the last 50 years, 20 million Americans died because of tobacco,” Nancy Brown, CEO of the AHA, said in the article. “Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation’s youth and could renormalize smoking in our society.”

According to the article, the policy statement examines several aspects of e-cigarettes, including data suggesting e-cigarettes appear to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes and that, in some cases, the product could help people quit smoking. However, those observations are based on a limited pool of medical research without long-term results, according to the article.

“People need to know that e-cigarettes are unregulated and there are many variables that we don’t know about them,” Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville in Kentucky who led the 10 researchers and physicians who wrote the policy statement, said.

Yet, the “aggressive and unregulated marketing efforts” for e-cigarettes “could erode some people’s beliefs in the harmful effects of smoking,” the policy statement’s authors warned.

“Nicotine is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical no matter what form it takes — conventional cigarettes or some other tobacco product,” AHA President Elliott Antman, MD, said in the article. “Every life that has been lost to tobacco addiction could have been prevented. We must protect future generations from any potential smokescreens in the tobacco product landscape that will cause us to lose precious ground in the fight to make our nation 100 percent tobacco-free.”

E-cigarettes are available under 465 brands and in 7,760 flavors, and can be purchased online and in retail outlets, according to the article. By 2017, sales margins for e-cigarettes are expected to increase to about $10 billion.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration proposed rules banning the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18 and subjecting the $2 billion industry to federal regulation for the first time. Such rules had been long sought by the AHA and other organizations, according to the article.


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