The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) has released a new report looking at more than 800 scientific studies about the effects of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) on users’ health. The study, mandated by Congress, is the most comprehensive analysis of existing research about e-cigarettes.
The report draws dozens of conclusions about a range of public health impacts of e-cigarettes. However, it does not conclude whether the overall impact is either positive or negative. The report pays special attention to the impact of e-cigarettes on children and teenagers, who use them at higher rates than adults do.
Young people use e-cigarettes more than any other tobacco product, and use them at higher rates than do adults. The NAS report found a strong association between youth using e-cigarettes and their likelihood of trying conventional cigarettes. It’s not yet clear whether young e-cigarette users who try regular cigarettes will continue smoking over the long term.
In the past, the US Surgeon General has criticized e-cigarette marketers for using strategies that target young people. Nicotine is highly addictive at any age, but is especially dangerous for children, teenagers, and young adults because their brains are still developing at this age.
Most users, including youth, prefer to use flavored e-cigarettes. Many flavors appear to be aimed at children, with names such as Cherry Crush and Cotton Candy.
Experts from the American Cancer Society (ACS) acknowledge the continuing issues brought up by the NAS report, including:
These are similar to findings of a recent comprehensive review conducted by ACS researchers. That review concludes that the overall population health effects of electronic cigarettes are complex, and there is not yet agreement among the scientific community. The populations most vulnerable to harmful effects of e-cigarettes might be youth and pregnant women because they are more likely than other populations to be harmed by exposure to nicotine.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, is urging the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use its full authority to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The FDA announced in 2016 that it would begin regulating e-cigarettes, hookahs, cigars, and other tobacco products the same way it does regular cigarettes. But it later delayed until 2022 the deadline for tobacco companies to apply for approval to keep selling their products.
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