E-cigarettes not yet proven safe; potential gateway to tobacco for youth
With the third and largest of the U.S. tobacco companies planning an e-cigarette product launch this fall, this next frontier for “Big Tobacco” provides renewed presence in a declining marketplace. It’s also a potential gateway to new smokers, particularly among teens and in emerging/foreign markets, according to behavioral scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that provide inhaled doses of nicotine vapors and flavorings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 6 percent of adults have tried e-cigarettes, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010. Absent of tobacco, e-cigarettes have been promoted as a possible aid in getting people to stop smoking and thereby reducing their lung cancer risk.
However, MD Anderson cancer prevention experts Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D., director of the Tobacco Treatment Program, and Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program, caution that more research is needed to understand the potential role of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation.
“Independent studies must rigorously investigate e-cigarettes, as there’s considerable potential benefit in these products if they’re regulated and their safety is ensured,” says Cinciripini. “But promoting the e-cigarettes already on the shelves as ‘safe’ is misleading and, if looked at as a harmless alternative to cigarettes, could potentially lead to a new generation of smokers more likely to become tobacco dependent.”
With the impending introduction of another e-cigarette, Prokhorov and Cinciripini urge consumers to know the following information.