A Northwestern Medicine report published last September explains how putting e-cigarettes in the same category as cigarettes could lead to misguided research and therefore erroneously inform policy.
E-cigarettes should be investigated as a separate entity than cigarettes
“Comparing cigarettes to e-cigarettes can give us a false sense of what dangers exist because it misses the gap in understanding how people use them and how they can make people dependent,” said lead author Matthew Olonoff, a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“Before we start making policy changes, such as controlling nicotine or flavor options in e-cigarettes, we need to better understand what role these unique characteristics have.”
Is the FDA failing to make such a differentiation?
Last September the FDA launched “The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign, a new effort aimed at deterring adolescents from taking up vaping. FDACommissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb called the rise in vaping an epidemic.
The duty of public health officials is to weigh the benefits and adverse effects of any intervention and check where the balance lies.
“We are acting on very clear science that there’s an epidemic on the way,” said Gottlieb. “We’re in possession of data that shows a disturbingly sharp rise in the number of teens using e-cigarettes in just the last year.”
In response to this, several public health experts amongst whom Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos said that the risk of dependence on nicotine and the risks associated with e-cigarette use cannot and shouldn’t be compared to the risks from smoking.
Farsalinos points out that the duty of public health officials is to weigh the benefits and adverse effects of any intervention and check where the balance lies. He adds that in the case of e-cigarettes, the benefits outweigh the adverse effects, and this needs to be taken into account.
There are many key differences between e-cigs and cigarettes
In line with Farsalinos’ arguments, the Northwestern report took a closer look at articles and studies that compare e-cigarettes to cigarettes, and points out that e-cigarettes should be investigated as a separate entity.
“There are enough key differences between cigarettes and these products, especially newer-generation devices, to show that they are not interchangeable nicotine delivery systems,” Olonoff said.