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Lung Groups Urge Governments to Limit or Ban Use of E-Cigarettes

Position statement cites addiction potential, lack of safety data

Experts from the world’s leading lung organizations have released a position statement on electronic cigarettes, focusing on their potential adverse effects on human health and calling on governments to ban or restrict their use until their health effects are better known.

Produced by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), the position statement was issued July 9.

FIRS, established in 2001, is an organization composed of the world’s leading international respiratory societies, including the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), the European Respiratory Society (ERS), and the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR). The goal of FIRS is to enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally.

“The gravity of [the effect of] tobacco use on global health and the historical behavior of the tobacco industry … should prompt us to proceed cautiously,” said Dean Schraufnagel, MD, past ATS president and the statement’s lead author. “Nicotine is central to lifelong addiction, and these are nicotine delivery devices.”

The position of FIRS on electronic nicotine delivery devices includes:

  • The safety of electronic cigarettes has not been adequately demonstrated.
  • The addictive effect 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 of the 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.
  • All information derived from this research should be conveyed to the public in a clear manner.

Source: ATS; July 9, 2014.

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