Physicians Urge FDA to Justify Condemnation of E-Cigarettes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 General News
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GAINESVILLE, Fla., Nov. 17 In July of this year, the Food and Drug Administration released a study that condemned electronic cigarettes as an unsafe alternative for smokers, but not all physicians are convinced that the study was accurate or even completely transparent to the tax payers that fund them.

"We urge FDA to make public the laboratory data behind the July 22 condemnation of electronic cigarettes, along with comparable data on pharmaceutical nicotine products and conventional cigarettes. Then, on the basis of these data, either fully justify or retract the July 22 condemnation of electronic cigarettes," says Joel L. Nitzkin, Chair of the American Association of Public Health Physicians Tobacco Control Task Force in a letter to the FDA.

The letter specifically targets the new tobacco legislation that passed through Congress this summer which gives the FDA power to regulate tobacco products in the United States and notes that the success rate of current smokers who attempt to quit by using pharmaceutical aids is as low as 5%. Making smokers more aware of less harmful alternatives, snus and e-cigarettes included, could significantly reduce the amount of smokers who die due to tobacco-related illnesses.

"Contrary to prevailing conventional wisdom, virtually all the heart and lung disease from conventional cigarettes, and an estimated 98% of the cancer mortality, are due to direct inhalation of fresh products of combustion deep into the lung. Our best estimate (based on the work of Pankow et al and others) is that only about 2% of the cancer mortality from cigarettes is from the named carcinogens commonly found in tobacco products," says the letter. The FDA's study in July found miniscule amounts of carcinogens in a few e-cigarette cartridges, but failed to provide any data on the amount of those same carcinogens in pharmaceutical nicotine products.

The message the AAPHP is sending to the FDA is a clear one and that is that electronic cigarettes are not the wildly dangerous alternatives that they have been portrayed as in news publications and on television, but perhaps one of the best products available for current smokers to switch to. Only time will tell if the FDA will retract their July study in favor of a more complete one or if smokers will continue to be limited to only products offered by big tobacco or big pharma with no explanation.

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