WASHINGTON -- A new study commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows there is a tendency for teenagers who experiment with electronic cigarettes to also try smoking. On the other side of the coin, the report also notes that smokers who switch to e-cigs can improve their health in the short term.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), Washington, D.C., released its study Jan. 23, under the direction of Congress and commissioned by the FDA.
The report evaluates the available scientific evidence of the short- and long-term health effects related to the use of electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes. It also identifies future federally funded research needs, according to an FDA newsletter.
Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, said the report raises important questions about the net effect of e-cigarettes. “One finding that’s particularly troubling is that kids who experiment with e-cigarettes are more likely to try smoking,” Gottlieb said. “At the same time, the report finds that current smokers who completely switch to e-cigarettes may see improved short-term health outcomes.”
Ultimately, Gottlieb said the report helps identify areas that need further study to better understand the net public-health impact of e-cigarettes. “We need to put novel products like e-cigarettes through an appropriate series of regulatory gates to fully evaluate their risks and maximize their potential benefits,” he said.
The NASEM report found, among other things, conclusive evidence that completely switching from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes reduces an individual user’s exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens, and substantial evidence that switching also reduces some short-term health outcomes. The report also concluded that there is substantial evidence to suggest that youth and young adults who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try combustible cigarettes. The report calls for additional research on both the short- and long-term health effects of e-cigarettes.
The report comes just as a separate FDA committee is reviewing new tobacco technology—iQOS, the new heat-not-burn product from New York-based Philip Morris International (PMI)—as possibly less harmful than traditional cigarettes. A decision this week could make it the first tobacco product deemed less harmful than others, setting the stage for a varying scale of toxicity in the category.