ST. LOUIS – Last week, the United States Food and Drug Administration authorized the sale of electronic cigarette products for the first time. The American Lung Association has expressed its displeasure, saying it is “appalled” by the authorization.
We spoke with pulmonologists at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital, who said the FDA decision was alarming.
“It was a disappointing decision mainly because of its effect on young people,” said Dr Ghassan Kamel.
“Since 2000, when electronic cigarettes were introduced to the market, we have started to see an impressive number of young people using electronic cigarettes,” said Dr Edward Charbek.
The American Lung Association issued a statement saying that “the harm these products cause to young people shows that they do not meet the public health standards of the Tobacco Control Act.”
The FDA said it took into account the risks and benefits of this decision for the population as a whole: users and non-users of tobacco products and young people.
He determined that the potential benefits for smokers who attempt to quit smoking outweigh the risks for young people.
“We don’t know the long term side effects of it,” Dr. Kamel said. “However, we do know that in the short term some of the products caused significant – what we call respiratory failure, forcing patients to be hospitalized in the intensive care unit needing a lot of oxygen.”
A study released last month by the FDA and CDC estimated that more than two million teens have used e-cigarettes this year, 80% of whom use flavored products.
The FDA has approved three products from RJ Reynolds for sale. The agency says the company has submitted data showing that the marketing of these products is appropriate for the protection of public health. Therefore, they can be legally sold in the United States.
“We are concerned that this may give the false feeling to young people who use it that it is a safe product with no long-term effect on their respiratory health,” said Dr Kamel.
The FDA said it was determined that study participants who used only authorized products were exposed to fewer harmful and potentially harmful aerosol constituents compared to users of burnt cigarettes.
But pulmonologist Dr Edward Charbek said the products contain risks.
“This narrative that electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes could be dangerous just because we are introducing one bad thing to the other,” said Dr. Charbeck.
Dr Kamel said the Lung Association and the American Thoracic Society said there was still no conclusive evidence on the benefits of e-cigarettes in helping to quit smoking.
The FDA has said that while the action allows tobacco products to be sold in the United States, this does not mean that the products are safe or “FDA approved.” The agency still claims that all tobacco products are harmful and addictive and those who do not use them should not start.
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