E-cigarettes, thought to be safer than regular cigarettes, are found to be more dangerous! Who would have thought this device could be more dangerous? Did companies not carry out adequate research prior to marketing the device? Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco, but it fails to possess regulatory authority over e-cigarettes. As part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, the FDA purported a new rule in April 2014 that would expand the FDA’s authority to cover e-cigarettes, but this rule is yet to be implemented.
Since 2005, the producers of e-cigarettes grew from one manufacturer in China to 466 brands with estimated earnings of $3 billion US dollars a year. The tobacco industry owns shares in this market.
How do e-cigarette devices work? The device works by heating a flavored liquid to a vaporized state. People inhale and exhale the vapor from the device. The vapor is produced instead of smoke. The research team in Japan studied the substances in the vapor.
A team of Japanese scientists lead by Naoki Kunugita of the National Institute of Public Health, Japan, released a report to their Health Ministry on November 27, 2014 about carcinogens in multiple brands of e-cigarettes. Japan’s health ministry authorized this study to assess the ingredients in e-cigarettes. The team of scientists measured several cassettes of e-cigarette fluid employing equipment that “inhaled” 10 sets of 15 puffs from these e-cigarette containers. When the wire that vaporizes the liquid overheats, higher quantities of the toxic materials appear.
What did the researchers find in their study? Multiple brands of E-cigarettes possess up to 10 times the quantity of cancer causing products than in regular tobacco. Two harmful toxins found encompassed formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in the vapor. Formaldehyde is a very toxic substance that is used in building materials and for embalming people before burial. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulate formaldehyde in the workplace and require protective equipment for workers coming in contact with this highly toxic substance and it is a carcinogen. OSHA also regulates acetaldehyde due to its designation as a possible carcinogen.
Is this study in line with other regulatory bodies in the world? The World Health Organization (WHO) in August 2014 passed a resolution requesting governments to regulate e-cigarettes to address health concerns. WHO stated that the regulations in all countries need to address advertising and indoor use. Advertising must not target youth and non-smokers or individuals who do not use nicotine; whereas, indoor use of e-cigarettes must end, because the evidence indicates that exhaled e-cigarette vapor elevates the air level of some toxins, nicotine and minute particles.
WHO cites research showing the exposure of non-smokers and bystanders to nicotine and a number of toxicants released in the vapor. The vapor exposes adolescents and fetuses of pregnant mothers to dangerous substances. Further, e-cigarettes with fruit, candy-like and alcohol-drink flavors should be banned until research can show these types of liquid in the device do not attract children or teenagers. The companies now market over 8,000 flavorings. WHO expressed concern that these devices will function as a gateway to nicotine addiction and to smoking in this younger population.
With release of this study and the potential effect of e-cigarettes on public health, it becomes more vital for FDA to regulate e-cigarette devices. FDA regulation would require all substances in the e-cigarettes to be identified and approved by FDA before marketing.