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Blumenthal Calls for Increased FDA Scrutiny of Electronic Cigarettes After Public Health Study Concludes They Pose Serious Risk of Addiction for Kids

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released the following statement in reaction to a comprehensive report on electronic cigarettes released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The report raises concerns about usage among youth and young adults, including increased risk of smoking traditional cigarettes. While the report found that smokers who switch to e-cigarettes from traditional cigarettes are exposed to lower levels of toxic substances, there remains little data on the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use.

“I share the deep concerns of public health professionals who, once again, have concluded that e-cigarettes pose significant risks to the public, including unknown levels of toxins, dangerous side-effects from secondhand ‘smoke,’ and – particularly for young people – heightened potential for addiction. Bottom line: youth who experiment with e-cigarettes are far more likely to try traditional tobacco products,” said Blumenthal.

“Big Tobacco has long profited from targeted marketing tactics that lure youth into lifetimes of addiction,” Blumenthal continued. “Now, they’ve used flavors, colors, and other gimmicks to attract children and teenagers into e-cigarette usage. These predatory ploys, plus a false narrative of product safety, make for a deadly combination. The American public deserves thorough, immediate, and sustained FDA scrutiny of these products. FDA must fulfill its commitment to safeguard public health and use its full authority under the Tobacco Control Act to prioritize public safety over Big Tobacco profit.”

Other key findings of the NASEM report include:

  • Limited evidence that e-cigarettes may be effective aids to promote smoking cessation. There is “moderate evidence from observational studies that more frequent use of e-cigarettes is associated with increased likelihood of cessation,” but, “insufficient evidence from randomized controlled trials about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as cessation aids compared with no treatment or to Food and Drug Administration-approved smoking cessation treatments.”
  • Conclusive evidence that in addition to nicotine, most e-cigarette products contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances. The report also finds that while e-cigarettes are likely to be less harmful than conventional cigarettes, “the implications for long-term effects on morbidity and mortality are not yet clear” and there is insufficient evidence to draw meaningful conclusions about the risks e-cigarettes pose for diseases like cancer and heart disease.
  • There is enormous variability among e-cigarette products. Inconsistencies impact exposure to nicotine and toxic substances and therefore could impact the relative health risks and addictiveness of these products, as well as their effect on youth initiation and smoking cessation.

In July 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a five-year delay in implementation of Obama-era regulations on oversight of tobacco products including electronic cigarettes. Blumenthal joined twelve of his colleagues in a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb calling on the agency to reaffirm its commitment to reduce the addictiveness and harms of cigarettes.

Blumenthal has long called on regulators and public health officials to significantly scrutinize e-cigarette use. In October 2017, Blumenthal wrote to Gottlieb expressing concerns about a smokeless tobacco product, IQOS, claimed by the manufacturer, Philip Morris International, to be a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. An FDA panel will review IQOS safety this week