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Finding that Addictive Drug Nicotine Also Causes Cancer May Have Major Regulatory Impact on All NRT Products

18.04.2012 - 14:58


This new finding could have a significant impact on the regulation of e-cigarettes - as well as other nicotine-replacement-therapy [NRT] products such as nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine, inhalers, etc. - says the public interest lawyer behind the FDA's assertion of regulatory authority over e-cigarettes, and the ban on e-cigarette sales in New Jersey and Suffolk County, NY.

"E-cigarettes have been widely promoted as being safer than smoking because they release only nicotine, and not many of the deadly carcinogens found in the smoke of conventional tobacco cigarettes. But now that the very chemical they are designed to release has been found to cause cancer, many potential purchasers may have second thoughts," suggests public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] is in the process of developing regulations to protect the health of e-cigarette purchasers, so the agency's final rules may be affected by this new finding. Also, when the FDA approved the sale of nicotine patches, nicotine gums, nicotine inhalers, and other NRT products, it assumed that, for addicted smokers, they were a less hazardous substitute method of ingesting nicotine than continuing to inhale the smoke from conventional tobacco cigarettes, says Banzhaf.

The new finding could also affect laws regulating the sale of e-cigarettes in other countries. Their sale is already banned in many countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, and Taiwan, and restricted in others like Finland, Malaysia, Singapore.

Even prior to the new finding that nicotine itself can cause cancer, the FDA found that some samples of e-cigarettes it tested contained other known cancer-causing substances. It also found that e-cigarettes pose "acute health risks," that the "danger posed by the unrestricted distribution of [these] unregulated products containing toxic chemicals cannot seriously be questioned," and that they have caused a wide variety of potentially serious problems "including racing pulse, dizziness, slurred speech, mouth ulcers, heartburn, coughing, diarrhea, and sore throat."

This new finding could also affect the ongoing debate among health professionals about the nicotine replacement therapy: the administration of the addictive and potentially deadly drug nicotine to addicted smokers for the remainder of their lives. Some argue that letting them satisfy their craving for nicotine by using nicotine gums or patches for life in less hazardous than having them continue smoking.

On the other hand, other health professionals believe it is wrong for physicians to recommend, except in the most extreme circumstances, that patients voluntarily self administer a deadly drug, and worry that e-cigarettes are helping smokers to continue their smoking habit despite workplace smoking bans.

Indeed, some researchers have suggested that the widespread availability of e-cigarettes, even if they are less hazardous than smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes, could create an even greater public health risk - with more deaths and disabilities - by removing incentives to quit for smokers faced with workplace and other smoking bans, and by encouraging young people to use the product, just as candy cigarettes previously encouraged youngsters to begin smoking. http://www.prlog.org/10852320-cigarettes-or-snus-may-cost-not-save-lives-study.html

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW, Suite S402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418
http://banzhaf.net/ https://twitter.com/#!/profbanzhaf