(RxWiki News) E-cigarettes are often sold as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. The American Heart Association, however, has warned that their use could lead to nicotine addiction and traditional smoking.
E-cigarettes (or electronic cigarettes) heat a liquid containing tobacco to produce a vapor rather than smoke. Many tobacco users have turned to “vaping” as a supposed safer way to smoke. E-cigarettes can contain lower levels of harmful substances than regular cigarettes. Vaping is also not as restricted for public use.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has cautioned, however, that e-cigarettes still contain addictive nicotine. New AHA guidelines urged that e-cigarettes be subject to all the controls that currently apply to tobacco products. The organization stressed the need to prohibit their use among minors.
"Stay informed about the potential health hazards of e-cigarettes."
Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Louisville, served as lead author of the policy statement.
The AHA panel of medical experts wrote that tobacco control efforts over the past years have cut smoking rates and saved lives. The authors expressed concern that e-cigarettes could now reverse this trend by getting people addicted to nicotine.
E-cigarette sales have doubled every year since their introduction in 2007, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
"Every life that has been lost to tobacco addiction could have been prevented,” said Elliott Antman, MD, president of the AHA. “We must protect future generations from any potential smokescreens in the tobacco product landscape that will cause us to lose precious ground in the fight to make our nation 100 percent tobacco-free.”
The AHA underscored its concern of e-cigarette use among minors.
The percentage of U.S. middle and high school students who use electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, more than doubled from 2011 to 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The AHA statement has called for strong new controls by the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit access, sales and marketing of e-cigarettes to youth.
The authors have urged against advertisements that use celebrities and push alluring flavors. These make e-cigarettes more appealing to youth, according to the organization.
Scientists pointed to a study finding that youth exposure to e-cigarettes advertising has increased over 250 percent between 2011 and 2013.
“Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation’s youth, and could renormalize smoking in our society,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, in a press release. “These disturbing developments have helped convince the association that e-cigarettes need to be strongly regulated, thoroughly researched and closely monitored.”
Some health experts recommend e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. The AHA, however, has found insufficient evidence to endorse them as a primary method to quit smoking.
Investigators also said that more research is needed on the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes on individual users, the environment and public health.
“It’s critical that we rigorously examine the long-term impact of this new technology on public health, cardiovascular disease and stroke, and pay careful attention to the effect of e-cigarettes on adolescents,” said Dr. Bhatnagar.
The recommendations were published Aug. 25 in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
The authors disclosed several conflicts of interest.