Senators Call for Investigation into E-Cigarette Cancer Risks

Eight U.S. senators are calling on the FDA to impose stronger restrictions on electronic cigarettes, after new research suggests that some e-cigarettes can produce harmful chemicals similar to those released by traditional cigarettes.  

Senators issued a letter to the FDA yesterday, asking the agency to recognize two new studies that highlight the harmful byproducts of e-cigarettes.

The letter calls on the FDA to consider the secondhand smoke dangers of e-cigarettes, which may release harmful toxins to others around the user who are not aware of the danger.

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The effort, spearheaded by Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, was also backed by Senators Sherrod Brown, Barbara Boxer, Jeff Merkley, Jack Reed, Richard Blumenthal, Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin.

The two studies the group of senators highlight describe the many harmful chemicals which may be released in the vapor of e-cigarettes, including formaldehyde and other potential carcinogens. The studies dispel the idea that e-cigarettes contain less toxins than regular cigarettes, as a myth.

The letter urges the FDA to recognize the potential impact e-cigarettes may have on the health of users and secondhand inhalers. It also asks the agency to consider the findings of the studies when creating regulatory standards for the e-cigarette market, which has doubled in sales every year since 2010.

“These products put at risk not only adults and youth who use these devices, but potentially also those who are involuntarily exposed to secondhand vapors,” write the Senators in the letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Concerns Over E-Cigarette Use By Youths

The FDA recently announced its plan to begin regulating e-cigarettes, after continued indecision concerning oversight of the products by the agency. However, under the new enforcement move the FDA said it will not ban the use of flavors in the products, a highly controversial decision.

Critics say the wide array of flavors is one ploy used by e-cigarette companies to attract teen users. The range of teen friendly flavors, including cotton candy, bubble gum, peanut butter and jelly and hundreds more, has spurred the use of e-cigarettes to doubled among high school students in only one year.

A recent congressional report revealed e-cigarette makers are targeting teens with candy-like flavors and marketing campaigns using celebrities, in an effort to drive sales.

The report asserts is the aggressive campaigns are creating a new class of users who will be more likely to become addicted to traditional cigarettes.

“Makers of these products have taken advantage of a regulatory black hole by marketing these new nicotine delivery products directly to youth,” said the statement.

Currently, the limitations on smoking in public spaces does not apply universally to all e-cigarette products, including hookah pens, liquid nicotine products and e-liquids. The senators hope to spur the FDA into creating regulations which will govern the use of these products in public areas, hopefully protecting the public from harmful side effects.

A recent report released by the New York Times found heating the liquid used in e-cigarettes at high temperatures can produce vapors which carry dangerous toxins.

Some users have also taken to a new process called “dripping,” where users apply nicotine liquid directly to the heating element on the device. This intensely and rapidly heats the liquid, offering the user a nicotine rush. In the process, causing a chemical reaction which creates carcinogens similar to those present in traditional cigarettes.

“We simply cannot afford to lag behind in our complete understanding of the health consequences to the user and bystander of these and other advanced nicotine delivery products,” wrote Markey.


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