MD Anderson Cancer Center fully supports new rules recently issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to extend federal regulatory authority to all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, cigars, hookah and other previously unregulated tobacco products.
“As an institution of healing and science, we applaud any and all instances where sound data informs public policy,” said Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “Including e-cigarettes within the FDA’s regulatory authority will provide a much-needed scientific evaluation of their safety and help limit youth exposure to these products that may lead to lifelong dependency.”
MD Anderson is concerned by the dramatic increase in the use of alternative tobacco products by adolescents. Data published last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that use of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students tripled between 2013 and 2014. Emerging data suggest youth initiation of e-cigarettes may serve as a gateway to tobacco products.
“With great progress made in decreasing tobacco use rates in our country, the last thing we need is a new generation of non-smokers to develop nicotine dependencies that may lead to conventional tobacco use,” said Ernest Hawk, M.D., division head and vice president, Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences. “This new rule represents a major step forward in advancing the health of all Americans through more effective tobacco control.”
Advocates of these new and emerging products often suggest they may be useful for smokers attempting to quit. MD Anderson is supportive of smokers using current evidence-based cessation methods. However, according to the CDC, there is not yet sufficient evidence that e-cigarettes are safe and effective cessation tools for smokers.
Indeed, many of these products deliver nicotine without the deadly carcinogens formed from burning tar and tobacco. However, what they do deliver is largely unknown, as ingredients haven’t been regulated. Additionally, some studies suggest new carcinogens, such as formaldehyde, are formed when the nicotine in these devices is heated. Also unknown are the effects of heating and inhaling flavored ingredients
The new regulatory authority allows the FDA to limit youth exposure to these products by prohibiting sales to minors, both in person and online, requiring age verification by photo ID, and not allowing the distribution of free samples. Further, the ruling will require manufacturers, importers and/or retailers to register and report ingredient listings to the FDA, require premarket review of new tobacco products and place appropriate health warnings on packaging and advertisements.
“The extension of these regulations will ensure these products are subjected to the same close scrutiny as conventional tobacco products,” said DePinho. “We see this is a great step forward in protecting our country’s public health, particularly that of our young people.”
VIDEO UPDATE: DePinho discusses his support for California's decision to join Hawaii as the second state to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21. The MD Anderson EndTobacco initiative has found that more than two-thirds of 10-grade students and nearly half of eighth-grade students say it is easy to get a cigarette. According to DePinho, legislation like this will significantly curtail the use of tobacco products in people ages 18-20, and help reduce the likelihood that young people become lifelong smokers.