The American Cancer Society’s (ACS) board of directors issued a new position statement on e-cigarettes, stating the products are “less harmful than smoking cigarettes” and recommending “clinicians support all attempts to quit the use of combustible tobacco and work with smokers to eventually stop using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.”
The February statement partially reverses the organization’s 2014 position, which recommended against the use of e-cigarettes as cessation or harm-reduction devices. In the current statement, ACS continued to call for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products “to the full extent of its authority.”
Catching Up with Science
Michael Marlow, a professor of economics at California Polytechnic State University–San Luis Obispo, says ACS is waking up to what the scientific literature says about e-cigarettes.
“The American Cancer Society is starting to heed the evidence and see that the evidence is piling up that e-cigarettes are not only safer than tobacco but they also offer a much better way for many smokers of tobacco to quit,” Marlow said. “Both of those issues are gaining so much more play in the literature, and it’s getting very difficult to ignore.”
Says E-cigs, Tobacco Different
Dr. Michael Siegel, M.D., a professor of community health sciences at Boston University, says lawmakers should treat cigarettes and e-cigarettes differently because they are different things.
“My general feeling is that we should not be treating e-cigs in the same category as real tobacco cigarettes,” Siegel said. “The risk profile of these two products is very, very different. Electronic cigarettes contain no tobacco. With e-cigs, you get an aerosol, so there’s no smoke involved.
“The health risks associated with vaping are much, much lower than smoking, and we also know that vapor exhaled dissipates very readily and quickly into the air, so I think it’s ridiculous to treat and regulate these products in exactly the same way,” Siegel said.
‘Evidence Is Pretty Clear’
Marlow says surveys show e-cigarettes can fill an important need.
“The evidence is pretty clear,” Marlow said. “Surveys say 75 percent of smokers want to quit. This harm-reduction method of e-cigarettes offers a great avenue for these smokers.”
Marlow says it’s becoming increasingly difficult for many anti-tobacco organizations to remain opposed to e-cigarettes.
“There’s this very famous, longstanding journal called Tobacco Control, funded by many anti-tobacco groups. In 2013, they published one of the first studies showing FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies didn’t really work any better than quitting cold turkey. This was a sea change.”