As the world’s most prestigious public health experts continue to weigh in on the ecig issue, the American Heart Association has finally released their official position on vaping. After years of pushing smokers to quit using tobacco, the AHA was slow to even acknowledge electronic cigarettes, much less condone their use. After detailed review of current studies and the proposed regulations from the FDA, they finally told the public that ecigs really present no clear lines of right and wrong. Simply put, it’s complicated.
Basically, the AHA doesn’t necessarily think electronic cigarettes are a terrible thing for Americans to use, but they also don’t think they are all that great either. While the health group would prefer that tobacco users just quit cold turkey, they acknowledged that some people just can’t – or won’t – kick the habit on their own. For those that struggle, ecigs can offer a viable solution. However, regulations are needed to insure that vaping is reserved for adult smokers rather than used as a recreational drug for kids and teens.
CEO Nancy Brown said the AHA has definite concerns about how vaping could have negative consequences for society. The experts worry that as vaping becomes widely accepted by our culture, it will renormalize the appearance of smoking in public places. Furthermore, the AHA fears that teens using ecigs could eventually move towards actual cigarettes, making them counter effective for public health.
The AHA offered an official response to vaping in a press release that clearly showed mixed opinions. “Currently available data suggests that e-cigarettes appear to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes. And in some cases the product could help people quit smoking.” However, the group went on to caution against carefree use until long-term studies are completed.
Aruni Bhatnager, professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, led the AHA panel as they struggled to decipher how to respond to the growing vaping movement. “If someone refuses to quit, we’re not opposed to them switching from conventional to e-cigarettes,” he said. Then he went on to issue some precautions. “Don’t use them indefinitely. Set a quit date for quitting conventional, e-cigarettes, and everything else. We don’t think that will be the long-term or useful way to look at it because e-cigarettes may continue to fuel nicotine addiction.”
Ultimately, the AHA is pushing for more research and a faster pace. “We must increase the pace of research and understand the full range of health consequences before we allow this Trojan horse of nicotine back into society,” Brown said. Until more long-term data is available, the American Heart Association is urging immediate regulation to prevent ecigs from being used by the wrong consumers. They want to see immediate bans on ecig use by teens and child-proof safety precautions on all e-liquid packaging. The experts also want to stop all ecig advertising that could potentially attract kids.
After reading the AHA’s response to ecigs, it’s clear that our public health advisors are really unsure how to handle the sudden boom of vaping. While some are supportive, others are still feeling unsure. What do you think it will take to get the AHA and other health advocates to understand the true benefits of electronic cigarettes?