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Did the American Cancer Society just endorse vaping?

The American Cancer Society has had a long and contentious relationship with the vaping industry.  When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first released its controversial deeming regulations in mid-2015, the ACS was fully supportive.  When the Cole-Bishop Amendment to redefine the FDA deeming regulations was attempting to make its way through the congressional approval process last year, the ACS refused to endorse it.  In fact, some representatives of local chapters publicly denounced the proposed amendment, calling it the “latest trick” to avoid federal oversight.

Related Article:  American Cancer Society Rep lies about Cole-Bishop Amendment to FDA e-cig regulations

But when the ACS released a new position statement on electronic cigarettes this month, the document appears to endorse vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool at first glance.  Has the ACS finally come around to notion that vaping is significant healthier than smoking, a notion that is supported by reams of scientific evidence? 

“Based on currently available evidence, using current generation e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but the health effects of long-term use are not known.  The American Cancer Society (the ACS) recognizes our responsibility to closely monitor and synthesize scientific knowledge about the effects of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and any new products derived from tobacco.  As new evidence emerges, the ACS will promptly report these findings to policy makers, the public and clinicians.”

While the ACS seems to be publicly endorsing vaping for smokers trying to quit, the agency leaves open a loophole to change its mind in the future.  The ACS says it will “closely monitor” the e-cig industry and make new recommendations to public health officials and the general public as “new evidence emerges.”

American Cancer Society recommendations to physicians

Regarding the FDA deeming regulations, the ACS position statement also offers some insights.  While the deeming regulations are not specifically addressed in the document, a considerable amount of space is devoted to the ACS’ views on FDA oversight.

“The ACS encourages the FDA to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to the full extent of its authority, and to determine the absolute and relative harms of each product.  The FDA should assess whether e-cigarettes help to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, and the impact of marketing of e-cigarettes on consumer perceptions and behavior.  Any related regulatory regime should include post-marketing surveillance to monitor the long-term effects of these products and ensure the FDA’s actions have the intended health outcome of significantly reducing disease and death.  Furthermore, the FDA should use its authorities to reduce the toxicity, addictiveness and appeal of tobacco products currently on the market.”

The position statement also indicates a considerable level of ACS support for the implementation of public health policies and new sin taxes geared towards the prevention of initiating in tobacco use, especially among young people.  And while the document pushes the FDA towards conducting more studies on the long-term effects of vaping, it also pushes that age-old argument that e-cig use among teens is a gateway to future smoking addiction. 

"Furthermore, evidence indicates that young e-cigarette users are at increased risk for both starting to smoke and becoming long-term users of combustible tobacco products."

The American Cancer Society appears to be somewhat softening its public stance on the tobacco harm reduction benefits of vaping, but the newly released position statement still does not represent vaping in the best light possible.  In once section, the ACS even “applauds the FDA” for its role in vaping research and regulations while also endorsing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s latest proposal to introduce additional regulations that would limit the amount of nicotine in combustible tobacco products.

So far, the nicotine reduction proposal does not affect electronic cigarettes and e-liquids. Instead, the FDA seems to be showing signs of a possible ban on e-liquid flavors other than tobacco.   The ACS position statement does not address this issue specifically.  At least, not yet.

Related Article:   FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb issues new statement of vaping products


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