American Cancer Society Takes a Stand on Vaping

The American Cancer Society (ACS) approved a position statement on e-cigarettes that puts vaping in a far more positive light than the FDA and World Health Organization – with some caveats.

American Cancer Society Position Statement on Electronic Cigarettes

ACS concurs with Public Health England and many other researchers in pointing to vaping as a lower risk alternative to tobacco cigarettes. ACS states, “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.”

Reminding us that cigarettes are the single greatest cause of cancer worldwide, ACS has always supported smokers in their efforts to quit tobacco use, claiming “there is nothing more important that they can do for their health.”

Recognizing that quitting without support is difficult, ACS recommends smokers work with clinicians who advise the use of FDA-approved cessation aids, such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum. ACS suggests that these clinicians support smokers who are trying to quit, whether with FDA-approved aids or e-cigarettes.

ACS also recognizes that a lot of smokers don’t want to deal with clinicians and patches or gum, so it encourages the use of vaping in place of smoking cigarettes. ACS strongly discourages the dual use of e-cigs and tobacco cigarettes, as do the FDA and many other organizations. Although dual use reduces tobacco use and thus exposure to carcinogens, it continues to expose the smoker to toxins and carcinogens that are not present when tobacco is out of the picture.

Encouraging Anti Tobacco Policies

ACS strongly encourages raising the age to buy and use tobacco products to 21 in states that have not already done so. They also recommend tobacco-free policies and “appropriate taxation”.

Because exposure to nicotine by youth can harm brain development, ACS promotes any effort to protect youth from it, whether through tobacco use or when vaping with nicotine.

Mixed Message on Vaping

ACS believes that vaping by youth puts them at greater risk to become tobacco users, something that some researchers have found to be a trend among those who take up vaping as teens. The unanswered question is whether more teens will become tobacco users because of vaping, or whether more teens will avoid tobacco use because of vaping. We can only answer that question over time.

One positive trend among vaping youth is avoiding e-cigarettes that contain nicotine, which is encouraging and far better for their overall health than cigarettes or vaping with nicotine. Not that we are encouraging under-age vaping, but choosing the lower harm option is always better.

Unfortunately, ACS toes the line with the FDA in labeling e-cigarettes as tobacco products, which is a trend in many parts of our nation and around the world. The truth is that tobacco leaves are not used in vaping and that the nicotine extracted from tobacco plants is not chemically different from nicotine from any other source. This is the equivalent of calling drinks made with high fructose corn syrup “corn products”.

Things get a bit fuzzy when ACS recommends that “the FDA should use its authorities to reduce the toxicity, addictiveness and appeal of tobacco products currently on the market.” The statements that follow this are aimed directly at reducing the nicotine level in “combustible tobacco products” below the addiction level, so vaping with nicotine appears to be off the hook as far as ACS is concerned at present.

Conclusion

Kudos to the American Cancer Society for its ongoing battle against smoking, the single biggest cause of cancer in the world. Thank you for having the courage to support vaping as a useful tool, along with clinicians, cessation aids, and other forms of support to help smokers quit tobacco.

Sources

ACS Position Statement on Electronic Cigarettes, February 2018

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