Federal ban on e-cig flavors appears to have stalled; new study shows e-cigs may be just as harmful to the heart as cigarettes

President Trump and his top health officials said in September that they were planning to place a ban on flavored electronic cigarettes, but the policy appears to have stalled.

Mitch Zeller, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, told senators Nov. 13 there was “no final answer” then about the proposed flavor ban, and repeatedly referred the questions to the White House.

“Opponents of strict regulation have made a public-health argument of their own: that vaping is far less harmful than cigarette smoking, and has enabled many former smokers to wean themselves off of tobacco products,” Josh Wingrove and Gerald Porter Jr. report for Bloomberg. “Industry advocates have warned that a wide-ranging ban would close stores, put thousands of people out of work and drive adult vapers back to cigarettes.”

The Trump administration now looks headed for a compromise plan that would not include the original proposal’s full ban on all non-tobacco flavors, “a prohibition that vape stores have said would close their businesses,” Bloomberg reports.

Health advocates recommend banning flavors in all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, as a way to curb teen use of the products. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most teens who use e-cigs use flavored varieties, start with such a variety, and say flavors are the primary reason for using them.

Electronic-cigarette use among Kentucky’s teens nearly doubled between 2016 and 2018, with more than one in four high school seniors and one in seven 8th graders reporting use in 2018, according to the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention study.

Health advocates also push back on the vaping industries claims that e-cigarettes help smokers quit smoking.

“E-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved quit aid nor are they recommended as a smoking cessation method by the U.S. Preventive Task Force, CDC or other scientists,” says the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy‘s website. “In fact, a recent study shows that smokers who use e-cigarettes are significantly less likely to quit smoking than smokers who do not use e-cigarettes.”

E-cigs as bad for heart as tobacco?

A recently published study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles shows that electronic cigarettes may be just as harmful to the heart, if not more, than traditional cigarettes.

The researchers compared blood flow to the heart of healthy, adult smokers after sessions of e-cig use or cigarette smoking. They measured the blood flow while the participants were at rest and also after they performed a handgrip exercise, which simulates physiologic stress, a news release says.

“In smokers who used traditional cigarettes, blood flow increased modestly after traditional cigarette inhalation and then decreased with subsequent stress. However, in smokers who used e-cigarettes, blood flow decreased after both inhalation at rest and also after handgrip stress,” says the release.

“Our results suggest that e-cigarette use is associated with coronary vascular dysfunction at rest, even in the absence of physiologic stress,” Dr. Susan Cheng, one of the researchers, said in the release. “These findings indicate the opposite of what e-cigarette and vaping marketing is saying about their safety profile.”

Lung injuries from e-cigs continue

Meanwhile, as of Nov. 13, 2,172 cases of lung injury related to electronic cigarettes had been reported to the CDC; and 42 deaths had been confirmed in 24 states.

The CDC recently identified vitamin E acetate, which is often used as a thickening agent in e-cigarette products containing THC, as a “chemical of concern” in the national outbreak of related lung injuries. THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Kentucky’s numbers were last updated on Nov. 8, with 33 cases under investigation, three of them confirmed and 11 considered probable. Seven reported cases have been ruled out.

The CDC recommends that for now at least, no one should use electronic cigarettes or products containing THC; no one should buy any e-cigarette product off the street, particularly those with THC; and no one should modify or add any substances to e-cig products that are not intended by the manufacturer.

The CDC also says that because the cause or causes of these lung injuries is unknown, the only way to assure that you are not at risk is to refrain from use of all e-cigarette products.

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