Senators Warn That e-Cigarettes May Be Carcinogenic

electronic-cigaretteSome senators are asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review new research involving e-cigarettes and potentially dangerous cancer-causing properties.

The eight members of the United States Senate indicated that some of the electronic cigarettes on the market may lead to carcinogens similar to what is seen traditional cigarettes, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The letter was sent on May 8th by Democratic lawmakers and indicates that the agency should protect the users of e-cigarettes, and those near people who smoke e-cigarettes, from carcinogenic vapors that are produced by what the AP described as “high-powered nicotine devices,” also known as so-called “tank systems. The devices are made with a battery, a heating coil, and a flavored liquid nicotine-containing tank. Tanks systems are larger than e-cigarettes and work when they are puffed on, which signals the battery to heat the coil and turn the liquid into an inhalable vapor. Tank systems hold more nicotine and also have a longer energy supply, according to the AP.

Initial studies reported by The New York Times suggested that the devices are heated to the point that toxic chemicals are produced, including the carcinogen formaldehyde, in much the same way as traditional cigarettes, according to the FDA. Study findings raise questions about the safety of people who are near e-cigarette smokers inhaling the vapors.

E-cigarette proponents have argued that the devices are a safer alternative to cigarettes because they do not produce the smoke and tar caused by burning tobacco. But new research by scientists at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute challenges that reasoning, at least for some products. The Buffalo, New York-based center’s study is scheduled for publication later this month in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research journal, according to The New York Times.

“We simply cannot afford to lag behind in our complete understanding of the health consequences to the user and bystander of these and other advanced nicotine delivery products,” states the letter that was signed by the Democratic senators Edward J. Markey (Massachusetts), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Barbara Boxer (California), Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Jack Reed and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Tom Harkin (Iowa), and Dick Durbin (Illinois).

Health experts also seek broad limits on the popular products, according to a prior NBC News report; however, the FDA is faced with some uncertainty regarding the nature of the cigarettes and how they are being used. The FDA, which received tobacco regulation power by Congress in 2009, does not have the authority to ban tobacco products. The legislation does enable the FDA to mandate that ingredients be listed and that warning notices on packets be regulated. “The failure of FDA to act before this has allowed the e-cigarette market to explode in uncontrolled ways,” Matthey Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told NBC News. “People are not using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, but are using them to maintain their smoking habits,” he noted, expressing a concern many have feared.

In May, the agency announced that it would start regulating the e-cigarette field; however, the senators noted that the proposal focuses on the products’ ingredients and not their vapors.

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