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Physicians Call for E-Cigarette Regulation, Education

The Pennsylvania Medical Society wants to light a flame under e-cigarette regulations.

More than 200 physicians called on the state legislature to pass electronic cigarette legislation similar to existing tobacco laws. 

The physicians met at the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s annual meeting over the weekend and expressed concerns about the devices.

E-cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, but the battery-powered devices give smokers doses of nicotine and other additives in an aerosol.

Bruce Macleod, Pennsylvania Medical Society president, said e-cigarette regulation is necessary until the possible health risks are better understood.

“Whenever there’s a new product that particularly feeds an addiction - which most addictions are bad, especially if they’re overdone - we just don’t know the long-term effects,” Macleod said. “And so we’re really calling for, just, let’s slow down, this could have some adverse health effects that we don’t recognize, and we need to understand that.”

The physicians want to see e-cigarettes regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), banned in no-smoking areas and not marketed to minors.

“They say that they won’t sell them to under 18 years old, but if you can buy them online and they’re being sold in kind of caramel and chocolate and other tastes that, you know, the traditional cigarette smoker wouldn’t use, it seems to be kind of an attractiveness to young folks.”

The physicians also called for Pennsylvania schools to include electronic cigarettes in their tobacco education efforts.

As of September, 20 states currently have legislation prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Macleod said most of the studies that have looked at e-cigarettes have been manufacturer-supported. 

He said the FDA is in the process of looking into the e-cigarettes, but they were not considered drugs and did not fall into any clear regulatory grouping when first released.

“Well we know a lot about cigarette smoking and a lot of the bad things - it can cause heart disease, hypertension, bladder cancer, lung cancer - all of that, we know that,” Macleod said. “That’s the problem, we don’t know that about E-cigs.”

Macleod said there is a chance that the e-cigarettes could be a healthier alternative to smoking, but he thinks it would be best to “err on the side of caution” until researchers investigate more.