Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD
Despite overwhelming evidence linking cigarettes to serious diseases like cancer, leading experts in cancer research and tobacco policy are not ready to recommend electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), like e-cigarettes, as a safe way to quit smoking. E-cigarettes remain unregulated by the FDA, pose health hazards, and should not be marketed to people younger than 18, according to a national policy statement published January 8 in two prominent cancer journals, Clinical Cancer Research
and the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The journals are published respectively by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
“Further research and regulation are needed to determine if e-cigarettes can help people stop smoking combustible cigarettes,” said Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, Ensign professor of medicine, professor of pharmacology, and chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, who served as chair of the joint AACR/ASCO committee that developed the statement. “In the meantime, oncologists should encourage patients to use FDA-approved cessation medications, refer them for smoking cessation counseling, and provide education about the potential risks and lack of known benefits of long-term e-cigarette use.”
The group of 12 authors from cancer research institutions around the US also included Benjamin Toll, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and program director of the smoking cessation service at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.
“This is the first time that two organizations like AACR and ASCO have taken a joint position e-cigarettes, and we hope it will influence the FDA to regulate these devices,” Toll said. “We clearly argue that the rapid elimination of tobacco cigarettes would be the quickest way to reduce tobacco-related deaths.”
Tobacco is responsible for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and is associated with increased risk for at least 18 types of cancer.
The authors emphasized that further study of the potential health benefits or hazards of using ENDS is as critical as government regulation surrounding their manufacturing, marketing, and sales.