Research into e-cigarettes reaffirms that the scientific basis for harm reduction is essentially sound although gaps in knowledge remain, according to Ian Jones, vice-president of Japan Tobacco International (JTI).
Jones, who has responsibility for reduced-risk products science, says that overall picture is clear, despite what he describes as missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.
“Given that vaping is still a relatively recent phenomenon, we are still lacking information on the long-term health consequences, if any,” he said. “This will come in time, but for the moment it remains the largest gap in the puzzle.”
However, in the past year or so there has been an increase in clinical studies on, for instance, the uptake of vapour constituents in the body, he said. Studies on other relevant questions such as the impact of vaping on indoor air quality are also beginning to roll in, which will offer scientific answers to questions like: where should vaping be permitted?
And he added: “The addition of questions about vaping in national surveys, such as PATH [Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health] in the USA, is providing valuable information about vaping demographics.”
In the context of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s on-going assault on flavours in e-liquids, Jones said “of course” young people should not vape.
But, he added, banning flavours or restricting their sale to certain types of retail outlets is not an effective way to counter youth access to e-cig products.
Common mistake about nicotine
He said bans and “unnecessary restrictions” limit the availability of flavours for adult smokers who have decided to try potentially less harmful alternatives to combustibles, while also damaging competition and innovation in the industry.
“We believe the best way to address the issue is to prevent youth from having access to the products in the first place through, for example, validated and effective age-verification mechanisms at the point of purchase and increased penalties for retailers who fail to comply,” he said.
Jones sees another common misconception in the belief that nicotine itself is the dangerous component in cigarettes – and therefore in vaping too.
He said nicotine is addictive and should be consumed responsibly. But he added: “There is no direct evidence that nicotine is carcinogenic, or influences the risks of the other common smoking-related diseases in humans.”
As for those people who vape but also continue to smoke, Jones said dual use was not unique to e-cigs, but is also seen in other products, like the transition from smoking to snus use in Sweden and in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
He said it was too early to draw firm conclusions on the slim available science of dual use of smoking and vaping.
- Ian Jones will be speaking on these matters at the Next Generation Nicotine Delivery USA conference, taking place on 30th April and 1st May in Miami. ECigIntelligence is a media partner for the conference, which will take on the most pressing issues facing the vaping industry, bringing together industry players of all sizes.
– Daniel Mollenkamp ECigIntelligence staff
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