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Federal government moves to ban e-cigs, Rutgers physician weighs in

<p>Vaping has been linked to more than 400 illnesses across the country, including six deaths, this past summer.&nbsp;</p>

Vaping has been linked to more than 400 illnesses across the country, including six deaths, this past summer. 

This past Wednesday, President Donald J. Trump's administration announced plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in response to recent vaping-related hospitalizations around the country.

“The newest generation of vaping products are products like JUUL. Instead of using a liquid that gets heated and vaporized, they use pods that use nicotine salts. With these, JUUL is able to deliver a much higher dosage of nicotine, similar to cigarettes,” said Dr. Michael Steinberg, director of the Rutgers-Tobacco Dependence Program.

E-cigarettes were originally marketed to help cigarette smokers quit smoking, but there are few studies that prove their effectiveness, Steinberg said. There are other ways to quit smoking that are well-tested, and the Rutgers-Tobacco Dependence Program has been using these methods to help people quit vaping.

“It’s a resource right in our backyard. We offer treatment services for people trying to quit using JUUL and other vaping products. We treat them the same way we treat addiction to other tobacco products. We’re seeing people from Rutgers already here who are looking to get off JUUL and other e-cigarettes and we’re helping them to successfully quit,” Steinberg said.

There have been a number of recent vaping-related hospitalizations across the country, and the majority of the cases were related to people who were vaping marijuana or additives like Vitamin E oil that cause lung inflammation and damage. These products were often tampered with after being purchased, Steinberg said.

But, until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) starts implementing more regulations, no one can even trust what they are purchasing at stores, he said.

“The problem is that, right now, there’s no on-the-ground regulation of any of these electronic nicotine delivery systems. When you go into a vape shop or you purchase a JUUL, you really don’t have a lot of reliability in terms of what chemicals are present in those products or how much nicotine is being delivered,” Steinberg said.

The government’s move to ban flavorings in e-cigarettes is an attempt at reducing the products’ appeal to young people, he said.

“While banning flavors might reduce young people’s interest in these products, I think we need a more comprehensive approach. We need the FDA to step in and see how these products are being marketed and sold, and how safe they are. Until those pieces are put into place, banning flavoring may not be a cure-all for what we’re dealing with,” Steinberg said.

Despite Trump’s announcement, any regulatory actions would have to come from the FDA or Congress.

The reaction and political discussion is a very reactive response to that avalanche of information that has come out in the past week, Steinberg said.

“We can debate back and forth whether these products are good for current adult smokers to quit, but if we’ve got young people, 12 or 13-year-olds, who are becoming addicted to nicotine and facing serious health issues and even death from these products, then something does need to be done. But it needs to be based on scientific evidence as opposed to just a political reaction,” he said.

Banning a product may not be the most effective solution. Instead, the government should take a more evidence-based approach to deal with electronic nicotine delivery devices being used by young people, Steinberg said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department of Health are continuing to look into the actual causes of the vaping-related hospitalizations. Until we know more, Steinberg said that students should try to stay updated on the issue because the news is changing on a daily basis.

“Until we know what’s causing these very serious health issues, it’s really a good idea for people who haven’t used e-cigarettes before to not start using e-cigarettes and JUUL products right now. For people who are already using those products, it’s really a good opportunity to think about stopping,” he said.

Smoking is prohibited in, and within 30 feet, of all University property, according to Rutgers policy.

“Federal and state laws supersede University policy,” said Neal Buccino, associate director of Public and Media Relations at the University.

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