E-cigarettes still harmful to health, and don’t really stop smoking

30 July 2019
E. Ulysses Dorotheo, MD, FPAO

I am writing in relation to the article, “Makers of e-cigarettes have 3 months to get FDA license” (7/22/19), which includes statements that are not based on facts.

The article says “Noncombustible tobacco products such as heat-not-burn devices offer the best way to end the smoking epidemic that kills 20,000 people a day, according to health experts.”

First of all, “heat-not-burn” is a term used by the tobacco industry for heated tobacco products (HTPs) to hide the fact that these are still tobacco products, and the World Health Organization has clearly stated that tobacco in any form is harmful. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year allowed the sale of Philip Morris’ HTP called Iqos, it has clarified that Philip Morris cannot claim that these products expose users to less health risks compared to regular cigarettes.

In fact, in 2018 the US FDA’s tobacco products scientific advisory committee had rejected Philip Morris’ claims that its Iqos reduces risk and harm to smokers. Further, independent reviews of Philip Morris’ own data submitted to the FDA showed that while some chemicals found in tobacco smoke are found in smaller quantities in Iqos emissions, there were other chemicals that were higher in quantity, and there were also additional chemicals not found in cigarette smoke but found in Iqos emissions that could have negative impacts on human health.

Second, Iqos is an acronym for “I quit ordinary smoking,” indicating that the user is still smoking, albeit not regular cigarettes. This is indeed the intention of its manufacturer—to keep people smoking.

More importantly, there is no robust scientific evidence that demonstrates that HTPs are the “best way to end the smoking epidemic.”

There are existing studies that show how the use of e-cigarettes and HTPs actually hampers smoking cessation either by promoting dual use (alternating use of cigarettes with HTPs/e-cigarettes) or by keeping smokers addicted to HTPs/e-cigarettes, instead of quitting completely.

These new products can also be a gateway for youth cigarette smoking, thus further contributing to the tobacco epidemic.

Third, the article cites certain “health experts” as a reference, apparently without disclosing that such “experts” are active proponents of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

For example, Gerry Stimson even has both direct and indirect links to tobacco companies. To be more factual and helpful to the reading public, the article should have cited the World Health Organization, which recently issued a public warning stating that e-cigarettes are “undoubtedly harmful.”