E-cigarettes should be subject to the same regulations as cigarettes and should not be sold to minors, the American Heart Association (AHA) says in new policy guidelines.

The use of e-cigarettes, which are electrical devices that heat flavoured nicotine liquid into a vapour that is inhaled, much like traditional cigarettes but without the smoke, has been rising rapidly among youths, raising concerns about the potential for addiction risks and health damage.

E-cigarettes are attracting youths and the AHA is worried that this may lead to nicotine dependency among the young. – Filepic

E-cigarettes are currently unregulated, meaning they can be sold to youths and are openly advertised, unlike cigarette-makers, which must follow strict rules about where and how their products are marketed.

The AHA guidelines go a step further and set out a new series of regulations on e-cigarettes that included banning their sale to minors, but did not restrict advertising or online sales of the candy and fruit-flavoured liquids that some say are targeted at young people.

“Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation’s youth, and could re-normalise smoking in our society,” says Nancy Brown, CEO of AHA.

“These disturbing developments have helped convince the association that e-cigarettes need to be strongly regulated, thoroughly researched and closely monitored.”

The guidelines, published in the journal Circulation, recommend that since e-cigarettes contain nicotine, they “should be subject to all laws that apply to these products.”

The AHA “also calls for strong new regulations to prevent access, sales and marketing of e-cigarettes to youth, and for more research into the product’s health impact.”

The sales of e-cigarettes have risen sharply since they were introduced to the market in 2007, according to health officials in the US. The number of American high school students who tried e-cigarettes has nearly doubled, from 4.7% in 2011 to 10% in 2012, and sales of e-cigarettes could top US$2 billion this year, according to industry estimates.

Regulation asked for by the American Heart Association calls for a ban of e-cigarettes being sold to minors. – AFP

According to Georgetown University pulmonologist Nathan Cobb, the AHA “is right in calling for this minimal set of regulations to be implemented no later than the end of the year.”

He also said more aggressive regulations should follow.

“They can and should be part of a concerted regulatory push to drive towards a tobacco ‘end game’, which increases the price of combusted tobacco cigarettes while guaranteeing the safety and consistency of e-cigarettes.”

Cobb adds that the FDA’s “bare bones regulations” fall short because they subject manufacturers to “significantly less oversight and safety requirements than pet food manufacturers, and are truly a minimum.” – AFP