E-cigarettes are as dangerous as regular cigarettes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden told The Los Angeles Times. He is concerned the devices will hook a new generation of young people on smoking.
“I’ve treated so many adults who are desperate — desperate — to get off tobacco. They all started as kids,” Frieden said. “I see the industry getting another generation of our kids addicted. To me, as a physician, when 1.78 million of our high school kids have tried an e-cigarette and a lot of them are using them regularly … that’s like watching someone harm hundreds of thousands of children.”
Frieden says e-cigarettes concern him for a number of reasons. He thinks they can lead smokers who would have quit to continue smoking, and can get ex-smokers who have been off nicotine to go back on nicotine, and then back to cigarettes. He is also worried that e-cigarettes will re-glamorize smoking.
He said people who use the devices can expose children, teens and pregnant women to nicotine through secondhand smoke. They also can be used to smoke marijuana or other drugs, he added.
Frieden said, “Stick to stick, they’re almost certainly less toxic than cigarettes.” He acknowledged many people have quit smoking tobacco cigarettes with the help of e-cigarettes. Studies about e-cigarettes’ role in smoking cessation are needed, he said.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced new rules that would allow the agency to regulate e-cigarettes. The proposed rules would ban the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco to anyone under age 18. The proposed rules do not ban flavors in e-cigarettes and cigars. Public health advocates say these flavors entice children to try the products. The rules also do not ban marketing of e-cigarettes, which public health advocates had called for. The FDA said further regulations will be needed to address flavoring and marketing.