The American Lung Association is urging smokers to kick the habit altogether rather than replacing old-school cigarettes with electronic facsimiles as cases proliferate of sometimes fatal lung damage linked to vaping.
The organization, which has been a leader in anti-smoking efforts for decades, says misinformation about e-cigarettes is “rampant” and wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clarify the risks for users.
“While the e-cigarette industry tells smokers falsely that switching to their products is safer and can help them quit, the American Lung Association is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates nicotine-vaping products, to ‘crack down’ on these false quit-smoking claims,” the group said.
E-cigarettes have been sold for more than a decade, but reports of vaping-related illness have surged this year. More than 2,200 cases of lung damage have been reported nationwide as of Nov. 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there have been 47 confirmed deaths within 25 states and the District of Columbia.
“One of the biggest problems with e-cigarettes is that many people have switched to e-cigarettes believing it will help them quit tobacco products, which it doesn't," said Dr. Albert A Rizzo, the lung association's chief medical officer. "Many of them become dual users, meaning they smoke cigarettes when they can and use vaping devices at other times.
The association warned smokers that the FDA has not found any e-cigarette to be a safe and effective tool for ending an addiction and said research has shown the devices contain dangerous metals and toxic chemicals including propylene glycol, heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead, diacetyl (which can cause a dangerous lung disease often referred to as “popcorn lung”), acrolein (which causes irreversible lung disease) and formaldehyde, known to cause cancer.
The FDA has worked as quickly as possible to regulate e-cigarettes since 2016, the agency said, "but our policies and procedures in this area are still evolving."
In September 2018, the FDA issued more than 1,100 warning letters to retailers who sold e-cigarettes to minors.