WASHINGTON (AP) — The American Medical Association last week called for an immediate ban on all electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.
The group adopted the sweeping stance at a policy-making meeting in San Diego. It aims to lobby for state and federal laws, regulations or legal action to achieve a ban, but the industry is sure to fight back.
The AMA cited a surge in underage teen use of e-cigarettes, which typically heat a solution that contains nicotine.
“The recent lung illness outbreak has alarmed physicians and the broader public health community and shined a light on the fact that we have very little evidence about the short- and long-term health consequences of e-cigarettes and vaping products,” Dr. Patrice Harris, AMA’s president, said in a statement. “It’s simple, we must keep nicotine products out of the hands of young people.”
The doctors’ group said a separate health issue also prompted its action — the recent U.S. outbreak of lung illnesses linked to vaping.
Most of those sickened said they vaped THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana, not nicotine. Officials believe a thickening agent used in black market THC vaping products may be a culprit.
The outbreak has “shined a light on the fact that we have very little evidence about the short- and long-term health consequences of e-cigarettes and vaping products,” Harris said.
About 2,100 people have gotten sick; 42 have died.
The AMA has previously sought bans on e-cigarette flavors and ads.
Some observers say the AMA’s position is flawed and has little chance of achieving a sweeping ban.
“I would be 100% with the AMA if they were seeking a ban on all tobacco products that are smoked, including e-cigarettes,” said Jonathan Foulds, a tobacco addiction specialist at Penn State University. “But right now, nicotine electronic cigarettes are competing with and replacing the most harmful legal product in this country.”
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a pro-vaping advocacy group, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made clear that its focus “is not store-bought nicotine vaping products, but illicit contaminated THC oil cartridges sold by drug dealers.”
“It would be a mistake for adult smokers and their families to listen to these misguided prohibitionists, as the evidence continues to indicate that adult smokers who switch to nicotine vaping products greatly improve their health,” Conley said.
The AMA policy calls for a ban of vaping products not approved to help people quit. But so far, none have been reviewed or approved for that use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Stephanie Caccomo, an FDA press officer, said the agency is “committed to doing everything we can to prevent kids from using tobacco products and will continue to develop a policy approach that aligns with that concern.”
Juul Labs, the nation’s biggest e-cigarette maker, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
E-cigarettes first appeared in the U.S. more than a decade ago and have grown in popularity despite little research on their long-term effects.
The FDA has been widely criticized for repeatedly pushing back its own deadline to begin reviewing thousands of vaping products on the market, at one point until 2022. The deadline is now next May.
For the past five decades, the AMA has championed seminal anti-tobacco efforts, including prohibiting smoking in public places and on public transportation and airplanes and calling on tobacco companies to stop targeting children in their advertising campaigns.
Physicians, residents, and medical students from across the country voted to adopt policies on the AMA’s longtime efforts to prevent another generation from becoming dependent on nicotine.
The new policies include:
- Urgently advocate for regulatory, legislative, and/or legal action at the federal and/or state levels to ban the sale and distribution of all e-cigarette and vaping products, with the exception of those approved by the FDA for tobacco cessation purposes and made available by prescription only;
- Advocate for research funding to study the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarette and vaping products for tobacco cessation purposes;
- Call for immediate and thorough study of the use of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatment strategies for tobacco use disorder and nicotine dependence resulting from the use of non-combustible and combustible tobacco products in populations under the age of 18;
- Actively collaborate with health care professionals, particularly pharmacists and other health care team members, to persuade retail pharmacies to immediately cease sales of tobacco products;
- Advocate for diagnostic codes for e-cigarette and vaping associated illnesses, including pulmonary toxicity
Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker ordered a temporary ban on all vaping products on Sept. 24.
The temporary ban is set to expire on Christmas Eve.
Some public health officials are concerned the ban has actually made the health crisis worse.
That’s because with the legal regulated vaping products unavailable, young people may be switching to more dangerous, unregulated products.
AP writer Matthew Perrone in Washington contributed to this report.
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