RICHMOND, Va. (CBSDC) – According to a new study, the benefits of e-cigarettes may outweigh any harm they can cause.

Researchers reviewed data from 81 prior studies on the use and safety of e-cigarettes.

“Current evidence suggests that there is a potential for smokers to reduce their health risks if electronic cigarettes are used in place of tobacco cigarettes and are considered a step toward ending all tobacco and nicotine use,” Thomas Eissenberg, co-director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a researcher on this study, told HealthDay News.

Regulatory agencies are currently debating whether or not e-cigarettes should be regulated and how strongly they should.

The long-term risks of e-cigarettes are still unknown, but researchers found that the benefits of e-cigarettes as a no-smoking aid outweigh potential harm.

“If there are any risks, these will be many times lower than the risks of smoking tobacco,” Dr. Hayden McRobbie, from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, and the senior author of this study, said. “We need to think carefully about how these products are regulated. What we found is that there is no evidence that these products should be regulated as strictly as tobacco, or even more strictly than tobacco.”

McRobbie went on to say that there is no evidence to show that vapor produced by e-cigarettes is harmful to users or bystanders. “Use of e-cigarettes by people who don’t smoke is very rare,” he said.

McRobbie also pointed out that there is no evidence to support arguments that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking tobacco. “There is evidence that e-cigarettes enable some users to quit smoking or reduce their consumption,” he said. “If there is evidence that e-cigarettes reduce smoking-related harm, then they need to be easily obtainable and not regulate more strongly than tobacco products.”

Dr. Norman Edelman, a senior medical consultant for the American Lung Association, believes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should have authority over all tobacco and e-cigarette products. “It is imperative that the FDA finalize proposed e-cigarette regulation by the end of 2014,” he said. “The FDA needs to crack down on quit-smoking and other health claims that e-cigarette companies are making.”

Earlier this month, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies urged governments around the world to ban or limit e-cigarettes until more is known about their health effects. The Forum of International Respiratory Societies has over 70,000 members.

Also this month, the American Medical Association requested tighter restrictions on the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes.

The AMA’s recommendations include a minimum age to purchase; childproof packaging; restrictions on flavors that appeal to young people, and a ban on unsupported claims that the devices help people quit smoking. They also want to prevent e-cigarettes being marketed to minors.

The study was partly funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Addiction.


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