Survey Shows Support for Tighter E-cigarette Regulation

Poll Underscores Worry That Too Few Understand Vaping's Nicotine Delivery

March 20, 2019 01:58 pm News Staff

You've made up your mind to kick an unhealthy habit.

[e-cigarette devices and pods]

It's hard to quit, but you've seen more and more people doing it lately by relying on a device they insist helps -- and even delivers pleasure while being more discreet. They get it in fun flavors with catchy names, and it's so popular that a lot of young people who never had the habit are getting hooked.

That's the new state of youth smoking, given teens' rapidly rising use of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) products -- including the wildly popular JUUL devices.

Yet ENDS and similar products marketed as cessation aids routinely supply users with nicotine in significantly higher quantities than smokers are used to. And an alarming number of users are unaware that they contain nicotine at all.(truthinitiative.org)

But a new survey(www.norc.org) of 1,004 adults by the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago (formerly known as the National Opinion Research Center) that was published March 13 shows that an increasing number of Americans know enough about ENDS products to call for stronger FDA regulation to prevent their use by adolescents.

Among the findings,

  • 78 percent of respondents support regulating e-cigarette ads that target teens,
  • 73 percent support restricting the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes,
  • 69 percent support raising the legal age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes,
  • 55 percent support restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, and
  • 39 percent support outlawing e-cigarettes entirely.

The survey also shows that only 21 percent of respondents "correctly identified that e-cigarettes contain more nicotine" than combustible cigarettes, and 13 percent actually thought e-cigarettes had less nicotine. (One JUUL pod can contain the same amount of nicotine as 20 cigarettes.)

NORC cited NIH data(www.nih.gov) indicating that in 2018, 37 percent of American 12th-graders reported having vaped at least once during the past year, compared to 28 percent in 2017. Cigarette smoking among U.S. teens had been trending downward(www.cdc.gov) when e-cigarettes entered the marketplace; this suggests that kids are using ENDS to start smoking, not to stop.

The survey also cites corresponding opposition to letting teens buy such devices.

"When asked to choose, 77 percent of survey respondents said access to e-cigarettes should be limited because people are becoming newly addicted to them, compared to 22 percent who said access to e-cigarettes should be broad since they are safer than regular cigarettes," NORC said.

The results support the idea that "the public is worried that e-cigarettes are creating a whole new generation of tobacco users who would not otherwise have started," said Sherry Emery, M.B.A., Ph.D., a senior fellow of public health at NORC, in a press release.

Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at NORC, added, "Americans are particularly concerned about teens becoming newly addicted to e-cigarettes, and they support a range of actions the federal government could take to make vaping products less available, less addictive and less appealing."

Noting that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb -- who has raised awareness of teen vaping, increased enforcement against e-cigarette sales to minors and moved to regulate the e-cigarette industry -- recently announced that he will be stepping down, Pearson went on: "Whether or not these efforts continue, however, rests on the priorities of the agency's next commissioner."

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