ANR UPDATE, 35(3), Fall 2016

Explosions, and Lawsuits, and Health Effects, oh my!

ANR has been covering electronic cigarettes since they hit the U.S. market in 2009. In fact, our first newsletter article on the issue (Fall, 2009) warned members to be wary of the extreme health benefits being touted online by e-cigarette vendors. Seven years later, the science about the health effects has grown immensely. Probably more widely recognized - and certainly sensational - are the daily news clips about the damage to person and property caused by exploding e-cigarettes.

Health Effects: While e-cigarettes deliver fewer cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco cigarettes, there is substantial evidence that these products increase heart and lung disease. A 2016 report out of New Zealand suggests that even though e-cigarettes have lower levels of toxins than tobacco cigarettes, toxins from the aerosol may still have a significant cardiovascular impact because cardiovascular disease has a nonlinear dose-response. Earlier studies found that despite e-cigarettes emitting lower levels of nicotine, people exposed to aerosol absorb nicotine (measured as cotinine) at similar levels as people exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke.

A study published in the May 2016 issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research raises concern about health risks from inhaling the nanoparticles in e-cigarette aerosol. These particles are much smaller than particles in tobacco smoke, and are present in much higher concentrations. Toxic chemicals attached to nanoparticles may have greater adverse health effects than when these toxins are attached to larger tobacco smoke particles.

Teen Use: Two papers published in the July 2016 issue of the journal Pediatrics illustrate the link between e-cigarette use and tobacco cigarette use. Not only are teen tobacco smokers also using e-cigarettes (known as dual use), more alarming is the rapid increase in the uptake of e-cigarettes among teens who never smoked.

Explosions: There is at least one news story every business day documenting another incident of an e-cigarette explosion. Our newest fact sheet ( highlights the wide range of tragic e-cigarette explosions, fires, and other hazards that are posing a serious health and safety risk both to users and those around them in all kinds of settings. E-cigarette industry proponents are often quick to blame users for these incidents and to raise doubt about any safety concerns, which is why we started this list of news coverage. ANR partners report that the factsheet is proving to be a useful educational tool for the public, media, and policymakers.

illustration of components of an electronic cigarette

Tobacco industry and allied interference: Nicopure Labs LLC, a leading manufacturer of American-made e-liquids, filed the first legal challenge to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) deeming rule to regulate e-cigarettes and cigars like traditional tobacco products, claiming that the rulemaking process violated the Administrative Procedure Act and that the regulation violates the First Amendment. The Right to be Smoke-Free Coalition and nine other groups, including the American Vaping Association and the Electronic Vaping Coalition, filed a complaint at the end of June against the FDA. The groups argue that the FDA's rule violates the First Amendment because it bans companies from passing out free samples, which it claims is a protected form of non-misleading speech.

The groups also claim it was "unlawful and unreasonable" under the Administrative Procedure Act for the FDA to include e-cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act's definition of "tobacco product." The irony is that e-cigarette maker Sottera Inc., which does business as Njoy, argued in a 2009 lawsuit that its products -- battery-powered devices that generate a nicotine vapor instead of smoke -are tobacco products and not drugs.

ANR is disheartened to learn that the State of Washington has adopted preemption language that forbids local municipalities from regulating the use of e-cigarettes in outdoor spaces. Currently, more than 500 municipalities and 10 states prohibit the use of these products in indoor smokefree spaces, and a growing number of communities prohibit their use in outdoor spaces. Preemption has long been a strategy of the tobacco industry to prevent the enactment of strong local laws and thus to interrupt the progressive, stronger policy development at lower levels of government.

Lastly, the DC-based R Street Institute, an off-shoot of the longtime tobacco industry front group Heartland Institute, champions e-cigarettes as a "tobacco harm reduction" strategy. R Street actively opposes including e-cigarettes in smokefree laws and believes that "there is no evidence that vaping poses a risk to non-smokers." R Street also lauds the FDA decision not to require the removal of e-cigarette flavorings, and encourages the FDA instead to promote e-cigarettes as a tobacco harm reduction strategy.

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