As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to issue a final ruling on whether it will extend its tobacco regulatory authority to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), researchers from Rutgers School of Public Health (SPH) have identified strong support for a number of e-cigarette policies among smokers. Dr. Olivia Wackowski, assistant professor of Health Education and Behavioral Science (HEBS) in the Center for Tobacco Studies at Rutgers SPH and Dr. Cristine Delnevo, professor and chair of HEBS at Rutgers SPH and director of the Center for Tobacco Studies further examined smokers’ attitudes on e-cigarette policies in a study published in Tobacco Control.
The authors used nationally representative data from an online survey completed by 519 current smokers in April 2014, just prior to the announcement of the FDA’s proposed rule. Current smokers were adults who ever smoked 100 tobacco cigarettes and now smoke some days or every day. Nearly half (46 percent) of these participants were also current e-cigarette users, defined as smokers who had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. Former e-cigarette users made up 62 percent of the overall tobacco smoking group and were defined as those who had ever tried the devices but had not used them in the past 30 days.
Overall, researchers found that while 90 percent of respondents were aware of e-cigarettes, nearly two-thirds (62.5 percent) did not know the devices are unregulated. A majority (83.5 percent) of all respondents also agreed that e-cigarettes should be FDA regulated, including 77.9 percent of current e-cigarette users. Nearly 87 percent of all respondents and 78 percent of e-cigarette users agreed that e-cigarettes should carry warning labels about potential risks, and a majority of respondents also agreed the devices should have the same legal age of sale as other tobacco products (87.7 percent all respondents; 91.8 percent current e-cigarette users).
“One finding of note in this work is that nearly two-thirds of respondents did not realize e-cigarettes are not regulated under any government agency – possibly leading to a false sense of security about the safety of the devices. But when respondents were prompted, a vast majority of them believed they should be regulated by the FDA for both quality and safety. As the FDA prepares to issue a final rule regarding e-cigarette regulation, it is important to have such data,” notes Dr. Wackowski, who is the lead author and principal investigator of the study.
More than half (55.5 percent) also supported advertising restrictions for the devices. “Exposure to tobacco advertising is a risk factor for youth tobacco use and while cigarette marketing is considerably restricted in the U.S., e-cigarette companies have no such restrictions and spend millions advertising their products. Youth e-cigarette experimentation is rising, and so it is encouraging that there is support to restrict e-cigarette advertising,” says Dr. Delnevo. The research also showed that support was lower for policies restricting flavoring of e-cigarettes (44.3 percent) and indoor use of e-cigarettes (41.2 percent). However, authors note that support for indoor e-cigarette restrictions could increase over time, similarly to how support for policies to ban indoor smoking of tobacco cigarettes has grown.
Link to published article: doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051953