In a recent study, Harvard public health researchers decided to test a few dozen types of electronic cigarettes for diacetyl, a flavoring chemical associated with a severe respiratory disease known as “popcorn lung.” The researchers found diacetyl in a majority of the e-cigarettes they tested. News outlets jumped on the findings, with some announcing that e-cigarettes could cause the often-debilitating respiratory disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released the first nationally representative estimates of electronic cigarette use among U.S. adults, finding that more than 12 percent had ever tried the aerosol nicotine products in 2014. So, as is the unfortunate case with many emerging and potential public health threats, it seems like e-cigarette use is outpacing the ability of regulatory bodies to protect the public’s health and educate consumers about possible risks.
Because there can never be enough research to illustrate the positive impact of public health policy on people’s health, here’s another one. This one found that comprehensive smoke-free indoor air laws resulted in a lower risk of asthma symptoms and fewer asthma-related doctor’s visits.
In just a year, electronic cigarette use has tripled among American teens. And considering that no one really knows what the related health impacts are and any regulatory framework is lagging far behind the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, public health advocates say it’s time for action.
Paradoxically the US anti-trust laws intended to protect competition and keep prices down for consumers could kill more Americans when it comes to the merger of two of the three largest tobacco companies.
It’s probably my earliest public health memory — the image of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and his grandfatherly beard on the television warning my elementary school self about the dangers of smoking. He was the first doctor I knew by name.