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Long-Term Study on the Effects of Vaping Regulations Gets Funding

Long-Term Study on the Effects of Vaping Regulations Gets Funding


Long-Term Study on the Effects of Vaping Regulations Gets Funding

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has given $1.4 million to Georgia State University to lead a four-year research initiative to evaluate the ways that regulations have affected vapers and the vaping industry as a whole. Led by economist Michael Pesko, researchers will examine the effects of pricing, access, public perception of the safety of vaping, and the use and sale of vapor products juxtaposed with traditional cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco.

In collecting this data, the team hopes to gain insight into ways that combustible tobacco cessation can impact vapers, and try to measure what effect regulatory actions have on a smoker's decision to use or not use vapor products. This is the framework for tobacco harm reduction, a concept that proposes measuring the harm of cigarettes against other nicotine replacements.  

“There is a gap in understanding how to regulate or deregulate e-cigarettes in the most optimal way from the perspective of public health,” Pesko said, “and a lack of understanding of what spillover effects vaping regulations might have on other health behaviors.”

Advocates have long argued that making it more difficult for smokers to get vapor products means that more people will begin using, or continue to use cigarettes. Up until this point, there hasn’t been much data to support this, at least in America, but Pesko hopes that understanding the effects of these regulations could help inform about the dangers of relapsing to smoking.

“If e-cigarettes are heavily taxed or regulated, people might be discouraged from using them as smoking cessation devices,” Pesko said. “On the other hand, e-cigarettes are not harmless and so regulating them could have health benefits if the regulations don’t tip people into more dangerous traditional cigarette use.”

One of the goals of the research initiative is to explore the impact of tobacco harm reduction. The idea behind this is that by cutting down on carcinogens in combustible cigarettes. vapor products  offer comparatively safer alternatives. Most of the studies US lawmakers reference when justifying the regulation of vapor products in America resist harm reduction arguments and instead push for an "abstinence only" approach, falling back to the argument that both vapor products and combustible cigarettes have nicotine, a relatively mild stimulant that nonetheless is known to be highly addictive.

“E-cigarettes are an intriguing new dimension to traditional tobacco control efforts because it is unclear how they will affect the pattern of disease and death from tobacco,” Pesko said. “Will e-cigarettes help, or will they hurt, and what regulations, if any, would facilitate the best outcome from the perspective of public health?

While the results will still be pending for at least four more years(!), a study over that long of a time period, and with sizable funding, is exciting news for advocates that have called for more health based studies in relation to the harm done by cigarettes.