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Did the Italian Health Ministry 'slam' e-cigarettes?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Do E-cigarettes lack scientific evidence for helping with tobacco cessaton?

An alleged new report issued by the Italian Health Ministry warns that e-cigarettes aren’t as safe as many might presume and are no help for quitting tobacco smoking.

The report is said to come from Italy's National Institute of Health and was released Friday, according to multiple news sources.

The electronic devices still deliver nicotine that is known to constrict blood vessels, raise blood pressure and even lead to premature aging.

Included in the recommendations is a warning for young people that e-cigarettes could still be harmful, despite marketing efforts that suggest otherwise.

The report that isn’t available on the Health Ministry’s website, is nevertheless receiving backlash on the Internet. Commenters claim the report is nothing more than ‘rubbish’, designed to get e-cigarettes banned for the sake of tobacco company profits.

There are testimonials from readers of the report that e-cigarettes help with smoking cessation – the caveat is people are still using nicotine because the devices do contain various levels of the drug.

According to ABC News, Roberta Pacifici, director of Italy Observatory on Smoking, Alcohol and Drug Use at the National Health Institute said "We can say that the electronic cigarette is less toxic, but we cannot say that it is totally innocuous "We have to have a prudent approach towards this product as we know little about its worth in stopping people smoking or how toxic it is.”

Some studies show harm to the lungs after smoking e-cigarettes.

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Because nicotine addiction is powerful, there are also experts who suggest mitigating harm that comes from tobacco as a more realistic approach to improve health.

Another study recently found curbing nicotine intake, versus quitting altogether, indeed has health benefits that are worth noting.

Whether or not the Italian Health Ministry conducted any of their own studies isn’t known. There is a suggestion that the report was issued in response to high sales of electronic cigarettes with the recent Christmas holiday.

A comment posted at About.com from Prof. R. Polosa, LIAF (Lega Italiana AntiFumo), Chief Scientific Advisor reads: “The report was commissioned end of September 2012 by the Ministry of Health. I doubt they have conducted (or commissioned) a study in such a short period of time…. It is more likely to be antismoking (antiecig) activists propaganda in response to the very positive Xmas sales of electronic cigarettes in Italy. The report is likely to be a collection of opinions rather than a proper study of adequate scientific quality.

LIAF have posted a formal request to the ISS to review the content and scientific accuracy of the report as there is no trace of such a document in their website.”

Elaine Keller, President of The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association CASAA.org says the Italian Ministry failed to conduct their own studies, “…and Dr. Pacifici has ignored the published scientific journal articles on research conducted by asthma specialists in her own country. Dr. Riccardo Polosa and his colleagues have found the products to be a powerful tool for helping inveterate smokers to stop damaging their lungs”, which is also found in the comment section regarding the report at About.com.

We’re also not sure where the original report from the Italian Health Ministry can be found. Regardless, the e-cigarette controversy continues, despite testimonials that the device has helped smokers quit. The concern from governing health agencies is and has been that the long-term effects just haven’t been studied. There are also questions about toxins in e-cigarettes that include propylene glycol and solvents.

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