Surgeon General’s 50th Anniversary Report on Smoking and Health: Implications for Electronic Cigarettes


  • January 27, 2014

By Kerry Roche

This month, the Surgeon General released a new 50th anniversary report on the health consequences of smoking. The report describes new evidence that adds to the list of diseases caused by smoking, including liver and colorectal cancer, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, impaired immune function, erectile dysfunction, macular degeneration, ectopic pregnancy, and cleft palate birth defects. The report is very clear in stating that this death and disease is “overwhelmingly caused by cigarettes and other combusted products,” and that rapid elimination of their use will dramatically reduce this burden.

The report notes that new noncombustible nicotine-delivery products (such as electronic cigarettes) are increasingly being introduced into the market. While this raises the possibility of reducing direct individual harm among those who substitute noncombustibles for cigarettes, many questions still exist: What is their potential toxicity? How to regulate them? How to weigh individual risks and benefits against population risks and benefits? The role of noncombustible products as part of a harm reduction strategy is obviously still a matter of debate, and the report calls for rigorous surveillance of such products to understand their effect on initiation and cessation of conventional tobacco products. The FDA’s mandate is to take the findings from this report and take “science-based” action to reduce the impact of tobacco products.

The Weinberg Group has a long history of working on tobacco issues and is knowledgeable about the scientific literature on e-cigarettes. Clients with questions are encouraged to contact us.

Kerry Roche is a Senior Consultant at The Weinberg Group, the world’s leading food and drug consulting firm. If you have any questions or thoughts on this blog post or others, please contact us.