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RICHMOND, Va. — Public health officials are "in desperate need of clarity" regarding electronic cigarettes in order to guide policies, the U.S. Surgeon General stated. Dr. Vevik Murthy discussed the issue during a visit to Richmond this week as part of his cross-country listening tour, reported the Associated Press.
"There've been theories and ideas around the fact that e-cigarettes may be helpful from a harm-reduction perspective in helping people who are already on cigarettes [that] have had trouble quitting actually get off cigarettes," Murthy said. "If the data indeed bears that out, then I think we should absolutely embrace that and use e-cigarettes in targeted ways."
Murthy added that there are unanswered questions regarding the health impacts of e-cigarettes and their contents, as well as whether they ultimately serve as a gateway to traditional smoking.
"I'm concerned about e-cigarettes, and I think this is an area where we are in desperate need of clarity," he said. "I think it's important for us to understand the impact, particularly on youth, before we allow the full-fledged spread of these e-cigarettes and then later have problems that we have to deal with."
Murthy also noted that there has been rapid growth in the use of e-cigarettes among both adults and children.
In April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed regulations for e-cigarettes that include banning sales to minors and requiring health warning labels. According to the FDA, the proposal serves as a foundation for regulating e-cigarettes, but the rules would not immediately ban the variety of flavors and styles available with e-cigarettes or prevent marketing on TV.