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E-Cigs a Hot Topic at Seattle Nicotine Powwow

Seattle is hosting a conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco this week, and of course electronic cigarettes are one of the hot topics under discussion.

A look through the schedule and the 246-page abstract book doesn't reveal anything earth-shattering. Conclusions seem to be that e-cigs are popular but controversial, known to be much safer than cigarettes in the short run but yet to be investigated in the long run, thought by many to be an effective smoking-cessation tool, and by others to be a gateway to smoking. Nothing we didn't already know, but with everything backed up by mountains of statistics. Of course it's the interpretation of those statistics that's problematical, and as a result, the findings are as inconclusive as ever, with everybody calling for more research.

Perhaps the most interesting of the symposia was one entitled "E-CIGARETTES AND THE END GAME: IS THIS THE ROAD FORWARD?" summarized on page eleven of the abstracts book. It brought together two colleagues from the University of California at San Francisco who take rather divergent approaches to e-cigarettes. Professor Neal Benowitz, who has authored many articles calling for non-aggressive regulation of vaping products in recognition of their cessation potential and minimal hazards, argues in the symposium that e-cigs are a crucial part of the "road forward". He will open the session, laying our his belief that combining e-cig use with reduction of nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes will lead to a satisfactory "end game" for smoking cessation. Other panelists will be asked to comment on the vision Benowitz will introduce.

Also on the panel for the same symposium is Benowitz's colleague Stanton Glantz, who writes an anti-smoking blog that vociferously opposes e-cigs. Glantz will speak on the "problem of dual use", something he has deprecated repeatedly in his blog and in other writings. Glantz has gone on record to the effect that partial quitting is of no value, and therefore dual use is as bad as using only combustibles. In another panel the previous day, Benowitz teams with colleague Miaciej Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, for a presentation on "dual use", something on which both of them take a more moderate stance. Their article "The Regulatory Challenge of Electronic Cigarettes" was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Another panelist in "E-CIGARETTES AND THE END GAME: IS THIS THE ROAD FORWARD?" is New Zealand scientist Natalie Walker, one of the authors of a landmark study published recently in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, which found e-cigarettes marginally better than nicotine patches for smoking cessation.