The Controversy Over E-Cigarettes

December 17, 2013

Several faculty members at CUMC recently voiced their opinions on the e-cigarette controversy. In a New York Times Op-Ed piece (Dec. 9),  Amy L. Fairchild, PhD, MPH, and James Colgrove, PhD, MPH, faculty members at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, offered “qualified support” for public toleration of e-cigarettes. Their argument in favor of FDA regulation of e-cigarettes as a drug-delivery device is based on harm reduction—the idea that the best approach to a risk that cannot be eradicated is to minimize its potential harm.

Responding in a letter to the editor (Dec. 13), Joseph A. Califano Jr., LLB, founder and chairman emeritus of CASA Columbia, wrote against exempting e-cigarettes from the restrictions applied to regular cigarettes. He cited the danger that social acceptance of e-cigarettes could pave the way to an increase in the use of regular cigarettes.

In response to a NYT column by Joe Nocera (Dec. 7) in favor of FDA regulation of e-cigarettes, Daniel Seidman, PhD, director of Smoking Cessation Services at Columbia University Medical Center, wrote in another letter to the editor (Dec. 13) that, given the unknown long-term effects of e-cigarettes, as well as their lack of established benefit in quitting smoking, he does not recommend their use as a smoking-cessation aid.