Most vapers know there is a huge disparity between what research says about e-cigarettes and how governments regulate them. While study after study after study on vaping has suggested that e-cigs are safer than traditional cigarettes, public health agencies around the world have largely continued to treat vapor products the same as tobacco products. How have those policies been working? Thanks to a new multimillion-dollar research project supported by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, we will soon have answers.
New Research Project to Study Impact of E-cig Regulations
The International Tobacco Control Evaluation Project, or ITC Project, is a collaborative effort between some of the world’s most prestigious universities and health research institutes to evaluate the efficacy of government tobacco and nicotine regulations. As part of the ITC Project, researchers at the Canadian University of Waterloo just received an $8.8 million dollar grant from the US National Cancer Institute to specifically focus on policies regarding e-cigs in the U.S., Canada, England and Australia.
The University of Waterloo team will be conducting two studies: one led by psychology professor Geoffrey T. Fong, which will investigate patterns of e-cig use among former and current adult smokers; and one led by public health professor David Hammond, which will focus on youth who use e-cigs. Stressing the importance of research-based e-cig regulations, professor Fong said in a public statement, “We are in new and uncharted terrain, and we’re in urgent need of data to understand the strengths and weaknesses of different policy options.”
In total, the ITC Project is currently overseeing five inter-related studies to help governments establish best practices for regulating emerging nicotine products, such as e-cigs, in a way that encourages tobacco users to quit smoking while also reducing the public health hazard posed by secondhand smoke. Collaborating institutions include the Medical University of South Carolina, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, King’s College London, Cancer Council Victoria and several others. These studies will employ experimental and observational methods and will include a sample of 12,000 smokers and 3,200 vapers across the participating countries.
What is the International Tobacco Control Evaluation Project?
The ITC Project has partnered with policymakers and health organizations in more than 25 countries over the past 14 years. The project’s goal is to find out how nationally enforced policies such as smoke-free legislation, health warning requirements, taxation and public education affect citizens’ smoking habits. For example, when tobacco giant Philip Morris International sued the government of Uruguay for increasing the size of warning labels on tobacco products, the ITC Project conducted research that found the bigger warning labels were more effective at deterring consumers from smoking, so the government was justified in its decision. If further studies reveal that e-cigs are convincing people to quit smoking, we could see more governments warming up to them.