US government regulators have warned that nicotine salts can impair cognitive functioning in smokers.
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr Mary Schiavo told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in a hearing last week that nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes and inhalers contain nicotine salts that can lead to a “cognitive impairing effect” in some users.
“Nicotine salts are widely available, and they have been available in electronic cigarette vaporizers for some time, and we have identified nicotine salts as an ingredient in a number of electronic cigarette products that we have approved,” Dr Schiavos said.
“This is not a new finding, and it is certainly not a rare finding, but this is the first time that we are saying that nicotine can impair performance and cognitive function in those who use electronic cigarettes or inhalers.”
Dr Schiava told the committee that she did not know the FDA’s assessment of the potential harm of nicotine salts in electronic cigarettes, and noted that the agency’s own evaluation of the product found no evidence of any significant risk to the user.
“The evidence, in my view, is not sufficient to say that this product presents an imminent and imminent risk to consumers or the public health,” Dr Dr Schiacava said.
She also pointed out that the FDA is currently reviewing the use of the inhaler by some individuals who have never smoked.
“If the data shows that the inhalers, and the nicotine that they are inhaling, are impairing the user’s cognitive functioning, I am not aware of any public health justification for that use,” she said.
The hearing was also attended by representatives from the US Food & Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Lung Association, and several advocacy groups including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the Association of Nicotine Dependence Professionals, and Physicians for Responsible Tobacco Control.
The agency has also received warnings from the FDA for nicotine-based products, including those made from a nicotine concentrate, and some of those products are also available in liquid form, Dr Schiasva said.
Electronic cigarettes are popular among people who want to quit smoking and who want a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.
The electronic cigarette industry is booming in the US, with sales reaching $3.2 billion in 2016, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But it is also gaining popularity internationally, with a growing number of users switching to vaping to cut down on the risk of second-hand smoke.
Dr Schiasava also highlighted the increasing availability of nicotine-replacement therapies, including patches and nasal sprays, as being a key part of the trend.
The committee has not yet received a final draft of Dr Schiatavsky’s report, but is expected to make recommendations by mid-2018.