DUBAI // Regulations and the most updated advice on e-cigarettes is falling behind as researchers struggle to keep pace with the latest technology used to deliver a nicotine hit, doctors claim.
Experts in cardiovascular disease prevention from the American College of Cardiology were speaking at the launch of a year-long programme to help educate the UAE’s doctors on the latest advice to give patients to help reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.
Three separate aspects of prevention will be discussed in three online seminars throughout 2017. As smoking is a key cause of cardiovascular disease, accounting for about 20 per cent of UAE cases, e-cigarettes are becoming a popular alternative to conventional smoking.
Dr Pamela Morris, from the ACC, said e-cigs offer less of a cancer risk than cigarettes but urged caution in ruling them as a safe alternative.
“We must point out how little science we have on e-cigarettes,” she said. “These devices are evolving so rapidly. Studies were done 5 to 8 years ago on devices that aren’t even in use today. There are completely new ones we know very little about.
“The consumer (market) is moving faster than the science, so it is hard to give accurate advice.”
The college recently gathered experts from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to look at the latest research from the Food and Drug Administration on e-cigarettes.
Although not banned, they are tightly regulated by the US government.
“Experts pointed out there is far less harm from a nicotine delivery device, as there are not the same combustibles as regular cigarettes,” Dr Morris said.
“Half the panel claimed e-cigarettes are a ‘less-harm strategy’, the others said we should completely ban nicotine and tobacco delivery products altogether.”
The ACC is compiling a consensus group to prepare a full list of recommendations and guidelines on e-cigarettes, to be released later this year.
The college is working alongside the Emirates Cardiac Society to train doctors in online seminars in treating high-risk cardiovascular disease patients, as part of the 2021 vision to halve rates of the disease within five years.
Other major causes of cardiovascular disease are inactivity or lack of physical exercise, accounting for 38 per cent of UAE cases, and people who are overweight or obese, who make up 74 per cent of cases, according to the society.
“We would like to be in a position to prevent the disease, rather than treat it,” said Dr Juwaira Yousif Tahir Alali, from the ECS.
“There is an ongoing survey in Abu Dhabi tracking patient information and risk factors so that will be translated to offer the best advice.
“We have smoking cessation programmes in the UAE with nicotine patches but not e-cigarettes.
“Vapours are still getting some of the harm of nicotine, so I don’t see the current advice changing soon.”
In the UAE, it is only illegal to import or sell e-cigarettes.