Public health and other experts at West Virginia University lauded the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement Thursday that e-cigarettes and other tobacco products like premium cigars and hookahs will be regulated in the same way as traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

“Our state has the highest rate of smoking among all age groups and pregnant women. And smoking dramatically increases the risk of death and disease,” said
Gregory Hand, founding dean of West Virginia University’s School of Public Health.

Hand says the move supports the School’s ongoing efforts to reduce the use of tobacco products in West Virginia.

“Reducing the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes, controlling smoking in public places and work environments, and providing effective programs for those who want to quit smoking are the three areas that we know are effective in the fight against smoking-related disease and death,” Hand said.

The FDA assumed regulatory authority under a rule that broadens the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, hookahs, pipe tobacco, premium cigars, little cigars and other products.

Linda Alexander, associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Public Health, believes the decision signals an important milestone. “This is a victory for public health because at the very core of the ruling is the notion that significant actions by regulatory agencies can be the tipping point toward the elimination of the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,” Alexander says.

Hand and Alexander are available to speak with the media.

Other WVU faculty who can offer insight and analysis on tobacco related health issues include:

Valerie Frey-McClung, director of evaluation services, in the School of Public Health’s WV Prevention Research Center, who has extensive experience in community health-related research and evaluation projects within the state. Frey-McClung serves as a liaison between the WV Bureau for Public Health’s Division of Tobacco Prevention, its contractors, other partners, and the PRC.

Melissa Blank is an assistant professor of psychology and in the WV Prevention Research Center. She is conducting research into the use of alternative tobacco products, such as cigars, smokeless tobacco, and waterpipes and the evaluation of novel tobacco products marketed as a means to reduce smoking-related harms.

Bill Case, WVU University Relations – Health Sciences, is coordinating the requests. He can be reached by phone at 304.293.8045 or email at

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



CONTACT: Bill Case; WVU University Relations – Health Sciences

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.