My goal here is to educate people about the risks and realities of e-cigarettes amid an environment full of popular misconceptions and half-truths. Talking about e-cigarette use in adults will NEVER be the same as talking about e-cigarette use and dangers for children and teens. Different groups, different realities, different risks, different use, and different vulnerabilities. Period.
E-cigarette use tripled among high school students last year alone. This is happening RIGHT NOW.
If we don’t get real about protecting children and teens from the availability, allure, and marketing of these e-cigs my fear is we’ll find ourselves rewinding progress made on nicotine addiction via declining teen use of tobacco cigarettes this past decade. In the past I’ve called e-cigs the gateway to the gateway drug which I still believe today. Nothing is currently better about e-cigs and liquid nicotine for teens today. There is no data to prove any benefit in having e-cigs around for teens and as time progresses liquid nicotine is still in arm’s reach for many children (one child has died from a toxic ingestion). Just this month the FDA has announced they will consider making changes to the packaging of liquid nicotine, but it will literally take congress and the FDA stepping up and prioritizing child safety to ensure in minimum liquid nicotine is sold in child-resistant packaging. Can you believe it’s this much of a challenge to protect children?
3 Things about E-cigarettes:
1. E-cigarettes Versus Typical Tobacco Cigarettes
E-cigarettes may be considered less harmful than tobacco cigarettes by some groups and some data, but we just don’t know about their safety long-term nor do we have any data on their safety with teen vapors — less harmful in adults doesn’t make them harmless or safe for use by teens.
It might be possible that things like e-cigs in the future will have a positive role. As they’re being rolled out now, I have grave concerns that they’re doing more harm than good ~Dr Thomas Frieden from CDC
E-cigarettes expose users and bystanders to some harmful chemicals, including at least 10 chemicals that are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm. The ingredients in e-cigarette liquid, like propylene glycol and flavoring agents, are known to cause inflammation of the respiratory system which plays a role in the development of cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. E-cigarettes most typically contain nicotine, a neurotoxin known to be wildly addictive. Thing is, amount of nicotine in e-cigs may vary. Only e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently regulated by the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) therefore dosing inconsistencies in e-cigs currently available are real. I was taught in medical school that nicotine is as addictive as heroin. Think how challenging it can be for adults to quit nicotine once addicted. Do we want our teens addicted now? If they use e-cigs and get addicted to nicotine, will they reach for cheaper, more accessible tobacco cigs as replacement? We cannot forget that teen bodies and brains are still forming…nicotine may have more devastating effects in adolescents who are going through critical periods of brain development, and are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of nicotine for many years to follow.
What You Need To Know About E-cigarettes (nice infographic)
Some areas are getting really serious about protecting children and teens. Snohomish County, WA is currently conducting a survey for the public through end of July 2015 to gauge public interest in banning e-cig use in public places. Be heard here (click on survey link).
2. E-cigarettes Used To Quit Smoking
E-cigarettes are not FDA-approved quit smoking devices. E-cigarette companies can go through the process of having their products FDA-approved as cessation devices. However, as of today, as I understand it, it’s not evident that any of the hundreds of e-cigarette companies out there have submitted applications to do so. Studies show that using both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes during the quitting process is problematic. Though smokers may reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, many end up using both products simultaneously, and never actually quit altogether. This means that any potential health benefits are diminished and the cardiovascular risks (elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, heart disease risk) associated with smoking stay essentially the same and continue to cause significant health problems for the individual. Additionally, e-cigarettes may hinder people from successfully beating their addiction to nicotine.
E-cigarette marketing is not currently controlled nor restricted. From celebrity endorsements to alluring ads there is no question our teens are the target. Case in point: a friend of mine who is an author told me a couple years ago she was offered $35,000 to use and promote e-cigs. Imagine the millions of dollars being shuffled around to international celebrities…the power of seeing someone sexy use one of these devices cannot be overstated.
3. E-cigarettes Are NOT Exactly Tobacco Free
E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco, but they do contain nicotine, which is derived from tobacco plants, and is the same component that makes traditional cigarettes so addictive. E-cigs in general burn liquid nicotine, often flavored. In 2010, a federal court issued a decision that e-cigarettes and other products made or derived from tobacco can be regulated as “tobacco products” under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. On April 25, 2014, the FDA issued its proposed rule deeming e-cigarettes as tobacco products and a plan for regulating them as such.