Memorial Regional Health: Despite popular beliefs, e-cigarettes not considered safe, especially harmful for adolescents
- People who do not already smoke should avoid e-cigarettes. E-liquids contain nicotine, which increases the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as flavoring agents that may cause a chronic lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans. High-wattage vaporizers may also generate significant amounts of formaldehyde and other toxins.
- E-cigarette use is soaring in young people. This is of particular concern, as exposure of the developing brain to nicotine may impair brain development and predispose teenagers to addiction to other drugs.
- E-cigarette use among youth and young adults has become a public health concern. In 2014, current use of e-cigarettes by young adults 18 to 24 years of age surpassed that of adults 25 years old and older.
- E-cigarettes can expose users to several chemicals, including nicotine, carbonyl compounds and volatile organic compounds, known to have adverse health effects. The health effects and potentially harmful doses of heated and aerosolized constituents of e-cigarette liquids, including solvents, flavorants and toxicants, are not fully understood.
- E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless “water vapor,” though it generally contains fewer toxicants than combustible tobacco products.
- Ingestion of e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine can cause acute toxicity and possibly death if the contents of refill cartridges or bottles containing nicotine are consumed.
- Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (all carcinogens) coming from secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes.
Smoking reduces the average life span by at least 10 years, and cigarettes kill 480,000 people every year in the United States, yet electronic cigarette use is soaring — especially among teenagers.
E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among middle- and high-school students, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Youth Tobacco Survey. While e-cigarettes appear to have some reduced health consequences when compared to regular cigarettes, this reduction only applies to adults. Any tobacco use by children and teenagers, including e-cigarettes, could have serious effects on the developing brain.
“We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar,” said former CDC Director Tom Frieden, after a 2015 study revealed that youth e-cigarette use had tripled in one year. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction and lead to sustained tobacco use.”
For adults looking to quit smoking regular cigarettes, using e-cigarettes is not a safe or effective method to help a person quit, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Local educators are seeing an increase in the use of e-cigarettes, prompting the Moffat County High School to post a fact sheet “in an effort to better educate our students and community on the dangers of vaping.” The flyer states that one cartridge for a common e-cigarette called Juul holds the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. Talk to your kids about the dangers and myths surrounding e-cigarettes.
Cigarettes vs. e-cigarettes
Burning cigarettes give off noxious gases, such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, according to Harvard Medical School. The smoke also contains an ultrafine suspension of gummy residue known as tar, which is where most carcinogens in cigarette smoke occur.
“The major benefit of e-cigarettes, compared to regular cigarettes, is that they do not produce the tar or the toxic gases found in cigarette smoke. An e-cigarette contains a cartridge of fluid, popularly known as e-liquid,” according to Harvard Medical School. “E-liquid is made up of nicotine and flavorings dissolved in propylene glycol and glycerol. The e-liquid is superheated by a battery-powered vaporizer, converting it into a mist which is inhaled, or ‘vaped.’”
But the pros of e-cigarettes, or vaping, when compared to regular cigarettes stop there. The reality is that, regardless of the method used to inhale tobacco, nicotine exposure remains dangerous.
The nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes could lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased addiction to other drugs and impaired prefrontal brain development in adolescents, which can lead to attention deficit disorder and poor impulse control.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products has issued statements about its concern over e-cigarettes, especially given that their increasing popularity could undermine the progress already made in reducing youth cigarette smoking rates.
Fewer than 1 in 10 people are able to quit smoking without the help of nicotine quit medications or other support. In Colorado, the Colorado QuitLine helps more than 450 people per day in their journey to quit. Remember, it’s never too late to quit smoking. The body starts to repair itself almost immediately, and the longer you stay away from smoking, the more health benefits you will enjoy for days and years to come.