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E-cigarettes shouldn’t be viewed as ‘healthier’ nicotine

Posted 13 May 2014 at 12:00 am

By Nola Goodrich-Kresse, Public Health Educator for the Orleans County Health Department

You may have been hearing and seeing a lot about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or ‘vaping’ lately. There are so many mixed messages both in print, on television and through social media.

The manufacturers of e-cigarettes are marketing e-cigarettes as a “healthier” way to get nicotine. Unfortunately, they neglect to note that nicotine in any form is a poison.

E-cigarettes are a battery-powered nicotine delivery system using flavored vapor. They are designed to allow users to mimic the ritual of smoking a cigarette while inhaling nicotine.

Some may think e-cigarettes are safer than smoking a cigarette, however there are no clear studies to show this. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not currently approved e-cigarettes as an effective method to help smokers quit. Initial studies have shown that the actual amounts of nicotine and other additives do not always match the labeling.

The long-term health effects of using electronic cigarettes are unknown.  Detailed laboratory tests do suggest these products contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could be exposed.  E-cigarettes also release secondhand vapor (not smoke) that can be seen and smelled.

Producers of e-cigarettes add various additives including flavors that include candy or fruit flavors which may be enticing to children. The potential for this becoming a gateway for youth to become addicted to nicotine is great.

Because of the marketing the manufacturers are using many think this is a harmless alternative to regular cigarettes. This is not true. Any products designed to deliver more than a trace amounts of nicotine can lead to addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there is a rapid rise in the increase of e-cigarette-related calls to poison centers. In September of 2010 there was generally one call per month about poisoning from e-cigarettes. In February 2014 the average is 215 calls per month to poison centers across the nation. The number of calls involving regular cigarettes did not show a similar increase during the same time period.

More than half of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children under age 5 and about 42 percent of the poison calls involved people age 20 and older.

Liquid nicotine is a poison and can be very hazardous when swallowed (ingestion), inhalation or absorption through the skin or eyes.

New York State law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to youth less than 18 years of age.  It is important to remember nicotine is a poison and to e-cigarettes and the cartridges with the nicotine liquid out of reach of children and handle them carefully.

If you think someone may have been poisoned by liquid nicotine, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222, your health care provider or if the person is unconscious, 9-1-1 for medical assistance.