Are electronic cigarettes just as dangerous?

Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist

May 11, 2014

The following is a continuation of Margaret Brackett’s column that ran on May 7 in The Newberry Observer.

It’s hard to miss the rise of the e-cigarette. Marketing materials indicate that they are safe and may offer a viable avenue to quit smoking. Recent studies are beginning to show that e-cigarettes are not as safe or effective as they may appear.

A study presented to lung cancer researcher’s shows that e-cigarettes appear to have a similar health effect on throat/lung cells as traditional cigarettes. A separate study shows that youths who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke and to smoke more cigarettes in addition to the e-cigarettes, and that e-cigarette maker’s marketing is targeting kids.

The nation notes an increase in the number of child nicotine poisonings resulting from their access to the e-cigarettes refill cartridges.

A new Cancer Study Found E-Cigarettes affect cells the same as tobacco. Electronic cigarettes have taken a pounding in the press lately. First there was the revelation that the liquid nicotine in the device is poisonous and potentially deadly if consumed, and that some children have died from drinking liquid by accident.

Then there are the stories of rechargeable e-cigarettes exploding while they are being charged. Just the past few weeks have brought forth stories from a woman’s living room, inside a car, a bar in the UK, and, horrifyingly, reports of an e-cigarette exploding in a man’s face. These are not the first of these types of stories. Now to cap it off, one of the first studies to look at the biological effects of the digital sticks found “striking similarities” between the effects vaporizing e-liquid and traditional tobacco smoke on human cells. Researchers found that when bronchial cells were exposed to e-cig vapor containing nicotine, they showed similar, potentially cancerous, gene mutations as the cells exposed to tobacco smoke.

The lead researcher says, “They may be safer than tobacco, but our preliminary studies suggest that they may not be benign.” Further study is needed, but the similarity suggests vaping could increase the risk of cancer versus not using tobacco at all.

E-Cigarettes don’t discourage smoking among teens. As reported by Time Magazine, contrary to popular assumption, adolescents who ‘vape’ or use e-cigs are more likely to smoke cigarettes and use other tobacco products. This suggests that e-cigarettes may not be the lesser of the two evils that some had hoped.

Researchers also found that while teens that used e-cigarettes were more likely to say they want to quit smoking, they were actually smoking more cigarettes since they have begun using e-cigarettes. Adolescents who use e-cigs are more likely to smoke other tobacco products and regular cigarettes, a new study finds, suggesting that e-cigarettes may not be the lesser of the two evils that some had hoped. The researchers also found that teens who used e-cigarettes were more likely to want to quit smoking the next year, but they were also less likely abstain from cigarettes altogether..

Congressional Report Details Marketing that entices kids, underscores urgent need for FDA Regulation An investigation report provides detailed evidence that e-cig manufactures are selling to youths. These companies have widely varying policies regarding sales to minors, and are using the same slick marketing tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids.

These tactics include:

•Kid-friendly flavors with names like cherry crush, chocolate treat, and grape mint,

•TV and radio ads that through youthful appeal and scheduling, reach youth audiences,

•Sponsorships and free samples at youth-oriented events such as auto races and music festivals

The report also finds that many e-cigarette companies use social media to promote their products. Given rising questions around the safety and addict-ability of e-cigarettes, this underscores the urgent need for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes and take action to prevent their marketing and sales to kids.

E-cigarettes accidents prompt poison warning. As mentioned earlier, many are not aware that nicotine is a deadly poison. E-cigarettes, unregulated by the US government, heat a liquid into a vapor that is inhaled. The liquid contains nicotine as well as chemicals and flavorings such as chocolate and bubble gum. Users buy liquid in refill containers which can resemble conventional cigarettes or clear containers of brightly colored liquids that a child may find appealing.

The FDA is tracking reports of illness from using e-cigarettes, and these reports mount, they note another problem: child poisonings from e- cigarette liquid. More than half of the reported exposures occurred in children younger than 6, some of whom became very ill and required emergency visits. U.S. poison centers are now warning parents to store the liquid nicotine away from children.

As we learn more about the widespread dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, and the new dangers about the e-cigarettes, it becomes more important to choose not to use tobacco in any form and to act to protect our population from predatory products and marketing practices.”