Serving the Community Since 1956

Serving the Community Since 1956

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How Safe are E-Cigs?

Chocolate, caramel, strawberry and bubble gum….who doesn’t love these flavors?  How tempting would something having those yummy smelling flavors be for a small child to play with?  These are just a few of the wide range of candy and fruit flavors that are available in  electronic cigarette nicotine cartridges.  Perhaps because of these “yummy” flavors, the CDC reports that poison control calls rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014 with more than half of the calls involving children under the age of 5. These poisonings occurred in one of three ways:  by ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin or eyes. So, what exactly are these yummy temptations?

Electronic cigarettes, also called “e-cigarettes”, were introduced to the U.S. in 2007 as an alternative to smoking tobacco.  They are readily available online and in shopping malls and are not currently required to be childproof.  Most “e-cigs” are similar enough in appearance to be mistaken for regular cigarettes, but don’t contain tobacco.  Instead, they have a battery-operated mechanism that heats up liquid cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals which turns into a vapor that smokers inhale and exhale.  Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it?  Both the FDA and CDC aren’t so sure that this is, in fact, the case.

The FDA is concerned that the side effects of inhaling pure nicotine have yet to be studied, and are therefore unknown.  The amount of nicotine in an e-cigarette comes in varying strengths - from those found in an ultra-light cigarette to those found in a regular tobacco one.  While e-cigarettes don’t produce second-hand smoke, they do produce second-hand vapors that the FDA has tested and found to have known carcinogens and toxic chemicals in them.  Some individuals with health conditions that make them very sensitive to these vapors have reported irritation to their eyes, nose and throats as well as nausea and breathing difficulties. 

So, are e-cigarettes as safe as manufacturers and users would have us believe?  Or, are they a healthier option or a riskier choice?  Only you can decide.

Submitted By: Kathy Duncan, RN, IP

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