Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

13 March 2013

Risks of Electronic Cigarettes

Since sellers of electronic cigarettes are so persistently commenting on their positive qualities on this blog, I am inviting these people to read excerpts from articles stating the risks of these devices : from Forbes Magazine and a health site, that lists 10 facts about electronic cigarettes, including safety concerns (inhalation of nicotine), the appeal to children, their not being FDA regulated, the production of secondhand vapors.

Excerpt: « Are Electronic Cigarettes a Safe Alternative for Smokers ? », Forbes magazine, 30 October 2012

A study presented at the European Respiratory Society’s annual meeting in Vienna in February, 2012 demonstrated an abrupt increase in airway resistance leading to a lower level of oxygen in the bloodstream in electronic cigarette users. This could have dangerous effects on people with coronary artery disease who have obstructing plaques in their coronary arteries. In their small study, the Athens researchers studied the effects of the electronic cigarettes on 8 people who never smoked, along with 24 smokers-11 with normal lung function and 13 participants with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The study participants all used an electronic cigarette for 10 minutes. Researchers then conducted measurements of airway resistance and lung function. All participants had a sudden increase in airway resistance which lasted about 10 minutes. Interestingly, the increase was more noticeable in smokers than non smokers, although the effect seen in people with COPD was less immediate in nature. The researchers stated that it was unclear whether this increase in resistance had any potential long term effects.

The European Respiratory Society (ERS) smoking cessation guidelines do not currently recommend the use of such electronic products. A number of physicians in the ERS note that a number of brands of e- cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine which is highly addictive, and also linked to development of lung cancer.

Exceprt:  “10 Little Known Facts About E-Cigarettes”, Fit & Health)

Because they contain no tobacco, e-cigarettes aren't subject to U.S. tobacco laws, which means they can be purchased without proof of age, especially online. This raises concerns that e-cigs may be particularly appealing to kids and may encourage nicotine addiction among young people. And while manufacturers of the e-cigarette claim that it's the cigarette you can "smoke" anywhere, regulatory agencies around the world are taking a close look at these gadgets and instituting a range of restrictions on their use.

Safety Concerns
Many regulatory agencies and health experts aren't sure the e-cigarette is safe. While there are hundreds of companies in the United States alone that are making and selling e-cigarettes, manufacturers often don't make specific health or safety claims about their products. They do, however, tout the benefits of e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and some health experts are concerned that the side effects of inhaling pure nicotine have yet to be adequately studied, and are therefore unknown. The FDA is also concerned about quality control, asserting that some manufacturers may not adequately disclose all the chemical ingredients in their e-cigarettes, and that the amount of nicotine listed on a cartridge label may not match the actual amount in the cartridge.

Nicotine Levels
An electronic cigarette can contain as much nicotine as a regular cigarette -- or more. The amount of nicotine an electronic cigarette delivers depends on the content of the liquid-nicotine cartridge installed in it. Customers can choose cartridges containing nicotine in a range of strengths. Some are comparable to the amount of nicotine in a regular tobacco cigarette; others are closer to that of a light or ultralight cigarette. There are also cartridges that contain liquid without nicotine, for users who want the sensory experience of smoking without its effect.

Not Kid-friendly
Electronic cigarette manufacturers are careful not to directly market their product to young people. However, nicotine cartridges for the e-cigarette come in a wide range of flavors likely to appeal to kids -- think chocolate, caramel, strawberry and even bubble gum. And because e-cigarettes are sold online, it's easier for kids to purchase them than it is for them to buy regular tobacco cigarettes. For example, U.S. law requires consumers to provide proof that they are at least 18 years of age to buy tobacco cigarettes, but this law does not apply to e-cig sellers. And young people may be attracted to e-cigarettes as a result of the attention celebrities are bringing to them: Johnny Depp uses one in the film "The Tourist" and "Grey's Anatomy" star Katherine Heigl shared one with David Letterman during a guest appearance on his show, even explaining to the audience how it works [source:ecig.org and Hunter].

They're Expensive
Electronic cigarettes come in a range of prices, depending on the manufacturer, model and style. A typical starter kit, which contains the e-cigarette device, a battery and several cartridges, can cost anywhere from $60 to $150. A pack of five cartridges (each cartridge is equal to about a pack of cigarettes, depending on how much a person smokes) goes for about $10. Consumers also can purchase the liquid in bulk and refill the cartridges themselves, which reduces the cost.

Not FDA Regulated, Yet
The FDA is in the process of having e-cigarettes labeled as a drug-delivery device so they can be regulated [source: FDA]. Manufacturers, however, say the e-cigarette is simply recreational, and should not be subject to FDA regulation. Two e-cigarette companies, Smoking Everywhere and NJOY, sued the FDA in the district court of the District of Columbia for impounding their products, and won. The judge ruled that "there is no basis for the FDA to treat electronic cigarettes … as a drug-device combination when all they purport to do is offer consumers the same recreational effects as a regular cigarette" [source: U.S. District Court].

Secondhand Vapor
While e-cigarettes don't produce secondhand smoke, they do produce secondhand vapor. And even though manufacturers say that it's merely water vapor and therefore harmless, regulatory agencies and health experts contend that e-cigarette makers haven't conducted the research needed to prove this. Some individuals, particularly those with health conditions that make them sensitive, have reported that the vapor is irritating to their eyes, noses and throats, and that it affects their breathing and makes them nauseous. Opponents of e-cigarettes say people shouldn't be subjected to secondhand vapor until manufacturers have proven it to be safe for everyone, including children, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions.

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