More youth drawn to the e cigarette – yet their safety is in question
By ERIN FERGUSON
Only 3.7% of adults are using e cigarettes daily . We’ve heard that the market has seemingly “exploded,” (pun intended), but when we look at the facts, we see that the majority of adults are deciding against using these techy + tobacco products — but usage may be increasing among young people. The e cigarette falls under a class of products called electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), which also include e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-hookahs, vape pens, and other products. As a parent, it’s good to knowledgeably discuss them with your kids. If you are a smoker looking for a way to quit the habit, it’s good to thoughtfully create a plan that will work for you.
We all may know a life-long smoker or two who swears that the e cigarette helped them quit. But the real concern is not for these 50-something-year-old adult smokers using the electronic nicotine devices. About 70% of middle and high school students were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements in 2014. The danger is that some children believe the e-cig to be safe and trendy. When kids believe this, they are at greater risk to use these products, despite health and safety concerns.
Indiana’s current e cigarette use among youth mirrors national trends. Among high school students, the usage rate in Indiana increased from 4.5% in 2013 to 13.4% in 2014 (used once in the last 30 days). The Catch Global Foundation did a survey of children and found that to the Public Health Sector’s dismay, young people believe e cigarettes to be a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes.
The U.S. Regulatory Process
Although the U.S. regulatory agencies noticed the rise of the e-cigarette industry, they were only recently able to act. In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to classify the products as a drug to require more proof of consumer safety. This request was answered with a lawsuit filed by the e-cigarette industry, which was subsequently struck down. Two years later, the federal appeals court concluded that the FDA has the right to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product. This classification, however, does not require manufacturers and distributors to prove that e-cigarettes are safe. In 2014, the FDA proposed a rule that would deem them authoritative power over warning labels and sales restrictions.
In April 2016, the proposed FDA rule was finalized. When it finally goes into effect, these products will be limited to being sold in the United States to people 18 and older, and e-cigarette companies will be required to register with the FDS and provide information about ingredients and manufacturing processes.
What are Electronic Cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes produce an aerosol upon each inhalation that resembles and tastes like the smoke produced by combustible tobacco products.
An e-cigarette contains a battery, a vaporizer, a cartridge that may or may not contain nicotine, and a mouthpiece. What is being inhaled? Without regulation, we really don’t know. The three main ingredients are nicotine, propylene glycol or glycerin, and flavor chemicals. The amount of nicotine varies widely based on the brand and strength. Cartridges claiming to contain zero nicotine are also available; but early testing of some samples by the FDA revealed inconsistences with labels and nicotine content.
Negatives to Consider:
- E-cigarettes have not been approved as effective for helping people quit tobacco by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Other tools, like the nicotine patch and gum, and counseling, have proven to be more than twice as successful for someone trying to quit.
- Nicotine is an addictive and habit-forming drug with the potential of side effects. Studies have connected nicotine with cardiovascular disease and birth defects. Nicotine is also associated as a gateway drug, meaning it changes the brain chemistry in a way that supports use of other drugs. Additionally, studies show that a person in active drug recovery can derail recovery plan with the tobacco habit and therefore would benefit from being nicotine free.
- The FDA has found that e-cigarettes contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze. Scientists discovered that when vaping 3 milligrams of liquid at high voltage, e-cigs can generate around 14 milligrams of formaldehyde.
- Some e-liquid contains diacetyl, which is casually linked to “popcorn lung,” a condition with symptoms like COPD.
- The aerosol from e-cigs is a high concentration of ultrafine particles which have been linked to respiratory conditions and constrict arteries.
- E-cigs admit an aerosol and can affect persons around the user. The health effects of exposure to aerosol from e-cigs are currently unknown. Research shows that the aerosol releases measurable amounts of carcinogens and toxins into the air, including nicotine, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
- E-cigarettes are sold with different fruity and sweet flavors that appeal to youth.
- The liquid can be very concentrated and can lead to overdosing or poisoning. The lethal dose of nicotine for adults is 30-60mg and for children is just 10mg. The exposure can be through swallowing and absorption through the skin. The products should be kept out of the reach of small children and pets.
- Lack of product safety requirements has led to some mechanisms exploding and causing severe burns.
- By 2013, the tobacco industry heavily inserted itself into the e-cigarette market. The tobacco industry continues to use its same old marketing tactics. History has shown how effective their billion-dollar advertising campaigns are and how their involvement should be cause for concern for the public health.
If you are interested in quitting tobacco, there are programs and tested nicotine replacement therapies available to support your choice. If you are a parent, broach the conversation with your student in a respectful manner being aware of the harms that these products may pose for your children. If you have questions contact the TPC Coalition at 765-935-8997 or see BreatheInWayneCounty.com.