The New Craze: e-cigarettes

e cigs

You’ve probably heard of e-cigarettes by now, and if you haven’t, you soon will. Many misconceptions exist about e-cigarettes. For example, some believe that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. In fact, e-cigarettes have been falsely marketed as a way to quit smoking all together. This is probably why e-cigarette use among high school students more than doubled, from 4.7% in 2011 to 10.0% in 2012 (Centers for Disease Control, 2013).

 

According to Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health “About 90 percent of all smokers begin smoking as teenagers(Centers for Disease Control, 2013). Therefore there is a legitimate concern as e-cig use increases among youth. Youth who use e-cigarettes could easily become adults with a nicotine addiction and begin smoking traditional cigarettes

 

Since e-cigarettes are a fairly new enterprise, skeptics question the long term health effects of using e-cigarettes. Recently, the National Institute on Health began researching e-cigarettes closely and what they’ve found counter argues everything the nicotine companies want you to believe about their products.

 

How do e-cigarettes work?

An e-cigarette, aka e-cig, is a battery powered device that has a heating feature that activates when a user puffs on it. E-cigarettes contain a cartridge where a liquid solution is stored. When the user puffs on the e-cigarette, the heating contraption (or vaporizer) transforms the liquid solution into a vapor which is inhaled by the user. When the liquid nicotine cartridge is empty you simply buy a new cartridge at a gas station or convenience store and refill your e-cig.   (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014)

 

What’s in an e-cigarette?

Nicotine extracted from tobacco

Chemicals and flavorings

Cancer causing agents (aka carcinogens) such as formaldehude and acetaldehyde

Toxic metal nanoparticles (from the vaporizing mechanism)    (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014)

 

What are the ultimate consequences if I use e-cigarettes?

Liquid nicotine is extremely more potent than the nicotine you find in a regular cigarette. Exposure to liquid nicotine (by the skin or eye contact, inhalation, or ingestion) can be toxic. See section on symptoms of nicotine toxicity.

One person spilled liquid nicotine in his pocket and was poisoned. (Bangor Daily News, 2014)

“A single teaspoon of highly concentrated nicotine can kill a small child.” (USA Today, 2014)

“A 1-year-old child in New York died from exposure to liquid nicotine after officials have been warning of the risks from sales lacking regulation.” (Huffington Post, 2014)

 

Others have been poisoned due to high concentrations of nicotine by simply smoking e-cigs as they were designed for. From 2012 to 2013 there was a 219% increase in reported exposures according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers; over half of these incidents occurred in children under the age of 6.

 

Symptoms of nicotine toxicity according to the American Association of Poison Control:

Nausea

Dizziness

Tremors

Seizures

Low Blood Pressure

Loss of Consciousness

Paralysis

Vomiting

Headache

Jitteriness

Fast or irregular heartbeat

Chest pain

 
Sources

http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0905-ecigarette-use.html

http://vitalsigns.bangordailynews.com/2014/06/13/public-health/e-cigarette-refills-contain-enough-nicotine-to-kill-your-child-or-pet/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/25/e-cigarette-warning-from-poison-centers/6873759/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendy-sue-swanson-md-mbe-faap/ecigarettes-one-dead-in-n_b_6348522.html