There is a fair amount of “smoke and mirrors” when it comes to the marketing of the e-cigarette. Currently, there are 466 brands and 7,764 flavors available in retail shops and online. All kinds of tactics are underway to market these products, including referring to them as a “green” alternative to smoking. They are not.
What is an e-cigarette?
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) operate on a battery-powered heating element to deliver nicotine laced with flavors (this appeals to youth) and other chemicals through a cartridge filled with “e-juice”. The battery heats the e-juice to create a vapor that one inhales (a process that is now called “vaping”).
What’s the danger of e-cigarettes?
FDA analysis of the ingredients in e-cigarettes found diethylene glycol present. Know where else that is present? It is also found in antifreeze. Diethylene glycol can be toxic to humans. There are no health warnings on e-cigarettes. The ingredients are neither standardized, nor regulated.
What about nicotine in e-cigarettes?
There is no way to know how much nicotine one is getting per puff. The amounts of nicotine can vary from high to medium to low. Think about this: A regular cigarette contains anywhere from 8 mg of nicotine up to 20 mg of nicotine but the body absorbs only about 1 mg of nicotine while most e-liquids contain anywhere from 36 mg/mL concentrations on the high end to 6 mg/mL on the low end. There are too many variables to accurately predict how much nicotine is being absorbed from an e-cigarette, even though it may be less than regular cigarettes.
Poison control centers have seen reported cases of accidental exposure in children and adults. Even just a few milliliters of nicotine, if ingested by a child, can be fatal. Nationally, we have seen an increase in accidental exposures of liquid nicotine.
What about secondhand exposure to e-cigarettes?
There are nicotine particulates and other toxic chemicals that are exhaled, even though these are less than from conventional cigarettes. The environment is contaminated with secondhand emission, which is an important consideration in closed spaces.
But, don’t e-cigarettes help people quit smoking?
These devices are not necessarily helping people to quit, as many are using them for a dual purpose and using them where smoking is not allowed. In fact, there is not sufficient data supporting the long-term safety or effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a cessation method. The current Nicotine Replacement Therapies in combination with health coaching are well-established effective methods that are safe in comparison.
Advocates of public health are concerned that these could be a gateway to youth tobacco use, especially given the marketing strategy of desirable flavorings such as chocolate, strawberry, mint, black cherry, and bubble gum.
The FDA does not have jurisdiction or regulatory powers over these nicotine delivery devices.
Remember, nicotine is addictive and it does not contribute to one’s health and well-being in any way. Let your health be your bottom line. Don’t let it go up in smoke, or vapor.
SOURCES: American Legacy Foundation Fact Sheet & Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. August 2014
Evy Smith, MA LCMHC, CTTS-M, is an EFAP Counselor & Tobacco Treatment Specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.