E-Cigarettes: All the Rage – But Are They Risky?

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E-Cigarettes: All the Rage – But Are They Risky?


Chances are you’ve seen people “smoking” e-cigarettes – inhaling from cigarette-shaped devices, then puffing out clouds of odorless fog. E-cigs have been on the market for about a decade and are surging in popularity, especially among youth. A typical battery-operated e-cig contains a cartridge of e-cig liquid, or “juice,” which usually contains nicotine and the chemical propylene glycol. They come in an array of flavors including cola and watermelon, which some say are meant to attract younger users. When used, the battery powers an atomizer that vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge for the user to inhale. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed regulating e-cigs more tightly, but some politicians and many in the industry oppose the plan. After all, it is a $2.8 billion market in the U.S.

Juice from e-cigs has different amounts of the addictive stimulant nicotine, from 0 to about 72 milligrams per milliliter of liquid. A traditional cigarette has 10-15 mg. When the chemical propylene glycol is heated, it can degrade into formaldehyde, a chemical linked to nose and eye irritation, and an increased risk of asthma and cancer. The Center for Environmental Health recently tested 97 e-cig products and found formaldehyde and the chemical acetaldehyde in more than half of them.

E-cig vapor can also contain lead, cadmium, nickel, tin, and other metals, which can cause nervous system or respiratory problems. And some flavoring chemicals, like those used to create cinnamon flavor, can be toxic. But unlike conventional cigarettes, e-cigs don’t burn tobacco. So they don’t produce the tar that clogs the lungs or carbon monoxide, which is linked to heart disease. This is the “selling point” by the industry that e-cigs are safe. However, we now know that there are other risks associated to using e-cigarettes.

Bulloch Alcohol & Drug Council conducted focus groups with local middle school students in February 2016. When asked what their peers thought were cool substances to use, students reported “vaping” as being very popular. Many participants did not know that e-cigs often contain nicotine and can become addictive. Talk to your children about the risks associated with e-cigarettes.

Consumer Reports On Health, December 2015

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