To Vape or Not to Vape

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E-cigarettes can look like a traditional tobacco cigarette. The battery heats “e-liquid” which is released in aerosol form. (Photo courtesy of Ecig Click, vapour.co.uk.)

Did you know cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals? Smoking is the leading cause of preventable, premature mortality, and it is harmful to allergic and asthmatic children and adults.

A February 2016 article in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology examines the use of electronic cigarettes as an option for harm reduction in asthmatic patients who are existing smokers and are unable to quit using other smoking cessation tools. The article recognized that e-cigarettes could be safer than conventional cigarettes, but, as Dr. Fred Hsieh with the Cleveland Clinic’s Allergy and Immunology Respiratory Institute points out, they are not altogether safe. Check out just a few of the components included in every puff of this vaporized aerosol:

  • propylene glycol (airway irritant associated with decreased lung function)
  • vegetable glycerin
  • flavorings and other unregulated addititves
  • nicotine
  • formaldehyde (potentially carcinogenic in humans)

Other scary facts:

  • According to the CDC, e-cigarette usage by children ages 11-17 increased from 1.5% to 13.4% between 2011 to 2014. An estimated 2.4 million minors are vaping.
  • The e-cigarette is not federally regulated meaning that chemical additives, nicotine content and other components do not have the same safety oversight and quality controls as do regulated drugs.
  • There is still second-hand and third-hand exposure from e-cigarettes.
  • Use of e-cigarettes has prompted a “significant increase” in calls to poison control centers, and over 50% of them involve children.

If smoking cessation is your goal, randomized clinical trials comparing e-cigarettes to nicotine patches did not suggest an advantage of the e-cigarette over the nicotine patch.

E-cigarettes have only been around since 2007, so the data is still too new to fully assess the short- and long-term consequences. Therefore, given what we do know combined with what we are yet to learn, consumers should be wary of e-cigarettes as a safe alternate to cigarettes or as an effective tool in their smoking cessation quest. And if you are looking for one more reason to give pause, check out this CNN article posted Feb. 25, 2016 about an Owensboro, KY man’s pants catching on fire from his electronic cigarette battery. 

 

 

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