E-cigarettes are seen as a “healthier” alternative to cigarettes. They have been around since 2007, and are popular among smokers, nonsmokers, pregnant females, and even youth. Throughout the years, flavored electronic cigarettes continue increasing in sales and usage. E-cigarettes create an aerosol by using a battery to heat up liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other additives. People inhale this aerosol into their lungs. Although e-cigarettes may contain less than one percent of the main chemicals found in tobacco, they may not be free of other toxic chemicals or traces of heavy metals.
There are about 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes that have not been evaluated by the FDA and are currently on the market. Because the FDA doesn't regulate these products, there aren't requirements for ingredient disclosure, warning labels or restrictions for youth access. The vapor released by e-cigarettes and exhaled by users may contain carcinogens, such as acrolein, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde. The American Lung Association states that some e-cigarette brands claim they are nicotine free when they actually contain some nicotine.
In the next couple of months, the FDA plans to stop companies from dispensing e-cigarette products to retailers who sell to children, and take away flavored e-cigarette products from the market. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nicotine in e-cigarette liquids activates the brain’s reward circuits and increases dopamine levels. Pleasure caused by nicotine can make some people addicted to it despite the health risks. E-cigarette supporters state they can be used to help people quit smoking. However, there is little evidence to support that.
Some users might believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes, but new evidence published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says otherwise. Researchers from the University of California analyzed data from the National Health Interview Surveys 2014 and 2016 where they studied 69,000 people who used e-cigarettes daily. They found that e-cigarette use is linked to an increased risk of myocardial infarction.
In 2014, the e-cigarette industry spent about $125 million to advertise their products to younger generations. According to the FDA, more than 2 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2017. That is why it is essential to educate younger generations about using e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction, which ultimately could lead to smoking conventional cigarettes. It’s important to raise awareness about the health risks of using e-cigarettes and/or any type of nicotine product.
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I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Karen Alexander, BSND, MSCN