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5 Facts About the Dangers of E-Cigarettes

October 15, 2016

There are currently more than 250 brands of e-cigarettes sold in stores and online. Unfortunately, as cigarette use has declined, more people — especially teens — are experimenting with e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, look like the real thing but are battery-operated devices that contain cartridges filled with nicotine or other chemicals. The cartridges hold a liquid that turns into steam or vapor once inhaled, which is why e-cigarette smoking is often referred to as “vaping”.

There’s still confusion about e-cigarettes and how safe or unsafe these products are. To clear this up, here are five things you should know about e-cigarettes.

The Chemicals They Contain May Be Harmful

Nicotine on its own is highly addictive, but e-cigarettes also contain other potentially-harmful chemicals and toxins. Nicotine is mixed with propylene glycol to create the liquid found in e-cigarettes. Food coloring, flavoring and other chemicals also are added to these products.

Since each e-cigarette brand uses its own proprietary formula, it’s difficult to know exactly what is in each product. Depending on the cartridge you choose, e-cigarettes may contain significantly more nicotine than regular cigarettes, which are already dangerous to your health.

Children have become ill, requiring emergency medical attention, after ingesting the nicotine from open cartridges.

They Aren’t Highly Regulated

Compared to other tobacco products like water pipes and chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes aren’t as regulated. These products don’t have a warning label and anyone can buy them. Late last year, the FDA sent its final rules on regulating additional tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to the White House for review. However, the rules haven’t yet become law. It’s critical that the FDA regulate e-cigarettes, because without this oversight e-cigarette manufacturers can put substances in their products that may jeopardize public health.

As of August 2016, the FDA regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of e cigarettes, including the components but not the accessories.

 They Are Popular Among Teens

Unfortunately, the lack of age restrictions on e-cigarettes has led to these products gaining popularity among teens. According to the American Lung Association, more young people now smoke e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. E-cigarette use has tripled among high schoolers and middle schoolers, too. According to the CDC, more than 13 percent of high school students and nearly 4 percent of middle schoolers have used e-cigarettes.

This is particularly dangerous because e-cigarettes can pave the way for future tobacco use. According to a National Institutes of Health study, teens who used e-cigarettes by the time they were in ninth grade were more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes and other tobacco products the following year.

They Can Cause Severe Burns

In recent months, we have treated several patients with burns resulting from the explosion of e-cigarettes. These explosions are most often related to defective batteries. When these devices explode in the mouth or near the face, your eyes and teeth are at risk. When they explode in your pocket, they can ignite your clothing and burn through clothing and into the body, resulting in more extensive and prolonged contact with the fire. The lithium in the batteries is a very caustic chemical and makes the burn even deeper.

They Don’t Help You Quit Smoking

Contrary to what’s on the Internet, e-cigarettes will not help you quit smoking. Some e-cigarette smokers believe these products reduce their nicotine cravings, helping them quit traditional cigarettes. However, there isn’t extensive evidence to support this claim. In fact, smoking a product that contains nicotine may promote an addiction to this substance.

E-cigarettes have existed for 10 years, so research is still evolving regarding its health effects. But these products contain nicotine, and that alone makes them potentially addictive and very dangerous. Avoid e-cigarettes and any other product that contains tobacco or nicotine. It’s the best thing for your long-term health.

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