6 reasons to say no to e-cigarettes

closeup of woman smoking electronic cigarette outdoorEnticed by the flavors and sleek designs of the new electronic cigarettes?

Don’t be.

That’s the advice of Upstate Cancer Center Medical Director Leslie Kohman, MD, a thoracic surgeon who oversees the Lung Cancer Screening Program. She elaborates:

* 1. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, the same tobacco product that makes traditional cigarettes so addictive. Kohman says half of the e-cigarettes studied by the FDA also contained cancer-causing chemicals.

* 2. Glycol, a flavoring, nicotine and “who knows what else” are contained in the devices, which are manufactured without regulation, Kohman says. “They are manufactured in various locations around the world with no manufacturing controls, no safety controls whatsoever.”

* 3. If the flavor cartridges spill or are left where a child has access, their alluring sweet smell could lead to a toxic exposure or even a lethal ingestion of nicotine for a child. The Upstate New York Poison Center fielded 24 calls about accidental ingestions of e-cigarette chemicals in 2013 and 53 calls in the first three quarters of this year.

* 4. The synthetic liquid in most electronic cigarettes, propylene glycol has been recognized as safe for eating by the Food and Drug Administration. “But inhaling it is very different,” she says, “because the lungs absorb things in a very different way from the intestinal tract.”

* 5. Though some theories suggest the e-cigarette could serve as an aid to smoking cessation, “there is no evidence that this is more effective in helping people to quit cigarettes.”

* 6. In communities where smoking restrictions have become the norm, vaping is emerging as a worrisome trend. Big cities (including New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles) are starting to ban e-cigarettes, but Kohman says, “we really fear for the public health danger and the social consequences of making it look normal to be walking around with something that looks like a cigarette.”

Public health experts worry that e-cigarettes will be a lure for former smokers or a gateway for teens to experiment with traditional cigarettes or other drugs. They also point out that more research on the dangers of e-cigarettes is needed.

E-cigarettes are proving more dangerous than some researchers initially believed, Stanton Glantz told Science News earlier this year. He is the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Diego.

In a paper in the journal, Circulation he and his team explained that e-cigarettes deliver high levels of nanoparticles, which have been linked to asthma, stroke, heart disease and diabetes – in case you need a seventh reason to say no to e-cigarettes.

Listen to an interview with Kohman about e-cigarettes


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