Parents may be confused about e-cigarettes and a recent government report reveals why. Here is what we have learned:
If you are an adult who is already a cigarette smoker, e-cigs may help you quit safely because they contain fewer and lower levels of toxic substances than conventional cigarettes. But if you are a teenager who does not yet smoke, e-cigarettes may get you hooked on regular cigarettes. Further, because widespread use of e-cigs is so new, the long-term effect of smoking e-cigarettes has not yet been established.
What You Need to Know About E-Cigarette Use
There is conclusive evidence that:
- Exposure to nicotine from e-cigs depends on the “characteristics of the device and the e-liquid, as well as on how the device is operated.”
- “in addition to nicotine, most e-cigarettes contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances…”
- E-cigarettes can explode and cause burns and projectile injuries.
- Exposure to e-liquids (from drinking, eye contact, or skin contact) can result in seizures, anoxic brain injury, vomiting, and lactic acidosis.
- Drinking or injecting e-liquids can be fatal.
There is substantial evidence that:
E-cigarette use results in symptoms of dependence on e-cigs and that e-cig use by teens and young adults increases their risk of ever using conventional cigarettes.
There is moderate evidence that:
E-cigs cause increased coughing and wheezing in adolescents who use them, as well as an increase in asthma exacerbations.
There is limited evidence from animal studies, using intermediate biomarkers of cancer, to support the hypothesis that long-term e-cigarette use could increase the risk of cancer.
For parents of teens among whom vaping is becoming an enormously popular the takeaways are as follows:
1. Until e-cigarettes have been made safer, their use among young people should be curbed through education and through restricting their access.
2. It is very likely that smoking e-cigs among young people will lead them to smoke conventional cigarettes, and the health risks of conventional cigarettes are well established.
3. Further, e-cigarette use can result in other types of injuries and in increased coughing, wheezing and asthma exacerbation.
David Eaton, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and Dean and Vice Provost of the Graduate School of the University of Washington, Seattle concluded that,
“In some circumstances, such as their (e-cig) use by non-smoking adolescents and young adults, their adverse effects clearly warrant concern. In other cases, such as when adult smokers use them to quit smoking, they offer an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness.”
The study was sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit nationalacademies.org.