To The Editor:
May 31 is World No Tobacco Day. Although they are not (yet) regulated as tobacco products, it seems worth addressing how e-cigarettes fit into the picture.
E-cigarettes are all over the news lately. Even as I was writing this letter, an email came to my inbox with more information on e-cigarette vapor. Information is being reported with more frequency as studies and scientific data is gathered. Although e-cigarettes are marketed as a safe product (an unproven claim) it is important that we not overlook the potentially harmful consequences of their use.
The following are some points to consider:
■ As long as there are traditional combustible cigarettes on the market, e-cigarettes will create a pathway to nicotine addiction in kids that can lead to traditional cigarette smoking.
■ Youth are experimenting with e-cigarettes with increasing frequency. The liquids that are used in e-cigarettes come in a number of flavors that are naturally appealing to youth. Flavors such as watermelon, cotton candy, bubble gum, fruit candy and strawberry are likely to blame for recent increases in youth use rates. One study revealed that the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012.
■ Are e-cigarettes safe? They are certainly promoted as safer than traditional combustible cigarettes (a claim that might be accurate), but there is not conclusive long-term evidence to prove such a claim. Given all that we have learned about tobacco over the years it makes sense to proceed with caution.
■ Are e-cigarettes safe for kids? No. Exposure to nicotine during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment in later life. We also know that nicotine use during adolescence leads to higher rates of addiction and long term tobacco use. Remember this is a product intended for adult use and prohibited by law for sale to anyone under the age of 18.
I know of a few people who have said they have been able to quit smoking cigarettes with the help of the e-cigarette. E-cigarettes may be helpful to some individuals who are unable to stop smoking cigarettes using traditional interventions, however, e-cigarettes are not regulated, are not standardized, and are not approved for cessation.
To the contrary, there is significant evidence that they keep many smokers smoking conventional cigarettes, rather than help them quit. Until we know more about the long-term effects of these products we should proceed with caution and treat them as we would any other tobacco product that needs to stay out of the hands of our kids.
Benjamin R. Todd
Tobacco Program Coordinator