Electronic or e-cigarettes sales are soaring, but not everyone is supporting this new fad. In his last days as New York major, Bloomberg banned sales of e-cigarettes while law-makers in the UK call for new legislation that will ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. With manufacturers touting e-cigarettes as a ‘healthy’ alternative to smoking, many parents are weighing in with their concerns about these potentially harmful products.
Electronic cigarettes enable users to inhale a mixture of nicotine and chemical flavor additives in vapor form. The battery-powered devices are crafted to look like real cigarettes and contain cartridges filled with liquids that contain nicotine and flavors like chocolate, bubblegum and mint.
Since no combustion is taking place and no smoke is produced, users can use the e-cigarettes indoors. Manufacturers are claiming that the lack of combustion minimizes the negative health aspects usually associated with traditional tobacco-based cigarettes.
A 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that one in ten American high school students had tried e-cigarettes, a trend Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, describes as “deeply troubling.” His fear is that they will develop a dependency on nicotine which will lead to the smoking of traditional cigarettes.
Other researches are equally cautious: “They’re not safe. They’re just less dangerous,” says Dr. Stanford Glantz, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California San Francisco.
The fear that e-cigarettes will lead to smoking isn’t the only health risk. Aside from nicotine levels that are as high as or higher than regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes also contain a cocktail of chemicals that may have a poor effect on health.
Since the manufacture of e-cigarettes is not regulated, FDA officials claim that they have no idea what chemicals go into flavoring the e-cigarettes and they have no idea what effects e-cigarettes have on health. They are calling for caution until studies can be conducted to ascertain the long-term effects of smoking e-cigarettes.
While the FDA is conducting initial studies and promises to enforce regulations as soon as it has enough information to do so, it’s best if you discourage your students from trying these potentially dangerous products. Talk to your students about the use of e-cigarettes today. Until the manufacture of e-cigarettes is regulated and the long-term effects of inhaling nicotine vapor explored, students should avoid e-cigarette use.
Parents can help by not smoking e-cigarettes in front of their students and discussing the inherent dangers of smoking in general. Until studies show that e-cigarettes are harmful or safe, parents should encourage their students think twice before smoking an e-cigarette.