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The Smoke Around E-Cigarettes

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I didn’t know much about e-cigarettes until I began researching an article for this blog. The more I read, the more I realize many people out there are using e-cigarettes who don’t know much about them either! And the research isn’t what one would call available in abundance. “Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) –also known as vaporizers, digital, electronic or e-cigarettes–do not produce a combustible ‘smoke’ like traditionally burned cigarettes, nor do they contain tar, a by-product of burning tobacco” according to a National Conference of State Legislatures January 11, Press release, entitled “Alternative Nicotine Products: Electronic Cigarettes”.

All e-cigarettes work basically the same way, says Web MD’s fact sheet. The fact sheet described their construction as containing a battery, a heating element and a cartridge that holds nicotine and other liquids, including flavorings which are mostly chemicals. So, what is the person who uses an e-cigarette to gain from this product? Vapors from nicotine and chemical flavorings…although less nicotine than is in an average cigarette, along with the effects of chemicals/flavorings. Perhaps therein lies the rub?

More than 25 years ago, a spokesperson for Philip Morris tobacco company asserted the teenager of today would be tomorrow’s potential regular customer. While the industry then-spokespersons agreed the industry didn’t approve of teenagers smoking, tobacco industry marketing efforts belied the industry wanted to grow regular smoking customers of the adult variety. So it goes with e-cigarettes.

E-cigarette “vaping” is on the rise among teenagers, companies who sell E-cigarettes are advertising and making the product attractive to kids… and legislators are trying to do what they can to ban e-cigarettes being sold to minors.

There can be deleterious effects from e-cigarettes, and the proof is in the number of calls to poison control centers. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ data compiled from the Association of Poison Control Centers points to the number of calls to poison control centers involving exposure to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine increased from 1,543 in 2013, to 3,957 in 2014. (Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Anthony Green, Director, Public Policy in a letter to SafeKids Coalition Leaders.) In addition, a recent New York Times article, “No Smoke, But Haze Around the E-Joint” notes that people are also using the e-cigarette system to consume marijuana (also called a “JuJu Joint”) which many feel is a gateway drug for teens. (“No Smoke, But Haze Around the E-Joint”, Peikoff, Kira, January 12, 2015, The New York Times, New York.)

I am pleased that last April 2014, Virginia joined a host of other states which have banned the sale of alternative nicotine products to minors. Virginia retailers had until July 1 to begin following the law that unanimously passed the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. As of January 11, 2015, 41 states have jumped on the bandwagon banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. I support The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ efforts … and until we hear something good about e-cigarettes, hope you will do the same!

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