The Disturbing Truth About E-Cigs

What We Don't Know

Unfortunately, there are many unknowns with e-cigs. First off, it is unknown how e-cigs will affect children who use them. With the CDC reporting that the number of teenagers using e-cigs has doubled, these kids may now be on the path to nicotine addiction without even picking up a cigarette. So the question becomes, will these kids at some point switch to regular cigarettes? And then there's the question about what impact e-cigs will have on initiation into nicotine addiction (for both kids and adults).
 
The contents of e-cigs are also still unknown. Although a few studies have been done, there is inadequate scientific information available on the specific substances in these products.
 
While the marketing for e-cigs is focused on convincing consumers that e-cigs just emit water vapor, that does not appear to be the case. The FDA has some evidence that the vapor contains toxins and carcinogens; however, this data is fairly limited. Because there are a number of unregulated manufacturers of e-cigs, it is unknown exactly what is being inhaled by the people who are using these products -- and what is being inhaled by those who are in proximity of the vapor.
 
Along these same lines, without knowing what substances are in e-cigs, it is impossible to know the health effects that may result from using or being exposed to them. There is not enough substantial research to say whether or not they are safe. The manufacturers can claim that they are safe, but until scientific evidence supports that, it's hard to know what to believe.
 
There's also the unknown overdose risk, particularly in kids. The CDC reported that the number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine increased from 1 per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. More than half (51 percent) of the poison calls involved children age 5 and younger, while 42 percent involved people age 20 and older. Poisoning due to e-cigs that contain liquid nicotine can occur in three different ways: by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin or eyes.
 
According to the research, even one teaspoon of a 1.8 percent nicotine solution could be lethal to a 200-pound person. Although there have not been any unintentional poisoning deaths from e-cigs in the United States that are known, there is a potential for dangerous and even fatal consequences from overdosing on liquid nicotine.
 
While the e-cigs aren't childproof, they aren't necessarily adultproof, either. E-cigs can be potentially dangerous for small children who accidentally come into contact with liquid nicotine. There is a potential danger for adults as well. Adults who are handling e-cigs or refilling them have the potential to get it on their skin. Liquid nicotine is a neurotoxin, and even small amounts (either ingested or absorbed through the skin) can be lethal. Overdosing on liquid nicotine can cause cardiac effects and nervous system effects (like seizures).
 
We don't even know if e-cigs help people quit smoking. There are some stories that people have reported quitting with the use of e-cigs. However, there isn't substantial research yet to support this claim. Critics of e-cigs claim that these devices may, in fact, increase the possibility for people to start smoking traditional cigarettes.
 
Or, rather than helping a person quit smoking tobacco cigarettes, e-cigs might worsen a user's nicotine habit. Based on how some of the e-cigs are marketed -- to be able to smoke in places where you aren't supposed to smoke tobacco products -- it may increase the amount of exposure you have to nicotine and not reduce smoking at all. That could lead to people using more nicotine if they can smoke e-cigs anywhere.
 
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