Originally Published in the Huffington Post
By Janie Heath Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Nursing
Federal e-cigarette safety-cap legislation that recently passed both the House and the Senate, which will help save the lives of many children, is continuing a national conversation about how this product is regulated.
Those of us who have dedicated our lives to health promotion and disease prevention believe that requiring childproof packaging for liquid nicotine represents a common-sense measure in the ongoing battle to protect our children from dangerous products.
Cynthia Cabrera, president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, suggested in the Wall Street Journal that e-cigarettes are only intended for adults:
“These are adult products and should be treated like adult products.”
However we continue to see that the growth of e-cigarette use is happening predominantly among young people. Specifically, the CDC found the number of middle and high school students who use e-cigarettes has tripled in the U.S. since 2013 from 3.9 percent to 14 percent.
Part of this growth is due, in part, to the marketing of e-cigarette flavors, such as Sweet Tarts, Gummi Bears, Dr Pepper and Fruit Loops, which research supports may attract the attention of many children and young people.
As a result, the e-cigarette is not only reaping the benefits of being seen as fun, high-tech devices, but they are also gaining the perception of safety by being compared to the most dangerous product on the market — cigarettes. This has helped the industry grow their market from $1.7 billion to $2.5 billion in one year.
Let’s be clear: there is nothing safe about e-cigarettes. They deliver nicotine, a highly addictive drug that carries many documented risks:
· Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can have long-term adverse effects on cognitive function and brain development known as “nico-teen-brain.”
· Teens and young adults have the highest rate of tobacco use during pregnancy. Exposure to nicotine during pregnancy impacts on infant brain development and may lead to low birth weight and/or preterm delivery.
· Nicotine has no age boundaries and constricts blood vessels increasing the risk for cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure and immune conditions.
As if the addiction to nicotine is not of enough concern, how about knowing that when a person inhales or “vapes” an e-cigarette, multiple toxic chemical reactions occur when the e-cigarette solution is heated.
An additional, necessary step for the future should be the disclosure that formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — is released, as well as ultrafine particles, which get trapped in the lungs causing tissue inflammation.
In addition, the volatility and variability of voltage of the batteries in e-cigarettes are known to explode and cause serious burns and injuries — there is nothing safe about this product.
But distressingly, ingredients in e-cigarettes are not regulated and there are no production standards to ensure safety or quality.
Without additional, common-sense measures going forward, we risk repeating the public health nightmare caused by cigarette smoking. We must ensure that the progress represented by the safety-cap legislation is only a first — not the last step we take together. After all, the safety of our children and the health of our community are at stake.
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