Some people are singing the praises of electronic devices, known as e-cigarettes, to help them kick their smoking habits. However, these devices are not exactly risk-free. Many doctors have compared using e-cigarettes in lieu of tobacco to heroin addicts relying on methadone: not as deadly, but still potentially dangerous.
But the people most at risk from e-cigarettes are not the ones trying to quit, but those who are just starting up.
Are E-Cigarettes Really Harmful to Users?
All e-cigarettes have a battery, heating element, and a cartridge. The cartridge can be filled with nicotine, flavorings, liquids, and other vaporizing materials. Using an e-cigarette is commonly called "vaping," and is just as popular among teenagers and young adults as it is among adults trying to quit.
E-cigarettes pose a few specific dangers for younger users, including:
- Regulation. The e-cigarette market is relatively new, and Congress has not yet granted any federal agency regulatory power over the devices. The FDA is attempting to gain control over e-cigarettes, as well as cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine gels, hookahs, and water pipes. If successful, manufacturers will be required to register all past and future products (and ingredients) with the FDA—but for now, these companies market new products without approval and without providing any scientific evidence to back up the risks and claims of e-cigarettes.
- Minimum age. The FDA has proposed new regulation that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. While current law forbids any person under the age of 18 from buying e-cigarettes, many younger children acquire them illegally or through older friends.
- Nicotine poisoning. While the amount of nicotine contained in the cartridges is typically lower than in the average cigarette, it is still an addictive substance. Users can suffer withdrawal symptoms, hardened arteries, narrowed blood vessels, and even heart problems as a result of vaping. Not only can nicotine affect brain development in children, vaping has caused a surge in nicotine poisoning cases in teenagers, a condition that is potentially fatal.
- Marketing. There are many reasons children are more drawn to e-cigarettes than other tobacco products. Some e-cigarettes come in a variety of flavors to make them sweeter or taste like candy. Some companies give out free samples, and may tout the fact that they don’t smell like smoke to teenagers who want to hide their nicotine habit from their parents.
If you are concerned about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes, please feel free to share this information with others on Facebook or via email. You can also leave us a comment below to tell us your opinion or personal story about using these devices.