E-Cigarettes have become quite a trend, and the debate over their effects rages on. It is unclear whether they are as safe as manufacturers claim. There are a number of health professionals and other members of the public who believe that e-cigarettes are harmful. According to recent United States data, over the past year there has been an increase in respiratory and cardiovascular complications in connection with their use.
Since March of last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received over 50 reports regarding negative side effects of electronic cigarettes. These voluntary complaints stated that people were hospitalized for congestive heart failure, pneumonia, seizure, and hypotension, however the FDA states “whether e-cigarettes caused these reported adverse events is unknown.” Also, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that there has been a rise in the number of phone calls to poison control centers in relation to e-cigarettes. In addition to the potential health risks that may be attached to their use there is speculation that they may be a “gateway” to the use of other tobacco products. In a press release last year, the CDC reported that one in five middle school students have used e-cigarettes, however they had never smoked conventional cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes were created in China and started being sold in the U.S. in 2007. Most of the current sellers in the U.S. are still importing their products from China and as a result the products are not always consistent in regard to quality. Miguel Martin, president of Logic Technology, a large e-cigarette manufacturer in the U.S., stated that because of the variety of issues that result from the unregulated e-cigarette market, there is a necessity for regulation and enforcement of quality control.
Although many believe e-cigarettes are harmful, a group of more than 50 scientists from North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia recently advised the World Health Organization (WHO) not to categorize them as tobacco products. Their reasoning for this is that if they are classified as tobacco products it may threaten the chance of a decrease in smoking related diseases and deaths. This group of scientists believes that e-cigarettes are beneficial in supporting smokers in putting an end to their addiction. They stated, that these products are possibly the major health inventions of the 21st century and may save millions of lives, which is why they should not be marked as tobacco products. These scientists explained their rationale by saying that although the ideal scenario would be that smokers stopped using nicotine completely, it is not realistic for most people who cannot or will not quit, so the best option in such a case would be to provide a safer alternative.
According to the FDA, the possible risks and side effects of e-cigarettes are currently unknown as well as the amount of nicotine and other chemicals that are inhaled through use, however, future studies will indicate if the level of harm, if any. Electronic cigarettes are battery operated and contain cartridges which carry flavored fluid consisting of nicotine and other chemicals that turn into vapor when heated. Currently, the only type of e-cigarettes that are regulated by the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research are for “therapeutic purposes.”
By Sarah Temori