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Health concerns around e-cigarettes are growing as the number of American youth using them rises. The number has tripled showing a three-fold increase from 2011, when the figures were about 79,000, to 2013’s 263,000. Health analysts, and advocates, are concerned that the e-cigarettes being smoked by many adolescents could eventually lead them to want to use conventional cigarettes.
Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., Director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement about cigarettes “Words can’t express how deeply concerned we are about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from. The same goes for regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product they introduce to the public. Nicotine is a psychoactive ingredient that can be harmful to adolescent brain development.”
E-cigarettes, unlike tobacco versions, operate on a small battery-powered heating element that turns a solution of nicotine, and propylene glycol, into a vapor which can be inhaled. There are over 450 brands of e-cigarette on the market, and that market is valued at $3 billion as of last year.
Claims that the use of an e-cigarette is safer than tobacco, promoted among consumers, has given rise to concerns for the youth, as research to support the opposite grows. “Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, not to mention dangerous to a person’s life no matter what form it takes. Whether it is in conventional cigarettes or anything else,” says Dr. Elliott Antman, Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research, in a recent news release.
The World Health Organization for the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or WHO, strongly believes that e-cigarettes should be regulated by the same laws and standards that apply to tobacco products. Since they are essentially marketed and promoted by the same company. The organization reported discontent this past Tuesday about big tobacco companies becoming “opportunist and aggressive in the battle to promote the e-cigarette brand.” The health organization went on to say that “while the independent retailers for e-cigarette companies have little to no interest in prompting tobacco use, the Big Tobacco industry involved its production and sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems, certainly do.”
There are numerous question marks surrounding e-cigarettes as a whole, which have been available for almost 10 years, which is why the WHO, is also advocating the prohibition of their use indoors “until the exhaled vapor inside the devices, is proven not to be harmful.” An additional regulation that the United Nations organization is calling for, is to ensure the products contain only the standard dose of nicotine, as the content does vary between manufacturers.
One of the final, and perhaps most crucial missions on the table for WHO, is to prohibit big tobacco companies from making any particular health claims regarding its e-cigarette product, until “the manufacturers provide supporting scientific evidence of its effects, or lack thereof, and obtain regulatory approval.” The rising role of the e-cigarette industry is an understandable health concern that grows among the youth, and worldwide, as smoking use still leads the forefront of preventable deaths and disease in the United States. Big tobacco firms may be making a killing in the market world, but smoking literally kills around half a million Americans each year.
By Theodore Borders