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Are E-Cigarettes harmful?

You’re sitting down for a nice steak dinner with some friends, and someone pulls out a cigarette and starts puffing away. “Wait a minute, what century is this? Is smoking allowed in this restaurant?” you ask yourself. No, after a second look you realize your friend is smoking an e-cigarette, and he’s not blowing smoke, he’s just exhaling vapor. “They’re totally harmless,” he assures you, “I just smoke these to help me quit regular cigarettes.” But before you get too comfortable around e-cigarettes, you should consider this fact: many doctors and health science professionals are raising concerns about the dangers of e-cigarettes and the effects of “second-hand vapor.”

Are they just an aid for quitting smoking? E-cigarettes usually look a lot like regular cigarettes, but they’re actually an electronic device containing a cartridge of liquid nicotine (and other compounds). When you breathe in, you activate a battery that heats the nicotine, turning it to vapor which you inhale. The makers of e-cigarettes usually market them as a safe tool for quitting tobacco. Many adults turn to them as a quitting aid, but a recent study by the Lancet journal showed e-cigarettes to be only as useful as other methods like nicotine gum and pharmaceutical nicotine replacement patches.

E-cigarettes aren’t regulated as regular cigarettes The prevalence of E-cigarettes is a recent phenomenon. Since they were introduced in the U.S. in 2007, their use has exploded: 50,000 units were sold in 2008, while there were over 5 million sold in 2012. But e-cigarettes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the federal government at all. That’s because e-cigarettes don’t use tobacco like regular cigarettes—they use liquid nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. This means that they can be sold and marketed to minors.

E-cigarette use among teens has skyrocketed in recent years Since e-cigarettes can be sold legally to minors, teens have been using them in dramatically increasing numbers. According to a National Youth Tobacco survey, the percentage of high school students who use ecigarettes nearly doubled form 1.5% in 2011, to 2.8% in 2012. The most alarming thing about this rise in use is that teens are apparently starting out on e-cigarettes and getting addicted, skipping regular cigarettes completely. E-cigarettes are marketed as being completely harmless, but nicotine is still a highly addictive drug.

E-cigarettes pose a poisoning risk to small children According to the National Poison Data System, there were 427 instances of poisonings in 2012 in the U.S. involving children and e-cigarettes. A single e-cigarette cartridge can contain as much nicotine as 5 packs of cigarettes, and they come in flavors that appeal especially to kids, such as chocolate, strawberry, and even bubblegum. Nicotine is a poison that can be extremely dangerous when taken in large quantities, even causing a drop in heart rate and blood pressure that could result in a coma or death. The resounding cry among doctors and health science professionals is this: there is no research backing up the e-cigarette companies’ claims that second-hand vapor is harmless. Until more is known about these nicotine devices, it’s safer to just stay away from them.

Are E-Cigarettes harmful?