Health Dept. gives thumbs down to e-cigarettes

Not enough information to conclude they're safe
Jun. 10, 2014 @ 12:11 PM

The use of electronic cigarettes in the United States is rising. As of 2011, the Food and Drug Administration reported that there are 400 brands of e-cigarettes available.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, haven't been tested in U. S. clinical trials as a smoking cessation device, but officials at Davidson County Health Department feel they have enough information to conclude that they aren't safe.

"We're waiting on the FDA to come out with the harmful effects," said Health Education Supervisor Jen Hames. "It's a tobacco product and anytime you inhale something with a foreign substance into your lungs it can be harmful."

Following a 2013 N.C. General Assembly ruling, e-cigarettes are classified as a tobacco product and, like other tobacco products, may not be sold to minors.

It is a proven medical fact that nicotine, present in most e-cigarettes, is addicting, and has been shown to affect brain development of adolescents. Nicotine crosses the placenta in pregnant women and can affect the lungs, heart and central nervous system of a developing fetus.

While some manufacturers have marketed their devices as a smoking cessation method, the FDA has sent them warning letters advising that if they make medical claims, like the product helps people quit smoking, they will need to go through a formal FDA process. As of December, 2013, none have applied to go through this process.

The Journal of Public Health published an article in 2011 in which researchers found that tobacco-specific nitrosamines in e-cigarettes are much lower than those found in regular cigarettes and the amount in ecigs is comparable to the total amount found in the NicoDermCQ patch. However, electronic cigarettes and e-juice are still not accepted by the FDA as smoking cessation aids.

Of 65 compounds found in e-cigarette aerosol, 26 are listed on the FDA established list of harmful and potentially harmful substances.

According to information released by the Centers for Disease Control, flavored e-cigarette products may be particularly attractive to young people. Their data suggests that experimentation and use of these products have risen sharply among the young.

In a 2013 report, the CDC said "E-cigarette experimentation and recent use doubled among U.S. middle and high school students during 2011-2012, resulting in an estimated 1.78 million students having ever used e-cigarettes as of 2012. Moreover, in 2012, an estimated 160,000 students who reported ever using e-cigarettes had never used conventional cigarettes."

Preliminary studies testing e-cigarettes as a tobacco cessation aid have had mixed results at best. They may help some quit, or they may impede quitting, or even increase addiction to nicotine in others.

"For anybody who is smoking any type of tobacco product, our recommendation is to stop using them," said Hames.