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E-cigs: Helping or Hurting Nicotine Addicts?

Created Jan 21 2015, 7:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • E-cigarettes
  • smoking cessation
  • smoking
  • nicotine

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Popular and problematic

E-cigs do not contain tobacco, but use nicotine from tobacco plants. The heating element atomizes a liquid solution known as e-liquid which is made up of propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, and even “candy” flavoring, along with 7,763 other flavors, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Concerned by the rising popularity of the e-cig, the AHA released 8 recommendations in August: "Electronic Cigarettes: A Policy Statement from the American Heart Association,” designed to spur action and research into:

  • E-cigarette regulation
  • Health and safety of e-cigarette users
  • The efficacy of e-cigarettes as cessation aids
  • Second hand exposure to e-cigarette aerosol

In the past 50 years, control measures by the AHA have saved 8 million lives, while reducing the smoking of the nation’s youth by half during 1997-2007. Some health experts predict that unless current trends reverse, approximately 5.6 million children who are alive today will suffer premature deaths due to smoking-related diseases.

And that trend doesn’t even account for the marijuana wax and hash oil that are also atomized by e-cigarette users, both young and old.

A drug distribution device

Studies have shown that “vaping” the e-cig as a means to get high on marijuana is actually 10 times more potent than home-grown marijuana. Research indicates that nearly 250,000 youths - who were not smokers before - tried e-cigs in 2013 - a threefold increase since 2011.

The AHA is advocating for stronger regulation of the e-cigarette until clinically relevant questions are answered with sufficient research. In the meantime, the AHA does not recommend the e-cig as a cessation aid, nor has the e-cigarette received approval by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Both agencies are working to propose a ban to prevent online sales to minors, as well as invoking a tax on e-cigarettes at a rate high enough to discourage youth consumption.

Meanwhile, tobacco analysts predict sales of e-cigarettes to reach $1.7 billion by the end of this year. Currently, retail outlets, such as convenience stores and gas stations, account for $700 million in sales of the e-cigarette device.

Lesser of “two evils”

Many believe the ENDS product is nothing more than a new monster in town that has seduced the addicted to choose the lesser of two evils. Proponents of the e-cig like the option to self-regulate the nicotine dose which is available in various strengths. They also like the cost savings.

It’s what’s inside that counts, however. The paper cigarette is packed with about 3,000 toxic and carcinogenic ingredients while the e-cigarette holds nicotine and propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. Just like paper cigarettes, however, the nicotine inside the e-cigarette cartridge is equally addictive. Nicotine is associated with stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and countless other conditions.

Regardless of how the nicotine is inhaled, the withdrawal symptoms are the same: irritability, depression, restlessness and anxiety.

Calculated vs unknown risk

Although randomized controlled trials were conducted alongside internet-based surveys for evidence of e-cigarettes as cessation aids, the information obtained was inconclusive. Health experts state that FDA-approved methods like the nicotine patch or gum are still the best tools for smoking cessation.

In the end, the ENDS product may emerge as a healthy means to quit smoking. At present, however, the unknown risks of the e-cigarette are turning back the clock of progress on the nation’s cardiovascular health.

The AHA's policy statement can be viewed at http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/08/22/CIR.0000000000000107).

 

 

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