Healthy Tahoe: Busting myths about E-cigarettes, vaping
E-cigarettes, including vaping products, have been in the news lately and many people are beginning to see the real dangers associated with them.
The bad news is that children and youth are some of the fastest growing users of e-cigarettes, and reversing that trend may be challenging given the massive targeted marketing of these products today.
The number of e-cigarettes and vaping products on the market is astounding. Many e-cigarette products use appealing flavors and kid-friendly packaging. Flavors like cotton candy, gummi fruit, cereal, apple juice, and mint are commonly used.
The products are often made to look like everyday objects, including office and school supplies, such as USB flash drives or portable phone chargers.
This packaging makes it easy to hide the products in plain sight. Parents may not know the products are actually a nicotine carrying device, and kids are fooled into thinking the products are harmless.
Many people still don’t realize that e-cigarettes and vaping products contain nicotine. It’s unlikely that teens using these products are aware of how much nicotine they’re ingesting, which is concerning.
The reality is that e-cigarettes and vaping products are addictive tobacco products with high nicotine levels. They can contain the same, or even higher, amounts of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
Because e-cigarettes and vaping products aren’t regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), levels of nicotine in these products can vary greatly, with some products having much higher levels of nicotine than others.
Nicotine is highly addictive and an acute toxin. Liquid nicotine can be harmful if swallowed or absorbed in the skin. Nicotine exposure can also have lasting damaging effects on adolescent brain development, including cognition, attention and mood. But nicotine isn’t the only problem with e-cigarettes — we’re now seeing evidence that chemicals used in e-cigarette liquid can cause severe respiratory disease.
According to the California Department of Public Health, vaping devices are now the most commonly used tobacco product in California and over 80% of high-school teens who consume tobacco use a vaping device. Of the California teens who consume tobacco products, 86.4% report using a flavored tobacco product.
Some good news is that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Sept. 16 to confront the youth vaping epidemic in California. This executive order includes a public awareness campaign to educate youth about the harms of vaping tobacco, warning signs at retailers, and stricter age verification requirements for sale of tobacco products.
In the meantime, there’s still a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes and vaping. Here’s what you need to know about these harmful products:
1. They aren’t regulated by the FDA. E-cigarette manufacturers aren’t required to disclose chemicals in their products or potential health risks.
2. They aren’t safe or harmless. E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals, including some of the same toxic chemicals found in regular cigarettes, such as nicotine, formaldehyde and lead.
3. They aren’t “just water vapor.” E-cigarette users don’t just inhale or exhale water vapor. E-cigarettes produce an aerosol that pollutes the air. This aerosol is a mixture of nicotine, tiny metal particles, and some of the same toxic chemicals found in secondhand cigarette smoke.
4. They aren’t a safer alternative to smoking. While many cigarette smokers try e-cigarettes thinking they’re safer or will help them quit, studies show e-cigarettes don’t help people quit smoking. Instead, smokers end up using both products, increasing their risk for developing chronic diseases.
Quitting e-cigarettes is one of the most important things a person can do for their health and those around them. Free resources are available to help smokers quit, including the California Smokers’ Helpline, with over-the-phone counseling and texting at 1-800-NO-BUTTS. Online help can also be found at californiasmokershelpline.org.
The El Dorado County Tobacco Use Prevention Program (TUPP) also has information about resources, including local stop smoking classes. Contact TUPP at 530-621-6142. TUPP is a program of the El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency that provides education on smoking, secondhand smoke, tobacco laws and policies. Program staff also work to reduce illegal sales of tobacco to minors in El Dorado County.
Christy White is the project director of the El Dorado County Tobacco Use Prevention Program (TUPP). TUPP is a program of the El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency.