Electronic nicotine devices pose serious concerns

The marketing and use of electronic nicotine delivery systems has grown rapidly in recent years. Multiple types are currently on the U.S. market, including e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, hookah pens, vape pens, e-cigars and others.

E-cigarettes are advertised broadly on television, in magazines and through social media, which has the potential to undo the many public health benefits that have been accomplished over the past 50 years by normalizing smoking once again.

Companies are selling flavored nicotine solutions in a wide variety of flavors, including vanilla, banana, almond, cherry and chocolate, which may appeal to youth.

According to the 2015 Indiana Youth Survey, conducted by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, 32.5 percent of 12th-graders in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. had used an electronic cigarette within the past 30 days at the time the survey was administered, compared with 24.8 percent across the state and 17.1 percent across the nation.

E-cigarettes are being promoted as a less dangerous alternative to cigarettes or smoking cessation aids, however e-cigarettes have not been approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has warned the public that e-cigarettes contain various toxic and carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals. E-cigarettes emit an aerosol through a process similar to passive tobacco smoking called passive vaping. The health effects of exposure to aerosol from e-cigarettes are currently unknown; however, research shows that the aerosol releases measurable amounts of carcinogens and other toxins into the air, including nicotine, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

Because they contain nicotine, electronic nicotine delivery systems might be addictive and have lasting consequences for adolescent brain development. Also, the e-liquid solutions are very concentrated. A 30 milliliter (about 1 ounce) bottle of e-cigarettes solution can easily contain 500 milligrams or more of nicotine. This creates a risk of overdosing or poisoning, because the lethal dose of nicotine for children is just 10 milligrams, and for adults it is 30 to 60 milligrams if swallowed.

Appropriate public policy responses include sales and marketing restrictions to reduce youth usage and inclusion in smoke-free air policies. The state of Indiana does restrict the sale of these devices to minors. Our community not only needs to remain aware of these new alternatives and their potential unintended consequences but also accelerate proven tobacco control practices, such as comprehensive tobacco control programs, tobacco product price increases and 100 percent smoke-free air, especially where our children are present.

There are resources available for teen tobacco users who are interested in quitting. The Indiana Tobacco Quitline offers free telephone-based counseling to teens 13 to 17 years old. The Quitline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can be reached by calling 800-784-8669.

For more information about Bartholomew County’s tobacco control efforts, go online at whatsyourreach.org or call 812-375-3194 or send an email to swomack@crh.org.

Stephanie J. Womack is the tobacco program coordinator for Reach Healthy Communities.