Adventist Review Online | Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe?

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They could lead to serious, long-term lung damage, specialist says.

The rapid rise in electronic cigarettes use by teenagers has caused the United States Food and Drug Administration to consider banning selling the devices to minors, raising the concern of safety for young users. There is still a need for research to better understand the adverse effects these devices have on the body, but many studies have already shown numerous long-term, avoidable health risks.

Earlier this week, more than 1,000 businesses involved in selling e-cigarettes across the U.S. began receiving warning letters from the FDA cautioning them to stop selling to minors, a move that intends to hinder what the FDA is calling an epidemic.

What Are E-Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes — known as e-cigarettes — are battery-operated devices that produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine — the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This epidemic holds the potential to cause serious health problems to both young and mature users, says Loma Linda University Health pulmonologist and asthmatologist Laren Tan.  

“The damage caused by e-cigarettes, both in minors and adults, can pose health risks that can instigate long-term harm,” Tan says.

E-cigarettes come in many forms, some resembling traditional tobacco cigarettesand some imitating everyday items such as pens or USBs. “These devices are not regulated, so it is unknown whether the size of the device greatly impacts the degree of the vapor consumed,” Tan says.

The Evidence

Because of this lack of regulation and being relatively new to the market — 2006 in Europe and 2007 in USA — Tan says the conclusive evidence needed is still being collected. He explains there is currently a shortage of information on the devices. Although the data is still out on many independent studies, is it thought by some users that e-cigarettes might not be as harmful as regular cigarettes. However, they are still very unhealthy to the lungs, Tan says.

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