You’ve probably seen people “lighting up” electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes and vapes) on your lunch break or at your favorite hangout. They’ve been embraced as a safer, more public-friendly alternative to lighting up a smoke. “Vaping” is described as safe and clean by sites that sell them and by those who say the practice has weaned them off cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes are, in fact, designed to convert nicotine and flavorings into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user.
e-Cigarettes Being Banned
It may come as a surprise that e-cigarettes are now being banned in parts of the U.S. Los Angeles now prohibits the smoking of e-cigarettes in parks and restaurants, joining New York in a push to provide cigarette-free environments. The reason? Even though experts are still unsure of the effect of the cigarette substitutes on the air quality, it’s viewed as a product that makes smoking seem more appealing and less dangerous to kids.
So why the vastly mixed reactions to a product that is still being hailed by many as a safe alternative to cigarettes?
While it is, arguably, safer than smoking, the production and sale of e-cigarettes is pretty much unregulated. There’s no one policing what goes into the components of the product, although the Food and Drug Administration has the power to do so), and very little in the way of the regulation of their marketing and sale… specifically where it relates to minors. As large municipalities tackle the issue of e-cigarettes and their sale, however, it’s likely that the risks of the product will continue to be of concern.
In some large cities, such as Philadelphia, efforts to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors are gaining momentum. On their side is evidence of serious health problems associated with the use of e-cigarettes, including pneumonia, congestive heart failure, seizure and hypotension (low blood pressure), all of which have all been reported to the FDA as Adverse Events.
How Do e-Cigarettes Work?
E-cigarettes work by combining up to three substances that are heated, which creates vapor. This vapor is then inhaled. The liquid base (also called an e-liquid) can be anything from vegetable glycerin (VG) to Propeylene Glycol (PG), or custom blends sold by the retailer.
To this, a liquid nicotine is added. These can start off with a zero-density nicotine base and work up to very strong densities (for example, 48 mg of nicotine).
Then comes what’s considered by many folks to be an especially dangerous addition, particularly where minors are concerned: flavors (or e-juices and e-juice blends) that are added to the vapor mix. There’s no mistaking this with the healthy kind you whip up in a blender. These are chemical additives that give the vapor a scent and flavor as it’s inhaled, and they can range from strawberry, mango, mocha flavors to even a Red Bull knockoff.
Even more worrisome is the fact that there are no federal restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and the FDA is on the fence about whether or not to declare this an official problem, stating on their website only that “it is not known if e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.”
The Attorneys General made a plea to the FDA to reconsider their position and take a harder line on the subject of e-cigarettes, but recommendations are slow in coming.