Manufacturers promote electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as safer substitutes for classic tobacco types and smoking cessation aids. A study reported that almost 1.8 million American youngsters and teenagers had tried them by 2012. Fewer than two percent of adults used e-cigs in 2010. Yet in 2014, that number exceeded 40 million, a whopping 620-percent increase.
Last May, we posted multiple study findings that e-liquids and vapors contain carcinogens, contaminants, or other harmful ingredients that can affect lung function and respiratory diseases adversely. Newer studies are linking electronic-cigarette vapor exposure to increased risks for these and other conditions.
Toxic Chemicals Affect Lungs and More
The Food and Drug Administration’s18-study data review on e-cig vapors determined that the majority included at least traces of lung-irritating solvents. Other research shows that e-cig vapor exposure exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended 24-hour maximum for fine air particles by 100 times. Analyses predicted that 40 percent of those inhaled particles accumulate deeply in the lungs’ smallest airways. The toxic chemicals that deliver these particles can trigger inflammation and lead to asthma, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
A pulmonary physician discovered that e-cig vapor exposure can make hazardous antibiotic-resistant germs tougher to kill. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can cause pneumonia, secreted a protective biofilm coating to survive the vapor. One day after mice breathed air containing these vapor-exposed germs, their lung bacteria grew three times more than in control mice. The doctor led these studies to decide if she should advise smoking patients to switch to e-cigs. While her data indicates that they may pose less serious threats, she notes that e-cigarettes definitely aren’t benign.
Another study exposed sample lung tissues from kids who died between 8 and 10 years old to e-cig vapors. Normally, epithelial cells in the lungs’ interior linings protect against dangerous inhalations. But vapors triggered a protein that causes inflammation and immune system reactions. This occurred from vapors with and without nicotine, but the latter increased the protein slightly. Subjects’ exposed lung tissues showed damage, were more vulnerable to the cold rhinovirus, and developed greater virus amounts than healthy cells. E-cig vapor exposure also increased viral infection odds in lab mice, compared with unexposed controls.
Liquid Nicotine Poisonings Rise
Nicotine in its liquid form still is a potent drug. Toxicologists report that e-liquids containing this tobacco extraction with assorted chemicals, flavorings, and colorings are strong neurotoxins, which pose significant public health risks, especially to children. Their inviting colors and flavors like bubble gum, cherry, and chocolate may attract kids. Just like e-cigs, federal authorities don’t regulate e-liquids. Yet ingesting or absorbing even tiny amounts through the skin can trigger vomiting, seizures, and other consequences. One teaspoon of an extremely diluted solution can cause deaths in young children.
One poison expert says that e-liquids are among the most potent naturally occurring toxins available to the public. Reported accidental poisonings, particularly among kids, are escalating. Since 2011, one American adult died from injecting nicotine. Poison control centercalls for less severe cases are surging. The National Poison Data System reported that U.S. cases associated with e-liquids leapt to 1,351 for 2013, up 300 percent from 2012 with expectations to double in 2014. In 2013, poison control personnel referred 365 victims to hospitals, which tripled the amount from 2012.
For example, a 2-year-old downed a small bottle of her parent’s e-liquid, began vomiting, and ended up in an Oklahoma emergency room. Her age and circumstances are typical. In that state, 23 of the 25 reported cases during January and February 2014 occurred in kids 4 or under. Of Minnesota’s 74 e-cig and nicotine poisoning calls in 2013, 29 were about kids 2 and younger. E-liquids’ immediate poison risks exceed tobacco’s dangers because users and accidental drinkers absorb even diluted concentrations quicker.
Among Kentucky residents, where adults accounted for roughly 40 percent of cases, a woman required hospitalization from cardiac complications after her e-cig broke in her bed and spilled e-liquid, which her skin absorbed. Problems with both children and adults stem from carelessness and unawareness of the potentially serious risks. Many parents don’t realize their e-liquids are toxic until their children vomit.
A vapor company executive estimated that in 2014 U.S. sales would reach one or two million liters of e-liquid. Increased use has created a new and controversial recreational drug classification. Some anecdotal evidence confirms e-cigs advocates’ belief that liquid nicotine fuels the technology that may encourage people to stop smoking. FDA-regulated over-the-counter smoking cessation aidsoffer other ways to quit. Nicotine patches and assorted flavors of gum and lozenges will reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research issued recommendations for e-cig regulations to be more like those for traditional cigarettes. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a ruling that makes selling these devices to minors a felony. Last March, the Los Angeles City Council banned e-cigs in public places, excluding vapor lounges and e-cig stores. The council is especially concerned about e-cigarette vapor exposure among the underage population.