The facts about the safety of electronic cigarettes are still pending further study. This article is to inform readers of the facts that are presently known.
The history of e-cigarettes dates back to 1963, when Herbert A. Gilbert invented and patented an electronic device. This did not catch on with the public, in some ways because smoking was still very acceptable. And the dangers of tobacco were not known to the public. In 2003, a Chinese pharmacist named Han Lik developed a method enabling smokers to have nicotine without smoke, tobacco or the chemicals found in cigarettes.
Lik worked on this after his father died of lung cancer. The company he worked for backed his invention and gave it the name Ruyan, which means “like smoke.” This device became popular in China, and soon moved on to Europe. In 2007, the e-cigarette made it to the U.S.
The e-cigarette is a handheld electronic device that vaporizes a flavored liquid and delivers the vapor to the lungs via inhalation. This is referred to as “vaping.” The liquid in e-cigs is usually made up of nicotine, propylene glycerol, glycerine, and flavoring agents. This is an alternative to combustible tobacco cigarettes. The are battery operated. The rechargeable battery powers a heating element called an “atomizer.”
The atomizer uses a low level of heat to turn e-liquid contained in the tank/reservoir, into vapor. Many smokers began to use e-cigs to decrease or eliminate tobacco smoking. Many of these people have become dual-users, continuing with tobacco cigarettes as well as e-cigs. One study revealed that 28% of e-cig users were still vaping after 6 months, while only 8 percent of patch users were still wearing the patch after six months.
The e-cigarette has also led to “cloud blowing.” This is an act of taking in the vapors in large quantity and blowing out “clouds” of vapor. This has taken on an activity of its own. There are even “cloud blowing” competitions in the U.S. and around the world. The clouds are formed when the e-cigs batteries are pushed to their limits in heating. This is dangerous. Specific batteries should be used for “cloud blowing.”
The most adamant rejection of e-cigarettes is that it appeals to children The CDC reports a decrease of tobacco smoking among teens in the Commonwealth. Now, the Commonwealth must tend to the increase in e-cigarette use in teens, a three-fold increase. While the producers of e-cigs state they are not intended for kids, the products continue to be flavored with kid-friendly flavors, ie bubble gum, fruit, etc. Another negative effect of concern, is that e-cigs will re-normalize smoking.
In legislation, co-chairs Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Kate Hogan, of the Joint Committee on Public Health, introduced S.2152, An Act to Protect Youth from the Health Risks of Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction. This bill will prohibit the sale of all tobacco and nicotine delivery products to individuals under the age of 21, and other regulations. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and seven other Senators introduced the Protect Children From Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act. Senator Markey stated that “we cannot allow e-cigarettes to snuff out the progress we’ve made in preventing nicotine addiction.” There are also agencies in favor of e-cigarettes. There is the E-Cigarette Association, formed to work with the FDA. In 2009, the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives was established as a support group for the c-cig industry. In Massachusetts, there is the Massachusetts Smoke Free Association(MASFA). The MASFA is a non-profit organization supported by consumers, retail vendors, manufacturers and supporters.
Meanwhile, vapor and e-cigarette shops continue to open around the state, as well as several in Malden. At present they are registered as traditional combustible cigarettes.
The owner and manager of one of these retail stores were interviewed. Christina and Ray, of Specialty Vapors on Main Street in Malden, were very forthcoming with information about their products. Their goal, as stated, is to assist people to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Both had been smokers, and had family members with cancer. They are hoping that regulations from the state and federal governments will help them with their business.
In April 2016, Maureen Busby presented an informational session to the Malden YWCA TASK (Teens Acquiring and Sharing Knowledge) Team. This group was made up of High School girls and their advisor, Chris Murphy. Maureen Busby is the Tobacco Program Coordinator for 7 local communities, including Malden. Busby gave the students a large amount of information on e-cigarettes, their appeal and their dangers.
Busby told the TASK team that she works toward putting a cap on stores selling e-cigarettes, on proximity limits so that new stores which sell e-cigs cannot be within 500 feet of schools, and hopefully, preventing e-cigs and their products from schools via the student handbook. Busby also informed the students that they too could do things to decrease e-cigarettes from fellow students, especially by sharing their knowledge.
The jury is still out on whether e-cigarettes are a positive way to decrease tobacco consumption, and its known dangers. Or do e-cigarettes pose their own problems with unknown side-effects and /or as a gateway to smoking? They do eliminate the tobacco smell that smokers carry around, and the second-hand smoke. But we do not know the effect the vapor has on smokers and the non-smokers close by.
E-cigarettes products have been reported to cause serious injuries from exploding in the smokers face, poisoning when ingested and exploding in pockets or suitcases. More research will continue on e-cigarettes. In the meantime, if regulations can be set and followed that decrease ads to, and use of e-cigs by young people under the age of 21, that will be very positive.
Thanks to the work of Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), on May 5, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration did come out with regulations on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. The FDA stated that e-cigarettes and other similar products cannot be sold to people under the age of 18. And that persons buying such products who are under 26-years-old must produce an ID.
After two years, according to the new regulations, there needs to be warnings posted on the products. –Karen Lynch