Get Healthy: E-cigarettes are billed as safe but still may pose danger

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Nationally and in Carson City, e-cigarettes are becoming more readily available. Commercials tout the benefits of e-cigarettes and make claims about freedom to smoke, but the risks associated with these devices are still largely unknown, and many users are not aware that they may be endangering their health. Slick marketing campaigns and sponsorships make “vaping” look cool and desirable, but the focus for these companies is selling a product and making money, not ensuring the well-being of consumers.

Many users of e-cigarettes claim that they choose the devices because they perceive e-cigs to be less harmful than cigarettes. So far, there isn’t any proof that using e-cigarettes is healthier. There is no regulatory oversight of e-cigarettes on the federal level, although the Food and Drug Administration hopes to soon change that. In the meantime, the lack of standards means that virtually any chemicals could make their way into the vapor that users are inhaling, and it is unclear what health risks may be involved. Also, e-cigarettes are inconsistent in their delivery of nicotine, so it is difficult for users to know how much of the drug they are actually getting.

Additionally, there are concerns about use of e-cigarettes by teens. The cartridges of e-cigarettes come in a variety of flavors that may lure teens to try them, and in some cases, they may become hooked. The 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that over three-quarters of middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days also smoked conventional cigarettes. This raises concerns that e-cigarettes may be an entry point to conventional tobacco products.

Here in Nevada, there is no age restriction for purchase or use of e-cigarettes, and they are not covered under the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act. Additionally, there are no restrictions on advertising, they are not subject to tobacco taxes, and a tobacco retailer license is not required to sell e-cigarettes. This leaves the door wide open for these companies to take root and endanger the health of Nevadans. Some groups are fighting back. Numerous Nevada businesses and organizations have voluntarily implemented restrictions on the use of e-cigs indoors and outdoors in an effort to avoid normalizing smoking behavior.

We have known for many years that smoking is dangerous, and we have worked hard to share this message. In recent years, there have been marked declines in the number of people who choose to smoke. Whether it is conventional cigarettes or e-cigs, think twice before you take a puff. Your health and the health of those around you depend on it.


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