Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Debunking E-Cigarette Myths

If you have been paying attention to the media surrounding tobacco consumption over the past year, you have probably heard of e-cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are devices designed to look similar to cigarettes in shape, size and general appearance. They operate by vaporizing a nicotine solution into an inhalable mist and activating an indicator light that simulates burning ash. Sold by popular brand names including “blu” and “NJOY,” e-cigarette cartridges are available in various flavors and claim to contain varying levels of nicotine.

Many predicted it wouldn’t take long for the makers of “combustible” cigarettes to get into the e-cigarette business and it looks like that day has come. RJ Reynolds American, Inc., the maker of Camel tobacco products, plans to test market a new line of e-cigarettes in Colorado. According to a recent article, Colorado will become the first stop in the national rollout of Vuse, a digital vapor cigarette by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. (RJRV), a new subsidiary of the company. Click here to read the article and see a 2 minute video that discusses the development of Vuse by RJ Reynolds.

While proponents of e-cigarettes claim that they can be used for cessation from tobacco products, most public health and tobacco control advocates believe that use of e-cigarettes can actually undermine a quit attempt, exacerbate nicotine dependence and contribute to the normalization and glamorization of smoking and tobacco use. Because of the lack of adequate research and regulation on these products, many communities are banning their use in places where smoking is prohibited. World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2013, marked the country of France’s decision to ban e-cigarette use in public places. In response to questions about this decision France's Health Minister, Marisol Touraine stated, "This is no ordinary product because it encourages mimicking and could promote taking up smoking."

The following highlights some of the concerns shared by opponents of e-cigarettes:
  1. Unreliable research: There have been no long-term studies to date on the effects of using e-cigarettes and very few reliable studies of their contents exist. The risks associated with inhaling the mix of chemicals under these circumstances are not known.
  2. Inconsistent doses: Mis-labeled and inconsistent levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes may increase nicotine consumption and dependence, contributing to a stronger psychological compulsion to smoke.
  3. Social acceptability: Use of e-cigarettes in public places may not be regulated, allowing them to be used where smoking may otherwise be prohibited, creating a sense of social acceptability and normalization.
  4. Risk of dual use and increased intake of nicotine: Because of the delivery method, lack of regulation on where use can occur and levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes, it is possible that users will continue to smoke combustible cigarettes and use the e-cigarette, increasing both physical and psychological dependence.
  5. Misconceptions in the media: The perception is that e-cigarettes are "safer" or "smarter." Along with the increase in e-cigarette commercials on television and in print media, recent quitters, those attempting to quit and current tobacco users are likely to face a significant increase in the number of triggers to smoke (combustible and/or e-cigarettes).
  6. Undetectable: Because these devices can be used largely without detection, intervention in the early stages of use when addiction is easiest to prevent/break may become difficult. This poses a greater challenge for parents, teachers and others working to prevent youth tobacco use and addiction.
Click here for a one page information sheet on e-cigarettes from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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