E Cigarettes - The Decision is Yours - Choose Wisely-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

E Cigarettes - The Decision is Yours - Choose Wisely

E cigarettes first appeared in the U.S. market place around 2009, although they have been available worldwide since 2004. E cigarettes are electronic battery powered devices that heat nicotine infused liquid into an inhalable vapor. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor that narrows the blood vessels and increases blood pressure.

E cigarettes are unregulated by the US Food and Drug Administration; however it is expected to expand its tobacco regulation authority to include E cigarettes soon. Currently there are no laws in place requiring E cigarette manufacturers to disclose to the public what is in the nicotine infused liquid that they are inhaling. These devices are not one of the FDA approved methods to help people quit smoking. A recent Lancet [British Medical Journal] study found that E cigarettes were about as effective as a nicotine patch in helping smokers to quit. The success rate for either cessation method is slightly below 10%.

This past December New York City expanded their ban on smoking in public places to include E cigarettes. Since then, Chicago, and most recently Los Angeles on March 5th, followed suit and have banned the use of E cigarettes in public places.  To date, E cigarettes are not yet part of the CMU smoking policy.

Public health advocates have called E cigarettes Big Tobaccos latest ploy to keep consumers addicted to their product. Whatever else they are, one thing is certain, E cigarettes are big business. This year predicted sales could reach 1.5 billion dollars.

A CDC report from 2012 found about 3% of high school students have used E cigarettes in the last 30 days, which is almost twice as many as in 2011. E cigarettes are sold in a variety of flavors and a concern is the potential impact that a person who would not smoke a cigarette may be more willing to try an E cigarette.

What happens to someone who stops inhaling the tars of cigarettes and only inhales nicotine? The jury is still out on that, however the potential for harm still exists. There is still so much that is unknown about the effectiveness and long term effects of E cigarettes, and additional research is urgently needed.

By: Rick Caruso, rmcaruso@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-9404