I have this friend who smokes e-cigs, or vapes e-cigs. Actually, I do not even know the right terminology as most people do not. Let’s say he is an e-cig consumer.
I asked him one day, “Why do you use those things?”
He replies, “I quit smoking and this is the healthy alternative and they taste better.”
I ask, “Why do they taste better, what is in them?”
“I’m not sure, but the flavor I currently have is gummy bears and it is a sweet way to get my nicotine.”
“So you are still a smoker because you are still using nicotine?”
“No, I quit cigarettes and now I only use this.”
At this point I acknowledged it was not my place to tell him he is actually still using a substance as bad as or even possibly worse than cigarettes. It is really hard for me to have a conversation like this without turning it into a lecture opportunity. Of course, my friend who I greatly respect, does not need that from me nor will it impact his addiction.
But then again, would it change his mind if I shared what I do know about electronic cigarettes?
Is there a way I can inform my friends and the community as a whole about the dangers of e-cigs? I think we can take the ol’ tobacco route and educate for years until there is a difference. Here is what I know about E-Cigs so far and what I feel is worth sharing.
Electronic Cigarette use among young people has officially surpassed traditional cigarette use according to the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey (2011-2014). Electronic Nicotine Delivery System or ENDS are the newest trends we are seeing in youth use. Perception of harm is also at an all-time low since the majority of students see this as a safe alternative to smoking tobacco. More info on youth use rates tripling in recent years here.
The scary part is that nobody knows the actual long term effects of these devices and the content of the liquid consumed. The e-cigarette industry is so new that the delivery devices and aerosol are unregulated, meaning nobody has a say in what is put in these containers. The pens are what users buy to consume the “smoke” or “vapor” and these come in various designs including disposable, rechargeable, or tank style. The aerosol is the “smoke/vapor” that is consumed through the pens. There are also a wide variety of designs, flavors and nicotine levels. The aerosol is the content in which nobody actually knows what it is and exactly how many dangerous particles consumers are inhaling. The biggest argument a user will have is that “it is just water vapor”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Chicago Dept. of Health recently listed the following toxins found in your typical e-cig aerosol: carcinogens, tin, lead, copper, formaldehyde, propylene-glycol, and nicotine- just to name few. Does that list sound like what can be found in a cigarette? Yep, sure does!
The e-cig business has been booming for the last few years and my belief is for two primary reasons. One is that consumers believe they are now non-smokers and on the healthier path by consuming e-cigs. The other is the youth population is targeted with the idea that the product is deliciously flavored vapor that has not addictive or harmful properties at all. More on youth targeted advertising here. Currently, the majority of the population is misinformed, under-informed and completely oblivious to the harms of e-cigs. My hope is to simply start informing those who will listen that e-cigs are just as dangerous as regular tobacco cigarettes and hopefully my friends and community members will recognize this is an issue among our youth and adults!!
Kelsie Borland is a member of the Celebrating Healthy Communities Advisory Board and Director of SOS Outreach and Check and Connect.