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Prevention Presents: How Safe are E-Cigarettes?

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How Safe are E-Cigarettes?
Ashley Rodebaugh, M.A., LSC
Prevention Educator

First, let’s take a glimpse back to the past.  Between the 1930s and 1950s, some cigarette companies claimed that their brand was healthier than others.  Look at what we know now. All cigarettes cause cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and other health problems. Today, we know the dangers of smoking, and therefore 81% of adults in the United States do not smoke cigarettes! Think about the last time you saw a tobacco commercial on television? Never? That’s because due to an increasing number of tobacco advertisements targeting teens, hoping to lure in that next generation of smokers, a law was passed in the 1970’s banning tobacco television commercials.

Today, e-cigarette companies advertise that their e-cigarettes are healthier alternatives to tobacco cigarettes, and as a result, many people have switched to e-cigarettes. Additionally, many teens view e-cigarettes as the “cool thing to do.” In fact, one could argue that e-cigarette companies are designing their e-liquids to specifically appeal to the younger audiences and lure them in. Sound familiar?  E-cigarettes are the new “it” drug looking to take on the billion dollar tobacco industry. But, are e-cigarettes any safer?


Currently, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate e-cigarettes, and many companies claim that e-cigarettes contain only nicotine and flavored water.  However, www.No-Smoke.org states that e-cigarettes do not just emit harmless water vapor.  Many studies prove that toxic metals, such as lead, are found in e-cigarettes. These heavy metals have been linked to cancer and other health problems.  Furthermore, propylene glycol is also found in most e-cigarettes, and is a known eye, throat, and lung irritant, and can cause asthma in children.  Once propylene glycol is vaporized in the e-cigarette, it becomes propylene oxide, a known carcinogen. Similarly, nicotine itself is a poison!  Around 70 milligrams of nicotine can kill an adult male weighing 150 pounds.  Some e-liquids have 75 milligrams of nicotine in them.  While consumers will not ingest all 75 milligrams in one sitting, danger arises when the e-liquid is spilled on the skin and the nicotine is quickly absorbed into the body.  In fact, there have been many cases of young children being hospitalized with a nicotine overdose due to e-liquid spilling on their skin. To add to these dangers, since there is no smoke and the vapors are generally fruity smelling, teens can easily smoke e-cigarettes undetected at home or at school. Additionally, there have been numerous cases of teens using their e-cigarettes to get high on marijuana or synthetic drugs.   

It took hundreds of years to learn the dangers of smoking tobacco, and we learn more about these dangers every year. Because e-cigarettes are unregulated, long-term side effects of e-cigarette use is currently unknown.  While we do know of many dangers lurking in e-cigarettes, only the future can prove the overall cost of using e-cigarettes.  Stay completely smoke free, don’t “smoke” e-cigarettes. Your heathy future self will thank you!


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Alcohol Awareness
Deirdre Washington, M.Ed., OCPS I
Manager, Prevention Education



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