E-Cigarette-Related Poison Center Calls Surge

Area hospitals perform below national standards for preventing infections

I have watched with curiosity and interest as E-Cigarettes have exploded in popularity around me.  As I ask people around me, what these cigarettes are all about – most people do not know much except  to say they are safer than traditional cigarettes.  I keep thinking, “there is more to these cigarettes than meets the eye.”  Color me (not) surprised when I saw this article recently on Medscape.
Calls to poison centers involving e-cigarettes have surged during the last 3 and half years, a new study shows.  The number of calls shot up from 1 per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in the April 4 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.    “This report raises another red flag about e-cigarettes ” the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be hazardous,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a CDC press release. “E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children.”  More than half (51.1%) of the calls to poison centers because of e-cigarettes involved children 5 years and younger, the researchers report. Many states do not restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Poisoning related to e-cigarettes involves the liquid containing nicotine used in the devices and can occur in 3 ways: ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin or eyes.  Among the calls involving e-cigarettes, 16.8% were for inhalation, 8.5% for eye exposure, 5.9% for skin exposure, and 68.9% for ingestion (P < .001).
“The most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey showed e-cigarette use is growing fast, and now this report shows e-cigarette related poisonings are also increasing rapidly,” Tim McAfee, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in the press release. “Health care providers, e-cigarette companies and distributors, and the general public need to be aware of this potential health risk from e-cigarettes.”

How E-Cigarettes Work

They look like the real thing. The end glows as you inhale. As you exhale, you puff out a cloud of what looks like smoke. It’s vapor.  All e-cigarettes work basically the same way. Inside, there’s a battery, a heating element, and a cartridge that holds nicotine and other liquids and flavorings. Features and costs vary. Some are disposable. Others have a rechargeable battery and refillable cartridges.  Using an e-cigarette is called “vaping.”

Are They Safe?

The nicotine inside the cartridges is addictive. When you stop using it, you can get withdrawal symptoms including feeling irritable, depressed, restless and anxious. It can be dangerous for people with heart  problems. It may also harm your arteries over time.  So far, evidence suggests that e-cigarettes may be safer than regular cigarettes. The biggest danger from tobacco is the smoke, and e-cigarettes don’t burn. Tests show the levels of dangerous chemicals they give off are a fraction of what you’d get from a real cigarette. But what’s in them can vary.
Read more about what the FDA is doing currently to ensure that E-Cigarettes will be regulated and as safe as they can be in the future here: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/07/07/e-cigarette-researchers-count-puffs-scour-facebook-to-assess-risks/
Are E-Cigarettes safer than tobacco? Or are they a new way to hook a new generation on a  nicotine habit?  Despite the research I’ve done – no one can still answer my questions.

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